New Upper School Director Hired


Starting July 1, the Upper School will officially have a new director: Kristine Von Ogden. Head of School Randall Dunn announced the hiring of Ms. Von Ogden, currently a senior administrator at Lake Forest Academy, earlier this month. Although she doesn’t join Latin until the summer, Mr. Dunn noted that she would be “engaged in meetings throughout the spring related to planning for 2021-22.”

The search for a new Upper School Director has been taking place behind the scenes since December, when Kirk Greer left mid-year and the Transition Team stepped in. Latin worked with Wickenden DRG, a consulting search firm, on the search.

Mr. Dunn described the first level of the search process beginning with a “big pool” (all of whom, according to Mr. Dunn, were “out of house”). Mr. Dunn explained that although Latin was involved in the early search work, “The consultant does a lot of the heavy lifting in that first round.” Wickenden vetted the candidates and narrowed the pool down to 16 people, then wrote a summary of each candidate for the school’s search committee. The committee then narrowed the pool down to six candidates, each of whom underwent extensive interviews. Mr. Dunn noted, “The beauty of it [being over Zoom] was we were able to then record it so that even I was able to see all of the interviews.” The three finalists were then invited to come to campus and get a feel for the school when the final interviews took place.

Mr. Dunn noted a number of factors that made Ms. Von Ogden stand out from the other candidates. “Her background and track record as a person involved in creating and fostering excellent education and focus as the person who designs, looks at, and implements curriculum was really impressive,” he said. “Over the years, she’s planned and run some terrific programs and projects to solve problems. From standards-based assessment to the evaluation of teachers, she just had a deep knowledge, and we thought that was impressive in addition to simply her care about students and the community.”

Junior Prefect Shreya Wojno quickly voiced her enthusiasm for the new director, saying, “I’m super excited.” She added that “when reading Ms. Von Ogden’s educational philosophy, something that really stood out was the line, ‘It is important for a good leader to know when to redirect, change course, or even start over.’ I think it shows that she’s committed to finding the best possible solution to any given problem. Resilience and persistence are key, and I think our community is really going to benefit from that.”

In his email, Mr. Dunn included Ms. Von Ogden’s resume. She did her undergraduate work at the University of Chicago and earned her master’s degree at New York University in Paris. She has spent the last 23 years rising through Lake Forest Academy’s ranks, beginning as a French teacher and now serving as the Dean of Curriculum and Innovation.

While the leap from teacher to administrator may seem like a big jump, Ms. Von Ogden said, “I need challenges. And I love teaching, and I firmly believe I’m a very good teacher, but I wanted to expand my skill set. I wanted to be more challenged in my everyday work, and a natural step was administration. And it was very fulfilling for me because I was still able to work with students, but also with faculty.”

When asked what about Latin excites her, she responded, “I love the fact that Latin is unafraid to try new things. I love the fact that change isn’t a scary word. I like the fact that at Latin, you try new things, and if they don’t work, you say, you know what we tried, but now we’re going to find something that works better.” She added, “That’s not always the case in independent schools. There are a lot of schools that are very traditional and nervous about making any sort of change. There’s a lot of trepidation there, but what I also appreciate is that from what I can tell anyway, Latin doesn’t change just for the sake of change.”

While Ms. Von Ogden was not afraid to say, “I certainly have some ideas for changes,” she emphasized that, right now, they are mere ideas. “I don’t want to walk into a new role in a new community intent on changing everything. That’s never a good way to start.” Instead, she will “spend some time observing. Getting to know the community and becoming a part of it.”

Even though her official start is months away, Mr. Dunn stressed that “we’ve already started having fairly regular contact in terms of updates, connection, and sharing details about what’s happening in the school and ways in which she can fill out the context and feel ready to hit the ground running.” According to Mr. Dunn, Ms. Von Ogden already has access to certain meeting agendas and has been introduced to department heads, and he encourages the faculty to reach out and welcome her into the community.

Shreya recognized that this transition is not one-sided. “It’s definitely going to be an interesting transition due to the pandemic and hybrid learning,” she said, “but I’m really excited to see the positive change this is going to have on the community.” She emphasized that now is a time for action, saying, “Make your opinion heard. If a student feels like there is something that can be improved within the community, then share that with [Ms. Von Ogden]. No change will come from silence, and though it may seem scary or unimportant, she’s here to help shape Latin into a community we all want to be a part of. Student feedback is vital to improvement. Also, we need to be welcoming and patient—this is a transition for everyone.”

When Ms. Von Ogden joins the Roman community in the fall, the Upper School Transition Team will be phased out. “I would love to express my gratitude for how amazing [the team] has been in this transition,” Mr. Dunn said. “They’ve done a fabulous job in picking it up and running with it, and I really am proud of that work.” Even students have noticed and are grateful for their work. As Shreya said, “They did a great and thorough job.”

“I’m feeling excited about the new director,” said Upper School computer science teacher Ash Hansberry, who served on the Transition Team. “I’m eager to help welcome Ms. Von Ogden to Latin and help her get acquainted with all of the roles of her new job.”

Ms. Von Ogden is genuinely excited to join the community. “With every passing day, I’m more and more excited about it, which to me speaks volumes.” She wants the Roman community to know that “what you see is what you get with me. I don’t really have a poker face. I’m a very genuine, authentic person.” She says she is “ready to go.”