Mr. Ball Finishes a Successful First Full Year as Upper School Principal
by The Milton Measure on Friday, June 10th, 2011
At the beginning of the academic year, David Ball became Milton Academy’s Upper School Principal.
From the moment he accepted the position in the spring of 2010, Mr. Ball has welcomed the role and has assumed the responsibility with thoughtfulness, creativity, and care. While Mr. Ball has faced some challenges, students, faculty, Mr. Bloom and Mr. Bland share that his first year has been a resounding success.
After graduating from Milton, Mr. Ball obtained an A.B. in history from Princeton University and an A.M. in history from Duke University.
He then began teaching at Montgomery Academy in Montgomery, Alabama. He returned to Milton in 1999 and joined the History Department, while also continuing his love for public speaking as the Debate Team coach. From 2005-2010, Mr. Ball served as the Milton Academy Academic Dean.
In adjusting to his new position, Mr. Ball’s experience at Milton Academy has been rewarding yet challenging at times. Mr. Bland comments that an internal move to principal from academic dean is a struggle “because people see you in a certain role and you have to establish yourself in a very different job.”
Mr. Ball acknowledges that his biggest test has been to view school issues through the lens of a principal, rather than the lens of an academic Dean.
He shares, “I find myself in conversations on the same topics about which I was in conversations last year but now having to think about them in different ways.” Yet, Mr. Ball has embraced the challenge and his vast experience at Milton has enabled him to evaluate issues from multiple perspectives in order to reach the best possible solutions.
Mr. Bland comments that, although establishing oneself in a new role in the same institution can be difficult, Mr. Ball’s transition has “been just natural.”
Mr. Bland adds, “It feels like it is a fit. He was really meant to do this job and is doing it very well.” Evan Garnick (III) shares this perspective, stating, “From what I can tell, he’s doing a great job. I haven’t heard of one student that has negative things to say about him.”
Among the student body, Mr. Ball is known for his Monday morning assembly speeches where he addresses the community in, according to Mr. Bland, “a very David Ball-like way.” He speaks almost entirely extemporaneously, writing down only a few phrases to remember word for word. In picking a topic, Mr. Ball draws inspiration from both eclectic and accurate sources. Danielle Fredrick (II) comments that, while his speeches may be long, “it’s interesting to see him connect historical anecdotes to our lives at Milton.”
“I try to think in terms of stories,” Mr. Ball explained, “where you begin your story, where you end, how you get there, and if people will want to keep going with you.” Michael Berke (I) adds that during past assemblies when Mr. Ball spoke, “I was engaged and enjoying those twenty minutes.” In picking a topic, Mr. Ball draws inspiration from many sources— Milton events, world issues, and “cheap tricks” as simple as the birthday of a significant figure. As he explains, “I try to think in terms of stories: where you begin your story, where you end, how you get there, and if people will want to keep going with you…”
In his relationship with the faculty, Mr. Ball has developed, as David Smith says, “a positive and purposeful atmosphere.”
Mr. Smith elaborates, “Mr. Ball is an excellent listener with a very quick understanding of the issues involved in any situation.” Mr. Ball has been attentive to faculty needs and constantly communicates with them. Ms. HerrNeckar, who has worked with fifteen different upper school principals at Milton, finds Mr. Ball to be “very supportive.” Mr. Ball has been open to every suggestion and complaint of faculty members but has also remained realistic. Ms. Marianelli comments, “I may not always get the answer I want but what I am saying is being heard.”
From the Trustees’ perspective, Mr. Ball was an excellent choice for Upper School Principal. Bradley Bloom, the Chairman of the Board, says, “The nice thing about David is that he has known people on the Board for a very long time.” Mr. Bloom adds, “Mr. Ball has brought tremendous continuity to the position.”
Mr. Ball and Mr. Bland have worked together in an organic manner. The entire community has recognized their unique, close-knit relationship. Mr. Bland shares, “From my perspective, our working relationship has been fantastic. I could not have imagined it being any better, quite honestly.” The two administrators communicate daily, mutually arriving at solutions to difficult situations.
Mr. Bland adds, “I have valued our collaboration but I want the community to know that, although we work very hard, I appreciate how much fun I have with him.” Mr. Bland reports that he laughs every day at Mr. Ball’s “fantastic sense of humor and dry wit.”
The entire community celebrates Mr. Ball’s first year. Mr. Bland commented, “We wouldn’t be in as good a place come graduation, come the end of the year, without his steady hand, without his guidance, and without his care.”
Milton is extremely lucky to have Mr. Ball as its Upper School Principal and, after a great year, the community looks forward to future years under his leadership. Mr. Bland concludes, “Mr. Ball has far surpassed even my highest expectations. What makes me most excited in thinking about years to come is that he is just getting started.”
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