Under the Radar: Search for new head of school

Under the Radar

When Head of School Dennis Bisgaard announced in November of 2017 to the community during an all-school assembly that he would be leaving KO after 12 admirable and commendable years of serving his position, the search process for his successor officially began.

When they heard the news of Mr. Bisgaard’s departure, students and faculty were sad to see him leave after such an admirable tenure.

“When I heard the news that Mr. Bisgaard was leaving, I was very sad,” sophomore Anusha Memon said. “He has been here for so long and has really shaped our school to what it is today. It’s going to be very upsetting to see him leave the amazing community that he has built, but the Wyvern nation wish him the best of luck and knows he will do great things!”

Mr. Bisgaard explained that he was offered a new job in Washington D.C. and he wants to see what it has in store.

The Search Committee consisted of the eleven following individuals: Bradley Hoffman ’78, Bruce Mandell ’82, Richard Alleyne ’87, President of the Parent Association Heather Clifford, Derek Green ’81, Jean LaTorre, Michael Reilly, Interim Director of Teaching and Learning Jane Repp, Parent Eileen Stephan, and Director of Academic Planning Carolyn McKee. Other than being committee members, each individual has so many other roles in their lives.

When Mr. Hoffman isn’t running the Board of Trustees, he is also Co-chairman of one of the most profitable family-owned business in Connecticut: Hoffman Auto Group.

Mr. Mandell was not only the Head Search Committee Chair, but also serves as the Vice Chair of the Kingswood Oxford Board of Trustees.Outside of the KO socialsphere, he is also the President of Data-Mail Incorporated, a marketing consulting firm that was founded in 1971 and is family-owned.

In addition to being a parent and alum, Mr. Alleyne is also Deputy General Counsel and Head of Property & Causal Law at The Hartford, a financial services comapny.

Mrs. Clifford has passionately participated in many aspects of KO because of her position representing parents and supporting the school.

After graduating from KO in 1981, Mr. Green recieved his Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engeineering from Tufts Univeristy and two Masters’ degrees from the University of Alabama. He currently lives in Hopewell Junction, N.Y. with his family and is a retired Lieutenant Colonel.

While Mrs. LaTorre is a current KO parent, she also is the Chief Investment Officer and Corporate Economist of Aetna.

Mr. Reilly has recently served on the Excutive Committee as Treasurer and Chair of the Finance & Investment Committee for three terms

At KO, Ms. Repp has served in the role as Director of the Middle School, as a math teachers, and she is currently the Interim Director of Teaching and Learning.

Ms. McKee has spent her entire life working in independent schools. She came to KO in 2006 as the Dean of Students and in 2006 took on her current job.

Ms. Stephan is a human capital consultant who brought clients 25 years of professional experience in recruiting and talent management in both the corporate and academic worlds.

Because of all of the background knowledge that each of the committee members had, they already had a perfect picture of the type of person they thought should fill Mr. Bisgaard’s shoes.

They wanted someone who had strategic academic vision (an individual who was focused on the education vision that the school has), organizational capacity (an individual who wants to understand and support the faculty and teachers), an ability to build community (an individual who builds relationships with everyone), and an ability to develop resources (an individual who raises money for the school.)

The process began when the search committee came up with a list of search firms that could find potential candidates. When it was decided that KO would use the Spencer Stuart Search Firm, a firm that has 60 years of experience in administrative consulting, the search committee met with a representative of the firm, alum Meghan Becker ‘97.

The search committee created a list of people that they would seriously want to consider for the position. It evaluated over 75 candidates from all over the country.

Meghan Becker is a core member of the Spencer Stuart Education/Nonprofit practice that is based out of our Stamford, Conn. office and has been with the firm for nearly 11 years.

A good portion of her client work is focused on independent school head searches, and she was thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of this Head search on behalf of her alma mater.

Ms. Becker, along with her two colleagues, Mary B. Gorman and Michele E. Haertel, worked with the search committee to complete their first list of competitors. They would do background checks on each of the candidates and scope out their references. If they felt as though said candidate could be a strong and compelling leader, they added the candidate to a shorter list. Once this second list was completed, they started the first round of interviews.

Once they met with each candidate, the whole committee would decide who they wanted to bring in and take out for the upcoming rounds. The interviews went on until the end of January of 2018 when the committee decided on two finalists. The two finalists came to KO’s campus during spring break for one final interview and the board then made their decision.

Ms. Becker said that the best part about this whole project was being able to work with the people that she did. “Myself and my colleagues at Spencer Stuart had the great fortune of working with an exceptional search committee. The group worked very well together and were highly committed to this time-intensive process over the last several months. There was a lot of interest in the opportunity, and we had a robust pool of strong candidates,” said Ms. Becker.

On March 21, they announced that the new Head of School would be Thomas Dillow; his position will commence on July 1, 2018.

Ms. Repp has been working at KO for the past 33 years and has seen six different Heads of School go in and out of KO (for a variety of reasons). She has conflicting emotions about the change. “It’s always sad because they’re such an integral part of the school, and they are who you look for to drive the train,” Ms. Repp said. “But it is always really exciting for someone new to come to move the school forward, so in the end it is all bittersweet.” Despite this, she does think that Mr. Dillow will be a fantastic new head of school and she is very excited for him to come.

Although she will be graduating this May, senior Gabrielle Ruban is optimistic that Mr. Dillow will be successful in carrying on the legacy Mr. Bisgaard will be leaving behind.

“With my sister still in the Middle School, I will always have a direct connection to KO,” Gabrielle said, “I think that Mr. Dillow will be able to guide KO into a future that not only builds off of the principles set by Mr. Bisgaard, but also represents Mr. Dillow’s own values and interpretations of what it means to be a member of the KO community.”

Junior Amy Mistri is another member of our community that is looking forward to what Mr. Dillow has to offer. “I know he’s bringing many years of experience in education with him, so I’m not sure exactly what, but I know he’ll make great contributions to KO,” Amy said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what he has to offer the community.”