Mr. Saburn Reflects on Oak Knoll

Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child in Summit launches multi-million dollar  capital campaign -

Elizabeth Eck ’22

As many of you may know, Mr. Saburn will be retiring at the end of this school year as the Head of Oak Knoll School, and Mrs. Landis will be taking his place. He contemplates his sixteen years at Oak Knoll, and everything he will carry with him on his new journey. 

What has been the most memorable part of working at Oak Knoll? 

Teaching Great Books…seriously…hmmm…having the opportunity to watch students go from kindergarten to graduation. That and, most importantly, the people are the most memorable part…students, faculty, staff, parents, alumnae, trustees.

How much has Oak Knoll changed since you started working here? 

Quite a bit. During my time here, we renovated all of the science labs in the Upper School and built a completely new one, the LS science classrooms, and all of the art classrooms in Lower and Upper. The Campion Center was also renovated and the choral music room is now a tiered theater style space. We have a diversity statement and diversity coordinator. We bought a new property next to Mulcahy Hall. I had donors purchase and donate, for OKS use, the house on Manor Hill Road behind the gym. We have a swipe card system, two turf fields, new division heads, advancement director, athletic director, chief technology officer, director of enrollment management, director of marketing and communications, a new college counseling program structure and 2 full time college counselors. We also have a writing center, a math lab, golf, ice hockey and sailing teams, a Pre-K program, computers in all grades in the Lower School, Latin classes, security guards, renovated Grace Hall Chapel. We found a donor for the stained glass in Grace Hall Chapel as well as the prayer garden. I could go on. Like…lots and lots of plexiglass! 

What will you miss most about Oak Knoll?

 The people, but the students most of all. The students were the reason I took the Oak Knoll job.

What Oak Knoll traditions will you bring with you to your retirement? 

I will always take with me the Christmas and Spring Concerts and the Dance concert. The Christmas concerts were always very, very special to me. I would usually tear up during both the Lower and Upper School concerts. I’d like to be able to watch those concerts each Christmas. It is such a very special time at OKS.

What is the next step after retirement for you/ what are you looking forward to? 

Well, my wife and I will move to Rhode Island full time in June. I promised her that I won’t do anything for 3 to 6 months and then I may look at some opportunities that people have spoken to me about (e.g. consulting to independent schools, part time work in a school—with no major decisions to make!) 

As you know, I will read and I will try to write. I have some drafts of short stories that I’ve had for years. I have a book project that I’d like to see if I have the discipline to write it. My wife and I like to fish from our boat on the Rhode Island coast, golf, and continue to be the world’s worst triathlete—which means I will be swimming, biking and running (well, jogging is more accurate.) I may volunteer at our little parish in RI, too. I’d like to try something new, too, like learn how to play the bagpipes—I’m sure my wife will love that! 

What I am really looking forward to is not having to make so many decisions on a daily, weekly, monthly, annual basis. I have been a Head of School for 23 years in total (16 at OKS) and prior to that was Upper School Head at MKA for 7 years. Being in those jobs is demanding because: a.) People expect you to have the right answer even when you don’t know what the question is (my graduate school adviser called that the, “burden of presumed competence.”); b.) In this job, unlike many other jobs in life, people expect you to be right 100% of the time. In business, if you are right 51% of the time, you make a profit; 55% of the time, you’re rich! In major league baseball, if you get a hit 3 out of 10 at bats…you are an all-star and you’ve failed at your job 7 of the 10 times! I think this pandemic year has shown to people, who have paid attention, that school leaders are expected to be right all of the time and with multiple constituencies who have their own varied objectives, desires, needs. I won’t miss that pressure. It’s very tiring. Finally, I look forward to laying in a hammock under the trees on a summer afternoon with a sea breeze, a blanket, a pillow and a good book. I love that!

We at Untucked thank you for your dedication and spirit, Mr. Saburn. The mark you have left on Oak Knoll will last forever. Enjoy your well-deserved rest and relaxation in Rhode Island!