WMS people

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

New Head of School Search Underway

Dear Members of the Washington Montessori School Community:

As you may know, David Newman has graciously agreed to serve as our Acting Head of School for the remainder of this academic year. We are grateful to him for agreeing to take on this role while we launch a national search for our next Head of School, to assume responsibility on July 1, 2021. This does not preclude the possibility that David may want to be considered for the “permanent” headship; we would welcome his application.

Earlier this year, Carney O’Brien announced that she would begin an extended sabbatical following her decision to end her tenure with WMS. At that time, the Board created an internal Transition Task Force to support the leadership and determine a process for the Head of School transition. It is out of their work that we have hired an executive search firm (see below) and are launching the search for a new Head of School. We will hold a Parent Information Session on Tuesday, January 19 at 7 p.m. to provide an opportunity to learn more about our work to date and the search process. Please check Sunday’s weekly email for the zoom information.

I am very pleased to announce that the following people have committed to the time-intensive work of serving on our Search Committee:

Committee Chair
Current Parent, Current Trustee, Board Secretary

Committee Vice Chair
Current Parent, Current Trustee

Current Parent, Current Trustee, Board Vice Chair

Head Teacher, Past Parent

Head Teacher, Past Parent

Current Parent, Current Trustee

Current Parent, Current Trustee

Current Parent, Current Trustee, Board Chair

Past Parent, Current Trustee

We are very grateful to the individuals listed above, and we intend to keep the community well informed throughout the search process. As Search Chair, Bailey Martignetti will send an email update to the WMS community at each stage; this update will also be posted on our website in order to be as transparent as possible about what is happening. We are deeply committed to an inclusive process to support the ongoing and future well-being of our School. To that end, we also want to underscore the fact that there is no plan for WMS to become anything but the strong and loving Montessori school it has always been.

While the Search Committee will be the funnel through which all information about candidates and the search process will flow, we will be relying on the broad participation of the community in a number of ways to ensure a successful outcome to our work on behalf of WMS. One of those ways is to appoint an Advisory Committee, which will be composed of representatives from our community’s constituencies. As we begin to narrow the field of applicants, this group will be formed and guided to prepare salient questions for each finalist candidate. While there will be an opportunity for every member of the community to meet the finalists and share impressions, the Advisory Committee will have a formal, one-hour interview session with each one, and members will provide individual feedback to the Search Committee. This will be vital information for the Search Committee as we know the questions asked will be important to each constituent group represented. If you would be interested in serving on this committee, please let Bailey Martignetti know.

The Board has retained the search firm, Educators’ Collaborative (EC), to help us with our search. EC has conducted over 1000 successful head of school searches since 1971. Sally Mixsell and Deirdre Ling, two partners with the firm, are our consultants. Both have served as heads of independent schools themselves, have well-developed professional networks, and are well respected by educators throughout the country. Both Sally and Deirdre feel that Washington Montessori School presents a very attractive professional opportunity that will produce an excellent pool of candidates.

The success of this search will depend in large part on the input the Search Committee and consultants receive from the WMS community. Sally and Deirdre will be conducting virtual interviews with stakeholders in the next several weeks in order to develop a leadership profile for WMS’s next leader and to gain a sense of the opportunities and challenges facing the next Head of School. They will also be able to answer questions you may have about the search itself. You will receive invitations to the sessions designed for your constituency in an upcoming communication.

We fully realize that not everyone will be able to participate in the interviews, and so the consultants have made available to everyone an on-line survey that addresses the following questions:

  • What are the strengths of Washington Montessori School?
  • What are the main challenges that the School needs to address over the next 3-5 years?
  • What specific personal and professional qualities would you like to see in the next head of Washington Montessori School?
  • Is there anyone you wish to nominate for the position? If so, please provide name, location and contact information.

Even if you do take part in a virtual session, please participate in the search process by completing the survey (linked here) since your input will be extremely helpful in developing the leadership profile for the next Head of School. The survey will close on January 31.

Our consultants will be advertising the position extensively in the coming weeks and accessing their extensive database and professional networks to solicit and encourage applications from well-qualified prospective candidates. Once the Search Committee has reviewed candidate dossiers and interviewed semifinalists, we will select the top candidates and invite them to the School for interviews in early April. Ideally, a single candidate will rise to the top and be recommended to the Board for approval.

As we embark on this important task, we are grateful for your support and will continue to keep you informed about our progress.


Coco Sellman, Chair
Board of Trustees