Housemasters are now Deans, according to an email sent to the high school community from the principals of both Newton North and Newton South. Their reasoning makes sense: As an extension of the word “master,” housemaster has negative connotations.

First aldermen became city councilors, now housemasters are called Deans. We’re on a roll. What should be next?

The principals’ email follows. It’s a clear explanation of the thinking behind the decision.

January 26, 2016

To the Newton North and Newton South communities,

We are writing to announce a change of terminology for Newton’s high schools:  The “Housemaster” title in each school will be replaced with “Dean.”

We are making this change because we believe that the words we choose to describe ourselves indicate our values and beliefs.  The usage of words also changes over time, and the intentions of those who chose a title over a century ago may be betrayed by new meanings.

The term “Housemaster” is an extension of “master,” which is a word meaning “teacher” in a different century. While it is important not to lose touch with our history, it is also important to recognize when current meanings of words hamper our ability to establish who we are and what we care about.  The term “master” has powerful negative connections that override the more benevolent definition from previous eras.  The word no longer communicates the supportive, welcoming relationship that our Housemasters share with their students.  “Dean,” on the other hand, is a term used throughout education to mean a person in authority over a specific academic area.

Housemasters will now be formally known as “Dean of Wheeler House,” “Dean of Riley House” and so on.  This is only a change in title – our Deans will continue the same supportive work with students, families, and faculty as before.

We are most fortunate to have eight wonderful educators in our two schools overseeing the emotional and academic needs of our students.  We think that this title will better convey their relationship and connection with our students.


Thank you,


Joel and Mark

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