Kristine Von Ogden, Upper School Head, Steps Down


Upper School Director Kristine Von Ogden will depart Latin before the end of the current academic year.

On Friday, January 13, Head of School Dr. Thomas Hagerman informed the Latin community by email notification that Kristine Von Ogden (affectionately referred to by students as “Ms. VO”) has resigned from her position as Mary Gertrude White Upper School Director. According to the correspondence, “Kristine Von Ogden has decided to leave the Upper School in order to attend to personal matters.” Ms. VO’s last day will be February 24, 2023.
The news was met by students and faculty with both disappointment and surprise. “I was very surprised,” freshman Ruby Larsen said. “My sister and I, as soon as we read it, were shocked because it was all so sudden.”
The faculty whom Ms. VO leads were similarly stunned. “I became aware that Ms. VO was leaving on Friday afternoon when she shared her news with the faculty,” President of the Latin School Union (LSU) and Upper School Latin teacher Elissabeth Legendre said. “I was obviously surprised, and I wish her and her family the very best.”
The brevity of Ms. VO’s tenure accounts for much of the reaction. After 23 years with her preceding institution, Lake Forest Academy, Ms. VO has been at Latin only since the summer of 2021. While Ms. VO’s impact on Latin during this time has been considerable, it is also clear that her relationships to students, faculty and administrators was still relatively new. “I can’t speak to her relationship with everyone, but I feel that many of us were still getting to know her,” Ms. Legendre said.
Ruby added, “I knew her as the woman in the assemblies who always was chill and happy.”
Dr. Hagerman said he became aware of Ms. VO’s resignation shortly after Latin’s winter break. He echoed Ms. Lengendre on the unfortunate timing and noted, “Life circumstances don’t always follow a school calendar.”
Although life doesn’t necessarily follow a school calendar, students do. When such an important member of the senior administration leaves surprisingly, it can cause students to feel unsettled. “It does trouble me a little having a [division head] leave in the middle of the year,” Ruby said. “It is a little concerning because she was such a leader and kept our school in order.”
Ms. Legendre further articulated the struggle inherent in managing such unexpected transitions. “The biggest immediate challenge is handling emotion,” she said. “A member of the community is suddenly departing, and teachers not only need to manage their own emotions with regard to the loss but also the potential heightened emotions of the student and parent bodies.”
It was only two years ago when Latin students were shocked and saddened by the departure of Upper School Director Kirk Greer, who also left mid-year. Since 2015, there have been five different individuals and a Transition Team assigned to hold the position of Upper School Director. The pervasive turnover may be indicative of a larger issue, and Dr. Hagerman said he is concerned.
“It does concern me that there has been significant turnover in this role,” he said. “As we think about both short- and longer-term solutions, we are going to have to grapple with this very question and determine how to make it a more sustainable leadership role here at Latin.”
According to Dr. Hagerman, there is much more to the job than can be seen from student eyes. “A school leader’s work is not always evident to the broader community,” he said. “For example, there are countless interactions, conversations, meetings, emails, paperwork and much more that are essential to the effective functioning of a school.”
Ms. VO began her time at Latin during a particularly tumultuous period. She arrived just as faculty voted to form a union, and associated contract negotiations have been ongoing since then. Ms. VO also started as Upper School Director just as Latin was finding its way out of the worst of the COVID crisis, learning how to balance and manage teaching through COVID’s evolution from pandemic to endemic.
Still, despite these challenges and with only a year and a half under her belt, Ms. VO has made a great impact on the Latin community. Whether it was with advisory changes, handling the aftermath of COVID, efforts to improve class space by introducing (perhaps controversial) Dorito desks, or just by providing a much needed friendly face, Ms. VO will no doubt be missed.
While some haven’t had the chance to appreciate Ms. VO in depth, many students have more personal connections to their principal. Ruby said, “Ms. VO was always funny and nice to all the students.”
Dr. Hagerman said he empathizes with how students might feel. “For students who have made personal connections with Ms. VO, of course, there is no replacement or work-around. As with others who come into and out of our lives, we will have to acknowledge and appreciate the time that we had together and also recognize that there are simply times when people have to prioritize their personal lives over professional obligations.”
Transitions are tough, especially unexpected ones, but Ms. Legendre said she has faith in our resilience. “I am confident that Dr. Hagerman, the senior administration, the staff, and the faculty will be able to manage this transition while continuing to provide an incredible education for our students,” she said. She also reminded students that their teachers are there to help them through this transition. Finally, Ms. Legendre said, “If students have particular concerns, please reach out to the adults. We’re here to support you.”
Dr. Hagerman said he is “confident we will find a very capable interim director.” As for a more permanent solution, there has been no set timeline. “Our goal is to find the very best interim for now, and then we will work on a more permanent solution from there,” he said.
Searching for Ms. VO’s replacement only adds to the significant amount of work already on Dr. Hagerman’s plate in his first year at Latin. Now the school will be searching for a new Upper School Director, Middle School Director, Assistant Head of School, and Director of Communications (following the mid-year departure of Katie O’Dea).
Administrators, teachers, and students all come and go, but the Latin community is here to stay. Supporting one another is crucial when facing unexpected challenges. As Dr. Hagerman said, “Latin is an amazing place, and the biggest reason is because of the people here. As we face challenges, we have to remember that we are facing them together, and, ultimately, we work through them together. Every one of us plays a role in building and shaping this community.”
Echoing Dr. Hagerman’s sentiment, Ms. Legendre said, “We’ve got this; we’re focused on the future. We’re stronger together, and we’re here for you.”