At School Meeting on Jan. 31, Head of School Margarita Curtis announced to faculty and students that she had decided to retire from her position at the end of the 2018-2019 school year.
In a letter to the Deerfield community later that afternoon, the Board of Trustees wrote, “During the past twelve years, [Dr. Curtis’] unique ability to focus on the future, while maintaining a steadfast commitment to Deerfield’s timeless values and ideals, has moved the Academy forward to its unparalleled position. Her extraordinary qualities — leadership, warmth, intelligence, and integrity — will truly be missed.”
The question that now faces the Deerfield community is how someone of such impact will be properly replaced.
Over the next several months, a search committee will work with search firm Carney Sandoe and Associates to select Dr. Curtis’s successor. This Search Committee is chaired by the incoming President of the Board of Trustees, Brian Simmons, and includes seven trustees, Director of Communications Jessica Day, and two selected faculty representatives, Theater Director Catriona Hynds and History Teacher Joe Lyons.
Mrs. Hynds and Mr. Lyons shared that after surveying Deerfield’s students, employees, parents, and alums, and holding open meetings in Boston, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, Carney and the Search Committee will use the information they gained “to write a position description and build the best possible pool of candidates.”
“Ultimately, the Search Committee will evaluate candidates and recommend one to the full Board of Trustees, which will appoint the next Head of School. There is no set timeline, but the Board may announce a new Head of School as early as this coming winter, if not before,” they stated.
The Carney and Associates survey was sent out on Mar. 27 and included questions regarding what respondents value about Deerfield and what qualities they would like to see in a new Head of School.
Jackson Cohlan ’18 noted, “My personal priority for our new head of school is getting someone who respects and values the mission statement of Deerfield academy… Tradition is what makes Deerfield distinct from our peer schools and losing that would be detrimental.”
Opinions vary across campus. Sami Dulam ’21 said, “I would hope that the new Head of School will be understanding and realize that these are the modern times … Yes, there are rules, but [he or she] needs to look at each issue as an individual story and care more about the students than the rules themselves.
The new Head of School will have plenty of these issues to dive into once he or she arrives arrive on campus, including discussions surrounding dress code and campus inclusion.
“As a senior, something I have valued most about my experience is Deerfield’s strong tradition. I would like to hope that the school stays true to this, and the new Head of School would face dress code or anything thing for that matter with a stronger emphasis on the Deerfield values that have been in place for decades,” said Alli Norris ’18.
Students can expect to be informed in the process as much as any other member of the Deerfield community. However, information has the potential of not being disclosed until decisions are finalized. Mr. Lyons and Mrs. Hynds explained: “For a host of reasons, some top candidates may be unwilling to make public their interest in this job, at least in the initial stages of the process. For example, someone who is currently the Head of School at another institution may not want to risk alienating his or her current community by letting it be known that he or she is being considered for the job at Deerfield. The Search Committee seeks to find as many strong candidates as possible, and thus needs to remain sensitive to and balance such concerns.”
To close their letter to the Deerfield community, the Board of Trustees stated, “In honoring [Dr. Curtis’] service to the Academy, it seems fitting to borrow an aphorism from her own repertoire: She has made Deerfield worthy, and not the other way around.”
Much will be happening over the next year as Dr. Curtis closes her time at Deerfield, but through all of thism the Search Committee will do all in its power to find someone “worthy” of replacing her.