Thomas Dillow was named KO’s next Head of School, announced on March 21 by the Head Search Committee, composed of faculty, alumni, and trustees. Mr. Dillow will assume his new position on July 1, 2018. With the help of the search firm, Spencer Stuart, the Search Committee interviewed and assessed over 75 candidates from around the country.
Mr. Dillow grew up in Europe, and for the past 22 years he has taught and coached at various private schools. “Having grown up overseas was influential in shaping my thoughts about education and understanding the rest of the world,” Mr. Dillow said.
Mr. Dillow earned a bachelor’s degree in Government and History from Georgetown University, where he also played D1 soccer. He obtained a Master’s degree in International and European Politics from the University of Edinburgh.
Mr. Dillow has served various roles at four different independent schools around the country, as a history teacher, advisor, educator, and soccer coach. He is currently working as Assistant Head of School at Shorecrest Preparatory School in St. Petersburg, Florida where he has been for the past six years.
Mr. Dillow said he is leaving Shorecrest because of the wonderful opportunity awaiting at KO. He said he loved everything about the school and was compelled to be a part of it.
“Where KO is in its history sits with my own experiences and background,” he said. “I saw talented faculty and administrators [who are] committed to students and [to] creating learning environments that help students become prepared for the real world.”
Director of Academic Planning Carolyn McKee, who was a member of the Search Committee, said that the team was looking for an individual with four essential leadership capabilities. These included someone who is a strategic and academic visionary, an organization capacity builder, a research developer, and a community builder.
“We needed someone who has a sense of where the school should go and who would be able to bring out the best in teachers and students,” Ms. McKee said.
Vice Chair of the Trustee Board Bruce Mandell said that Mr. Dillow was a very qualified candidate for the position of Head of School. “He immediately fit the KO values and made it very clear how important focusing on balancing young student’s workloads with appropriate curriculum was,” he said. “Mr. Dillow was a standout from the beginning and has had a terrific private school career, being an extremely thoughtful educator.”
Head of School Dennis Bisgaard said that he thinks Mr. Dillow is a great person with quality experience. “I think it’s always great to have a fresh perspective,” he said. “A newcomer can always bring new energy.”
Chair of the Trustee Board Bradley Hoffman said that the two finalists were both well qualified and extraordinary, but the committee knew that Mr. Dillow would be the best choice in the long term for KO.
“I am thrilled and very excited that we were able to find someone of [Mr. Dillow’s] caliber and extensive background, and I know he is going to move the school forward in a positive direction that we’ve never seen before,” Mr. Hoffman said.
Ms. McKee said that it was evident that Mr. Dillow had a lot of leading and educational experience. “He seemed invested in communities,” she said.
Mr. Dillow said he is very excited about joining KO’s community and is honored to take the position as Head of School. “I was really drawn to KO’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity,” he said. “I am looking forward to the moment when I look around and know a lot of the faces and it feels like home for me.”
Mr. Mandell said that the school wanted someone who really understood how to develop the curriculum and mentor teachers. “It will be up to him and his administrative staff to set goals which will be student-centered, working with the curriculum, managing student balance, and making KO the best private day school in the Northeast,” he said.
Mr. Hoffman said that he hopes Mr. Dillow will bring his leadership, passion, and ability to helping everyone navigate what has become a very competitive world.“He’s bringing many different elements to his role as the Head of the School, which also lines up with the KO tradition that Dennis Bisgaard has helped enhance,” he said.
Mr. Bisgaard said he hopes that Mr. Dillow will embrace the community, see what’s here, implement positive changes, and help shape the future of KO.
Mr. Dillow said that he feels KO is in a great place, and he is excited to bring new ideas to make it even better. “I am looking forward to continuing to think about who we are as a community,” he said. “As well as having those conversations about how we can best craft the curriculum and teaching, and introducing new teaching methods which enhance and grow student engagement and learning.”
A transition committee led by Board of Trustees Treasurer Jean LaTorre has been formed to ensure a smooth transition. In addition, Mr. Hoffman and Mr. Bisgaard are keeping in touch with Mr. Dillow to make sure his family gets situated and that the school is in check with his long and short term goals.
“We are trying to do everything possible so his onboarding at the school is seamless, and to make sure he gets off on the ground running,” Mr. Hoffman said.
Mr. Mandell said that he is excited and that he thinks Mr. Dillow will be a fantastic addition to the community. “Dennis is a tough act to follow and has been a tremendous leader,” he said. “This is an amazing moment for Kingswood Oxford to really take what Dennis has built and grow from there. I see Tom as a perfect player to come in and take us even further.”
Mr. Dillow said he can’t wait to be a part of KO. “The best schools are ones that the individuals feel very much connected to,” he said. “I’m looking forward to ways we can continue to create that bond.”
Mr. Dillow returned to campus for the “Celebrate KO” event on April 21, and plans on coming to Spring Sports Day on May 12. “I am eager to get started and to get to know people,” he said.
Faculty said they reciprocated Mr. Dillow’s eagerness and exictement. “I’m looking forward to a new chapter in KO’s storied history, and Tom Dillow seems like the perfect person to help write it,” English teacher Catherine Schieffelin said.