After a nationwide search, GDS has announced that beginning in July of 2022, Meg Goldner Rabinowitz will be the school’s associate head of school after the position has been vacant for a year. However, many students are unaware of the appointment as well as the nature of the job.
Head of School Russell Shaw announced the selection of Rabinowitz in a letter linked in an email to parents on Jan. 9, with no such email being sent to students. The position of associate head of school has been vacant since the retirement of Kevin Barr in the spring of 2020.
Senior Caroline Antonipillai, who was a student participant in the selection for the associate head of school, received no notification of the decision and said that she thought there was a grade-wide sense of confusion about what the job entails.
Similarly, freshman Emerson Hardwick said that she had “no idea” who the new associate head of school is and that the student body at large is unaware of the appointment.
According to Shaw, Rabinowitz will continue many of the responsibilities Barr fulfilled, such as overseeing the recruitment of new teachers and leading the school in Shaw’s absence. However, Shaw explained that he wants to give Rabinowitz the “opportunity to really learn our institution and give a fresh perspective on structures and help do some role definition.”
Part of her job includes hiring new faculty, starting with reviewing finalists for the high school principal position. Rabinowitz has plans to focus on diversity, equity and inclusion in her search for prospective educators.
“You always should be cultivating pipelines and connections to people, particularly candidates of color, who may look for positions,” she explained. She also plans to train the hiring teams on countering “aversive bias,” a form of subconscious discrimination, as well as prioritize retention for faculty of color.
The search for the new associate head of school was led by an external search consultant and was guided by input from community members. The firm came up with a candidate pool based on a list of characteristics given by Shaw that was later narrowed to four finalists by the Search Advisory Committee, composed of teachers, faculty and administrators.
Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Marlo Thomas, a member of the committee, explained that a feedback rubric was used “to minimize how bias influences how you give your feedback.” The rubric measured leadership skills ranging from candidates’ academic backgrounds to their understandings of a school environment and diversity, equity and inclusion.
The finalists came to GDS for a campus visit where they met with the Board of Trustees and other members of the community before Shaw made the final decision.
Antonipillai, a head of the Academic Committee, was approached to take part in student lunches with the finalists. “It was two black men and two white women, which was kind of interesting because I thought they would try to bring in more diverse candidates because we have a lot of white administrators,” she said, adding that she thought the school would prioritize diversity, given that the candidates of color were “very qualified.”
Overall, though, she has a positive impression of Rabinowitz. “Of the four, she was the most excited to teach a class,” Antonipillai explained, adding that her favorite administrators are actively involved with the student body.
Looking forward to building connections, Rabinowitz hopes to teach a class, like the ninth grade seminar or an elective, by her second year at GDS, something that she has not been able to do at her current school. “I am very much a teacher in administrator’s clothing,” she said.
Raised in the Philadelphia area, Rabinowitz graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1986 with a masters in education. She got a job as an English teacher at Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she spent 30 years and sent her own three children, now in their twenties. Over the years, she has taught a range of courses, from English to an elective on class, race and gender in Spike Lee films. While teaching at Germantown Friends School, she also taught graduate students pursuing a career in education at the University of Pennsylvania for 10 years.
“I loved teaching,” she lamented. But once her youngest child graduated, she decided to transition to an administrative role and move across the country to take a job as the associate head of school at the Northwest School, located in Seattle, Washington.
After four years, she has decided to leave the Northwest School and move to D.C. in search of professional growth as well as a return to the East Coast. Rabinowitz cited Seattle’s predominantly white and wealthy socioeconomic make-up as a reason for her move back to the East Coast. Ray Wilson, the head of school at the Northwest School, said, “When I spoke to her about this, she said ‘I’m just looking forward to going home.’” Rabinowitz has family that lives in D.C., including two cousins who are GDS alumni.
Wilson said that Rabinowitz “will always have an opinion, an idea, a proposed solution to an issue.” He added that “she has great follow through,” pointing to her previous work on racial equity at the Northwest School as evidence of her leadership. “She’s been instrumental in helping the school navigate its journey along those social justice lines.”
Wilson highlighted that she ran workshops for teachers on redeveloping their curriculum to center social justice. She also collaborated to run similar sessions for parents and students.
In his search, Shaw was looking for “somebody who has really spent time in a range of different contexts and brings a grounded leadership presence,” and in Rabinowitz, he saw “a depth of really great experience.”
Thomas and Shaw also recognized Rabinowitz’s dedication to equity as a standout quality. Thomas told the Bit that Rabinowitz has done self-reflection about her own identity, along with “her privilege, and her position as it relates to how she supports and works with others.”
“I’ve already felt in so many ways more profoundly welcomed by GDS,” Rabinowitz said, and “I’m really looking forward to stepping into that community.”
CORRECTION (Jan. 30): A previous version of this story incorrectly said that Shaw announced Rabinowitz’s hiring in an email to parents on Jan. 10. He made the announcement in a letter attached to a parent email sent on Jan. 9.
CORRECTION (Jan. 30): A previous version of this article erroneously called Caroline Antonipillai a head of a Student Staff Council sub-committee. She is a head of the Academic Committee, which is organized under SSC’s charter, but not a member of SSC.