by Abe Asher
Head of the Upper School Jordan Elliott will leave OES at the conclusion of the current school year, Jordan announced yesterday.
Jordan informed Head of School Mo Copeland of his decision several weeks ago. The Upper School Leadership Team was informed in meetings starting last week of the impending change in leadership.
The rest of the Upper School faculty was sent a note this Wednesday announcing a meeting on Thursday morning. It was there that they were informed of Jordan’s decision to leave the school. Upper School students were informed at a special Gathering just over two hours later.
Head of School Mo Copeland and Associate Head of School Chris Schuck were present and spoke at both announcements. A letter announcing Jordan’s departure to OES parents was sent shortly after the announcement to the US student body.
At the conclusion of the school year, Jordan will join his family business Elliott Associates. The move, which takes Jordan out of education and into commercial real estate, will allow him to spend more time with his parents. The business is located on Glisan Street in Portland.
Jordan, a member of the OES Class of 1997, had spent fifteen years at OES as a dorm parent, coach, teacher, and Upper School head. His first day of teaching at the school was on September 11, 2001.
In March 2007, Jordan became interim Head of the Upper School — beating out three current faculty members for the position. He was given the job on a permanent basis that November.
For OES, and for the high school in particular, it’s been an extremely successful decade. Jordan’s recent work in diversity has been especially exemplary, with involvement in the expansion of Culture Shock and creation Exploring Whiteness affinity group serving as high points. His support for our student newspaper this year has been very much appreciated as well.
When asked by The Dig in November whether he had considered leaving OES, Jordan replied that, “What’s most important for me is challenge. When things feel really comfortable, I’ll start wondering if this is the right place for me. But that hasn’t come up.”
That interview was conducted just as OES become mired in what has been widely regarded as one of its most trying school years since 1986 and the tragic Mt. Hood Climb accident.
Jordan made mention of the tenor of the year — one in which Jordan’s own leadership had been called into question — in his announcement to students, but stressed that the year’s events did not effect his decision to leave the school.
OES’ plan to replace Jordan is two-fold. The school plans to, in the next two months, hire an interim Head of Upper School for the 2016-17 year. That interim head will most likely come from within the existing faculty and administration. In a similar situation more than ten years ago, retiring math teacher Gary Crossman served as the interim Head of the US.
Then, starting next fall, the school will conduct what it hopes to be a national and international search for a permanent replacement. That person would then assume the position for the beginning of the 2017-18 school year.
The timing of Jordan’s decision all but necessitated a hiring process stretching into next year. Most teachers and administrators are already locked into contracts for the 2016-17 year.
This structure will mean that the graduating class of 2018 will have had three Heads of Upper School in their final three years at OES.
The school hopes to announce a new interim head by the beginning of May. Current Dean of Students Kara Tambellini has ruled herself out of the running for that position. No matter who ends up getting the job, there will be a substantial reorganization of faculty and administrative duties and personnel next year.
Jordan’s is the latest in a series of high-profile departures from OES. Former Middle School Head Scott Hardister, former head of the dorms MO Owens, and former US Chaplain Liz Harlan-Ferlo all left the school last year.
The high school also has a number of teachers leaving at the end of the year, including, but not limited to, Gary, Diane Herschleb, and Jacqui Gardner. With Jordan and Athletic Director Kris VanHatcher leaving at the end of the year, Tanja Horvat and Bettina Gregg will be the only remaining US faculty members who graduated from OES.
The Dig will have more as this story develops.