Head of School Announcement from the Board of Trustees
Dear Friends of Westland School,
The Board of Trustees is delighted to announce the appointment of Melinda Tsapatsaris as Westland’s new head of school. A superb educator who has earned the highest respect in the national progressive-school community and local independent-school community, Melinda has served as assistant head at Wildwood School for the past six and a half years. Prior to Melinda’s move to administration when she became Wildwood’s director of the upper school in 2006, she was one of the founding faculty of Wildwood’s middle and upper school in 2000.
During the search process, we were struck not only by the extensive and enthusiastic feedback we received about Melinda but also by the extent to which her qualities and attributes match what members of our school community so clearly articulated they were looking for in Westland’s next head. During the search process our community spoke eloquently about their hopes for the next head: someone who had a demonstrable commitment to progressive education; a deep commitment to diversity, multiculturalism, and globalism; a track record as a highly collaborative leader; and someone who would clearly enjoy being an active, visible, and warm presence in the life of the school and who would have a love of young people and strong sense of community. We have found these qualities and more in Melinda Tsapatsaris.
In her work at Wildwood, Melinda collaborates with faculty, administrators, staff, students, parents, and trustees in coordinating curriculum and instruction, tending to the whole child, collaborating with other teachers across disciplines, and contributing to a multicultural program that has impacted all levels of the school community. A strategic thinker, Melinda has led Wildwood in areas of progress, change, management, supervision, fostering the parent-school partnership and instilling a research-based culture. She has served on myriad board task forces, from the Development Committee to the Committee on Trustees to the Multicultural Leadership Team. Melinda began serving on Westland’s Board of Trustees last year and has made contributions to our Finance Committee, Committee on Development, and most notably our Strategic Plan Committee. In her personal statement to the Search Committee, Melinda said, “It is these specific experiences that most excite me when I think about the next ten years for Westland School. Strategic-plan initiatives on diversity and inclusion; multiculturalism; and the continuation of the observation, evaluation, and support program are at the forefront of Westland’s strategic plan. Having been a part of a relentlessly collaborative community at Wildwood, I am positioned and passionate about Westland’s upcoming work.”
We believe that Melinda is the ideal person to lead Westland today and to continue the extraordinary work of the distinguished heads who preceded her, including Scott Moran and Janie Lou Hirsch. Melinda’s appointment represents the culmination of a comprehensive and exhaustive global search led by Bob Fricker of Carney Sandoe & Associates. We are deeply grateful to the members of the Search Committee for their efforts to design and execute a process that provided excellent opportunities for interactions between the finalists and our community. A priority was creating an inclusive process that would both attract the best candidates and promote the active participation of many different constituencies. We are thankful that so many members of the Westland community provided helpful insights throughout the process.
It is with great anticipation that our community looks forward to welcoming Melinda Tsapatsaris to Westland as our new Head of School on July 1, 2017.
President, Board of Trustees
Greetings from Melinda Tsapatsaris – Westland’s Head of School – Elect
Dear Westland Community and Fellow Educators,
It is with great joy and deep gratitude that I have accepted the offer to become Westland’s next head of school. My two years of service on Westland’s Board and my recent two days spent as a finalist offered me distinct opportunities to absorb Westland’s culture, essential mission, and ongoing efforts as a leader in progressive education. I am thrilled at the prospect of my work ahead—and all the questions I collected on my visit.
Years ago, when I taught middle school humanities, I shared Ntozake Shange’s poem “i live in music” with my students. Here are some sample lines: “i live in music/is this where you live?/i live here in music/…sound falls round me like rain on other folks/…i live in music/live in it/wash in it/…hold yrself/hold yrself in music.” I would ask my students to use Shange’s format as inspiration to explore where they felt they mostly lived. Some students decided to “live in” family. Others, soccer. And so on. If I were writing my version of Shange’s poem this very moment, I’d live in questions. I love living in the questions.
Some questions Westland parents and educators have asked me: What is the stated purpose of a social-justice curriculum? What does progressive education mean to you? What is your philosophy on fundraising? What are the qualities of excellent progressive elementary education? Why Westland?
Those first four questions will form the foundation of my work with my colleagues, the Board, and the parent community. These questions connect directly to the strategic plan that my predecessor, Scott Moran, and the Board developed this past school year. As for that last question, I’ll try to answer here: Westland is a special place. I am moved by the history and context in which the school was founded, particularly in light of the current social and political climate. I believe wholeheartedly in the young people Westland is helping to raise—learners who are critical thinkers, creative problem-solvers, facile collaborators, as well as kind and quick to serve their communities. Young people who are known to ask probing, high-level, cut-to-the-chase questions. This excites me, because it’s our questions that can get the problem-solving going, it’s the questions that can begin to bridge differences, it’s the questions that lead to even deeper reflection. Active, engaged citizens are the ones asking the important questions.
It is with humble confidence that I share my excitement and optimism about my work ahead. Much of that confidence and optimism comes from my awareness of Scott’s good work before me, as well as the care and commitment the teachers and staff bring each day to their children and each other. Schools are complicated, quintessentially human, and hopeful institutions. I look forward to my work at Westland in this complicated, very human, and hopeful endeavor of educating young people. I also look forward to meeting or reconnecting with all of you. And, of course, I look forward to the questions that come along with it all.
Melinda A. Tsapatsaris
Head of School Search Background Information
Westland’s Head of School, Scott Moran, announced in mid-October that he’s been selected as the next head of school at City and Country School in Manhattan, beginning Fall 2017. Scott’s leadership over the past few years has helped Westland achieve a position of strength and security, and the search has begun to find a new head of school who’ll build on the wonderful foundation Scott leaves behind and help further our community’s goals and vision for Westland’s future.
To that end, we have hired Bob Fricker, a consultant from Carney, Sandoe and Associates (an educational search company), to assist us in this national search, and we’ve formed a search committee of teachers, administrators, and trustees who will guide the process. We expect the announcement of a new head of school in March 2017, with their service to commence July 1, 2017.
Westland has been a leader in progressive education since 1949, a learning community that thrives on experience-based curriculum embedded with rich meaning and skills development. Our next head of school will join a deeply dedicated community of teachers, staff, parents, children, and alumni who are eager to continue our historical commitment to progressive education for the 21st century.
- Form Search Committee (COMPLETE)
- Consultant visits campus to meet with Westland community members(teachers, staff, board, parent committee chairs, alumni board members, and current families). (COMPLETE)
- Complete position description (COMPLETE)
- Candidate recruitment and evaluation (COMPLETE)
- Search Committee works with consultant to select and interview semi-finalist candidates (COMPLETE)
January – mid February 2017
- 2 – 3 finalists visit Westland for two days each (COMPLETE)
- Members of the community provide feedback on each finalist (COMPLETE)
- Search Committee meets to recommend top candidate to the Board (COMPLETE)
- Board votes on Search Committee’s recommendation (COMPLETE)
- Announcement of Head of School-Elect to the community (COMPLETE)
- Westland welcomes new Head of School