Rapid turnover in the Dean of Students position

Editorial

At Kingswood Oxford, the Dean of Students is an asset to the community – someone who both serves to support students when needed as well as discipline them in certain situations. 

The Dean of Students is responsible for many aspects of KO life: providing students with opportunities to learn and grow and giving students the occasion to explore activities beyond the classroom. These are just a few examples. 

The Dean of Students maintains the student culture of the Upper School and upholds KO’s core values to: “Demonstrate honesty, integrity, and respect, learn with passion and perseverance, embrace intellectual curiosity, care beyond self, take personal responsibility, work hard, take risks, become involved.”

In addition, whoever serves in this role must be a caring problem-solver and good listener, as the bulk of their duties revolve around communicating with students, teachers, and parents who are usually meeting to complain about something or other. Our current Dean of Students, Krista Sahrbeck, has handled this task with strength and poise. 

Ms. Sahrbeck joined the KO community amidst the pandemic, a challenging time to say the least. While we were six feet apart and hidden behind masks, Ms. Sahrbeck helped unite the KO campus. Both she and Bear were friendly faces and supportive figures that lit up Roberts every day.  

But now what? Former Dean of Students Carolyn McKee held the position for 14 years, and Will Gilyard, who was the dean of students before Ms. Sahrbeck, was in the position for four years. While both of their transitions were difficult, they were not rushed; in fact, they were quite the opposite: slow, steady, and smooth turnovers. 

However, in four years, KO will have gone through three different transitions. Why is this? As high school students, we are continuously bombarded with change; must this instability also occur in our administration? 

Ms. Sahrbeck played an instrumental role in implementing a new, more relaxed gender-neutral dress code, creating an advising calendar, and introducing dogs to campus. While we appreciate all of these changes, with such major revisions, students are barely given the chance to adjust, before being expected to assimilate into a new administrative environment. 

A Dean of Students sets the expectations as well as the tone for the school; however, this cannot be done within the time of the brief tenures we are seeing now. We encourage KO to look within their administration for the source of this turnover, in hopes of stemming the tide of this rapid change.

KO is incredibly lucky and fortunate to have had Ms. Sahrbeck on our campus, and we are sad to see her go, but we wish her the best of luck with her future endeavors. Joining the campus amidst the pandemic could not have been easy, but Ms. Sahrbeck took this in stride, providing KO with a source of hope. From Zoom assemblies to COVID-safe dining accommodations, she helped guide the school through an uncertain time.  

We are thankful to Ms. Sahrbeck for her dedication to fostering a welcoming environment for the entire KO community. We know that she will also be greatly missed on the soccer field and basketball court. 

We also look forward to science teacher Kata Baker stepping into this role as the interim Dean of Students, and we can’t wait to see what is in store for next year. We know she will bring her experience as an inspiring teacher, girls varsity swimming coach, and Form Three Dean. 

However, we also implore KO to ask itself: what can we do to make the job of Dean of Students more desirable? Until there is a concrete answer to this question, a future with stable leadership hangs in the air.