Head of Search Committee Communications

Head of Search Committee Communications

October 26: Update on McLean School’s Head of School Search from Eric Greenberg, Chair, Head of School Search Committee & Jim Cigliano, Chair, Board of Trustees

We wanted to share an update with the McLean School community on the head search process, as well as thank you for your meaningful participation. The community-wide discussions and surveys that our consultants led last month provided a vivid perspective on McLean School, our strengths, areas for continued growth, and, most important, the attributes that will be crucial for our candidate pool.

Drawing from the dynamic and multifaceted community-wide dialogue and the Search Committee’s own detailed distillation and discussion, a formal Position Description will be posted in the next week that will alert candidates to the search. The rich contents of this document, which will be available to all of you, will shape the candidate pool, including through the outreach and networking of our consultants.

We would like to also share with you a high-level sense of the results.

  • Scope of Outreach. In all, we heard from 338 members of the McLean community. This is a healthy level of participation and reflects the engagement of faculty, staff, administrators, students, and families (and alumni), as well as relevant outside voices from therapists and counselors.
  • Key Take-Aways. The dialogue with the community provided important points of consensus, which will guide and shape our process and evaluation of candidates. Some of the prominent themes included:
    • A K-12 Through-Line: Increased clarity and alignment between and among grades K-12 and the three divisions, maximizing opportunities to strengthen interdisciplinary work and collaboration;
    • Maintenance & Expansion of the Abilities Model ®: An ongoing commitment to the Abilities Model® and its affirmative expansion to, and integration with, athletics, the arts, and other extracurricular programming;
    • Academic Depth & Curriculum Reach: A continued emphasis on academic rigor in programming with a concomitant focus on social and emotional development, real-world preparation (including but beyond college prep), and a continued emphasis on ensuring that our students feel seen and understood;
    • Diversity & Inclusivity: Continued work on diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice, and an emphasis on ensuring an inclusive community within and beyond the walls of McLean School;
    • Leadership Values: Our community emphasized certain key leadership attributes that are highly valued:
      • A Connector: An emotionally intelligent community builder, who can connect on both a community-wide and individual student and family basis;
      • Visibility: A leader who is engaged with students and visible in the daily life of the school;
      • Professional & Personal Credibility: A leader who has a rich and authentic basis on which to (i) understand our students and families, (ii) support and guide the professional development of our talented faculty, and (iii) continue McLean’s role in pedagogic thought-leadership;
      • EQ: An empathic, emotionally intelligent community builder;
      • Communications: A dynamic communicator who can vividly convey the story of McLean, who it serves and what it does for students and families, in a way that draws the community together, advances fundraising, and attracts top teaching talent and new students and families;
      • An Effective Manager with a Growth Mindset: An adept organizational manager, capable of managing McLean’s two-campus expansion, who also brings an entrepreneurial mindset that can further build on our institutional and fiscal strength with discipline and a strategic vision;
      • Rootedness in McLean’s Values: A leader committed and faithful to McLean’s core mission and strengths.

Naturally, this is not an exhaustive list and even the detailed debriefing that the Search Committee engaged in is itself an incomplete list of attributes and ambitions guiding our search. Now, we turn to the work of finding and curating a pool of candidates that reflect these qualities in the real-world and very human context of individuals.

Finally, we note the deeply held positivity of our community: confident and optimistic students; grateful and engaged parents; and an empowered and inspired group of faculty, staff, and administrators. We repeatedly heard respect, appreciation, and gratitude for Mike Saxenian’s decade of leadership — including both the substantial results, and inclusive manner, of his leadership.

The array of strengths that form the bedrock of McLean School, including the talent and skill of its personnel and the affirmative engagement of its families, shines through the Position Description. It inspires and challenges us as we look for a leader worthy of this community and the full potential of our students and school.

We will continue to keep you apprised as our search process moves forward.

Eric Greenberg
Chair, Search Committee

Jim Cigliano
Chair, Board of Trustees
September 15: A Message from Eric Greenberg, Chair, Head of School Search Committee

With thanks to the many of you who have participated in our forums and our survey with thoughtful engagement and authentic perspectives, we wanted to re-send a link to our search committee survey.

The inputs are anonymous and will be curated by our search consultants at Carney Sandoe. The survey is brief, but taken together, our community’s perspectives will enrich our sense of the school we are today and may still become – and thereby will give still further dimensions to our Head search.

The survey is open until Monday, the 19th. You can reach the survey through this link.

Eric Dodson Greenberg
Chair, Head of School Search Committee

September 12: A Message from Eric Greenberg, Chair, Head of School Search Committee

This follows up on our earlier announcement of our Head of School Search Committee and our description of the search process. Consistent with our emphasis on a transparent, inclusive, and coherent search process, we are announcing three upcoming parent forums and a community-wide online survey.

The forums and survey will help us gather the views, perspectives, and input of our community. The Search Committee, together with our search consultants, Heather Flewelling, and Skip Kotkins, from the firm of Carney, Sandoe & Associates, want to ensure that our search process draws from a rich and vivid pool of perspectives. This will be a crucial foundation to developing our shared vision for McLean’s future and identifying the kind of leader who can build on the remarkable accomplishments of Mike Saxenian and all of McLean.

Upcoming In-Person and Online Parent Forums

There will be three upcoming forums for parents that will allow you to meet with Heather and Skip, answer their questions, and share your experiences. (Similar sessions for other community stakeholders will be scheduled separately.) One session will be in-person, the others will be conducted by Heather and Skip via Zoom. The parent forums are as follows:

These are open forums. We look forward to your contributing to a rich, informative, and valuable dialogue. Please RSVP here for the in-person forum on Thursday morning so we can ensure adequate seating for everyone.

Live Online Survey

In addition to the parent-focused sessions and to ensure broad outreach, you can also share your voice with the Search Committee and our consultants via an online survey.  You can reach it at this link.

It should not take long to complete the survey – and, of course, all responses are anonymous. The survey is live now and will close at the end of the day Friday, September 16.

We thank you in advance for your thoughtful participation. Your perspectives and ideas are an essential building block – and we are grateful for the robust start you will give to our search process.

Eric Dodson Greenberg
Chair, Head of School Search Committee

September 7: K-12 Parent Meeting for Head of School Search

August 24: A Message from Eric Greenberg, Chair, Head of School Search Committee & Jim Cigliano, Chair, Board of Trustees

In follow up to Monday’s announcement of Mike’s retirement and the formation of a Head of School Search Committee, we are writing to announce the members of the Committee and further elaborate on the search process itself.

With gratitude for their willingness to join in this profoundly important effort, we are pleased to announce the membership of our Search Committee:

Chair: Eric Greenberg, former Chair of the Board of Trustees, Alumni Parent


  • Kerrie Thomas-Armstrong, Alumni parent, parent of a current McLean 6th grader
  • Jim Cigliano, Chair, Board of Trustees, and parent of McLean 12th grader
  • Cynthia Cubbage, Parent of a current McLean 8th and 11th graders
  • Hurley Doddy, Former Trustee
  • Bill Dunn, Upper School Faculty Member, Upper School and parent of a McLean 11th grader
  • Bobby Edwards, McLean’s Director of Community Inclusion and External Relations
  • David Gregory, Alumni Parent
  • Terri Hamm, Lower School Faculty Member, parent of a McLean 5th and 12th grader
  • Rhonda Henley, Parent of a McLean 10th grader
  • Leah Larson-Rabin, Trustee, and parent of McLean 3rd, 8th, and 9th graders
  • David Roth, Head of Middle School and Assistant Head of School for Educational Programs
  • Dev Talvadkar, Trustee
  • Jenny Whichard ’94, Assistant Head of Middle School, Director of Summer and After School Programs, and McLean alumna
  • Mary Wright, Trustee and alumni parent

The Committee will function as a fulcrum for the search process. We will serve as the principal liaisons between the School and our search consultants and messengers to the candidate pool, conveying the School’s values, mission and strategy. We will also evaluate and curate the candidate pool, interviewing and culling the pool into semi-finalists and finalists. Lastly, as advisors ourselves, we will make a recommendation to the Board of Trustees, who will, in turn, make the final selection of the next Head of School.

In all of this, the Committee is a conduit for the many experiences and qualities that make up the  McLean community. This is one reason why we are so pleased by the diverse and multifaceted range of perspectives that will be brought together by this Committee. At the same time, each member comes to the Committee as a steward of the community as a whole – and of McLean’s shared future.

Together, our Search Committee is committed to developing a search process that is based upon, and true to, three fundamental values: transparency, inclusivity, and coherence.

Transparency means the Committee will regularly communicate with the community to provide a clear sense of our direction, status, and process. You will know what to expect and when. There will be several and varied opportunities for you to participate in and contribute input to the search process. With more details to come, the first such opportunity is already scheduled for September 15th, when our search consultants will be on campus – including for a meeting with the community.

At the same time, while we are committed to transparency, the search process cannot occur in a fish bowl. Indeed, confidentiality is essential to the process and our ability to find, meet, and vet the very best candidates. We will share with you everything we can along the way, but we also ask for your understanding that we will not be able to share everything that is happening along the way, such as the candidates in our pool and details about the status of aspects of our process.

Inclusivity will be reflected in two essential goals:

First, the stakeholders of our School and the diverse perspectives of our School community will be woven into our search. This goes beyond the composition of our Committee. It means that the search process itself will involve direct and genuine engagement with the members of our community to ensure that the distinct experiences, needs, and aspirations of our School are authentically expressed, heard, and fused into our search. Starting with our email account – HeadOfSchoolSearch@mcleanschool.org – and extending through surveys and open forums, and ultimately to community meetings with the finalists, we are committed to creating meaningful opportunities for your voice to be heard throughout the process.

Second, inclusivity means that both our process and our pool of candidates represents the diversity of our community and the cohort of the best leaders available.  To help ensure that this kind of inclusivity is not merely our aspiration, but is our outcome, we are especially grateful for the experience and facilitation of Carney-Sandoe, our search consultants (whose biographies are appended below). The expertise and commitment of our advisors makes us still more confident that our search process will be both guided to and held accountable for achieving this goal.

Coherence means that our process will be orderly, organized, timely, and disciplined in its objectives and execution.  Here again, Carney-Sandoe will help ensure that our own experiences and the uniqueness of McLean are imbued with best practices and the learnings of other school searches. They will help ensure that our own clear sense of self is matched with a long reach and a big network. Working together, we will deliver to McLean a search process worthy of, and well-equipped to find, the best possible next Head of School.

But a coherent search is more than execution and organization. The search must be coherent with the School’s core identity, the community’s abiding values, and our strategic thinking.

To ensure strategic coherence, our search will be built upon McLean’s foundational sense of mission, directed by our ongoing commitment to the Abilities Model®, and propelled by a long-term vision for McLean. In this way, our Head of School search is bigger than finding any one candidate; it is about connecting what is best about McLean to what its future can be; it is a vision that both exists independent of our search and drives it. This strategic vision informs our concept of the kind of leader McLean needs – a leader who will both serve and shape that vision.

In that sense, while our next Head of School will succeed Mike, they will not replace him. The School’s remarkable achievements under Mike’s decade of leadership stand alone. But they also stand as a foundation for still new opportunities. Our task is to find the next leader of McLean who will both build on the strength of that foundation – and build still new strengths.

As a McLean community, we are called to the service of our students. Now, as teachers, administrators, trustees, alumni, and families, we are called to this moment – a moment that connects all that McLean is today with the next chapter in our School’s story.

Just as we have always risen to meet the needs of our students, we will meet this moment. And so – together – we begin our search and, as ever, we will continue to build toward the best possible future for our students and McLean School.


Jim Cigliano
Chair, Board of Trustees

Eric Greenberg
Chair, Search Committee

About our Search Consultants:

Heather Flewelling, Chief Talent Officer at Carney Sandoe & Associates, will join Skip on the search team. For over 30 years, Heather has been a national leader in advancing issues related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging among schools and universities. In Heather’s role as Chief Talent Officer, she works with CS&A to identify new pathways to increase the pools of traditionally underrepresented candidates and support schools and candidates to better reach their goals of diversifying their leadership. Her work builds equitable, inclusive, diverse, growth-oriented programs, schools, and communities with a particular expertise in navigating complex K-12 schools.

Skip Kotkins is entering his tenth year working with Carney Sandoe & Associates. He has led many dozens of Head of School Searches, and also assists schools in creating strategic plans, and in board development. He has had the pleasure of working on Head searches with a number of schools serving neurodiverse populations such as the McLean student body, and just completed a strategic plan for a similar school in New England. Skip is no stranger to McLean: he worked with Mike Saxenian when Mike and Skip were on the NAIS Board together, and he assisted McLean in the recent search that brought Chip Miller to our Upper School. Skip comes from the board side of schools and his understanding of the many non-academic school head responsibilities is a great pairing with Heather’s career serving students in schools.