Carrie Brennan '88 will become new head of Thetford Academy

by Grayce Gibbs | 2/15/19 3:00am

Fifteen years after starting a charter high school in Tucson, Arizona, Carrie Brennan ’88 is returning to the Upper Valley as head of school at Thetford Academy, an independent 7-12 school in Thetford, Vermont. 

“I think that Thetford is unique,” Brennan said. “It’s got a lot of a resources, a beautiful campus, a really rich history. It’s got a lot to work with. It has a relatively new gym and theater, an environmental education program and it’s got this huge campus, right next to a state park. I think it’s a great environment to learn in.” 

Brennan, currently executive director of the CITY Center for Collaborative Learning, will leave her current position at the end of the school year and begin working at Thetford Academy on July 1. 

“I am absolutely thrilled that Carrie will lead Thetford Academy,” wrote president of the Thetford Academy Board of Trustees and philosophy professor Ann Bumpus in a press release. “Her record of accomplishment and commitment to academic excellence, inclusivity, community engagement and collaborative leadership builds perfectly upon the historic and distinctive values of TA that draw so many of us to the school.”

One aspect of Thetford Academy that drew Brennan to the school is its connection to the local community. Brennan said that moving back to the Upper Valley to work at Thetford Academy feels like a “homecoming.”

After graduating from Dartmouth in 1988 with a Bachelor of Arts in history and women’s studies, Brennan spent two years living in Thetford and working at Hanover High School. In 1992, she moved to Tucson to help found and teach at the Catalina Foothills High School. 

Brennan said that she stayed at the school for 11 years before deciding, along with colleagues Brett Goble and Eve Rifkin, to start a more progressive high school located in a more diverse part of town.

“We wanted to take the philosophy that we had in our classrooms and build a school specifically around those concepts,” Brennan said. 

Their school, City High School, has expanded into a charter district, CITY Center for Collaborative Learning, with two middle schools in addition to City High School. 

According to Goble, the three schools focus on project and place-based learning drawing upon local issues and resources to make learning more relevant and meaningful. 

In 2015, after serving as principal of City High School for 12 years, Brennan began working as the executive director of the CITY Center.

“It’s great working with her,” said Gillian Wettstein, director of finance and human resources at the CITY Center. “She’s a very dynamic and charismatic leader. She also has a good handle of the big pictures as well as having a very human aspect to her approach. She can do all the business side of it as well as keeping in mind the human aspects of a large organization.”

According to Brennan, as executive director she helped the organization go through an evolution, bringing on two middle schools and doubling in size in terms of student population, staff and budget. The organization enacted a new strategic plan with a new mission and vision. Brennan also worked on a major facility renovation campaign. 

“I’ve been really appreciative to have found my life’s work with Carrie and Eve,” Goble said. “It’s going to be a big loss for me personally and our organization. Carrie’s really been a mentor for me and I’ve learned a lot working with her. It hasn’t quite sunk in what it’s going to be like without Carrie here. We’re really going to miss her.”

The CITY Center has not yet found a replacement for Brennan. According to Goble, they are getting together a search committee and are planning to hire an interim executive director for the next year before making longer term decisions.