After the retirement of Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts, the administration will restructure, with President Rick Commons adding the position of head of school to his title and Interim Head of School Liz Resnick taking on the role of associate head of school, overseeing more all-school responsibilities, effective in July. A new head of upper school is slated to be announced before Thanksgiving after a nationwide search and more interviews with the final candidates, Commons said.
“Thanks to the administrative team that Jeanne has built and the smooth transition in the President’s office that she facilitated, we have an excellent succession plan, which will include a return to a more traditional school leadership structure,” Commons and Board of Trustees Chair Philip Holthouse said in an email to parents and students.
Commons and Resnick will decide the division of leadership responsibilities in the coming months, but her role will be similar to Huybrechts’ role of managing the day-to-day operations of the school.
“[Commons] has a great vision for the future, and I think what Ms. Resnick’s role will be exactly in the future is a little bit undecided,” Huybrechts said. “She knows what she wants to do and she’s a great person with a lot of experience, but her exact duties are yet to be determined.”
After the merger of Harvard School for Boys and Westlake School for Girls in 1991, Headmaster Thomas C. Hudnut led the administration, which included a head of upper school and a head of middle school. Ten years ago, Hudnut became the school’s first president with Huybrechts as the school’s first head of school.
Hudnut told the Chronicle in 2006 that he wanted to focus on “Harvard-Westlake, Inc.,” while Huybrechts could focus on administering. He wanted to devote his time to serve the school’s business interests, describing himself as a “CEO,” but also needed to bifurcate the position so someone could be readily available for faculty and the rest of the administration. His mission centered on the school’s future, while Huybrechts focused on the present, according to the Chronicle’s 2006 editorial.
Though, Huybrechts said that over time both of their positions started to cross over into external and internal areas. So, when Commons took over, that division dissolved.
Commons is aiming for the new 2017 dynamic to be “something in between” a headmaster structure and the current president and head of school arrangement, keeping in tune with Hudnut’s notion that the job is just too big for one person.
“Adding ‘head of school’ to my title reflects my devotion to the experience of students and faculty, rather than any substantial changes to my responsibilities,” Commons said. “However, given the size and complexity of our school, I believe that we will continue to need two people working together to do the head of school’s job effectively,—thus the Associate Head of School position.”
Though Audrius Barzdukas, who left his position as Head of Upper School last year, also held the title of Associate Head of School, Commons said that was a “substantially different leadership structure” and Resnick’s role will be much broader.
“We will collaborate on the work that needs to be done, playing to our strengths and areas of experience,” Commons said.
When Huybrechts first became head of school, she looked to better coordinate the curricula of the Middle and Upper Schools. As a former director of studies, Resnick also plans to take heed of academic-related matters.
“I will do primarily school-related, academic, curriculum, educational program type things like Dr. Huybrechts,” Resnick said.
Also effective in July, the new head of upper school will take over for Resnick. The search committee has been interviewing the eight semi-finalists. As the Chronicle previously reported in August, two of the eight are current Harvard-Westlake employees.
Commons initially expected to make the appointment Oct. 25, but now predicts the selection will be made in early November, before Thanksgiving. The committee is also prepared to make the announcement earlier if one candidate clearly stands out. Commons, though, “does not see that happening,” he said.
Once the committee, made up of Commons, Huybrechts, Resnick, Upper School Dean Beth Slattery, English Department Head Larry Weber and other administrators, selects two or three finalists, more of the school will become involved.
“What I can certainly say is that students will be involved,” Commons said. “Faculty will be involved more broadly than just the search committee. I expect that we’ll also give a handful of parents to interact with the candidates. One of the things we’ll be trying to do is sell the candidates on the job. In our finalist planning, we need to not only give our community a chance to know people, but we need our community to show itself really well so the candidates say, ‘my gosh there’s nothing I want more than that job.’”