Head of School Search Updates

Position Description Process in Detail

In late April we sent an online survey to the members of our many constituencies. The survey sought to gather input on a number of important issues that will help to frame the decision process. Specifically, interested individuals were asked to contribute what they most valued about the school, the priorities for the next Head, what professional experiences would best prepare a person to be the Head of Saint Thomas Choir School, and the perceived challenges of the next 3 to 5 years.

The Search Committee was delighted and impressed with the over 100 thoughtful and detailed responses that it received. From the survey it is most clear that the rich academic program is highly regarded by all, our preeminent musical education is seen as first in class, and that the boy chorister experience is transformative.

The responses to the survey were extremely helpful in highlighting priorities. First and foremost, the school must continue to work hard to recruit and retain talented faculty. Second, it is recognized by the wider community that for the School to thrive in the future, more work needs to be done around finances; specifically, the next Head of School must take a leading role in strengthening donor networks. Lastly, the new Head needs to have strong leadership qualities -to be a great communicator, a compassionate presence, and a decisive manager.

In addition to the input we received from the survey, our search consultant Bob Vitalo held online focus group meetings with faculty, parents and students. Following up on these sessions, Bob had many one-on-one phone conversations with alumni, Church members, parents, and faculty.

The information gathered from all of these sources was instrumental in producing the Position Description that can be accessed here: Head of School Position Description. The position description was carefully written and edited by our consultant with input from leading members of the school community; the Search Committee reviewed and approved the final version. The Committee believes that the document, in a concise and efficient manner, successfully conveys the spirit and significance of the outstanding work done at the School.

We would call your attention to the final sections of the description where the opportunities and challenges, along with the qualities and qualifications, are laid out for potential candidates. The Committee firmly believes that these statements will attract a strong and highly qualified group of individuals eager to work in our unique environment and excited about the potential to have a major, positive impact on the future of the school.

The work of the Committee continues and, in the coming months, files of selected candidates will be reviewed, preliminary interviews scheduled, and references checked. The process is on schedule and it is our expectation that we will have candidates visit in the fall (either in-person or virtually).

Finally, the work on creating a new governance structure for the Choir School initiated at the end of 2019 by the Vestry has begun and we are grateful to Ann Mellow, Associate Director of the National Association of Episcopal Schools, who has agreed to act as our consultant.

 

Launch of Search

We have launched the search for the new Head of the Saint Thomas Choir School. A search committee, with representatives from the church and the school (see below), has been formed and has begun its work under the leadership of Warden Kazie Metzger Harvey. Carney, Sandoe & Associates, a well-recognized consulting firm and one of the largest firms that focus exclusively on the educational sector, was selected to aid us in this process. Senior Consultant Bob Vitalo is actively engaged in assisting the search committee with its work. The recruitment of candidates, both nationally and internationally, has commenced.  In the late summer/early fall, we will interview semi-finalists.  Finalists will visit and meet members of the school community early in the fall. Our goal is to have a selection and an appointment by October or November.

Please do not contact the Choir School directly about this appointment.  Instead, kindly reach out directly via email to Bob Vitalo:  robert.vitalo@carneysandoe.com

 

Preliminary Stages of the Search

We are in the first stages of a search for the new Head of the Saint Thomas Choir School. Even with all the change to life as we know it as a result of Covid-19, this update is to brief you as to the process which we will follow so that we can identify and hire the best possible Head of School. We want to be ready to move ahead as we enter our second century.

First, we would like to announce that Amalia Francisco has graciously agreed to serve as Interim Head until the summer of 2021. The school is fortunate to have Amy on staff and we are confident that the School is in excellent hands. Amy has our full support and we know that every member of the school community will be committed to providing any assistance she may need to be successful. As we commence the search for a new Head of School, Amy has informed the Choir School Committee and Vestry that she will not be a candidate so that her focus can remain solely on making sure that the next year and a half provides the best possible experience for the students and faculty. This will also allow her to be best placed to help with the transition to a new Head of School.

 

Search Committee Appointments

We are pleased to share with you the members of the Search Committee, who represent alumni, parents, faculty, staff, vestry, the music department, and an independent educator. Together, we will work diligently in the weeks and months ahead to conduct a thorough process according to the National Association of Independent School guidelines to identify the best candidate to lead The Choir School into the next decade.

  • Kazie Metzger Harvey, Warden, Chair of the Choir School Committee, Chair of the Search Committee
  • The Rev. Canon Carl Turner, Rector of Saint Thomas Church
  • Amalia Francisco, Interim Head of the Saint Thomas Choir School
  • Dr. Jeremy Filsell, Director of Music, Saint Thomas Church
  • Vance Wilson, Educator, Writer, Headmaster Emeritus, St. Alban’s School, Washington, DC
  • Rachel Segger, Parent ’15, ’19, ’23, Music Associate, Trinity on the Green, New Haven
  • Julia Babson Alling, Parent ’22, Annual Appeal Manager, Office of the Presiding Bishop
  • Pamela Lewis, Vestry Member, Retired Lead French Teacher, Hunter High School
  • Miriam Allman, Houseparent of the Saint Thomas Choir School
  • Aaron Primero, ’05, Alumni Association President, Choir School Committee Member

 

Search firm selected

After evaluating an impressive group of executive search firms, we chose Carney, Sandoe & Associates (CS&A) to partner with us in our Head of School search process. CS&A is a well-recognized consulting firm and one of the largest firms that focus exclusively on the educational sector. Through their offerings of leadership placement, strategic planning, and executive coaching for independent schools, they have developed an extensive network and meaningful connections with top talent worldwide.

We are excited to work with CS&A Senior Consultant, Robert Vitalo. Bob focuses on retained head of school searches, senior administrative searches, and strategic planning with boards and heads. With experience in elementary, single sex, Episcopal, and K-12 schools, Bob works with a wide range of schools on their leadership needs. Bob has been a frequent presenter at NAIS, NYSAIS, NBOA, and CASE.

Bob served as Head of School at The Berkeley Carroll School (NY) from 2006 to 2019. Prior to BCS, he served as Headmaster at Fairfield Country Day School (CT) and Head of School at Media-Providence Friends School (PA) where he also held roles as Assistant Head of School and Head Teacher of the Lower School. He also taught at Grace Church School (NY) and in New York City Public Schools. Bob has served on committees and boards for the New York State Association of Independent Schools, Connecticut Association of Independent Schools, and International Coalition of Boys’ Schools, among others.

Bob received his B.S. in education from New York University and an M.A. in psychology from Columbia University. He has served on the boards of independent schools, a charter school, and several child advocacy groups. Bob resides with his wife in New York City.

Questions about the search and referral of potential candidates can be sent directly to Bob at:

robert.vitalo@carneysandoe.com

 

The Search Process

Our collective responsibility as a Search Committee is to conduct a comprehensive national search and manage the process of nominating the next Head of School. We will strive to make this search as inclusive as possible, taking into consideration the input of many constituents while balancing community participation with respect for the privacy of candidates. This careful balance, along with a flexible schedule, will enable us to attract superior talent.

 

Timetable

Even working remotely, these next few months will be a busy time. While our consultant will not be personally meeting with faculty and staff, alumni, parents, and vestry, he will be conducting surveys and speaking directly to as many people as possible. The purpose of these interactions is to hear as many perspectives we can as to what the School community seeks in our next Head. To ensure that all voices are heard, we will send a confidential electronic survey to the Vestry, Choir School Committee, Faculty, current parent body, and Alumni Association. This will be a critical step in the process and we strongly encourage your participation if you are one of those constituent groups. Feedback received from these telephone conversations and electronic surveys will help us identify the qualities, skills and characteristics that the incoming Head of School should possess. As the COVID-19 situation may improve in the coming weeks and months, we will continue to explore all ways that school community members can have a voice.  Our consultant will use all this valuable input to prepare a position profile that will be used to formally recruit candidates. A detailed position description will then be posted on the church and school websites as well as CS&A’s. Recruiting begins in late spring, or as soon as possible, and goes into the summer. By late summer/early fall we will be interviewing semi-finalists. Finalists will visit the school and meet with members of the school community early in the fall. We are hoping to have a selection and appointment by October or November.

Given the Choir School’s strength and excellent reputation, we fully anticipate many talented candidates across the country will be attracted to this incredible leadership opportunity and vibrant School community. We have established a new search webpage where you can send comments and candidate recommendations. We will also post the position description there when available.

We truly believe that this will be an exciting and fulfilling process as we proceed into the next 100 years.

 

The Rev. Carl Turner

Rector, Saint Thomas Church

 

Kazie Metzger Harvey

Warden, Saint Thomas Church & Chair of the Choir School Committee