Head of School Search Updates

Dear Saint Thomas Church and Choir School Family,

As you know, 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 letter 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. Albans 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

COVID-19 Response and Information

The safety and well-being of our entire community are always our first priority. Accordingly, as of March 15th, all students have returned home. Although we experienced no cases of COVID-19, we took this action to protect the Saint Thomas community and to help slow the spread of COVID-19. We hope that this precautionary measure will keep our community safe, help provide essential protection to individuals at risk of severe illness and support critical healthcare infrastructures.

We have been and will continue to closely monitor the COVID-19 crisis and follow recommendations from the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, and New York State and City Departments of Health as we navigate these uncharted waters.

We are also working in coordination with our governing bodies at National Association of Independent Schools, New York State Association of Independent Schools and National Association of Episcopal Schools and remain in contact with our peer schools.

Senior leadership at the Choir School will continue to meet regularly to guide and plan the Choir School’s continued response to COVID-19, and make plans for re-opening the school when it is safe to do so.

Timeline of actions and decisions taken

March 2: The Choir School advised parents that it was closely monitoring the growing crisis, taking steps to reduce student exposure according to guidance issued by the New York City Department of Health and advised parents to be mindful of CDC travel restrictions when making Easter break travel plans. A letter and Frequently Asked Questions Guide from the New York City Department of Health with information about the coronavirus and general flu prevention measures was distributed.

March 10-15: Under the guidance of Interim Head of School, Amalia Francisco, faculty quickly developed and implemented a plan for distance learning using Zoom and Microsoft Teams in all subjects, including choir, voice, and instrument lessons.  All of the boys were instructed in how to use Zoom, including a full, practice day at school prior to the boys leaving to trouble-shoot any issues and  ensure a smooth transition.

March 15:  All students returned home, bringing their school-supplied laptops with them. Residential faculty and staff remain at the school and are following all protocols to remain healthy and safe. All other faculty and staff are working remotely.

March 17 and 18: Ms. Francisco hosted two online meetings with parents to present more information on the Choir School’s plan, give parents instruction in how to use the Zoom platform, and address any questions and concerns from parents.

March 18:

  • Distance learning began with a full schedule from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm. All regular classes continue with both faculty and parents reporting a successful transition to virtual classrooms.
  • Father Turner reiterated the Church’s commitment and ability to maintain the Choir School and the entire Saint Thomas community during this uncertain period and into the future.

March 20: Plans for virtual student recruitment begin to ensure that prospective students and their families can continue to move forward with their applications and auditions.

We will continue to update this page and send out emails to all community members on changes to this fluid situation and appropriate responses for our community.

Alumni reflect on 100 years of Saint Thomas Choir School

A wonderful write-up by Egan Millard at the Episcopal News Service:

“That means the students’ experience is marked by intense and disciplined immersion in the rich Anglican choral tradition, singing at least five services a week in the church, as well as international tours, concerts with symphonies and unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Thomas Carroll (class of 1988, and the son of a 1945 graduate) remembers singing the world premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Requiem Mass at St. Thomas Church in 1985 with Plácido Domingo and Sarah Brightman.”

Read “As the only choir boarding school in America turns 100, alumni reflect on its lasting influence” at Episcopal News Service.org

The Epoch Times: Noble Singing at Saint Thomas Choir School, 100 Years On

Lorraine Ferrier of The Epoch Times writes about “North America’s only choral boarding school”

“For the choristers, it’s not only about singing. It’s about personally holding themselves to the highest standards, having that reverence and professionalism. Jonathan believes it’s important to “set an example, whether kneeling or sitting, not talking, showing respect for whoever is [there], and showing that you really care about what you do and how you do it.”

Read “Noble Singing at Saint Thomas Choir School, 100 Years On” here