Following a months-long, nationwide search, Upper School Deans Department Head Beth Slattery will assume the position of Head of Upper School, effective July 1, 2020. Laura Ross, who currently serves in the position, will become Associate Head of the school on the same date.
Thinking behind the Promotion
Because the school conducted such a comprehensive process, Commons said that promoting internally seems illogical, yet it was the best decision due to Slattery’s qualifications.
“It wasn’t a choice of convenience,” Commons said. “It was a choice of conviction.”
The school’s search committee found Slattery’s expertise particularly notable, President School Rick Commons said.
“At each stage in the process, Ms. Slattery stood apart for her deep understanding of student experience, broad background in secondary and higher education and abiding commitment to the mission of Harvard-Westlake and the people in our community,” Commons said.
During the application process, Slattery’s interview helped distinguish her from a highly-qualified applicant pool.
“She left the office, and we all looked at each other in the search committee and said, ‘Wow, she just gave the best interview we could have imagined,’” Commons said. “Every question we asked her, she didn’t just give the answer that was at the back of her head because she works at Harvard-Westlake; she gave an answer that made us believe that she could make this school stronger and better and more unified.”
During her 13 years at the school, Slattery has demonstrated the ability to communicate effectively with students and parents, Commons said.
“She knows how to relate to students,” Commons said. “She knows what is on the minds of sophomores, juniors and seniors graders because she spends all day meeting with [them] . She also knows how to both understand and support the parents of those students, and I think that that is a really key aspect of the Head of Upper School’s job, whether it’s in setting up a new initiative or a program or an evening event for our parents or whether it’s responding to a concern that a parent has.”
Slattery said that, prior to her interview, she spent a lot of time thinking about things the search committee did not already know about her.
“I was nervous,” Slattery said. “But at the same time, it was so comfortable to be with people that I knew really well, so it was both easier and harder.”
Rather than planning new initiatives, Slattery hopes to focus on implementing the school’s approved changes, such as the schedule, she said.
“We have had a lot of changes, and I think part of the reason I got the job is that I provide a kind of stability and continuity in a time that feels uncertain for some people,” Slattery said. “I hope to be stabilizing for people.”