Donald Barr, the controversial and outspoken headmaster of the Dalton School, one of the city’s largest and most selective private schools, has resigned in protest of what he considers the trustee’s interference with his leadership.
“Everyone knows that I am somewhat anachronistic in my views of the educational leadership of a school,” Mr. Barr wrote in a letter yesterday to faculty members and parents. “I am not comfortable with the definition of board‐head relations that I see becoming current in schools everywhere.”
Mr. Barr’s resignation, which the board says was not requested and not expected, comes after 10 frequently stormy years as head of Dalton, which is housed in an 11‐story, brick building at 108 East 89th Street.
Question of Authority
The source of conflict between the strong‐minded Mr. Barr and his 20‐member board seemed to center on the question of where the board’s authority should yield to the headmaster’s judgment. There was apparently no one incident that prompted the resignation, but the confrontation was exacerbated by financial pressures that have forced the school to set priorities.
“The issue is the prerogatives of the board and the headmaster,” said Richard Ravitch, a construction company executive who is president of the board. “My sense of trusteeship and my understanding of the requirements of the state law And the bylaws of the school all say to me that it is the obligation of the trustees of an institution to make all the policies.”
Ironically, the present board of trustees includes many parents who rose to Mr. Barr’s defense when a faction of the former board and some of the parents sought his ouster in 1971. He was accused then of turning a “humanistic, progressive” school into one in which “discipline and authoritarian rule” were the hallmarks.
The issues then had nothing to do with this issue now,” Mr. Ravitch said. “All of us who are now officers of the board were supportive of him in that fight and supported his educational philosophy.”