Committed to founding values, Brian Hewlett has big job ahead as interim associate director

Brian+Hewlett+was+appointed+interim+associate+director+in+April.

Malcolm Taylor

Brian Hewlett was appointed interim associate director in April.

Téa Tamburo, Content Manager

“Education is a social process; education is growth; education is not preparation for life but is life itself,” Laboratory Schools founder John Dewey once said. 

Brian Hewlett, who was appointed interim associate director in April, encompasses this philosophy in his passion for learning. He seeks to improve his leadership as well as expand Lab’s understanding of education through experience and experimentation. 

Although he came to Lab as director of innovation and technology in 2018, Mr. Hewlett began his career in the classroom at Sheridan School in Washington D.C., as director of technology and communications. People there, he said, look toward Lab’s learning philosophy for influence. This promoted a career-long admiration of the Laboratory Schools for Mr. Hewlett. 

“When you pick a career, you want it to be something where it doesn’t feel like work,” Mr. Hewlett said. “I’ve always been a believer in progressive ed, and so that’s kind of where I saw Lab fitting within my own career aspirations.” 

Last spring, the departure of the former associate director gave him the opportunity for a larger role overseeing the finance and operations teams, which also includes family life programs, human resources, information systems, transportation and food service programs. No timeline has been announced to fill the permanent associate director role.

One of the numerous goals for Mr. Hewlett and the school as a whole is budgeting, reducing spending and staying on track financially, a concern during the pandemic. Brian Lipinksi, director of finance, has worked closely with Mr. Hewlett on financial projections concerning how Lab is going to do over the fiscal year. 

“I think he’ll do well communicating exactly what our situation is, exactly what needs to take place, what needs to change about our approach to spending and what we as a school will need to do to kind of navigate those financial challenges,” Mr. Lipinski said. “I’m confident that he’ll be able to make sure that the schools as a whole don’t lose sight of our financial condition.” 

While Mr. Hewlett oversees many areas in the schools, his main role is connecting the finance and operations teams at Lab with offices at the University of Chicago — the provost, budget, and environmental health and safety — to work collaboratively across the entire campus.

The best part of being in the Lab community is being able to experience it every day, and it’ll be very different this year where we have kind of individual experiences with students coming to campus.”

— Brian Hewlett

 

His communication with UChicago departments conveys health and safety information, which monitors health and safety of those currently learning on campus and will ultimately decide whether grades 3-12 can return to in-person learning. 

“The best part of being in the Lab community is being able to experience it every day, and it’ll be very different this year where we have kind of individual experiences with students coming to campus,” Mr. Hewlett said. “School will look different, but it’s going to be still the rich Lab experience just in a different format.” 

At the heart of all his decisions is a desire to uphold and support the original philosophical values that Lab was built upon.

“When you believe in the philosophies and the mission of the place, you don’t mind working hard for it, because you’re really committed,” Mr. Hewlett said. “To have the opportunity to work here is really kind of completing an educational journey of mine. I’ve always been a believer in progressive education.”