Chattanooga has a rich history of private schools, their legacies carried, in part, by the work of their respective headmasters — or, as they're more commonly called today, heads of school.

Like a principal, a head of school is tasked with managing all of the school's operations, from fundraising to teacher support to learning the names of each student.

It's a big job — one that is integral to both the institution and the community surrounding it.

And this school year, three of the Scenic City's longest-lived private schools are welcoming new leadership.

Here, we meet the new heads of Baylor, Bright and Girls Preparatory School, and hear their hopes and goals for the coming year.

Baylor School's Chris Angel

10th head of school since 1893

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Photo contributed by Med Dement / After graduating from Baylor School in 1989, Chris Angel returned to his boyhood alma mater in 2021 as the new head of school.

This semester marked Chris Angel's third return to Baylor School.

First, he had been a student; then, a teacher and coach; now — after 19 years away — he has returned to Chattanooga as Baylor's head of school.

"So many different perspectives in which to see and experience Baylor," Angel says.

For example, Angel remembers when Baylor went co-ed in 1985. He'd been a freshman when the school first introduced a few dozen girls into select grades. When he'd returned as faculty in the 1990s, "Baylor was fully co-educational," he says. "I'm so grateful to the board of trustees for making that decision. Our job is to prepare students for the world, so a co-ed environment makes the most sense."

Over the years, he watched Baylor become more culturally diverse to include students from over 25 different countries, from Seoul to Zimbabwe, from Nigeria to Germany.

All the while, he says, its academic and athletic programs have expanded, too.

"[As a student,] I don't remember having heard of lacrosse or understanding [the sport of rowing]," Angel says of just two of the now flourishing programs at Baylor. "Earlier today, I was looking out of my office window, watching our crew team row down the river against the beautiful backdrop of the river gorge."

Returning to Baylor has been a walk down memory lane, Angel says.

"When you've been around for 129 years, you run the risk of complacency," he says of the school. "But personally, I want to be better every day than I was the previous day. We'll find ways to do that. It's great to be home."


Bright School's Kristin Watts

13th head of school since 1913

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Photo contributed by Med Dement / Kristin Watts poses with her husband Jay and daughter Colby in front of Bright School, where she recently became the private institution's 13th head of school.

In 2021, Kristin Watts' family finally made the full move to Chattanooga. Since 2017, when her husband Jay became GPS' athletic director, Watts' family had split their time between Chattanooga and Atlanta, where Watts held a tenured position as director of St. Anne's Day School and Enrichment Programs.

This summer, she says, was a busy and exciting time settling into the Scenic City.

Her second-grade daughter Colby, who now attends Bright, enjoyed making new friends at summer camps, while her stepson Campbell finished up his senior year of high school in Atlanta.

"[He's] looking forward to some weekend visits to Chattanooga," Watts says.

Moments of downtime, she says, were spent exploring new restaurants and such iconic destinations as the city's zoo, aquarium and Creative Discovery Museum.

Now, Watts is leaping into her new role with the same enthusiasm she sees in her students.

"There is a wonder and a joy in elementary school that is unique. The students are curious and engaging," she says. "I will know each of our 340 children by name before our Christmas break. It is important to me that I am able to greet the students by name as they arrive to school every day and that they know that they are important to me as individuals."


Girls Preparatory School's Megan Cover

10th head of school since 1906

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Photo contributed by Emily Lester / This summer, Megan Cover became the 10th head of Girls Preparatory School.

Megan Cover knows all about the power of belonging to a sisterhood.

As an alumna of Pennsylvania's all-girls Agnes Irwin School, Cover calls the experience "transformative."

"The culture of the environment encouraged me to take chances, be fearless, try new things " she says.

Now, after 21 years as a teacher, coach and the head of Tower Hill, a private co-ed school in Delaware, Cover is returning to her roots.

This summer, she became the new head of Girls Preparatory School. And this fall, two of her daughters, Margaret and Sophie, will embark on their own experiences, joining GPS' junior class.

Her goal, she says, is to continue to nurture the holistic development of both her daughters and the entire student body. When it comes to her approach to education, Cover says, her greatest influence is "ensuring that schools prepare students for life beyond the classroom — that we nurture their mind, body and spirit; help develop passions and interests, and build integrity and kindness so students have no other choice but to thrive both personally and professionally."