One of the many things that has been interesting but stressful this school year is that we were in the process of selecting a new head of school to start next summer. And by "we," I mostly mean the board of trustees, but the faculty all met and talked with the three finalists and then submitted our feedback. We had no idea how much that feedback actually counted, so there were endless opportunities for cynicism among my colleagues, but I was pretty sure that our feedback did count since the trustees wouldn't want to hire someone whom the faculty were already against.
And there was indeed one candidate whom I was very much against. Even based on her c.v., I liked her much less than the other two candidates, because she had taken the MBA/administrative path to leadership, whereas the other two had taken the Ph.D./teaching path to leadership. I somehow just trust a school leader who has spent extensive time in the classroom, even though logically I know that classroom teaching and school leadership are different skill sets. But ultimately the classroom is the heart of a school, and I want a head of school who knows that deep in her bones.
But I was being open-minded about this candidate until we had the faculty meeting with her. The faculty quickly fell into a pattern in talking with these candidates; Person A always asked about boarding life, Person B always asked about raising money, etc. And I always asked about diversity and about hiring more faculty of color. And, oh my horrors, she said awful things in response to diversity! As in, things that made us blink and wonder if we'd heard right. She also talked a lot about how, while hiring faculty of color was important, it was even more important to look for "a good fit." Now, that answer might mean one thing to her, since she teaches at a school in the middle of nowhere, so "fit" might mean "people who won't go crazy that there's nothing near here." But "fit" has other overtones, and we think of it as meaning "we want to hire people exactly like us, which means that we somehow never do wind up hiring people of color." I'm trying to be generous, but she really did appall some of us. Oh, and she said -- and this is a direct quote -- "My best friend is gay, but you'd never know it." Really?! And "My husband is Hispanic, but he looks white. When we think about diversity, we need to remember that white-looking people are also diverse." Okay, yes, of course, but one of our goals as a school is to have a faculty that looks like the student body.
I'm not sure I'm conveying adequately how upset I was about this candidate, but I was really disturbed, not least because she was the most outgoing and vivacious of the three candidates, so a lot of people liked her for that reason. So I was really, really nervous that she was going to get the job, and then what was I going to do?
At lunch one day, some of us started talking about whether we would look for other jobs if she were hired. And then, when we realized that there was no "whether" about it -- we would all look for other jobs -- we started talking about "when." Would we go on the job market this year, before she arrives? Wait until next year? This was complicated for me by the fact that I have applied for a sabbatical (fingers crossed!), which would be for spring 2017. And then, one has to work for the school for a year after a sabbatical, so if I took that sabbatical, I wouldn't be able to look for another job until spring 2018. Was it worth giving up the chance at a sabbatical to leave the school before this woman became head of school? I reminded myself that our current head of school, who for the most part has done an excellent job, gave me the silent treatment for a full year over the whole history book business, and that I survived just fine; so maybe it wouldn't be such a big deal to work temporarily for a head of school one didn't like?
And then, this Tuesday morning, driving in early for a before-school meeting at which the new head of school was going to be announced, it suddenly occurred to me that, if I were going to look for another job, would it be worth staying in the Adventure City area, or would I want to venture farther afield? More to the point, would I want to look for jobs in Home City, where I grew up in the suburbs and where my family still lives within an hour's drive of? Was this the opportunity to uproot our lives and move closer to my family?
In other words, I was in quite the unsettled state by the time I arrived for that meeting with the president of the trustees and the head of the search committee. And the announcement was ... NOT the bad candidate! Woohoo! They chose the candidate who was my close second, but it was very close, so I'm quite happy. She's spent years as a teacher, including continuing to teach a class as she moved up through the ranks of administration. She is clearly a thinker, and I was deeply impressed with not just her ideas but also the way in which she'd clearly thought through and arrived at those ideas. She has a lot of leadership experience, and she has done lots of work both personally and professionally around issues of diversity and inclusion. I'm pleased.
I felt very emotional for the entire day, and, oddly, I think that part of that emotion was that now I knew for sure that I wouldn't be uprooting my life, which of course was a relief but also a bit of a loss. There is something lovely about the fantasy about starting completely over, and I was letting that go. Not that I couldn't still do it, but it's much harder to reinvent oneself when one is reasonably happy with how things are; it's those moments of crisis that push one into reinvention, and the board of trustees had neatly removed the crisis by hiring someone who should be an excellent head of school. A relief, and yet also a tiny bit of loss.
No wonder it's been an emotional week!