Greta Lawler ’23
During the winter Board of Regents meetings, there was one topic at the front of every board member’s mind: the search and selection process for Mercersburg Academy’s next head of school. Choosing the right the head of school is arguably the Board’s most important current responsibility. The new head will impact every aspect of the school community and play a significant role in determining the future direction of the school, perhaps for decades.
In the past week, the Board has sent out a flurry of communications outlining reecent deliberations and upcoming decisions, and the Board is now beginning to engage the school’s wider constituencies, particularly faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and students.
Of note, the Board announced a partnership with national search firm RG175, whose stated mission is to “create partnerships with schools to identify, foster, and support exceptional leaders that will enable those schools and their students to thrive.” They also published a document describing the role of the head of school and qualifications they will be looking for in potential candidates.
Board President Stacie Lissette ’85, P ’14, ’14, ’17, ’23 has invited parents to Zoom meetings with members of the firm and hosted on-campus meetings this past week with faculty, staff, and Student Council members. Board members and representatives of the consulting firm were present at these meetings to gather feedback from all attendees. White Key Chair Kristin Vickery ’88 P ’18, ’22 said, “[T]he Board of Regents should seek input from the entire community…. The selection of a HOS is perhaps the most important function of the Board along with ensuring [the school’s] financial well-being. Inclusivity and transparency will go a long way toward ultimate buy-in.”
After meeting with Lissette and the consulting firm, upper middler class president Peter Rice ’23 said, “I was really pleased to be involved! They seemed super receptive to student voices and wanted to hear our opinions and what we want to see in a school leader.”
The Academy is currently under the leadership of Acting Head of School Quentin McDowell, an appointment which lasts until the end of the 2022-2023 school year. McDowell, who is in no way involved in the selection process or decision, said, “I trust that our Board will establish a thoughtful process that takes the needs of our community and its members, as well as the greater independent school landscape, into consideration. As for me, I am ready to support their efforts in whatever way I can.”
In her latest email communication, Lissette wrote, “We will spend the month of February continuing to gather feedback and speak with more of our constituents before we make a final decision prior to spring vacation to proceed with a national search or install Acting Head of School Quentin McDowell P ’25 as Mercersburg’s Head of School.”