School expands upper school dean program

Justin Tang and Connor Tang

Two new deans will be added at the start of the 2023-2024 school year, according to Head of Upper School Beth Slattery. All current students at the upper school will keep their deans, but future students will be split up among the 11deans equally.

President Rick Commons said the addition of two new deans would provide students with more resources to support their mental health.

“We are acutely aware that student health and wellness is at risk,” Commons said “This generation has a higher percentage of students who are apparently successful, but are nevertheless struggling with mental and emotional wellness. It’s our commitment and vision to try and make a difference by making sure that students are attended to by people at school, not just their teachers or coaches, but by deans.”

Commons said the expanded dean team would also help juniors and seniors with college admissions and sophomores with the transition to the upper school.

“One of the things that the addition of deans is intended to do is to help students and families in the college admissions process even more,” Commons said. “In the fall, the deans have a heavy load with the seniors [applying for college], and it’s hard for them to also attend to the needs of juniors, much less sophomores. Sophomores are brand new at the Upper School, and in trying to understand the level of expectation and the academic work, we are trying to reduce the ratio [of students to deans] and make sure there is enough attention paid to all Upper School students, especially sophomores, who in the fall are left in many cases to figure it out for themselves.”

Upper School Dean Jamie Chan said the new deans will help meet the demands of students and families and ease the workload among Upper School deans.

“We’ve always been looking at how we can be better and how we can serve our students’ and families’ needs better,” Chan said. “In addition to the growing mental health concerns, the bigger classes and the college piece always looming, it can be tough. We just realized that the deans are doing a lot of things, and we want to be able to give families more time and accessibility.”

Upper School Dean Teneice Wesson said hiring two new deans will help establish stronger relationships between the deans and their students.

“Each dean currently has around 30-35 students,” Wesson said. “Having fewer caseloads means you have more time to support each student in an individualistic way and support them beyond just school. We will be able to help students when they might need help to identify whether or not they need help finding a counselor, or an academic specialist.”

Wesson said the deans are looking to hire friendly, adaptable members for the team.

“The dean team is very tight-knit, and we meet almost every single day,” Wesson said. “No day at Harvard-Westlake is ever the same, and it will be important to take the work seriously, but it’s also important for them to want to be involved in the life of the school and beyond counseling and advising. This is a person that will go to school functions and advise a club if they are asked to. They have to support the whole student body, and not sit in their office and work all day, because that’s not the nature of the work we do here.”