Inside the Upper School’s Search for a New Leader


Nearly two months after the departure of Upper School Director Kirk Greer, the search for his successor continues. Spearheading the hunt, Head of School Randall Dunn created a search committee to assist him in finding Greer’s replacement. Although the search is taking longer than many anticipated, the committee is determined to be rigorous in their search for the Upper School’s next leader.
The search committee was carefully populated with members of the faculty and administration dedicated to determining the best fit for the open position. The committee includes Upper School faculty Jen Hayman, Danika Amusin, Adriana Durant, Lourdes Gonzalez, Ash Hansberry, Karen Horvath, Matt June, Lang Kanai, Geraldine Schmadeke, Faye Wells, and Brandon Woods. “As members of the search committee, we share valuable insight and historical context about Latin,” said Ms. Hayman, chair of the Learning Resources Department.
Given Mr. Greer’s mid-year exit, it has been particularly critical that the search committee be proactive in identifying and recruiting his replacement. To aid the effort, Latin’s team is working with the search firm DRG Talent Advisory Group.
“Great progress has been made over the last month,” Ms. Hayman said. “Our consultant, Andy Watson, conducted over 50 meetings with Latin constituents in December. He also reviewed the answers to the survey results. We had over 300 respondents, including 137 students.” According to Ms. Hayman and her colleagues, his role is to leverage the vast network of DRG to present candidates that have the depth of experience, interest in Latin and Chicago, and the personality to be a strong fit for the job and the Latin community.
Evidently, certain steps must be taken by the committee to ensure an equitable selection process. Eleannor Maajid, director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, noted that in working with DRG, the search committee participated in anti-bias training with DRG’s Talent Consultant, Olivia Minick, who specializes in DEI training.
The search committee met with Andy Watson on February 9 to discuss candidates. Committee member Mr. Kanai said, “The consulting firm we’re partnering with is really focused on bringing the best candidates forward from a diverse pool of applicants for us to then review. Over weeks and months they get to know the school, its mission, its challenges, what we’re looking for in our next director. They take all of that and try to gather applicants that they think would be a great fit for Latin.”
The search committee plans to interview five to seven finalists toward the end of February, have the opportunity to introduce them to the Upper School community, solicit feedback, and then hopes to offer a contract to the new US Director in early March. The new director’s tenure will begin July 1.
No students have been or will be included in the interviewing process. In the past, Latin has, on certain occasions, taken input from specific students or student groups and used it to help the selection process. Student Academic Board head Ronil Awalegaonkar said, “SAB has had no involvement nor have we heard anything about the new Upper School director.” In these particular circumstances, he said he believed it was best that the undertaking be left to equipped adults. “I don’t believe SAB is the correct forum for choosing such a replacement, and it is better that the director is chosen at the discretion of faculty/administration without students’ considerations,” Ronil said.
Beyond simply having good qualifications to participate in the search committee, several of the team’s members also serve on the Upper School Transition Team that was formed in the wake of Mr. Greer’s departure. Those at the intersection of the two associations have the unique opportunity to bring insights to the table that draw from greater experience.
“As part of the Transition Team, we are able to get a ‘behind the scenes’ look at the current trends, concerns and successes of the Upper School,” Ms. Hayman said. “Obviously, much of this is related to COVID management, as while we hope to be in a different place in August when we return to the 2021-22 school year, we anticipate it still won’t be ‘normal’ as we all once knew it to be.”
At the end of such an involved process, there is still one unanswered question: Whose shoulders will the final decision fall on? While Mr. Dunn has piloted the operation, ultimately it has been a group effort. “My understanding is that the decision really is a collaborative one,” Mr. Kanai said. “Mr. Dunn will take into account the desires of the administration, search committee, students, and faculty. I think it’s really unlikely that a decision would be made unilaterally. But… at the end of the day, I believe that Mr. Dunn is the final authority.” According to the committee, this has not yet been specifically addressed.
With particular consideration of COVID as well as Mr. Greer’s departure, the hunt for a new Upper School director has been no walk in the park. It has required consistent adaptation and cooperation. “Knowing where we’ve been as a school, where we are now and what we are looking towards helps us to provide our candidates with an honest lens of our successes, struggles and vision for our new Upper School director,” Ms. Hayman said.