Ross to take new position


QUAD TALK: Head of Upper School Laura Ross talks with Michael Lehrhoff ’20 and Justin Park ’20 on the quad. Ross will assume her new position in just under a year. In the meantime, Debbie Reed will serve as the Interim Associate Head of School.

Tammer Bagdasarian

Current Head of Upper School Laura Ross will assume the position of Associate Head of School in July 2020, replacing Interim Associate Head of School Debbie Reed. The decision to appoint Ross is the result of a search for a long-term replacement following the passing of former Associate Head of School Liz Resnick in March.

President and Head of School Rick Commons said that, after asking Reed to fill the interim position in May, he gathered with the school’s leadership team to weigh different options. Ultimately, the school decided to refrain from conducting a nationwide search instead of electing to promote from within.

“I came to the conclusion in the middle of the summer that I just couldn’t imagine finding somebody who would be better at leading, teaching, learning and collaborating with me and the other leaders of the school than [Ross],” Commons said.

During the 2019-2020 school year, Ross will continue to serve as Head of Upper School, while Reed will carry out the duties of Associate Head of School.

As Associate Head of School next school year, Ross will transition to more of an advisory role, dealing with larger-scope issues rather than day-to-day concerns, she said. Ross will work closely with Commons to help guide the school’s direction and oversee the major middle and upper school divisions.

“The [Head of Upper School] job can be very reactive, and you are often dealing with a lot of issues as they arise,” Ross said. “At the same time, issues like the scheduling change have given rise to these huge conversations about what we value and who we are as a school.

The fact that now I will be able to spend my time focusing on conversations like that is something I am definitely excited about.”

When Ross stepped in as Head of Upper School in 2017, she said that one of her biggest objectives was to bridge the gap between the administration and the student body by building strong interpersonal relationships. Ross said that since arriving at the school, she has been able to incorporate what she learned from students into her work.

“My office will now be up in [Seaver Hall], so I will be a little more out of the way, but that just means I will need to be more intentional about engineering those opportunities,” Ross said. “I don’t know what form [they] will take, but [building relationships with students] is still a major goal of mine and something that is really important to me.”

Ross, who spearheaded the upper school block schedule initiative, will now be able to play a larger role in overseeing the change when it goes into effect during the fall of 2020. Commons said that he believes Ross’s familiarity with the scheduling change will benefit the school and that he is looking forward to collaborating with her on similarly critical decisions.

“She does not hesitate in any conversation to question something that I have offered as an opinion or a way of doing things, which I really need,” Commons said. “If we don’t have anyone questioning the things we are thinking about or the way we are approaching things, we surely aren’t as good as when we do have somebody offering new ideas and challenging us to defend the ideas we have.”

The school is currently involved in an international search for a new Head of Upper School to replace Ross in 2020.

Commons said that the school is working to narrow down the list of candidates, and that he hopes to make a final decision by the end of October.

“I’m hoping that by having an internal appointment in one position and the broad search in the other, we are not being too insular; that we are gaining the benefit of someone who really knows us,” Commons said. “I just have no doubt going into my work with [Ross] that she’s going to be great at it. When you hire someone from outside, you sometimes have your fingers crossed that it will work out. With [Ross] I know it’s going to work.”