The Search for a New Head of Upper School

By Jethro Swain

The search for a new head of the Upper School has begun.

All week various teachers from various departments have been absent from their classes. Lynn Sadler has come out of retirement and become a subbing machine for Rick Rees and Kara Tambellini.

The past year and a half have been nothing short of a rebuilding period for OES. Since June of 2015 there has been a dorm head leaving, an upper school head leaving, a middle school head leaving, an athletic director leaving, and on top of it all the new lower school being built. Every department within OES has been through some sort of change. All of the above mentioned transitions have been resolved, except for the new head of the upper school.

Corbet Clark has stepped in as the interim head for this transition year after the mini search at the end of last year. But the search for the permanent head is a much more arduous process, with many more applicants in the pool.

The teachers participating in the search are a mix of faculty leaders including Chris Schuck, Susie Gundle, and David Lowell, along with other teachers and faculty members from various departments like Maria McIvor, Peter Langley, and Dennis Sullivan just to name a few, with a total of eleven faculty members. The members were chosen in a process that started with all faculty members in the community to give a level of interest in being a part of the search. Chris Schuck and company then chose from those who expressed a high level of interest, and picked a diverse group of faculty from different departments who, for the most part, have some sort of leadership role.

The decision will wrap up a long two years, and give the class of 2019 their 3rd Head of Upper School in three years.

“The whole process has been really really interesting,” Maria told me. “The different candidates come from all over. Many of them are from international schools in countries abroad.”

When I went to ask both Kara and Maria about the interviews, I thought it was going to be almost top secret, and that Kara might give me a time back for just asking. But, surprisingly, they were both able and willing to share a lot with me.

“The initial round started with about fifty applicants. We read all of the applications and rated them independently without consulting with each other and picked the ones we liked and didn’t like,” Maria explained to me. “Then we had a meeting to share what we all thought, and as a group we all came up with a scale of most qualified to least qualified and sorted through the applicants who we thought wouldn’t be a good fit.”

After the first round, the reading of the resumes of the applicants, the field was narrowed down from fifty to the top fifteen, the ones they felt were more qualified than the others. From those fifteen, they began conducting a Skype interview with each candidate. Even if the candidate was from the Northwest and could make it for an in person interview, every candidate was required to be interviewed over Skype. The applicants were given their first question from the team of interviewers the night before, so they had time to prepare. From that question, each applicant was given the same questions, in the same order, so that it was as fair as possible.

Along with being from all different parts of the world, the candidates vary greatly in terms of age. “Some are more wise and in the later stages of their career, and some are young with fresh, new ideas,” said Maria.

As of now, Thursday night, the team has the top fifteen applicants, so where do they go from here?

“Once we do all the interviews, we’ll meet and discuss who we like the best.” From this stage they have multiple options of what to do next. “It depends on how many we like,” said Maria on what the next stage of the process will be. “We may have a semi-finalist round, or a finalist round, where we would choose the head directly from that small pool. Both rounds would involve a visit to campus. The finalist round would involve more elements like an overnight stay, a dinner, etc., but both will have interactions with students.”

When the team narrows down the pool to a single digit number of applicants, they’ll announce more about where they’re at and give students opportunities to interact with the potential Head of Upper schools.

“Be looking for opportunities to meet with candidates because it’s very important that students are involved and it’s something that students should take seriously,” said Kara.

“The goal is to have a decision by the end of January, possibly even earlier,” said Maria. “We want to have the best candidates, we don’t want to be competing with other schools, so it’s important that we be thorough in our screening, while also being hasty and make sure we don’t lose our candidates to other jobs.”

So the end of January it is. Maybe even earlier. That’s when you can expect to meet the new Head of the Upper School.

Lucas S. told me on finding a good Head that, “If the people want it, it will happen, but regardless, there’s a long road ahead of us.”

Be on the lookout for announcements and emails about opportunities to talk with the potential candidates, possibly in the coming weeks before break. Your voice could affect the future of OES for many years to come.

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