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About SJS

Head of School Search

In the fall of 2020, St. John’s School announced a search for the eighth Head of School. The School will enter this next leadership transition from a place of long-standing excellence, a legacy the Board of Trustees is committed to preserving. A ten-person search committee has been tasked with the duty of leading a thoughtful and transparent search process and ultimately recommending the next Head of School to the Board of Trustees.

Our search for the next Head of School will require a variety of community conversations, and it is the Search Committee's hope that community members will engage and share during this process. Through official forums and surveys, SJS community members will be asked to lend their voices to the search. Input can be shared with the Search Committee at sjshead@spencerstuart.com.

The St. John’s community will be regularly updated via email communications as the search progresses. This page is intended to serve as a resource for communications and information and will be updated periodically. Please bookmark this page to stay up-to-date.

Spencer Stuart

The Search Committee has retained the executive search firm of Spencer Stuart to support running a comprehensive search and attracting talented candidates to the School. The consulting team of Mary Gorman, Michele Haertel, and Susan Clifford will provide the School a wealth of expertise in leadership transition.

Community Messages

List of 6 items.

  • Search Committee Update with Position and Candidate Specification - October 26

    Dear Members of the St. John's Community,

    Over the past two months, we have gathered your input for use in the search for the next Head of St. John's School. During this time, the Spencer Stuart executive search team held individual meetings with members of the administration as well as group Zoom calls with faculty, staff, students, and parents. Many of you submitted input via the Spencer Stuart email address created for the search. In addition, nearly 900 members of the St. John’s community participated in the Community Survey. These efforts were designed to provide the entire community with an opportunity to share thoughts regarding St. John's School, the attributes you hope to see in the next Head of School, and the opportunities and challenges that await our next Head of School. We received very helpful feedback throughout this process and thank each of you for taking the time to provide your input on the School's future.
     
    Here are a few of the key themes we heard regarding the attributes and experiences that the community is seeking in the next Head of School:
    • A commitment to St. John’s mission and culture;
    • Demonstrated experience leading a complex institution;
    • A commitment to St. John’s tradition of academic excellence;
    • An accessible, collaborative leader who will foster community and build consensus and trust;
    • A powerful intellect with creative energy to develop a compelling vision;
    • A transparent and genuine communicator; and
    • A dynamic, engaging leader who will inspire the community.
    The comments and feedback we received were critical to the development of a Position and Candidate Specification for our next Head of School. We are pleased to share the final Position and Candidate Specification with you today here. This document will also be posted on the Head of School Search webpage. The Spencer Stuart team and the Head of School Search Committee are moving forward with identifying candidates and will use the Position and Candidate Specification to promote this special opportunity. Specific candidate suggestions made during the community feedback sessions or directly through email or the survey have also been shared with Spencer Stuart. 
     
    Moving forward, we continue to welcome your nominations and comments at SJSHead@spencerstuart.com. Due to the confidential nature of the search process and out of respect for candidates and their current employment, the Search Committee is not able to share or discuss information about individual candidates until the process reaches completion. Thank you for your understanding and your continued support.

    Respectfully,

    Mark Rodriguez and Liz Stepanian
    Committee Co-Chairs
  • Search Committee Update with Survey - September 23

    Dear Members of the St. John’s Community,
     
    Thank you for your time and attention over the past several weeks as Spencer Stuart and the Head of School Search Committee gathered community input from faculty, staff, parents, students, and the St. John’s Administration.   
     
    We would like to invite the entire community, including St. John’s emeriti and alumni, to share their thoughts on the skills, experiences, characteristics, and qualities desired in the next Head of School here. To be respectful of your time, this survey should take no more than 10 minutes to complete. We ask that you submit your responses by Friday, October 9th. We also welcome your confidential input and nominations by emailing SJSHead@spencerstuart.com
     
    The search will be a collaborative effort, and we look forward to remaining in touch with periodic updates on the search process as we move forward.
     
    Respectfully,
     
    Mark Rodriguez and Liz Stepanian
    Committee Co-Chairs
  • Search Committee Update to the Community - August 31

    Dear Members of the St. John’s Community,
     
    As co-chairs of the St. John’s Head of School Search Committee, we are writing to you today to share with you our goals and initial steps in the search for the next Head of St. John's School. The Committee understands the vital importance of having the right person lead the School and is committed to a thoughtful and transparent process that includes input from the entire St. John’s community.
     
    As we commence the search, the Committee, along with consultants at Spencer Stuart, will be in contact with the St. John’s community including faculty and administration, staff, students, parents, alumni, and the Board. These conversations will provide an opportunity for you to share your thoughts regarding the direction and leadership of the School and the qualities the ideal candidate should possess. Each conversation will include the following four questions:
     
    • What is distinctive about St. John’s School?
    • What are the opportunities and challenges facing the next Head of School?
    • What experiences, background, characteristics, and attributes would you encourage the Committee to seek in the next Head of School?
    • What advice do you have for the Committee?
    The insights shared in these conversations will help the Committee and Spencer Stuart create and refine a position specification, which we will then use to promote the opportunity to prospective candidates and to guide our work in the months ahead.
     
    In the coming days, you will receive an email that outlines the specific dates, times, and details for the discussions with Spencer Stuart. Thank you in advance for making time in your schedule to participate in these discussions. For those unable to participate, there will be additional opportunities to provide your feedback through an online survey that will be sent to all members of the community as well as an email address (sjshead@spencerstuart.com) that has been created for the Committee and Spencer Stuart to receive questions and input. Throughout this process, we direct you to www.sjs.org/head-of-school-search for information and updates related to the search.
     
    In launching this search now, we are confident that we are in a strong position to attract the best Head of School candidates and secure a successful future for St. John’s School. Thank you in advance for your support and participation.
     
    Respectfully,


    Mark Rodriguez and Liz Stepanian
    Committee Co-Chairs
  • Announcement of Search Committee - August 20

    August 20, 2020

    Dear St. John’s Community,

    On behalf of our Board of Trustees, I write you today to announce the formation of the St. John’s Head of School Search Committee. A ten-member search committee comprised of seven trustees or former trustees and three faculty members is tasked with the duty of leading a thorough process and ultimately recommending the next Head of School to the Board of Trustees. The committee is co-chaired by Mark Rodriguez and Liz Stepanian and includes Bob Graham '64, Sarwat Jafry (US Faculty), Karen Lu, Audra Parrish (LS Faculty), Michael Seckman (MS Faculty), Ann Stern '75, Barron Wallace, and myself. We have retained the executive search firm of Spencer Stuart, a highly experienced and well-respected firm, to support us in running a comprehensive search process and attracting talented candidates to the School.

    St. John’s has been blessed with great leadership during its 74-year history. Mark Desjardins, the School’s seventh Head of School, has continued that legacy of strength in leadership during a demanding 11-year tenure. We are grateful to Mark for his service, for all that he has done for St. John’s, and for all that he will continue to do in the coming year.

    Our goal is to engage the community in an inclusive process as we conduct our search for the next Head of School. As we commence this search, the committee, along with our consultants at Spencer Stuart, will be in contact with the entire St. John’s community including the Board, emeriti, faculty and administration, students, parents, and alumni. These conversations will provide an opportunity for you to share your thoughts about the direction and leadership of the School and the qualities that the ideal candidate should possess. Liz and Mark will be reaching out later this month with more specific information about this step.

    Thank you in advance for your support and participation.

    Sincerely,

    John S. Moody '67
    Chairman, Board of Trustees
  • Letter from John Moody - August 10

    August 10, 2020

    Dear St. John’s School Community,

    On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I have accepted Mark Desjardins’ resignation today with both regret and gratitude. We regret that we will be losing Mark and Maro as valued members of our community and we are also grateful to have had them and their children in our family for the past ten years.

    I can vividly recall first meeting Mark near the end of our previous Head of School search in 2009. He met with our Search Committee and, within a very short time, our Committee knew we had found our next leader. Mark had a presence that we could all sense and he displayed a passion for education and advancement of our Mission. Over the past ten years, Mark has led a significant transformation of St. John’s School.

    Mark provided leadership and vision that resulted in a $100 million Capital Campaign, which included the purchase of the 13-acre Taub property and construction of Flores Hall and Campus Center, the Fine Arts Annex, the Academic Commons, as well as new state-of-the-art athletic facilities. The Opportunity of a Lifetime Campaign was twice the size of our previous largest campaign to date, and the acquisition of the Taub property assures St. John’s has the land capacity to serve our school in perpetuity.

    Mark has also shaped our focus on the whole child in many important ways. During his tenure, he introduced a block rotation schedule that provided free time during the school day for study hall and tutorials as well as time management skills for students. Mark also expanded our medical services, including the hiring of counselors to provide assistance to our students on any number of mental health and stress-related issues. St. John’s also introduced a transformative security program during Mark’s tenure, conducted audits of every academic department, and introduced comprehensive enhancements to curriculum and classroom teaching, which have assured that we will continue to provide an education that is among the very best available for a K-12 independent school. We committed to a robust Community and Inclusion initiative over the past three and a half years, which has resulted in, among other positive changes, an increasingly diverse student body during Mark's tenure.

    I want to thank Mark for giving us one year’s notice of his plans. He will be staying this year to lead us through what will certainly be the most difficult year in the history of our school. The coronavirus pandemic has introduced a whole set of challenges for which there is no established playbook. Mark and our entire administrative team have worked nonstop through the spring and summer to assure we have the best possible plan to reopen our school when possible. I want to thank Mark for his leadership and dedication and ask our community for its grace and understanding as we navigate our way through this challenging next phase at St. John’s. We are confident Mark and Maro will find a great new opportunity, and we will be forever grateful for the legacy they have created at St. John’s School.

    We will begin the process of searching for a new Head of School immediately and will provide updates on that process as appropriate.

    Sincerely,

    John S. Moody
    Chairman, Board of Trustees
  • Letter from Mark Desjardins - August 10

    August 10, 2020

    Dear John,

    I am writing to inform you that the 2020-2021 academic year will be my final one at St. John’s. When our family arrived on campus in June of 2010, we could only imagine how our journey might unfold. From day one it has been an amazing experience, and Maro and I are thankful for the way our family has been welcomed and embraced within the community. Each of our four children has enjoyed the privilege of attending and graduating from St. John’s, and they all share a passionate and abiding love for their alma mater. Collectively as a family, we hold a deep sense of appreciation and enduring gratitude to have been part of this special community.

    When I reflect back upon my time at St. John’s, I will especially cherish the memories and opportunities to have worked amongst such a gifted and spirited group of people. Whatever progress we have made over the past decade is the direct result of the unselfish actions of so many wonderful people in this community who remained steadfast in the pursuit of a shared and inspired vision for St. John’s.

    While there is a long list of “things that I will miss,” there is no question that interacting with members of this community occupies the top spot. As both a parent and leader, I have witnessed and remain in awe of the tremendous dedication and commitment of our outstanding faculty and staff. I also feel fortunate to have worked alongside a mission-driven and enormously talented administrative team. Equally deserving of praise are the incredible individuals who serve our community every day, whether in the dining hall, as ambassadors and police officers, or the hard working and loyal members of the facilities team who prepare for school rain or shine every day without fuss or failure. I will miss seeing 1st graders at the playground, hiking Blue Creek with 8th graders at Big Bend, and hearing 11th graders deconstruct a calculus problem while walking down the hallway. I relished cheering from the sidelines as the Mavericks captured 55 SPC titles over the last decade. And finally, one of my fondest memories will be singing on stage as a member of the cast and crew for three performances of The Music Man.

    St. John’s is also fortunate to have generous alumni and a committed and supportive parent body. Their strong involvement within this community will ensure institutional success for decades to come. I am equally grateful for the many trustees that I have worked with over the past decade. Their devotion and selfless service have enabled our school to grow and thrive.

    Early in my teaching career, I discovered what has become one of my favorite expressions about life. Walking into an empty high school basketball locker room, I saw the following sentence circled on an old rickety chalkboard: “If you have done your best, you’ve won!” Reflecting upon my time within these Storied Cloisters, it is my sincere hope that those who choose to remember me will recall that no matter the outcome, I always leaned in and gave it my best.

    There is much work to do in order to navigate the challenges of COVID-19 and the corresponding obstacles we will face as we try to return and remain on campus for this coming academic year. I hope that we can all pull together as a community in a spirit of unity and cooperation and work in partnership to create the best experience possible for our students. I look forward to the coming year and to seeing you soon.

    With gratitude,

    Mark Desjardins
    Headmaster

Position and Candidate Specification

Search Committee

Mark Rodriguez, Co-Chair
Secretary - Board of Trustees, Parent '20, '25

Liz Stepanian, Co-Chair
Trustee, Parent '22, '24, '28

Bob Graham '64
Former Trustee

Sarwat Jafry
Upper School Science, Chemistry, Parent '17, '21

Karen Lu
Trustee, Parent '12, '16, '24

John Moody '67
Chairman, Board of Trustees, Parent '91

Audra Parrish
Lower School Choir/Music, Parent '01, '15

Michael Seckman
Middle School English

Ann Barnett Stern '75
Former Trustee, Parent '03, '06

Barron Wallace
Former Trustee, Parent '19

Frequently Asked Questions

List of 6 frequently asked questions.

  • Q. What is the role of the Head of School Search Committee?

    The Board of Trustees has asked the Head of School Search Committee to engage in a thoughtful and thorough process to develop and assess prospective candidates, ultimately recommending one or two final candidates to the Board for consideration as the next Head of School. The Board expects the Committee to engage broadly with the School community and to listen to a wide variety of views about the School and the qualities needed in the next Head of School. The Board asks the Search Committee to keep the community informed and engaged throughout the search process, while respecting the confidentiality of the candidate recruitment process.
  • Q. What is the Board of Trustees' role?

    As the fiduciaries of St. John’s School, the Board of Trustees holds the important responsibility of appointing the Head of School. Members of the Board will share their thoughts with the Spencer Stuart consultants prior to the development of the position specification. The Board of Trustees will have the opportunity to meet with the finalist candidate(s), and, acting on the recommendation of the Search Committee, will vote to approve the appointment of the next Head of School.
  • Q. What is the role of Spencer Stuart, the search firm?

    Spencer Stuart is the consulting firm unanimously selected by the Board of Trustees to help conduct the search. The team of Mary Gorman, Michele Haertel, and Austin Crouse of Spencer Stuart’s Education, Nonprofit, and Government Practice will provide advice to the Committee throughout the process. They will gather input from outreach discussions with members of the St. John’s community and an online survey to be sent to the community. Working closely with the Committee, they will develop the position specification that will be used to promote the position to prospective candidates. Spencer Stuart will conduct extensive outreach into the desired candidate pools, seeking to identify people whose experiences, backgrounds, attributes, and characteristics align with the School’s aspirations for the next Head of School. Spencer Stuart will guide the Search Committee through the interview and recruitment process, ensuring that the candidates' and the Committee's need for information and diligence are met.
  • Q. How might COVID-19 affect the search process?

    There is no question that COVID-19 has impacted all of us and that we must be sensitive to our candidates and to our community during this time. Although some candidates may be reluctant to engage given the challenges the pandemic has presented to their school community, the Search Committee firmly believes that the Head of School position at St. John’s is a highly sought-after position that will draw significant interest from strong candidates across the country.

    Early phases of the search and the first round of candidate interviews are anticipated to be done by video conference. However, within all relevant safety precautions, the ability to engage personally with serious candidates is desirable.
  • Q. What is the expected timeline of the search process?

    The Search Committee was formed and commenced work in August of 2020 and hopes to identify and, with the Board’s approval, name the next Head of School in the early spring of 2021. We will work as expeditiously as possible while ensuring a thorough, thoughtful process that results in the best candidate for St. John’s.
  • Q. How can members of the St. John's School community participate in and remain informed during the search process?

    The Search Committee is eager to hear from all members of the St. John’s community and will provide several opportunities to do so:
    • Virtual meetings with the search firm: In early fall there will be opportunities for all St. John’s community members to share their thoughts and perspectives via video or phone with Spencer Stuart and members of the Committee. Details regarding the scheduling of such meetings will be forthcoming.
    • Complete the online survey: By mid-September, the Committee intends to launch an online survey allowing all school constituents to share input.
    • Send us a message: The Committee welcomes questions, advice, and nominations. Please send any comments to SJSHead@spencerstuart.com
    • Continue to visit this webpage: This page will serve as the repository for all public information about the search.

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