Apr 042014

As someone who has been “in school” since I first entered Kindergarten, oh so many moons ago, I have become attuned to the rhythms of the year and the cyclical nature of schools – the anticipation of late August, the exuberance of October, the deep sense of gratitude and community in November and December, the sense of renewal and resolution in January, the deep breath we all gratefully take as we head into Spring Break, and the unbridled enthusiasm mixed with exhaustion of late May and early June.

Amidst these cycles, the arrival of April signals a moment where transitions come to the forefront of our consciousness. With only two months until the end of the year, 8th graders and their parents are starting to feel the myriad of emotions that come with the end of middle school and the transition to high school. While a bit less dramatic, 4th graders and their parents eagerly anticipate and perhaps have some anxiety about the move across the bridge to middle school. Even Junior Kindergarten and Kindergarten parents become wistful, realizing that our newest members of the community no longer seem quite so young.

Early April also marks a time when we gain clarity about teachers and staff members who are making transitions at the end of the year. Some are transitions in role, as people take on new opportunities and responsibilities within the school. Others are transitions from the school, as some of our faculty and staff will be leaving Hillbrook in June. As a small and connected community, these changes generate an array of emotions, from sadness that people we care about are leaving to excitement for people about the new opportunities that lie ahead for them. It is important to recognize that with these different transitions there is no one narrative – people are leaving for different reasons and it is not possible to capture it in one straightforward storyline. In addition, while some people’s reasons for leaving are public and something they want to share, other people may be leaving for reasons they do not want to disclose.

This past Tuesday at the HSPC meeting, I shared an update on people who are transitioning into new roles and those who are leaving campus.

There are several new roles that people will be playing during the 2014-15 school year. Director of the Resident Teacher Program Aimee Giles will be taking on an expanded role as the Director of Teaching and Learning, a new role that will have her overseeing the Center for Teaching Excellence (including the RTP) and also coordinating with Head of Middle School Joe Connolly and Head of Lower School Stephanie Deitz on JK-8 professional development, recruitment, hiring, and support. Middle School science teacher Christa Flores will build on the work she has done with making in 5th/6th science to take on the new role ofMakeSpace Director and MakerProject Coordinator. In this role, she will continue to teach 5th grade science. Christa’s shift into an expanded JK-8 maker role, enabled us to hire MS science resident Ilsa Dohmen to become the 6th grade science teacher. In addition, Ilsa will be working closely with Aimee Giles to coordinate research and programming for the CTE. Finally, Nicholle Cabarloc will become the Director of After-School, Summer & Transportation programs, a well-earned promotion following several years of excellent work in our extended care, summer programs, and Lower School classrooms.

We also have some teachers who are leaving. Kindergarten teachers Dorian Okano and Eliko Ozeki, MS math teacher & instructional technology coach Shushan Sadjadi, MS math teacher Gary Ball, and 6th grade history teacher Jenn Gingery all are not returning next year. Long-time 1st grade teacher Lynn Easton is also transitioning out of the classroom, the end of an era for one of Hillbrook’s truly legendary teachers.

In addition, as announced earlier in the year, CFO Judy Parks is retiring after 13 years of dedicated service and Technology Director Don Orth recently left to take a position at Apple. Communications Director Megan Stevens, who was out on a maternity leave in the Fall and has been working part-time since January, has also decided not to return next year. Finally, Associate Head of School for Institutional Advancement Tesha Poe has recently accepted the position as Director of Advancement at Castilleja School. (see the article below for more details about Tesha’s exciting new opportunity)

At the same time as we manage the mixed emotions of these transitions of beloved faculty, staff and administrators to other places, we have people on campus who are interviewing for openings and who, if hired, will be transitioning into the community next year. As a school, we conduct national searches for new administrators, faculty and staff, and we attract an incredibly strong group of candidates for each position. During the past few months, a number of candidates have been on campus interviewing and sharing their excitement for the potential to become part of the Hillbrook community. We have already hired two Middle School math teachers (see related article below), and we are expecting to hire other positions within the next few weeks.

Thus, even as we are saddened by the impending departure of beloved teachers and staff, we are reassured that dynamic, caring, and talented new teachers and staff members will arrive to fill their roles and continue to provide the extraordinarily high quality program that we offer each day. I am reminded that each of our beloved teachers on campus today replaced a beloved former teacher or staff member, and thus each departure represents both a loss and an opportunity. It is part of the cycle of schools.

At the Final Flag of the year on Monday, June 2, we will have an opportunity to honor the faculty, staff, and administrators who will not be returning next year. It is a touching ceremony and an opportunity to recognize and express gratitude for each of these people who have touched our lives and the lives of Hillbrook students in such meaningful ways. It happens each year, yet it’s predictability does not make it any easier in the moment. I hope you will join us in early June to celebrate their many contributions to our community.

Mark Silver, Ph.D.
Head of School



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