Ross to become Head of School


Davis Marks/Chronicle

Associate Head of School Laura Ross will begin serving as Head of School in July. Prior to becoming Associate Head of School in July 2020, Ross was Head of Upper School from 2017 to 2020.

Davis Marks and Chloe Park

Associate Head of School Laura Ross will become Head of School in July, according to an email sent by President and Head of School Rick Commons on Jan. 3. Following the change, Commons will serve solely as President.

This change is a return to the school’s previous leadership structure, when Commons was hired as President during former Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts’s tenure. After Huybrechts’s retirement in 2017, Commons assumed the responsibilities of Head of School.

In the email, Commons said the adjusted leadership framework will lead to more effective school management while also allowing upper administration to be involved in the student experience.

“This two-person President [and] Head of School structure will best position us to pursue our strategic visions, lead our school community on what will soon be three campuses and manage the complexities of one of the largest independent schools in California,” Commons said. “While the new structure will allow each of us to focus additional energy where it can be most impactful, I intend to maintain my close connection to the student experience, continuing to partner not only with Laura but also with our extraordinary division heads and showing up as always at classes, games, performances and lunch tables.”

Ross said the separate Head of School and President leadership model will be effective at the school.

“I think [Commons and I] work really well together,” Ross said. “It’s a real opportunity for the school because Harvard-Westlake is a big and complex place. At smaller schools, it makes sense for just one person to lead the school, but I think given our size and the scope of our ambitions, visions, mission, developing [projects like] River Park and all the big things we have on the horizon, it just felt like it made sense to have this leadership model.”

Commons said he and the Board of Trustees are confident in Ross’s skill and leadership, and he is eager for Ross to step into her new role.

“It’s a really exciting opportunity for Harvard-Westlake as well as for Ms. Ross,” Commons said. “[Ross] and I began talking about this in the fall as a way of both recognizing the work that she was already doing and giving more opportunity for her to exercise her excellent leadership in ways that will continue to transform our school. The Board, recognizing [Ross’s] unique strengths, was very excited about the possibility of her not only continuing to exercise leadership here, but staying at Harvard Westlake, [as] she is highly sought after by independent schools.”

Ross said because she and Commons currently delegate administrative work between them, her job responsibilities will generally remain the same.

“From our perspective, frankly, not much is going to change in terms of the way we’ve worked together,” Ross said. “We previously had delineated our different roles, in which I work on things like student support, DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion], the new schedule and professional development, while Mr. Commons works on things like advancement and external relations.”

Head Prefect Simon Lee ’23 said he has interacted with Ross both inside and outside of school and is eager to see her utilize her expansive skills as Head of School.

“I’ve gotten to know Ms. Ross both as an administrator and as my friend’s mom, [and] I could not be more excited for her to take over the position of Head of School,” Lee said. “Having worked with her in the past, I’ve gotten to witness her steadfast commitment to the student body, instinctive kindness and sense of humor firsthand, and I’m excited to see how she carries her experience as an administrator into this new position.”