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Photo courtesy of Girls Preparatory School/Megan Cover will officially join the Girls Preparatory School community as its Head of School on July 1, 2021.

The Girls Preparatory School community will have a new member next summer — Megan Cover, its new head of school.

Cover, who will be the 10th person to take on the helm, will start July 1. She will be the seventh woman to assume the role.

According to a news release from the school, she was hired due to her "leadership experience, commitment to academic excellence and her ability to create innovative programming."

She will succeed interim Head of School Kirk Walker, former headmaster of The McCallie School, GPS' brother campus. Walker is a former trustee and parent of a GPS alumna. Walker took over in July 2020 after Autumn Graves resigned to take the head of school position at St. Anne's-Belfield in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Cover is making her way to Chattanooga by way of Wilmington, Delaware, where she served many roles including head of upper school at Tower Hill School. She will be joined by her husband of 22 years, Ted, their three daughters and two dogs.

She received her bachelor's degree in French with a minor in education from Denison University and master's degrees from West Chester University and Middlebury College.

Cover is a alumna of an all-girl school, Agnes Irwin School, near Philadelphia.

GPS is a all-girl independent school.

GPS highlights

ACADEMICS:

Since 2006, GPS had 49 National Merit Semifinalists, 63 Commended, and 7 National Achievement Semifinalists or Hispanic Scholars.

85% of recent graduates matriculated to their first or second choices of colleges and universities

83% of the class of 2020 earned merit, talent, or athletic scholarships totaling $10M

STAFF:

82% of faculty have advanced degrees

ATHLETICS:

Since 2006, GPS athletics has won 20 state titles and 29 region/district championships

Source: gps.edu

 

GOALS

Cover told the Times Free Press she would like to continue to "uphold this amazing reputation, robust academics, vibrant arts, competitive athletics, a really serious character education program as well as leadership development of these talented young women."

"The first time I stepped on [GPS] campus was two weeks ago, and I was so impressed with the beautiful grounds; the friendly, friendly people; the joyful women," Cover said. "I am just thrilled to take the helm of this exceptional school, and I need to get my feet on the ground before I come in and say what my priorities would be."

Prior to her hire, the school was seeking input into possibly having boarding options available. McCallie offers on-campus boarding to its students.

Pamela Hammonds, the school's marketing and communication manager, said the idea "is not being considered at this time."

 

DIVERSITY

Girls Preparatory School was founded in 1906 by three women — Tommie Payne Duffy, Eula Lea Jarnagin and Grace McCallie — with 45 students. Today's enrollment numbers are 535 students with 12% enrolled being people of color.

Increasing diversity on campus is a conversation and effort that Cover would like to continue in her new role.

"This was something that was discussed while I was on campus, and I know it has been a priority to the board. The former head of school, Dr. [Autumn] Graves, I know that this was something she was very passionate about," Cover said. "Anyone who is in the independent school world right now, it is a priority for us across the nation and across the world.

Hammonds said the school has two new hires who will address diversity on campus — Liz O'Sullivan, director of belonging, access and inclusion, and 2009 GPS graduate Lauren Lawrence Swanson as the school's student support and the alumnae and community engagement coordinator.

According to Hammonds, O'Sullivan spends part of her time in the admission office, focusing on community outreach efforts and overseeing the financial aid program.

"Additionally, she will work closely with faculty and staff in expanding our school's strategic focus on creating a culture in which every member has a voice, feels respected and valued, and knows they belong," Hammonds added.

Swanson will work closely with GPS minority students and alumnae, as well as O'Sullivan and its student support team, "to move our GPS community forward by expanding upon the school's Strategic Equity Response plan in the areas of student support, community outreach and alumnae engagement," Hammonds said.

 

NEW HOME

Cover said she is part of an active family who enjoy exploring the outdoors.

"[We] were drawn to Chattanooga for the beautiful outdoors that combines both our love of mountains and the water coupled with a warm and welcoming community," Cover said in a news release.

Cover added that she is excited about connecting with Chattanooga, the school's community and alumnae.

In her introduction to her future students, Cover gave a video message that was viewed during Chapel on Oct. 1. During her recorded speech, she shared a story about her first day at Agnes Irwin and being formally introduced by her headmistress who greeted her by first name. She expressed that the personal touch in their interaction is something that inspires her work today.

In a news release announcing her arrival, Cover said "as a career educator who is a firm believer in the power and purpose of all-girls education and the mother of three daughters, I consider it an honor and a privilege to not only lead GPS into this next chapter of empowering young women of intellect and integrity, but also to join its community as a proud GPS family. I look forward to carrying the torch and raising it high."

Contact Monique Brand at mbrand@timesfreepress.com at 423-757-6592.

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