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Making the grade with Phillips Academy Head of School Barbara Landis Chase. By, Lindsay Lambert

It’s back-to-school time again, but this academic year will be especially momentous for one local administrator in particular. After 18 years, the 2011-2012 school year will serve as Barbara Landis Chase’s last as Head of School at Andover’s prestigious Phillips Academy. Here, Chase talks to Northshore about her approaching retirement, the school’s elite alumni, and requisite (but harmless) student pranks.

How do you feel heading into your final year at the academy? My feelings are complicated-sadness at leaving a place where I have found such fulfilling and important work, and where my husband and I have lived happily for so many years, but also a sense of exhilaration as I contemplate the next chapter.

Phillips Academy boasts some powerful and influential alumni. What makes the school’s alumni so successful? Andover is a place that honors the life of the mind; it stretches students with the rigor of its academic program and the breadth of extracurricular activities. The school does its best to articulate and live its values, especially the motto Non Sibi (not for self) on the Academy’s seal and the directive from our 1778 Constitution to combine goodness with knowledge.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of students’ pranks? Most pranks are gentle and amusing, thank goodness. I do know they call me “Babs” when I am out of earshot. It is not a name I love or have ever been called, except by a few close friends who were teasing me, so I choose to think the nickname is in that spirit.

Were there any pranks that had to be punished that you actually found amusing? A few of our students once released blue mice (blue is the Andover color) in the library of a rival school. Not a good thing, for the mice or the other school’s library, but it was clever in concept. There was a penalty for that, not a terribly harsh one, but a penalty nonetheless.

What has been the highlight of the now 17 years you’ve spent as Head of School at Phillips Academy? I can’t possibly pick one; there are too many-fascinating classes, great performances and games, celebrations and conversations, periods of mourning when the whole school pulled together, getting to know amazing alumni. What ties all the high points together is the people-the students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents. They’re just the best.