Yom Odamtten Fox, a private school administrator in New York, will be the next high school principal, replacing Katie Gibson. She will begin in the role in July.
In an email addressed to the GDS community on March 1, Head of School Russell Shaw announced the decision after a five-month-long selection process that involved input from a nine-member committee of teachers, as well as students and parents.
“We looked for a skilled educational leader who could combine intelligence, passion for learning, diplomacy, firmness, humor, tact and candor,” Shaw wrote. “In Yom, I believe we have found such a leader.”
Fox has worked at the Dalton School in New York City since 2009, serving as a history teacher, director of community and global partnerships and, currently, interim director of diversity, equity and inclusion. She received a B.A. from Scripps College and an M.A. and M.Ed. from Columbia University’s Teachers College, according to Shaw’s email.
Eleven years ago, Fox applied for the position of high school principal at GDS but did not make it past the consulting firm she applied through, which, according to Shaw, was Carney, Sandoe and Associates. Fox said that a member of the firm told her, “You really need 10 more years of administrative experience to qualify for this job.”
“I’m so excited,” junior Pilar Holder, a leader of the Black Student Union, said. “It’s huge, GDS having a high school Black female principal. I can’t wait to meet her.”
Committee member and director of college counseling Emily Livelli said Fox has a “real kind of compassion and interest in people,” and that Fox said she hopes to “connect with people on a really human and relational level.” Livelli also appreciated Fox’s “love of students and her desire to center student experience in decision-making.”
In an interview prior to Fox’s appointment, junior Asha Adiga-Biro told the Bit that she appreciated Fox’s unique emphasis on addressing racist incidents in the community. After speaking with Fox, Adiga-Biro described Fox’s plans for responding to racism in a school environment as “using restorative justice and also giving an actual punishment to the person who did it, which is something lacking from the other candidates’ responses and from our current administration right now.” Adiga-Biro also said that she believes that racial representation in leadership at GDS “makes a big difference.”
“Every person in a school community has the right, and deserves the right, to be seen, valued, heard and respected,” Fox told the Bit in an interview over Zoom. “If that isn’t happening, it’s our responsibility as a community to work towards fixing it.”
Committee member and history teacher Topher Dunne appreciated the perspective Fox’s time in diversity, equity and inclusion work has given her. “To have that sense of being involved in DEI—where you get a broad sense of what’s happening at the institution—she’s got experience,” he said. Dunne believes that Fox’s background will allow her to increase GDS’ focus on issues of inclusion in the community.
Junior Jaia Wilensky told the Bit that Fox “really cared a lot about the mental health” of students and emphasized the importance of eliminating excessive stress at school.
Livelli also described the kind of leadership she is looking forward to from Fox. “We have to address and think about what the last two years have really done to students and faculty,” she said. “That’s going to be her charge: leading a school into a post-pandemic world, whatever that looks like, and accounting for losses in learning and losses in social opportunities.”
Following the announcement of Gibson’s departure in December, GDS worked with the national search firm Educators Collaborative and formed the faculty search advisory committee to find and evaluate candidates. Once the committee narrowed down the applicant pool to four final candidates, Shaw used input from the search committee, faculty, students and parents to decide upon Fox as the future high school principal.
“Fox is an excellent choice and will make an outstanding principal,” senior Aidan Kohn-Murphy, who spoke with Fox during the search process, wrote in a text to the Bit. “Yom is committed to working with students and teachers to make GDS the best that it can possibly be.”
Livelli added that she thinks Fox will be a “great leader and a great colleague—somebody who really cares about people.”
“I think this is great. I’m happy that they selected a woman of color,” senior Miles Huh said. “I’m excited, especially given her background in DEI. That’s something GDS can use to further different policy initiatives related to their mission.”
Fox said that she has made an “ambitious” goal to have a point of connection with almost everyone in the high school by winter break, with the hopes of beginning building relationships over the summer. As Fox described them, these “touch points” could stem from observing classes or having lunch with students and faculty. She also said that she wants the opportunity to teach a history class with other faculty members in the future.
Fox said she will visit GDS a few times throughout the spring and will attend graduation to connect with the community.
This story has been updated since its initial publication.