The fate of the beloved school is hanging in the balance...
The prestigious boarding school Miss Oliver’s School for Girls is on the cusp of going under. The trustees just fired the headmistress of the last thirty-five years, and the alumnae and students are angry and determined to hate her successor, the newand malehead Fred Kindler. If only he can gain the support of the legendary senior teacher Francis Plummer, then Fred might have a fighting chance to save the school; but no one except Francis’s wife and the school librarian, Peggy, is willing to give Fred a chance.
With Fred’s career on the line and the Plummers’ marriage at stake, will Miss Oliver’s survive to be the school it once was?
About the Author
Stephen Davenport has taught in both day and boarding schools and served as the head of The Country School in Madison, CT, and The Athenian School in Danville, CA, and the director of the boarding camp Cragged Mountain Farm. Early in his career, he earned The Capital Area Distinguished Teacher Award from Trinity College. He has consulted with independent schools, doing executive searches, leading professional development workshops for faculties, and coaching school heads. Davenport’s been published in the New York Times Magazine , the New York Times Sunday travel section, and the Saturday Review and is now a full-time writer and volunteer, serving on the board of The Athenian School and of Aim High in the San Francisco Bay Area. He lives in Oakland, California.
Read an Excerpt
Even in that last year of her reign, Marjorie Boyd had insisted that the graduation exercise take place exactly at noon.
“When the sun is at the top of the sky!” she declaredas she had every year for the thirty-five years she had been headmistress of Miss Oliver’s School for Girls. “Time stands still for just a little instant right then. And people notice things. They see! And what they see is the graduation of young women! Females! From a school founded by a woman, designed by women, run by a woman, with a curriculum that focuses on the way women learn! I want this celebration to take place exactly at noon, in the bright spangle of the June sunshine, so the world can see the superiority of the result!” Marjorie demanded once again, still dominant at the very end in spite of her dismissal. She would be the headmistress till July 1, when her contract expired. Until then, her will would prevail.
Even her opponents understood that it was Marjorie’s vivid leadership that had made the school into a community so beloved of its students and alumnae (who were taking their seats now in the audience as the noon hour neared) that it had to be saved from the flaws of the very woman who had made it what it was. Founded by Miss Edith Oliver in 1928 and standing on ground once occupied by a Pequot Indian village in Fieldington, Connecticut, a complacent suburb twenty miles south of Hartford on the Connecticut River, the school that Marjorie created was a boarding school, a world apart, whose intense culture of academic and artistic richness was celebrated in idiosyncratic rituals sacred to its members.
“But it will be too hot at noon,” the more practical-minded members of the faculty had objected once again in an argument that for senior faculty members Francis and Peggy Plummer had become an old refrain. They were like theatergoers watching a play whose ending they had memorized.
“No, it won’t,” Marjorie replied.
“How do you know it won’t?”
“I just do,” she said, standing up to end the meeting. For meetings always ended when Marjorie stood upand began instantly when she sat down. Francis and Peggy understood that what Marjorie meant was that she would cause the weather to be perfect for their beloved young women by the sheer power of her will. The weather had always been perfect for each of the thirty-three graduation ceremonies in which Peggy and Francis had been on the facultyand that day, June 10, 1991, was no exception.
"The mission of Miss Oliver's School for Girls is the empowerment of young women. Can you imagine how much passion there is around that ideal? Everything that happens to humans happens in schools, usually in the compressed and therefore intensified time period of an academic year. Boarding schools are especially intense, hermetic, mission-driven communities. All schools are emotionally charged, politically fraught searches for consensus among alumnae, who hate change, students, who yearn for it, an autonomous, verbally skilled, intelligent, highly opinionated faculty, and trustees who may or may not have a private agenda, and parents who, having paid a high tuition, are entitled to great results – the definition of which requires another search for consensus. Think of a family of 400 or more people. One could not ask for richer writing material."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Saving Miss Oliver's is one of those great books that combines humor, heart and drama. Miss Oliver's, a school for girls, is really a microcosm of any organization or society. Fred Kindler tries to fill the shoes of a beloved headmistress. He's the wrong gender. He's come at the wrong time. He has to make budget cuts and release faculty. He has to weather being disliked by a faculty who miss the previous headmistress. He has to face a student body that confronts him about turning the school coed. And Fred has to have the courage and decency to stand in the face of everything going against him to save the school from it's own fate: bankruptcy. From an Indian sweat house to the house of a rich alumni, the book provides a study in leadership, contains colorful characters and captures an entire world of people moving in different directions all trying to accomplish the same thing: save the dream that is Miss Oliver's.