In December, The Augur Bit published an editorial calling for GDS to elevate internal candidates for two high-ranking administrative roles the school was seeking to fill—associate head of school (formerly Kevin Barr) and high school principal (now Katie Gibson).
Things did not exactly go our way: Beginning this summer, Meg Goldner Rabinowitz, the assistant head of the Northwest School in Seattle, will be GDS’ associate head of school, and Yom Odamtten Fox, the director of community and global partnerships and interim director of diversity, equity and inclusion at the Dalton School in New York, will be the high school principal.
What a wonderful opportunity.
If they approach their positions, and the community approaches them, in the right way, the two new administrators could help bring students closer to the leaders of their school.
There are already promising signs that Rabinowitz and Fox share that goal: Rabinowitz told the Bit in January that she would like to teach a course by her second year at GDS. Fox said she hopes to meet nearly every high school community member by winter break and is open to someday co-teaching a class.
Fox certainly had the right idea when she said, “I don’t want to be holed up in my office by myself, answering emails or running from meeting to meeting.”
The two picks are in some ways similar: Both work at private schools outside D.C. Both have taught humanities (Rabinowitz, English; Fox, history). Both, interestingly, have been site directors for Global Online Academy, a consortium of schools around the world that offers online classes.
And it is heartening to see that Rabinowitz and Fox seem to share the priority of being accessible and connected to the student body.
We recommend that they make a point of interacting with students at sports games, performances and other school events; introduce themselves thoroughly at an assembly early in the year; and host open-house conversations for students and faculty who are especially interested in forming personal relationships with the new faces of administrative authority. Above all, they must arrive at GDS with a genuine spirit of curiosity about how the school works.
Especially for a newcomer, the role of principal should lend itself well to frequent contact with students. Fox can meet with clubs or club leaders to understand what they do, roam the hallways and the Forum, ask people questions, learn people’s names, remember them, use them—anything to strengthen relations with students from the get-go.
For Rabinowitz, who will presumably sit in an office in the lower/middle school building and whose appointment the school did not publicize to students, that task may require an even more concerted effort. In a letter announcing Rabinowitz’s selection that was linked to a parent newsletter, Head of School Russell Shaw explained that the associate head of school is “the chief administrative officer of the school.”
For her conference-room decision-making in areas such as hiring to fit GDS specifically, Rabinowitz will need to develop an on-the-ground familiarity with the high school community, first and foremost by spending enough time in and around it that students know who she is and what she does—and not assuming they don’t care.
Administrators alone cannot create a climate in which they are, and appear, tuned in to student life and build amicable relationships with students. Making the most of the impending administrative transitions is a two-way street.
As next school year begins, students should be eager to get to know Fox and Rabinowitz and give them a chance to adjust to a new workplace. We should look out for them to be immersed in the community and not let them fall into cloistered ways.
With new leaders comes a chance for all community members to invest anew in making the high school feel as tight-knit as it can be, all the way to the ground-floor high school leadership suites and the administrative offices across the street.