Educational Leaders

Educational Leaders

Welcome from Head of School

I have one of the best jobs in the world. My time leading McLean School over the last six years has been rich in meaning and personal connections, the very qualities of McLean—along with deep classroom expertise—that drew me to the school when I first visited in late 2012. At McLean, I’ve been fortunate to participate in the further articulation of our methodology and the ways in which we explain it, expansion of the student body, implementation of new programming in areas such as mindfulness, robotics, and gardening, the first major capital campaign, and the expansion of our building. 

I came to McLean from Sidwell Friends School, where I was the Assistant Head of School and Chief Financial Officer. At Sidwell I was able to pursue twin passions in education, including the opportunity to design and teach an economics elective to seniors, and in the environment, overseeing an expansive green building program that set an international standard for independent schools.

My work in schools has been enriched by board service. I’ve served on the boards of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), including as Treasurer, and of the National Business Officers Association (NBOA). Locally, I serve on the board of the Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington (AISGW). I was a founding board member of the Green School Alliance (GSA).

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I haven’t always worked in schools. My professional pathway started as a volunteer in non-formal education and “appropriate” (small scale, village) technology in Indonesia in the early 1980s, and includes business start-ups in education and in publishing related to economic development. I led the development of “Conservation Enterprises” at Conservation International through most of the 1990s. In the early 2000s I became a Vice President and General Manager at Discovery Communications, running a business unit dedicated to educational and experiential travel.

I grew up in Concord Massachusetts in a family of educators and attended the public schools there, including the high school where my mother taught English. I was slow to learn to read, and probably would have continued to languish in low level math classes but for testing that suggested—contrary to appearances, I suppose—that I was a bright child. Birth of the Abilities Model®! We were not a family of significant means, and the first airplane ride of my life took me to my freshman year at Stanford, which I financed through a combination of work study, loans, and financial aid. That flight launched me on a path of work and study that has spanned six continents, and eventually yielded three degrees from Stanford—an MBA, an MA in Development Economics, and an AB in International Relations.

My two years living in Indonesia, immersed in local culture, language and institutions, had a profound impact on my world view. Like many young people who work abroad in this way, I developed a deep appreciation for complexity and nuance, and an understanding that no individual or society has a corner on the truth.  The volunteer organization I worked with was grounded in Quaker values, which tend to reinforce those notions, and which recognize the power of diversity and of collective wisdom. These values and perspectives inform my leadership of McLean School.  

In addition to my work at McLean, some of my favorite professional moments have included facilitating the launch of ecologically sustainable coffee in every Starbucks store across the country, thereby establishing a partnership with Conservation International that has continued for two decades; creating the first ever LEED Platinum K-12 school building, and converting a fifty-year-old gymnasium into a LEED Platinum Quaker meetinghouse. I also look back fondly on my earlier work co-authoring the Appropriate Technology Sourcebook, an 800-page resource guide to technologies for rural development, with 50,000 copies in print, and creating a 1,250-volume microfiche-based library on appropriate technology that replicated the leading appropriate technology reference collection in 1000 locations around the world.

My three daughters are now young adults, and one of them was fortunate enough to attend and graduate from McLean. Natalie’s time at McLean gave me the gift of experiencing McLean as a parent. I love spending time with family, biking, hiking, reading, and admiring art. I rely on a regular yoga practice to keep my mind and body in tune.

I hope your visit to our website will lead you to visit our School. We look forward to meeting you personally and showing you first-hand the magic of McLean and how we transform lives.

Warmly,

Michael Saxenian
Head of School

Our Educational Leaders

Dr. Mary Dickerson, Head of Lower School

“This is a place where children are kind to their peers, are motivated intrinsically to work hard, and know that — no matter what — they are loved.”

–Dr. Mary Dickerson
Head of Lower School

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As the overseer of McLean School’s youngest students, from kindergarten through grade 4, Dr. Mary Dickerson’s motto is short and sweet: children first!

Mary strives to make all children feel seen and special so that they may become their best selves in school and out. Her warmth is matched by experience, which includes more than two decades of leadership experience as a Public School Principal and Head of School and Division Head in independent schools. Before becoming a school administrator, Mary taught music to students of all ages, from preschool through high school. Her passion for meeting the needs of diverse learners includes using the arts as a means for self-expression and empowerment.

Mary first came to McLean in 2017, drawn to McLean’s student-centered learning environment and collaborative faculty. She is deeply committed to her faculty and best practices, and works with aspiring school leaders as a Professor of graduate courses including Curriculum and Instruction; Advanced Theory and Practice in Early Childhood Education; Values, Ethics, and Professionalism; Race, Class, Power in Schools; and Classroom Action Research. Mary holds a PhD in Educational Leadership from Boston College, an EdM in Educational Leadership from Harvard University, an EdM in Education from Lesley University, and a BME in Music Education from the University of Kansas.

David Roth, Head of Middle School

“At McLean, we have many systems in place that allow kids to be their best selves and share their abilities and talents in settings from the classroom, to the sports field, in the art studio or on stage. Provide enough advocates, and every child will be able to show you their strengths.”

–David Roth
Head of Middle School

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David brings enthusiasm and energy to his role as Head of McLean’s Middle School, grades 5 through 8. He first joined the faculty in 2012 as a history and geography teacher, and quickly took to McLean’s responsive classrooms and strong sense of community. Previously the Head of Upper School and Middle School at Commonwealth Academy in Virginia, David brought administrative leadership experience to McLean, and assumed the role of Head of Middle School in 2013.

Independent schools are familiar territory for David, who grew up on the campus of Seabury Hall School in Maui, Hawaii, where his father taught physics and chemistry. David came east for undergraduate studies at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, but those early influences were strong and David later earned his Master’s in Education at the University of Virginia.

Dr. Josephine Diemond, Head of Upper School

“At McLean, I see teachers who live and breathe a nurturing approach to education every single day and will do anything to help their students succeed. That includes having the perseverance and creativity to try different things — if ‘x’ doesn’t work, we try ‘y’ and ‘z’ until we figure it out. There’s no such thing as ‘I can’t’ here, and that’s true for teachers as well as students.”

–Dr. Josephine Diemond
Head of Upper school

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Josephine Diemond embodies the same spirit of perseverance she instills in her students — always striving for best outcomes and to learn from experience along the way. This belief in self and others is palpable in McLean’s Upper School, where Josephine has been Head for more than 13 years.

Josephine is a natural teacher, but set out on a different path. After earning a BA in Biology from Princeton University, she abandoned plans for medical school in favor of a career in education, earning a Master’s in French Literature at New York University and later a doctorate in educational and organizational leadership from the University of Pennsylvania. Josephine began as a French teacher at Millbrook School in upstate New York, and gradually shifted into administrative roles at schools including Assistant Academic Dean at The Madeira School and Head of Grades 11 and 12 at The Field School.