WMS people

New Head of School Named

Dear Washington Montessori School Community, 

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I am pleased to announce that Launa Schweizer has accepted our invitation to serve as the next Head of Washington Montessori School, effective July 1, 2022. As you may know, our Acting Head of School, David Newman, has accepted our invitation to remain in place another year to ensure a smooth transition of leadership. We are most grateful to him for doing so and know the School will be in capable hands until our new Head joins us in 2022.

Beginning in January 2021, the Search Committee, co-chaired by Bailey Martignetti and Matt Woodhall, worked with search consultants Sally Mixsell and Deirdre Ling of Educators’ Collaborative, and reviewed the credentials of candidates from all parts of the country. The Committee then identified eight individuals for a confidential round of in-person interviews. Subsequently, four finalists and spouses/partners visited the campus for comprehensive two-day interviews. On May 8, the Search Committee selected Launa Schweizer as its nominee to the Board of Trustees to serve as the next Head of School. The Trustees ratified this recommendation at a Board Meeting on May 10.

Launa has spent the past thirty years in education. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in English magna cum laude from Amherst College in 1991, she began her first teaching job at The Taft School, then went on to complete a Master’s degree in American Culture in 1994 from the University of Michigan with a Certificate in Women’s Studies. She served as an upper school English teacher at Poly Prep Country Day School, then went on to serve as Head of the Lower School there before taking a two-year hiatus to move to France and homeschool her children and write. She then resumed her independent school career at Brooklyn Heights Montessori School as a middle school English teacher and Assistant Head of the Middle School before accepting her current position as Head of Middle School at The Hewitt School, a K – 12 all girls’ school of 525 in Manhattan.

Launa will be joined by her husband, Bill Lienhard. Bill is an attorney in private practice specializing in social justice work. Launa and Bill have two daughters, Grace, 22 and Abigail, 19.

The characteristics that stand out most about Launa from her career experiences and from the references of those who have worked with her at Hewitt, Brooklyn Heights Montessori and Poly Prep, are her commitment to academic excellence, her warm and vibrant personality, humble demeanor, and dedication to building and fostering relationships within a school community. A former supervisor and head of school describes Launa as an especially strong leader and serious educator, adept at big picture thinking coupled with the management expertise to follow through on a plan or project down to the last detail.  “Mission alignment is her touchstone; she knows how to create a culture of feedback.” Another reference describes her as a master teacher at heart—one of the five top teachers whom she has encountered in her 35-year career. She impressed all of us on the Search Committee as being a life-long learner—poised, creative, strategic and measured. Possessed of a keen intelligence, Launa is a leader and a learner, and her robust experience in progressive education, most notably her commitment to Montessori, is a distinguishing factor for why she will be a strong and mission-aligned leader of our School for many years to come.

Search Co-Chairs, Bailey Martignetti and Matt Woodhall, note that “Launa demonstrated a unique ability to connect with our community during her short time with us, despite the limitations of a virtual platform. The Search Committee was inspired by her dynamic skill set, incisive and disciplined intelligence, and her own Montessori experience, as a leader, educator, and parent. We are confident that Launa will honor the traditions and history of WMS as she leads our community into our promising future.”

During her time on our campus, she demonstrated a grasp of our mission and a desire to further it in a spirit of collaboration with all stakeholders. She truly embodies the Montessori values of grace and courtesy that are the philosophical underpinnings of our School and the culture we cherish. An accomplished musician, Launa writes, records and performs music with her band, New Yeller, and loves to read, travel and hike. She is the author of the memoir Home Away: A Year of Misapprehensions, Transformations, and Rosé at Lunch, and the novel Amateur Night.

“Having had the pleasure of visiting Washington Montessori over the years I recall beautiful preschool classrooms with outdoor space. I remember purposeful math work, the joy of a Shakespeare rehearsal, and the independence of a middle school student presenting his geography work to his peers. While I was not actively seeking a headship, as soon as I heard about the opening, I knew I would apply. The grace, courtesy, patience, understanding and deep faith in human development that I internalized as a Montessori educator helps me to shape an environment and culture that is inclusive and conducive to learning for all members of a community. The respect for all stages of human development that I learned as a Montessori educator is a lodestar for me, and it will guide my approach to the exciting work that lies ahead for WMS.”

The selection of the Head of School is one of the greatest responsibilities of trusteeship, and all of us in the Washington Montessori School family can be proud not only that Launa has accepted the appointment, but also that the WMS community was so invested throughout an extensive national search process. Each of our finalists commented positively on the warm welcome he or she received, and our Educators’ Collaborative consultants cited that the School’s engagement well exceeded what is normally seen in a search process. We are delighted with the outcome and look forward to welcoming Launa and Bill to the school community.  We are also confident that each of you will, in your own way, extend a warm welcome to our new Head of School. A transition plan will be created to include several opportunities for the community and Launa to become better acquainted during the 2021-2022 academic year.

On behalf of the Board, I want to extend my sincere appreciation to Search Committee Co-Chairs Bailey Martignetti and Matt Woodhall for their tireless efforts on behalf of WMS, as well to the fellow members of the Search Committee: John Celebi, Fletcher Previn, David Wieder, Tanya Horgan, Debby DeGuire and Tom Fahsbender, who devoted countless hours and great care to the search process to ensure its successful outcome. They, along with the Advisory Committee, and, indeed every stakeholder who took the time to participate in the process, deserve our heartfelt gratitude as well.

With the prospect of exciting new leadership after another year of superb stewardship on the part of Acting Head of School, David Newman, and the continuing dedication of our faculty and staff, the Board of Trustees looks forward to a bright future for Washington Montessori School.

Coco Sellman, Board Chair