Candidates Emerge For Interim Head Position

by Abe Asher

Shortly before Winterim, long-time Head of the Upper School Jordan Elliott announced that he would be leaving OES at the end of the school year. Now, the search for his replacement for the 2016-17 year is picking up steam.

Multiple sources have told The Dig that there are four candidates for the position. All four are currently working in the Upper School. It’s conceivable that other candidates could come forward, but time is running short.

Stipulating that applicants had to be current members of the US community was a very intentional decision, explained Associate Head of School Chris Schuck. “With feedback we received from the Upper School faculty we determined that the interim US head should be someone already very familiar with the school, and thus all candidates are from the Upper School at OES.”

Because of the timing and suddenness of Jordan’s decision to leave, OES felt that it could not conduct an adequate search for a full-time successor before the 2016-2017 school year.

Instead, the school will appoint an interim for next year while conducting what it has termed a “global” search to fill the position permanently starting with the 2017-18 year.

The interim Head will not be under consideration for the full-time position — a condition that impacted the current candidate pool.

Mo Copeland and Chris Schuck are and will be in charge of both searches. Neither are themselves candidates for the interim role. Helping guide their search for the interim Head is an advisory panel consisting of current OES faculty and administration members.

“We built our advisory panel from among the many who volunteered their services, with the goal of giving ourselves a small group with an impressively broad representation of experiences, and particular insights into the work of the interim head,” said Chris.

“Members of the panel are: Julie Sikkink, Gary Crossman, Jenny Cleveland, and David Lowell. Their work began early in the morning of April 4, before we embarked on our professional development day.”

“Over the course of this week the panel is conducting exploratory conversations with several very strong candidates for the transitional leadership,” Chris said.

At some point in the next several weeks, OES will open up the process in some way — it’s unclear how yet — to the overall school community. Right now, however, the on-the-fly nature of the search is being seen as unnecessarily chaotic by some faculty members.

Certainly, this is an unusual situation. Meetings with parents to gauge what they think the school’s direction should be for next year and beyond have started and are ongoing.

As for students, “The advisory panel has discussed our desire to incorporate student perspective in shaping the goals for next year — and beyond. As the interim search process moves beyond the confidential exploratory phase, we will be soliciting input from some representative student voices — in a way that we have not yet determined,” Chris said.

At some point during this process, the names of the candidates for the position will be made public. Warned Chris, “It’s not a political campaign, it’s not a horserace, it’s not a pageant. We’re simply looking for the best way to take care of students, teachers, and families during an important time of transition.”

Initial meetings with candidates have begun. More concrete plans will take shape as the month continues. The school’s goal is to announce the identity of the interim head for next year “in early May.”

“Our biggest challenge in keeping to this time frame will be pulling together groups of people during a very busy time of year,” Chris said.

“The Upper School next year will be in good and steady hands — we just don’t know yet whose.”

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