Jane Harter and Malcolm Lester at NPS

It is time for a blog as we head into the break, prepare to close out 2019, and get ready to welcome 2020!


Jane Harter visited NPS last Friday.

The Headmistress at NPS from 1974-1997, Mrs. Harter helped transform NPS from its founding as a preschool into the dynamic Nursery through 6th Grade school that it is today. Mrs. Harter attended our festive 50th Anniversary Celebration in October; at the end of the speaking program, many former NPS students from the Harter era rushed the stage to give her a hug and thank her for the role she played in their lives.

Last month, Jane Harter reached out to me and told me that her son, his wife, and their two school-age children would be visiting from New York in December and she wondered if they could visit NPS when they were in town. She wanted them to see the school she led for 23 years.

That was a no brainer.  “Of course!” I said.  I told Jane Harter that anytime she wants to visit, we will stop what we are doing to accommodate her. And that’s what we did.

Mrs. Harter and her family visited on the afternoon when preparations for Breakfast with Santa were in full swing. She delighted in seeing the decorations in Jones Hall.

“Did Breakfast with Santa exist when you were at NPS?” I asked her.

She paused and politely told me that she started Breakfast with Santa. (Noted!)

As we walked through the building, Jane shared recollections and memories, recalling students and anecdotes from 40 years ago. She spoke highly of the faculty she worked with at NPS, crediting them with successes achieved during her tenure.

Throughout the visit, as we looked at bulletin boards, walked into classrooms, and spoke with faculty, it was clear that Mrs. Harter was proud not only of the growth the school experienced during her 23 years at NPS, but also of the NPS of 2019. She loved what she saw.

Jane and her family ran into Lower Division Director Laura Primrose, one of four current NPS faculty and staff who worked with Mrs. Harter, and it was heartwarming to watch them connect over their mutual love for NPS and shared admiration for each other.

Because her grandchildren, ages 12 and 8, had never visited NPS, I showed them photographs of their grandmother on the walls in the building, as well as the nameplates denoting the Harter Wing and Harter Hall. I asked them to pose for pictures in front of the Harter signage, which delighted both Harter generations.

After touring the school, we sat in my office, and Mrs. Harter’s grandson, the younger of the two children, said, “Grandma, this was your office?”  Jane Harter said yes. The lightbulb in her grandson’s head went on and he said to me, “And now it is your office!”  I told him that it was, and how fortunate I am for that, and for his grandmother’s leadership of NPS.

As we walked outside, Jane Harter and I hugged; as she prepared to step into the car, she said to me, “What a great school.”

I agree wholeheartedly.


Two days ago, I had the pleasure of “dining” with seven members of the NPS Student Council in my office for lunch. Student Council is a student government leadership opportunity available to NPS 5th and 6th graders, and we currently have 35 students (!) participating in this voluntary activity, 24 in 6th Grade and 11 in 5th Grade.

Members of Student Council serve on one of five committees: Student Life, Service Learning, Environment, Recess, and Small Changes. It was the Service Learning Committee that had set a meeting up with me to discuss a proposal they had worked on.

At our lunch, after we had eaten and enjoyed conversation with each other, one of the 6th Graders read the proposal aloud:

“The Service Learning Student Council group would like your permission to sell treats at home basketball games. We plan to donate all of the proceeds to the Red Cross that will be for wildfire relief in California. We will sell the treats to the attendees at the games….We are seeking your help to make this happen at future home basketball games. Please let us know if we can move forward with this. Sincerely, The Service Learning Student Council group.”

To those members of the Service Learning group, I will relay this to you in person as well: the answer is yes. Let’s move forward with this, and I thank you—and the other members of Student Council—for your leadership. We will be sure to keep the community posted on when the basketball game concession stand will make its debut!


Last year, one of the Head of School blogs focused on books I had recently read or hoped to read. I asked NPS parents and faculty for literary thoughts and recommendations. What wonderful responses I received!

That was such a fun, interactive and educational exchange that it is time to do it again. Here are a handful of books I have either just read, recently started, or hope to read over the break.

The Guest Book, Sarah Blake
Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls, Lisa Damour
This Tender Land, William Kent Krueger
The Need, Helen Phillips
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, Isabel Wilkerson

NPS parents, faculty, and community members, what are you reading and what do you hope to read soon? Please feel free to share reading reflections or recommendations with me – I welcome them.


I hope you and your families have a wonderful Christmas, holiday, and New Year. Speaking of the new year, two calendar items: one, the NPS 2020-2021 calendar is out, and please feel free to contact me with any questions about it; two, we will have a Free Dress Day on Monday, January 6, our first day back.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and have a great break!

Malcolm Lester
Head of School
malcolm.lester@nps-dc.org
@NPSHeadofSchool

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