The Hunt for an Upper School Head

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//PICTURED ABOVE: Head of Upper School Terry Murray chats with three members of his advisory, (pictured left to right) seniors Alexa May, Dominique Bufford and Ariyanna Easter. After four years of employment at Hockaday, Murray will join the Visitation School as the Upper School Principal next fall.


To a prospective faculty member, Hoak Portico and the rest of the Hockaday campus begs for attention, with four large marble pillars, an array of striking glass windows and a white dome rising above the landscape. If the buildings weren’t enough, the environment and love of learning at Hockaday compels any person who walks through the doors to join the faculty and help to educate and mentor young students. For the upcoming 2019-2020 Hockaday School year, there are 15 new faculty positions available, ranging from Upper School Learning Specialists to Upper School Writing Center Director. The largest position to fill, however, is that of the new Head of Upper School.

Terry Murray, current Head of Upper School, is stepping down after four years at Hockaday. Murray hopes to leave the Upper School students with the passion to pursue their dreams and immense amount of spirit and excitement from a new Head of Upper School.

“I want the students to know that they are the reason I came here in the first place. When I met the students, I was so impressed and so excited to work with them, and that has only been reinforced every day that I’ve been here,” Murray said. “I love this community and I love the work that the kids do. As I leave, I want the girls to continue being women of impact and make sure they’re always looking to find their voice in the community that their living.”

The search for the new Head of Upper School has many steps that must be executed. The candidates must first submit a cover letter expressing their interest in the position, a current resume and a list of five professional references, which they present to either the Hockaday administration or an outside firm.

Blair Lowry, Assistant Head of School, runs the searches and hires the firms depending on the type of faculty member needed.

“When I run a regular search, say if I’m hiring a math teacher, I might get in touch with difference agencies and list it with them and list in on our website. If I source a candidate through them they get a fee, if not, they don’t,” Lowry said. “Sometimes we hire a firm to do a retained search and that means that we pay them a bigger fee and they’re the ones who really manage the receiving the resumes and they have a really big pool of candidates all across the country and even internationally, so they know who’s in the different spots.”

In the case of finding a new Head of Upper School, Dr. Karen Warren Coleman, Eugene McDermott Head of School, and Lowry are using a retained search with the company Carney Sandoe & Associates.

Carney Sandoe & Associates works to help prospective candidates find jobs by connecting them with schools that are looking to hire. The company actively recruits for Hockaday, as well as narrows down the resumes. Through conversations with the Hockaday administration, the company understands the qualifications Hockaday demands.

After the candidates pass through the first set of hurdles, their applications are handed to Coleman and Lowry. From there, they are contacted through a Skype call and asked to visit the school. They stay in Dallas for one to two nights.

Lowry reads every resume that makes its way through Hockaday and works with the department chairs and many others to find the perfect candidate. To identify an excellent candidate for Head of Upper School, she makes sure the candidates interact with many different people when they visit Hockaday.

“For an administrative position, we try to put them with as many groups as possible, so if you’re the Upper School Head, you have to think about how many people they’re going to work with: form deans, Mrs. Palmer, Mrs. Wilson, students, etcetera,” Lowry said.

Tresa Wilson, Director of Inclusion and Community, and Lowry meet with every single candidate. They also attempt to get as many students involved as possible in the process.

After the candidate has met with all possible groups of people, a survey is sent out to the faculty members involved. The faculty members share their opinions and also have the opportunity to give in-person feedback to Coleman and Lowry. Then, ultimately, Coleman has the final word on all hires.

So, where is the administration currently in the process of choosing the new Head of Upper School?

So far, Lowry has interviewed three candidates on campus and a couple off campus through phone call or Skype.

Even though the process is nearing an end, the administration can never truly be sure their work is done until there is someone signing their name on the dotted line.

“The process [of picking the new Head] will hopefully be over in a couple of weeks, and we’ll finally be able to tell [stu- dents] the new name,” Lowry said. “I never want to say a specific name because you just never know what may happen, but so far I feel really good about the people that we’ve interviewed.”

Lowry also pointed out that all of the prospective candidates have a wide range of backgrounds and experience.

“One of the things that’s very helpful in any interview process is it’s very important to get a range of candidates. We want people that have different kinds of experience, professionally, and who have different kinds of life experiences,” Lowry said. “Diversity and inclusion is an important piece of it because we have a diverse community here, and we want the needs and the voices of all of our girls to be reflected.”

This means that a lot of time and commitment is dedicated to finding the perfect candidate since as the administration wants to find the best possible fit for Hockaday.

For the Head of Upper School, the most important thing that the administration looks for in a candidate is someone who has an abundance of experience, is hardworking, high achieving and can lead a group of adults and students.

In the current process of choosing the new Head, there have yet to be any major setbacks. However, the most common set-back is a candidate’s preconceived notion of Dallas and the Dallas stereotype. Even more, a candidate could have a change of heart at the last second and decide to stay at their current school. But so far, it has been smooth sailing for Lowry and her co-workers.

As the whole Upper School anxiously awaits to hear who their new Head of Upper School is, Menaka Naidu, junior and rising President of Student Council, addresses her feelings on the changing culture and what she hopes to see in her new Head.

“To help us have a successful school year, our new Head of Upper School should be willing to listen to the ideas of the students,” Naidu said. “I am excited to see how a new Head will bring a fresh perspective to the job, while also upholding the same Hockaday traditions and values that have been in place for years.”


Story by Ava Berger

Photo by Riyana Daulat

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