Head of School Search Process

Envisioning Town's Future.

Announcing Town's Next Leader, Dr. Douglas Brophy

At the end of the 2017-18 school year, Head of School Tony Featherston concluded a successful tenure of six years at Town. We spent the 2017-18 school year working together on school initiatives, celebrating the excellent work achieved under Tony's leadership, and thinking boldly and strategically about Town's future.

We are happy to announce a successful conclusion to our search: Dr. Douglas Brophy will join Town as our next Head of School, beginning July 2, 2018. We are pleased to report that our search process was thorough, transparent, and rooted in Town's mission, culture, and core values. Below you will find an archive of our search process communication.

Meet Doug Brophy, Head of School

Search Timeline Overview

  • September, 2017: Our search process began with a two-day visit by search consulting firm Wickenden Associates to get to know our program and community.
  • October - December, 2017: Application period; the Head Search Committee reviewed applications and interviewed semi-finalists.
  • January, 2018: Finalist interviews included current parent and faculty forums and feedback opportunities.
  • February, 2018: The announcement to our school community about Town's next leader was sent February 1, and we have begun designing a plan with Tony Featherston for a thoughtful transition.

Head Search Announcement Letters

Letter from Tony Featherston
Letter from Marc Stern, Board Chair

Opportunity Statement

Review the Opportunity Statement

Updates from Search Committee Co-Chairs

Updates to the Town community sent at key intervals as we progressed in our search.

September 20, 2017 Letter with Search Overview

September 20, 2017

Dear Town Community, 



We are looking forward to leading the search process for Town's next Head of School. We write to introduce ourselves and to give you an overview of important information and what to expect in the coming weeks and months. As Town parents who love this school, both of us are honored to be serving as members of the Board of Trustees. Valerie is the current Vice Chair of the Board and chairs the Audit Committee; she has two children here at Town: Max in 6th grade and Zoe in 4th grade. Karyn chairs the Board's Strategic Visioning Committee and she just watched her oldest son Jack graduate from Town last spring. Her daughter Alexa is currently in 6th grade.


We would also like to introduce you to the other members of the Head Search Committee: 


  • Philip Bien '95, Director of Annual Giving and Alumni/ae Affairs


  • Jonathan Bilzin, Trustee, Current Parent, Alumni/ae Parent


  • Rashidah Bowen White, Upper School Psychologist


  • Jieun Choe, Trustee, Current Parent


  • Ava Collins, Fourth Grade Teacher


  • Nicole D'Amico, Kindergarten Teacher


  • Marni Gutkin, Trustee, Current parent, Alumni/ae Parent


  • Alison Hunter, PA President, PA Representative to the Board, Current Parent


  • Nitin Khakee, Trustee, Alumni/ae Parent


  • Javaid Khan, Trustee
  • Dana Ladden, Trustee, Current Parent


  • Marc Stern, Board Chair, Alumni/ae Parent
 
SEARCH FIRM SELECTION

After careful consideration of several search firms, we are pleased to inform you that we have retained the highly respected educational consulting firm Wickenden Associates to assist us in identifying a new Head of School. Laura Hansen and Linda Knights of Wickenden will lead our search and both have decades of experience working with independent schools. In fact, Wickenden Associates has conducted searches for heads of schools for nearly 300 independent schools across the country. In addition, Laura and Linda have experience and knowledge of the independent school landscape in New York. Laura's long career in education includes experience as a teacher, department chair, and division head in multiple independent schools, and as a senior administrator at Collegiate School in New York; Linda covered New York City schools as an admissions officer at Princeton University.


OVERVIEW OF SEARCH TIMELINE
  • September, 2017: Our search process begins with a two-day visit by search consulting firm Wickenden Associates to get to know our program and community.

  • October - December, 2017: Application period; the Head Search Committee will review applications and interview semi-finalists.

  • January, 2018: Finalist interviews will include current parent and faculty forums and feedback opportunities.

  • February, 2018: Our goal is to have an announcement about Town's next leader and begin to design a plan with Tony Featherston for a seamless transition.

 
Thank you in advance for your support as we embark on this important process for Town. We will provide information and periodic updates throughout the search process on this webpage. Please feel free to get in touch with either of us at any time should you have any questions.

 

Sincerely,

Karyn Kornfeld and Valerie Russo


Head Search Committee Co-Chairs

October 17, 2017 Update With Opportunity Statement and Survey Themes

October 17, 2017

Dear Town Community, 

We are pleased to write with two updates about our Head of School search process: our Opportunity Statement and the important themes that emerged from Wickenden Associates' visit to Town and the online survey of our school community. On behalf of the Head Search Committee, thank you to everyone who has participated directly in the process thus far, either in person or via the online survey. Your voices were invaluable in helping Wickenden get to know our school and understand how best to present the Head of School opportunity to potential candidates. 

 
OPPORTUNITY STATEMENT

The Opportunity Statement has a distinctive 'job,' which is to highlight Town's particular strengths (i.e. community, joy in learning, excellence, balance, and financial health) and to serve as a conversation starter with potential candidates. As such, the style and focus are different from Town's other communication pieces, such as the Admissions view book or the website. This document was created by Wickenden Associates based on their intensive two-day visit to Town and on the excellent, insightful feedback collected through the online community survey from current and past parents, current and past faculty and staff, and alumni/ae. Click here to review the Opportunity Statement, which will be posted on Wickenden's website, on TownToday, and on Town's external website.

 
THEMES FROM THE ONLINE COMMUNITY SURVEY

In analyzing the 219 surveys received to date, Wickenden Associates found broad agreement within the school community about Town's defining strengths. Top responses included the following:

  • The clarity, strength, and successful execution of Town's mission and educational philosophy, including joy in learning, SOS, and the balance of traditional and progressive approaches.
  • The school's commitment to diversity and inclusion.
  • The close-knit community and prevailing culture of warmth and kindness.
  • The quality and dedication of the faculty and staff.

Among the most common responses to questions regarding the challenges awaiting the next Head of School were the following:

  • Navigating the increasingly competitive independent school landscape and its implications for both admissions and high school placement.
  • Continuing the school's work in the area of diversity and inclusion.
  • Continuing to refine and strengthen the curriculum; balancing academic rigor and joy in learning.

Top responses regarding the most important qualities and qualifications we should be seeking in our next leader included the following:

  • A warm, caring person who shares and reflects the school's values.
  • A strong vision for the next stage in Town's evolution.
  • Excellent communication skills.
  • A leader who embraces diversity and is knowledgeable about issues surrounding inclusion and social justice.
  • An academic and curricular leader.
 
NEXT STEPS

Now that our Opportunity Statement is finalized, the official recruiting stage of our Head Search has begun. Over the next many weeks, Wickenden Associates will identify and vet candidates for consideration by the Head Search Committee. The Committee members will review credentials and references for many candidates and narrow the pool down to a group of semifinalists we will interview in person in early January. From that pool, the finalist candidates will be identified. The finalists' interview process will take place in January / early February and will include two comprehensive interview days at Town plus open forums and feedback opportunities for current parents, faculty and staff. 

As always, we encourage you to reach out to us any time with questions about the process and we will continue to send updates as the search moves forward.

Best regards,

Valerie Russo and Karyn Kornfeld
Head Search Committee Co-Chairs

November 16, 2017 Update on Progress and Next Steps

November 16, 2017

Dear Town Community,

We are pleased to report that Town's Head of School search process is on track and moving forward with good energy. We write to update you on what has been happening as well as what to expect next.

As you may remember, our last big milestone was working with our search firm,Wickenden Associates, to translate community feedback from their two-day visit and the online survey into an opportunity statement for potential candidates. The opportunity statement is now posted on Wickenden's website, as well as onTownToday and our external website (thetownschool.org). On behalf of the Head Search Committee, thank you again to all of you who have participated in the process thus far either in person or via the online survey. All of your voices have been invaluable in helping Wickenden get to know our school and to understand how best to present the Head of School opportunity to potential candidates.

What's Happening Now

Currently the search process may seem quiet, but a lot of work is occurring behind the scenes. Wickenden Associates is vetting potential candidates for eventual consideration by the Search Committee, and we are happy (but not surprised) to hear that there is very strong interest in Town from education leaders across the country.

Next Steps

In mid-December, Wickenden Associates will present the Search Committee members with applications and credentials for a pool of candidates. From that pool we will identify several semi-finalist candidates to meet with the Committee in person at Town during the weekend of January 6-7, 2018.

After meeting with the semi-finalists, the Search Committee will identify finalists to return for intensive two-day interviews at Town in January, during which we will ensure parents, faculty, and staff have the opportunity to meet and hear from the candidates in an open forum setting. We will also provide a feedback loop so that you will be able to share your thoughts and impressions. Your participation during the finalist phase of the search process will be invaluable and we will keep you apprised of the visit schedule as soon as we know it.

Finally, in early February, we will make a recommendation to the Board of Trustees, who will then vote as a group on the person who will be Town's next leader. We will announce the appointment immediately to the community, and then begin working with Tony Featherston to design a smooth and thoughtful transition process.

Next Update in December; Access Resources any time on TownToday

We will write again just before Winter Break with more updates. In the meantime, please don't hesitate to contact us with questions. You can also review details about the search process (timeline, Search Committee members, copies of previous communication, etc.) on the TownToday Head Search page or on the external website Head Search page.

Thank you for your continued support during this important process for Town!

Best regards,

Valerie Russo and Karyn Kornfeld
Head Search Committee Co-Chairs

December 21, 2017 Updates: Semi-Finalists Selection and Proposed Finalist Dates

December 21, 2017

Dear Town Community,

The Head of School search process is in full swing and will continue over the vacation. We are pleased to share some exciting updates, including tentative dates for finalists' visits in January.

SEMI-FINALIST CANDIDATES SELECTION AND INTERVIEWS

Our search firm, Wickenden Associates, spent the past two months reaching out personally to educational leaders across the country on behalf of Town and generated a candidate pool that was competitive, deep, and diverse. After thorough review of this very large pool, including in-depth conversations and reference checking, our consultants recently presented the Search Committee with the credentials of 20 of the most compelling candidates.

After devoting many hours individually to reading the resumes, references, and statements of philosophy from these candidates, members of the Search Committee met yesterday. After lengthy and rigorous discussion, the committee selected eight semi-finalists to interview in person over the Winter Break. We are pleased to report that the semi-finalists represent the very best of a truly outstanding group of education professionals.

On Saturday, January 6th and Sunday, January 7th, the search committee will hold in-person interviews with the semi-finalist candidates and then confer to choose the finalists. The semi-finalists' names are kept confidential, as is standard and appropriate practice in a Head of School search. The search committee includes representatives from all divisions and constituencies at Town to help ensure multiple perspectives are applied in evaluating the semi-finalists and choosing the candidates who will return as finalists.

FINALISTS ANNOUNCEMENTS AND INTERVIEW STRUCTURE 

The candidates selected to return as finalists will have full two-day schedules of interviews, observation, and conversations with the Town community. Each finalist will have one-to-one meetings with the members of Town's administrative team and department heads as well as conversations with the Board of Trustees, Parents' Association leadership, office staff, and 8th grade student representatives. Each finalist will also have two open forum opportunities each with faculty and parents.

We will announce each finalist's name and provide a short bio by email the evening before their visit to Town.

TENTATIVE DATES FOR FINALIST VISITS AND OPEN FORUMS 

We have selected the following potential interview dates for finalist visits. To help ensure as many parents, faculty and staff as possible have a chance to meet the candidates, we will include two parent and two faculty forum opportunities in each finalist's schedule. The content of the two forums for each candidate will be the same, so no need to attend both; just choose the timing that best fits your schedule. Please pencil these dates into your calendars, and we will confirm as soon as possible.

The forums serve three important roles in our search process: to allow parents and faculty to meet and ask questions of the candidates, to allow the search committee to see how the candidates interact with parents, and to provide an opportunity for the search committee to hear parent and faculty feedback about each candidate.

How to share your feedback:

We will provide a survey link in the announcement email before each candidate's visit so that you will be able to share your thoughts and impressions immediately after meeting each finalist.

Potential Finalist Visit: January 11 - 12

  • Faculty forum I: January 11, 3:45 - 4:30pm
  • Parent forum I: January 11, 6:00 - 7:00pm
  • Faculty forum II: January 12, 7:30 - 8:15am
  • Parent forum II: January 12, 8:30 - 9:30am

Potential Finalist Visit: January 17 - 18

  • Faculty forum I: January 17, 3:45 - 4:30pm
  • Parent forum I: January 17, 6:00 - 7:00pm
  • Faculty forum II: January 18, 7:30 - 8:15am
  • Parent forum II: January 18, 8:30 - 9:30am

Potential Finalist Visit: January 22 - 23

  • Faculty forum I: January 22, 3:45 - 4:30pm
  • Parent forum I: January 22, 6:00 - 7:00pm
  • Faculty forum II: January 23, 7:30 - 8:15am
  • Parent forum II: January 23, 8:30 - 9:30am

Potential Finalist Visit: January 24 - 25

  • Faculty forum I: January 24, 3:45 - 4:30pm
  • Parent forum I: January 24, 6:00 - 7:00pm
  • Faculty forum II: January 25, 7:30 - 8:15am
  • Parent forum II: January 25, 8:30 - 9:30am

NEXT STEPS

Early February:

  • After our finalists have visited and we have gathered and processed feedback from the Town community, the search committee will make a recommendation to the Board of Trustees, who will then vote as a group on the person who will be Town's next leader.
  • We will announce the appointment to the Town community and the public, and then begin working with Tony Featherston to design a smooth and thoughtful transition process.
 
NEXT UPDATE JANUARY 9TH

We will write again by January 9th with more updates, and hopefully at least one confirmed finalist visit date. In the meantime, please don't hesitate to contact us with questions. 

Thank you for your continued support during this important process for Town. We wish you all a very happy, healthy and restful vacation and we look forward to seeing you in the New Year!

Best regards,

Karyn Kornfeld and Valerie Russo
Head Search Committee Co-Chairs

January 9, 2018 Updates: Semi-Finalist Interviews Complete, Confirmed Finalists Visits Schedule

January 9, 2018

Dear Town Community,

We are pleased to start the new year with some important updates about our Head of School Search. This weekend the Search Committee completed two intensive, productive days of semi-finalist interviews and we have selected three outstanding candidates to return as finalists, the first of whom will be at Town this Thursday and Friday.

Hopefully you already had the potential dates for finalist visits penciled into your calendars from our December letter, but please read below for the confirmed parent and faculty forum dates and times and additional details about the process, including how to share your feedback after meeting the candidates.

SEMI-FINALIST CANDIDATE INTERVIEWS RECAP

The process of reviewing applicants has been rigorous, thoughtful, and inspiring. After a thorough review of a large candidate pool that was competitive, deep, and diverse, our search firm (Wickenden Associates) had in-depth conversations with and conducted initial reference checks for 54 of the most promising applicants. From the group of 54, our consultants presented the Search Committee with the credentials of 20 of the highest-priority candidates. The Search Committee carefully reviewed the resumes, education philosophies, and references of each of the 20 candidates and selected eight semi-finalists who represent the very best of a truly impressive group of education professionals. 

On Saturday, January 6th and Sunday, January 7th, the Committee held in-person interviews with each of the semi-finalist candidates, including a tour of the school and a thorough, broad Q&A session with the full Committee. We were pleased to find that each candidate more than lived up to their excellent credentials; we had eight fantastic conversations with professionals who clearly have passion for and deep expertise in the field of education, and who were very excited to consider the opportunity of joining the Town community.

FINALISTS SELECTION AND INTERVIEW STRUCTURE

At the end of our interviews on Sunday, January 7th, the Committee conferred at length as a group and unanimously agreed to ask three outstanding candidates to return as finalists. They have all enthusiastically accepted our invitation to get to know our school community more broadly and deeply, and the dates of their visits are included below.

Each finalist will have a full two-day schedule of observation, interviews, and conversations with the Town community. The candidates will have one-to-one meetings with the members of Town's administrative team and department heads as well as conversations with the Board of Trustees, Parents' Association leadership, office staff, and 8th grade student representatives. Each finalist will also have open forum discussions with faculty and parents.

We will announce each finalist's name and provide a short bio by email the evening before their visit to Town. We have been guided by the Wickenden team on the timing of this information to ensure we are sharing in a way that is both appropriate for a search at this level and supportive of good process for Town and the candidates.

FINALISTS VISIT DATES AND OPEN FORUMS

Please confirm the following interview dates for finalist visits in your calendars. We will have one candidate visit our school each week in January, giving the community time to reflect and offer feedback via a survey in between each visit. To help ensure as many parents, faculty and staff as possible have a chance to meet the candidates, we are including two parent and two faculty forum opportunities in each finalist's schedule. The content of the two parent forums and the two faculty forums for each candidate will be the same, so no need to attend both; just choose the timing that best fits your schedule. 

The forums serve three important roles in our search process: to allow parents and faculty to meet and ask questions of the candidates, to allow the Search Committee to see how the candidates interact with parents, and to provide an opportunity for the Search Committee to hear parent and faculty feedback about each candidate.

First Finalist Visit: January 11 - 12

  • Faculty forum I: January 11, 3:45 - 4:30pm
  • Parent forum I: January 11, 6:00 - 7:00pm
  • Faculty forum II: January 12, 7:30 - 8:15am
  • Parent forum II: January 12, 8:30 - 9:30am

Second Finalist Visit: January 17 - 18

  • Faculty forum I: January 17, 3:45 - 4:30pm
  • Parent forum I: January 17, 6:00 - 7:00pm
  • Faculty forum II: January 18, 7:30 - 8:15am
  • Parent forum II: January 18, 8:30 - 9:30am

Third Finalist Visit: January 22 - 23

  • Faculty forum I: January 22, 3:45 - 4:30pm
  • Parent forum I: January 22, 6:00 - 7:00pm
  • Faculty forum II: January 23, 7:30 - 8:15am
  • Parent forum II: January 23, 8:30 - 9:30am
 
HOW TO SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK

We will provide a survey link in the announcement email before each candidate's visit so that you will be able to share your thoughts and impressions immediately after meeting each finalist. Your feedback will be shared with the Search Committee to help inform our decision making.

NEXT STEPS

Early February:

  • After our finalists have visited and we have gathered and processed feedback from the Town community, the Search Committee will make a recommendation to the Board of Trustees, who will then vote as a group on the person who will be Town's next leader.
  • We will announce the appointment to the Town community and the public, and then begin working with Tony Featherston to design a smooth and thoughtful transition process.
 
NEXT UPDATE JANUARY 10TH; ACCESS RESOURCES ON TOWNTODAY

We will write again tomorrow, January 10th, to share a brief bio for our first finalist visiting on January 11th and 12th. In the meantime, please don't hesitate to contact us with questions. You can also always review details about the search process, including the Search Committee members and copies of previous communication, on the Head Search page. 

Thank you for your continued support during this important process for Town. The search process thus far has been an important and rewarding opportunity to reflect on the mission, culture and values that we all want to ensure remain hallmarks of Town. We are proud to be working with this passionate, dedicated and deeply thoughtful Committee of trustees, parents, teachers, and administrative staff who are conscientiously representing and considering the best interests of our school for the present and future.

Best regards,

Valerie Russo and Karyn Kornfeld
Head Search Committee Co-Chairs

January 12, 2018 Updates: Confirming Last Finalist 1/24 - 1/25; Survey Reminder

January 12, 2018

Dear Town Community, 

Thank you all for participating in the open forums for our first finalist's visit these past two days, and for demonstrating once again what an engaged, invested, and connected school community we have at Town.

We are excited to announce that our final candidate has accepted our invitation to return to Town for a two-day visit January 24 and 25. We have been thrilled with (but not surprised at) the positive responses that we have received from such well-qualified applicants, and we are proud to be a part of a school that is so highly regarded by other education professionals!

We have confirmed that the last finalist candidate will visit on final the two dates in January from the original schedule we shared in December: January 24th and 25th. Open forums for parents and faculty will follow the same pattern as the other finalists' visits: 

  • Faculty forum I: Wednesday, January 24, 3:45 - 4:30pm
  • Parent forum I: Wednesday, January 24, 6:00 - 7:00pm
    • Clubhouse will be available for families in need of childcare.

 

  • Faculty forum II: Thursday, January 25, 7:30 - 8:15am
  • Parent forum II: Thursday, January 25, 8:30 - 9:30am


Thank you in advance for making every effort possible to attend these sessions.  

SURVEY REMINDER: PLEASE SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK

We were pleased that the open forums for our first finalist were well-attended and featured good discussions. We hope you will take a few moments after you have the opportunity to hear from each candidate to share your thoughts and impressions via the survey emailed to families, faculty and staff. 

NEXT UPDATE JAN. 16; ACCESS RESOURCES ON TOWNTODAY

We will write again Tuesday, January 16th, to share a brief bio for our next finalist visiting on January 17th and 18th. In the meantime, please don't hesitate to contact us with questions.

Thank you, as always for your continued support and engagement during this important process for Town. Have a fantastic long weekend!

Best regards,

Valerie Russo and Karyn Kornfeld
Head Search Committee Co-Chairs

February 1, 2018 Announcement of The Town School's Next Head of School

Dear Town Community, 

Please click the links below to read important letters from Board Chair Marc Stern and Town's next Head of School!

A commitment to community and open communication is central to our school, and has guided our search process. We are pleased to share this news with you as members of the Town family. 

Look forward to more updates soon, including opportunities to meet and get to know our incoming Head of School.

Letter from Marc Stern, Board Chair
Letter from Head Elect
Contact

540 East 76th Street
New York 10021
p 212-288-4383
f 212-988-5846
info@townschool.org