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Head of School Search

At the end of the 2017-2018 school year, Aaron Cooper will conclude a successful six-year tenure as Head of School. As we spend this school year working on important school initiatives we will also take this opportunity to think strategically about The Elisabeth Morrow School's future.

We will engage an Interim Head for the 2018-2019 school year, and a Head of School starting in the 2019-2020 school year. Our Search Committee, led by Board Second Vice President Joseph (J) Agresta, '78, P'18, P'24, and Board Secretary Kathie Kamiel, P'22, P'24, will conduct a process that will include many constituencies, including faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and trustees. We will provide updates to the community as the process proceeds.


Head of School Search Community Survey

Your opinions about Elisabeth Morrow's signature strengths, challenges, and leadership needs are important to us as we build a strong pool of Head of School candidates. Please take a few moments to answer these questions.

Head Search Update/Search Firm Visits

February 17, 2018

Dear EMS Community:

We are pleased to share the next steps in our search for our permanent Head of School, who will begin their tenure in the 2019-2020 school year. Our search consultants, James Wickenden and Laura Hansen, will be on campus on Thursday, February 22 and Friday, February 23, soliciting input from a variety of constituents to better understand EMS’ culture, programming, and community so they can better convey this to prospective candidates. The firm will also launch a community survey and we will share the link to it with you via email next week, as well as in the Wednesday Envelope.

The Board of Trustees is committed to an inclusive and transparent process for selecting the next permanent Head of School, and, to that end, we encourage as many of you as possible to take advantage of all opportunities to discuss our school’s strengths and challenges directly with our consultants, and communicate with them about the qualities you would like to see in the Head of School. Separately, the Board continues to work with Wickenden Associates in securing an interim head for the 2018-2019 school year.

The constituents our consultants will meet next week include Morrow House students, the Parents Association’s executive board, the Head of School, several senior administrators, faculty and staff, and the Board of Trustees and search committee. On Thursday, group meetings for trustees will be held at 8 a.m., for faculty at 3:30 p.m. and for families at 6:30 p.m. in Russell Berrie Music Room in Morrow House. You do not need to RSVP to attend a meeting.

We have also named additional members of Search Committee who will work closely with J and Kathie, in leading the process of selecting the permanent head. They are:

Debbie Abitante, Associate Director of Admissions, P‘08, P‘13
Greg Amerkanian, First Vice President, Board of Trustees, P’15, P ‘17, P ‘27
Michele Bower, Director of Curriculum and Secondary School Placement, P ‘97
Amelia Gold, Arts Department Chair, P’15, P’17, P ‘22, P’24
Richard Han P‘18, P‘19, P ‘24
Heide Ilgenfritz, Treasurer, Board of Trustees P‘13
Jamil Myrie P ‘20
Dana Ranawat, Trustee, P ‘22, P’24
Hanita Walia, Board President, P ‘16, P’22
Melanie Weinraub, Parents Association President, P’21, P’24

We look forward to engaging deeply with our community in this search process. We will keep you updated and welcome questions and comments from you at any time. Please feel free to reach out to us at headsearch@elisabethmorrow.org.

Hanita Walia, Board Chair, P ‘16, P’22
Joseph Agresta ‘78, P ‘18, P ‘24, Second Vice President, Board of Trustees, Search Committee Co-Chair
Kathie Kamiel P ‘22, P ‘24, Board Secretary, Search Committee Co-Chair

Wickenden Associates Selected as Search Firm

February 5, 2018

Dear EMS Community:

After careful consideration of several highly regarded independent school search firms, the Elisabeth Morrow School Board of Trustees has selected Wickenden Associates to advise it in the leadership transition for the school.

Founded by former Princeton University Dean of Admission James Wickenden in 1986, Wickenden Associates serves a wide variety of schools from large boarding schools to small elementary schools. Reflecting the broad universe of independent schools, the firm’s client list demonstrates its ability to work well within the unique culture of each school to find the candidate that best fits the schools needs.

Wickenden will conduct the search for both the Interim Head of School, to be appointed for the 2018-2019 school year, and the Head of School to be appointed for the 2019-2020 school year and beyond. Firm founder James Wickenden and consultant Laura Hansen will work with our search committee. Ms. Hansen is a veteran independent school teacher and administrator who has worked in coeducational, boys, and girls schools, most recently serving for eight years as Head of Upper School at Collegiate School in New York.

We will keep the community updated on the search and welcome questions and comments from the community at any time throughout this process. Please feel free to reach out to us at headsearch@elisabethmorrow.org.

Joseph Agresta ‘78, P ‘18, P ‘24, Search Committee Co-Chair
Kathie Kamiel P ‘22, P ‘24, Search Committee Co-Chair

Announcement Letters

January 10, 2018

January 10, 2018

Dear EMS Community:

I hope everyone enjoyed the holiday season with family and friends. As we welcome 2018, we will be looking ahead to new leadership at The Elisabeth Morrow School. After 15 dedicated years at EMS, our Head of School Aaron Cooper, has announced that this will be his last year at EMS. Aaron will be starting in a new role as Head of School at New Canaan Country School in Connecticut this July. Aaron’s time at EMS began in 2003 as Dean of Students, rising to Assistant Head of School in 2009, and then Head of School in 2012. The Board of Trustees is supportive of Aaron’s departure to pursue his career development and wishes Aaron, Kara, and the girls great success and much happiness.

During Aaron’s tenure, The Elisabeth Morrow School has grown and thrived in many ways. He oversaw a successful capital campaign and subsequent facilities build out, the strengthening of the school’s finances, the recruitment of several key leaders, curriculum upgrades, and growth in our admissions and development. Aaron accomplished all this and much more with warmth, understanding, and dedication to our students and EMS’ traditions and core values. There will be opportunities to celebrate his contributions and say goodbye in the months ahead.

This is a tremendously exciting time of revitalization and renewal for us at EMS. We successfully completed Phases 1 and 2 of our Campus Master Plan, creating Innovation Alley and Community Field. Both have been big wins, and we are thankful to all our generous donors who stepped up to improve our physical plant and are committed to helping our school thrive. With broad community engagement, the Board recently started development of a new Strategic Plan and is continuing its work on our Master Plan. Our faculty and administration are also working on the self-study needed ahead of the school’s upcoming re-accreditation. Bringing in a new Head of School is timely, energizing, and will build on our current momentum.

Our approach will be to engage an Interim Head for the 2018-19 school year, followed by the appointment of a Head of School starting in the 2019-20 school year. That will afford us the time necessary for a thoughtful and thorough Head search, with appropriate engagement across our community. Also, our new Strategic Plan will be completed this spring, providing great input to our search for an exceptional Head of School.

The Board of Trustees has already started the recruiting effort. I have asked Board Second Vice President Joseph (J) Agresta ’78, P’18, P’24, and Board Secretary Kathie Kamiel, P’22, P’24, to lead the Search Committee, with additional members to be named. We have held discussions with several search firms and will pick one with national reach that specializes in the academic space. The search process will include many constituencies, including faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and trustees, and we will solicit input from our community to reaffirm our values and identify key needs. J and Kathie will provide regular updates and invite appropriate participation.

The Elisabeth Morrow School is special! We strive to blend “the best of the old and the best of the new.” Our talented, creative, and inspiring faculty and staff are focused on graduating lifelong learners, thinkers and leaders. Along with its beautiful campus and warm community, EMS has much to offer. We are confident we will select a new Head who will commit to our core values of child-centered learning, academic excellence, and character education and is well equipped to execute our new Strategic Plan. I am excited about partnering with all of you, through the next steps in our journey, as we position our school for even greater success in the future.

With warm regards,

Hanita Walia
President, Board of Trustees


January 10, 2018

Dear EMS Community:

After much reflection and deep consideration, I am writing to inform you that this will be my final year at EMS. I have not made this decision lightly nor without mixed emotions. I have absolutely loved my 15 years at EMS, and Kara and I feel truly fortunate to have raised Julia and Charlotte in the warm embrace of this community. There is never a perfect time to leave a place you love, but this feels like the right time for me to embark upon this professional development opportunity. In July, we will move closer to our families in New England, and I will become Head of School at New Canaan Country School in New Canaan, CT.

EMS is in a particularly strong place right now due to the fantastic work of our faculty and staff, our administration, and our Board of Trustees. We recently set a 20-year high in applications and new students, and our enrollment is growing. The Apple Tree Fund remains a vibrant and growing source of funding for continued excellence, and our recent capital fundraising efforts resulted in our building the Community Field and Innovation Alley, two spaces that have transformed the EMS experience. Our finances are also strong; we remain debt-free and with ample reserves and endowment, and our budget is balanced.

Our wonderful faculty continues to innovate within the context of providing our students with “the best of the old and the best of the new,” and our leadership team is committed to the long-term success of this institution. Most importantly, the education that our students receive is exemplary, as reflected in our graduates’ success in many of the best secondary schools in the region and country. This is largely due to the passion, excellence, and child-centered attitude of the faculty. Our teachers’ deep understanding of students’ learning styles, personalities and identities and their commitment to developing our students’ intellect and character is transformational.

The best is yet to come for EMS. Our school is blessed with a forward-thinking Board of Trustees, led by President Hanita Walia, P’16, P’22. Our Board loves EMS and has a deep appreciation for the positive partnership with a school community and Head of School that thriving schools share. The strategic planning process led by the Board will define the school’s roadmap for the next five years and will provide direction to the new Head of School as they become acclimated to the community. The self-study and re-accreditation process will similarly provide valuable feedback and initiative for new leadership. I am committed to making the upcoming transition as seamless as possible, and I will continue to actively work on both of these projects to ensure they are complete and ready for implementation when I leave.

I am deeply grateful for my time here. I am appreciative of the partnership and supportive working relationship that I have shared with the Board of Trustees as well as all of my colleagues over the past 15 years. Most of all, I am thankful to have had the opportunity to get to know many of you and your children well and to form lifelong connections here. That, more than anything, is the true reward for an educator.

There will be time for farewells in the months ahead, but for now it continues to be my great honor to lead EMS through this dynamic and exciting school year and to assist the Board of Trustees and the community in ensuring its continued growth and evolution as the best place for children to grow as thinkers and leaders. I know that the next Head of School will be welcomed as graciously as I was to this most unique community and that the school that they join has a very bright future. For the last 15 years, EMS has been my home, and I could not have asked for a better one. I thank you all for that.


Aaron Cooper
Head of School

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