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Claire Cassady Vaughn

Head of School, Advent Episcopal School

Years as a Camper: 

2000-2004, 2005 (CILT)

Years as a Staff Member/Positions held:

Aquatics, 2007 & 2008; Assistant Lake Chief, 2009; Lake Chief, 2010

Current Profession and Title/Years in role:

Head of School, Advent Episcopal School, 2021-Present

Assistant Head of School, Advent Episcopal School, 2020-2021

Director of Advancement, Advent Episcopal School, 2018-2020

Can you provide a brief overview of your job responsibilities? 

As head of school, I am charged with embodying and advancing the mission of my Advent Episcopal School. My job is to foster the traditions, relationships, and practices that determine Advent’s climate and culture. I am responsible for the overall management of the school including the areas of academics, arts, athletics, recruitment, retention, marketing, communication, fundraising, facilities, and finances. I represent the school to all students, parents, faculty, staff, alumni, and our external community.

Do you have any career advice for members of our Camp community?

Spend your time doing something you love (at least most days!) and keep your mind open!

When I started in admissions, I knew I had a heart for education, but I didn’t see myself as a classroom teacher. I saw a job in admissions as a holding place while I tried to figure it out what direction my career would (or should) take. It didn’t take long to fall in love with the mix of business, education knowledge, and relationship building that independent schools, particularly boarding schools, require. Each of my jobs unintentionally led to the next and now I found myself with a job I didn’t even imagine having ten years ago!

What do you believe have been some of your greatest personal and professional accomplishments? Is there a goal toward which you are currently working?

Professionally, I am really proud of my recent appointment as Head of School at Advent. Along my professional journey, I’ve been encouraged by a number of colleagues to consider headship. Ultimately, I didn’t think that’s where my path was headed, but I have been so pleasantly surprised by the joy this role has brought (even in the midst of a pandemic!). Much of what I love about my job is similar to what I loved about working in leadership at Camp. I’m grateful to have found something that is professionally fulfilling and that continues to challenge and push me every day.

Personally, I am proud of continuing to invest in my community. I currently serve as the president of the Red Mountain Park Board Foundation. RMP is one of Alabama’s largest greenspaces – over 1500 acres! The park is an incredible piece of Birmingham’s history and currently serves as a place to bring a diverse group of people together in a myriad of ways. I’m grateful for the opportunity to help shape this space for generations more to come.

I am hoping to start a masters program next fall, so busy prepping for the GMAT and applications!

How do the values or skills you learned at Camp show up in your everyday work and/or personal life? 

The values and skills I learned at camp show up every single day in my life – professionally and personally. Several phrases that I often come back to are “try your best”, “do what’s right”, and one of my personal favorites, “when we stop getting better, we stop being good”. I try my best to lead by example. As a head of school that means never asking a teacher or staff member to do something I wouldn’t do. As a friend, daughter, sister, and wife, I try to express my gratitude for my relationships whenever I can.

There are also some practical things! Every Monday morning, I send out a TTFW (Thought for the Week) to my faculty and staff. Like Camp, it’s a quote or saying that provides a moment for reflection before we start our work together for the week.

We have also recently implemented a “clean classroom” award each day for the classroom that is in the best shape after school (think cabin inspections but in your school classroom!). After each quarter, the classroom with the most wins will get to enjoy a pizza party. It’s been a great way for our students to take ownership of their classroom and help maintain a learning environment that is ready for them when they return each morning! Teachers can’t get over how clean their rooms are and how excited their students have been to chip in.

All that to say, I often pull strategies and tactics that seemed to work well at Camp!

Is there a person or a situation that had a huge influence on you while you were at Camp? How and why did they/it impact you?

Meredith Stewart had a huge impact on my life. Stepping into a leadership role at the lake and with aquatics was a big jump for me. Meredith did an exceptional job of building me up while providing critical feedback to make sure I was developing and growing as a leader.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Change may be scary, but it’s almost always leads to something better than you could have imagined (and no one says you have to go through it alone).

Favorite mess hall entry song: Manic Monday (I still play it most Mondays on my way into school!)

Favorite special event at Camp: July 4th Fireworks (Honestly, I cried the first year as an adult that I wasn’t at camp for the 4th, and it still makes me miss my camp home each July.)

Devotion you best remember from Camp: I’ve always called it the “toothpaste devotion”. You probably know it – put a squeeze of toothpaste onto a piece of toilet paper or tissue, and then try to put it back into the tube. No matter how well you think you’ve gotten it back in, there’s always some that remains. My counselor gave this classic devotion my first summer at camp and it’s stuck with me ever since. It’s simple, but it’s true: once you’ve said something, you can’t unsay it. I try to be very intentional with my words – whether I’m talking to a friend, a colleague, or an employee. Words have tremendous power – it’s important to use them for good.

What three words best describe you? Intentional, thoughtful, authentic

What profession other than your own would you like to try? I’d secretly love to be an interior designer – what a great mix of creativity, decisiveness, and organization that’s required!

What would you eat if you could only have one food for the rest of your life? Burritos (Is there anything better than a good ol’ breakfast burrito!?)