HPA Appoints New Head of School

February 5, 2019, 4:58 PM HST
* Updated February 5, 5:13 PM
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The Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy board of trustees has appointed Patrick J. Phillips as the 12th head of school, effective July 1, 2019.

Patrick J. Phillips. Courtesy photo.

Phillips comes to HPA most recently from Breck School in Golden Valley, Minnesota, a day school just outside Minneapolis for 1,100 students from preschool to grade 12. As assistant head of school for Breck, Phillips oversaw academic departments and the development of innovative curriculum; supervised the school’s five-year strategic plan; and guided the founding of the Peter Clark Center for Mind, Brain, and Education, a center dedicated to bridging research and practice for students, teachers, and parents.

“I am honored by the appointment and committed to serving HPA with the same spirit of creativity and warmth of ‘ohana that have sustained the school for 70 years,” said Phillips. “From the first moment I set foot on campus, it was evident that this is a special and unique community with a true sense of belonging. It was also clear that HPA is an excellent school with the potential to become even stronger in the years ahead. With dedicated faculty and staff, supportive parents, an engaged alumni body, and a thoughtful board, HPA students are destined to reap the rewards as we live up to our mission to ‘provide exceptional learning opportunities in a diverse community honoring the traditions of Hawai‘i.’”

“The board unanimously agrees that HPA has found an inspired independent school educator whose experience aligns with HPA’s cherished values and future vision,” Board Chair Laurie T. Ainslie announced in her letter to the HPA community. “Patrick is a passionate, decisive leader with a proven track record of developing programs and nurturing school community. He embraces HPA’s culture of ‘ohana and understands our opportunities for growth as a K-12 school located on this extraordinary island. We eagerly anticipate the energy he will bring and believe Patrick will help all of us generate positive, transformational change for HPA while preserving the ethos and traditions we deeply value.”

David Zierk, who co-chaired the search committee with alumnus Sam Pratt ’84 said that the committee felt fortunate to find a lifelong educator whose parents were also educators.


“Among his long list of attributes, his degree in environmental studies provides solid footing as HPA pursues its sustainability plan,” Zierk said. “Patrick has taught AP chemistry,managed budgets and strategic planning, and has run day and boarding high schools with children from fifty countries. He has a complete background and will be a great head of school.”


The search committee selected Phillips from 85 candidates after a national and international search that was advised by Carney Sandoe & Associates. Hundreds of alumni, parents, faculty, staff, and students participated in this process that began in July 2018. In addition to Laurie Ainslie, Zierk, and Pratt, the committee included a representative group from across the HPA community: Cathy Grant P’03, principal of the Lower School; Laura Jim ’91, P’16, P’19, Middle School faculty member; Greg McKenna, an Upper School faculty member and dorm parent; and Hannah Springer, community leader and former HPA trustee. “Their service to our ‘ohana has been irreplaceable,” said Laurie Ainslie in her letter.

Phillips graduated from Middlebury College with a degree in environmental studies and a minor in art history, and started his teaching career as an AP chemistry teacher and soccer and track coach in Fort Myers, Florida. He was awarded a Klingenstein Summer Teaching Fellowship at Columbia University, where he met his wife, Ainslie Phillips, a Yale graduate and high school math teacher.

His career spans many roles and countries, including the Potomac School in Washington, D.C. and TASIS Switzerland where he served as dean of students from 1998 to 2000. After returning stateside to earn his Ed.M. in school leadership at Harvard University, Phillips went on to serve as Upper School head at Westchester Academy (NC), Charlotte Country Day School (NC), Pine Crest School (FL), and TASIS England (UK).


Robert McKendry continues as head through the remainder of the current school year. Phillips and wife Ainslie will move to HPA in late June with their four children, Taylor, Grayson, Cooper and Riley. His term as HPA’s 12th head of school will begin officially on July 1, 2019.

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