by Abe Asher
“I like change.”
That’s the first thing Scott Hardister tells me once we’ve come to a mutual understanding that we’d both just rather talk about sports and keep this exit interview of sorts as short as possible. It’s also the reason why Hardister – happy personally and professionally in Portland and at OES – is leaving effective July 1st.
“I was thinking about my next steps professionally. I’ve been at OES longer than I’ve been anywhere else.
“This was a natural transition time with my kids going into high school.”
Hardister was contacted by a recruiter for Marin Country Day School, fifteen minutes outside of San Francisco. The school had an opening for their Middle School head position, but Hardister didn’t want to make a lateral move to do the same job in MCDS that he was doing at OES.
Thing was, Marin County head of school Lucinda Lee Katz didn’t want Hardister for the middle school job – she wanted him for the specially-created assistant head of school, a move known in the industry as pulling a Chris Schuck.
“The head of school there is somewhat of a legend – I’ve always been interested in working with her,” Scott said, “and when she gets an idea in her head, she goes.”
Marin Country is one of the top K-8 schools in the country. It’s just over the Golden Gate bridge, sitting right on the bay.
The process moved fast. “It was jarring,” Hardister said. But it felt right. He took the job in early December.
“They have big strategic plan (sound familiar?). I want to help my boss raise some money and build some buildings.”
Leaving OES wasn’t easy. It was always going to take a near-perfect situation to pry him away, and this was that near-perfect situation – at as good a time as any to make a move.
“I’m really selective – I wanted to stay in the West, and I didn’t just want to stay in a middle school somewhere else.”
“I love OES. It’s a great school. My kids have been here nine years. I love the community, I have really close friends and colleagues – and it’s an exciting time here, with the new lower school being built, and I wanted to be a part of that – but I felt like this wasn’t an opportunity I should pass up.”
Career-wise, it’s the right move. Hardister grew up in the small town of Asheville, North Carolina before attending the University of Georgia. After graduating, Hardister stayed in Athens to teach.
Ready to leave the south – and who can blame them – Hardister and his wife Emily had connections in Cascadia, with Emily’s brother living in Seattle and Scott’s brother living here in Portland.
They visited, and were smitten. “It’s Portland,” Hardister says with a smile. “We loved it.” When the opportunity to teach science at OES came up, Hardister jumped. His kids were one and a half years old.
Thirteen years, several promotions, and a lot of great moments later, it’s time to move on.
Hardister recieved nothing but encouragement when he decided to leave. “Mo has been totally supportive and encouraging. The middle school is great.”
When Hardister announced his move, there was palpable apprehension amongst the middle school staff. However, now that Ann Sulzer has been announced as the next head, that apprehension has turned into excitement. “Everyone is ready to move forward,” Hardister said.
Hardister was full of praise for the middle school faculty. When asked about his proudest accomplishment, Hardister pointed to the atmosphere he helped build and promote. “It’s not very tangible, but what I’m most proud of is the innovate spirit in the middle school faculty that trickles down to kids. New things, new methods, new systems. Taking the time to reflect back.”
The Middle School will miss him. So will the boys varsity soccer team, which Hardister worked with as an assistant coach. “I’ve loved coaching soccer. The years when I haven’t coached, I’ve missed it,” he said.
Although given ample opportunity, Hardister refused to single me out for praise specifically as a favorite player to coach, which is surprising, given that I basically single-handedly won the state championship this year.
Hardister said he might look into getting into coaching in San Francisco, though the school he’ll be working at does not have a soccer team.
One other drawback of his new gig? Less time to pursue his dream job: “I want to be an MLS linesman. That’s my dream.”
It will take some time to get acclimated to living outside of Portland. There will not be, for instance, any rooting for the San Jose Earthquakes or Golden State Warriors. “We need to find a place to live and envision something. We’re pretty adventuresome. We have really good friends in this town. We’re all going to hit moments when we miss it,” Hardister said.
And we’ll miss him. Scott Hardister has a certain joie de vivre that many leaders lack and many people are drawn to. I wish I’d gotten to know him better. Marin Country just got a lot better.