Transformation Begins Here
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April 14, 2021
Dear NOVA community
In 2013 when I came to NOVA as Head of School from Colorado, I intended to stay the three year term of my contract, set the school up for further success for the next Head and then return to Colorado. I was warned that I would fall in love with NOVA, Olympia and the Pacific Northwest and not leave. They were right. The Board and I subsequently agreed to one, then a second renewal of my contract with the second renewal being the last I was willing to make. And now the time has come to make way for new leadership to guide NOVA through its third decade of service to highly capable and gifted middle school students and their families. Next year will be my ninth and final year as Head of School. It is NOVA’s 30th year and we will celebrate! Then I will return to Colorado and bask in my retirement.
During the past eight years we have built an extraordinary faculty, made professional development a funding priority, and dedicated ourselves to deepening our understanding of highly capable/gifted adolescents and those with neurodiversity. In addition, we expanded and deepened our understanding and skills about social emotional development. We initiated a robust Community Educations Series (stalled briefly by COVID) and expanded community activities for students and families.
I am proud of the energy and commitment the faculty and staff have invested in NOVA. They have been open to reflection on their practice, they have dared to make changes that deepen and expand the educational program we offer. And they have committed to expanding their professional skills modeling the lifelong learning which we aspire to for our students. They have given up the “sage on the stage” approach to teaching and embraced the “guide on the side” approach that empowered students to have a voice and take responsibility for their own learning. Faculty and staff are willing to investigate the shadows where we have areas for growth and innovate and problem solve. They are a remarkable group of individuals.
Our organizational structure has been strengthened and policies and procedures created, implemented, and revised to respond to our changing community and its legal and cultural requirements. Our budget puts a priority on employees and student services and opportunities. A formal enrollment management plan and more robust marketing plan is in place to tell our story.
The Board of Trustees have embraced their role as strategists ensuring the future stability and sustainability of NOVA. They adopted a Real Time Strategic Planning (RTSP) process that maximized our ability to pivot with changes and respond to the environment - a decision that certainly proved valuable in the last year. They have been partners in leading the school during the years of my tenure.
As most educators will tell you, knowing and building relationships with students has been the highlight of my NOVA experience. Being an observer of these young people as they begin to know and lean into their essential spirit, core values, passions and sense of self is inspiring and gratifying. Knowing that they leave NOVA with a sense of who they are is, in my humble opinion, the gift that will sustain them through their lives. NOVA does that.
Finally, I have complete confidence in the trustees as they launch this Head Search. They are the guardians of NOVA’s legacy, mission, and vision. I am certain they will choose a leader to take NOVA to its next level of service to students and their families.
With gratitude for the honor to serve for and with you,
Barbara Mitchell Hutton
Head of School
April 13, 2021
Dear Members of the NOVA Community,
I would like to offer Barbara my thanks for her exceptional leadership. At NOVA today, Barbara announced that she will be retiring in June 2022. The board has initiated a transition process to hire a new Head of School.
NOVA Middle school has been fortunate to have Barbara Hutton as Head of School for the past nine years. Her retirement plans have been known to the board for some time. As part of her 2019 contract, the board discussed this retirement plan. We are grateful to have ample time to lay a foundation for success for the new NOVA head of school. Barbara, the Board and I are committed to using this transition as a time to reinvigorate the NOVA programs. Barbara will continue in the role of Head of School until her successor begins in July 2022. Thereafter, Barbara plans to enjoy beautiful Colorado with her partner Pam.
During her time as head of school, Barbara spearheaded the third reaccreditation for NOVA by NWAIS (Northwest Association of Independent Schools). The eight-year process culminated in a site visit by educators and administrators from throughout the region resulting in reaccreditation NOVA in 2019. Barbara has worked consistently to continuously improve NOVA. Among her accomplishments:
Barbara has thoughtfully led NOVA through this undeniably difficult year providing stable, consistent leadership. As the pandemic emerged, Barbara quickly pivoted to a meaningful online program. This year, she has continued to develop an online curriculum as well as launch the hybrid re-opening in February. Barbara will continue to lead NOVA next year offering full in-person learning. Making consequential decisions for an organization in the setting of uncertainty and risk is extremely difficult. The board is appreciative of Barbara’s poised leadership.
Personally, I have witnessed Barbara’s fabulous leadership as she patiently and relentlessly breathes life into NOVA values of commitment, connection, intention, and joy. Fostering these four values is no small feat.
The Board of Trustees has created a Search Committee to conduct a comprehensive local, national, and international search. We have engaged Joan Beauregard of Educators’ Collaborative, a national consulting firm specializing in working with independent schools to assist us with the head of school search. I work with Joan closely and am confident in her ability to hire the best candidate to fit with NOVA’s culture and move us forward. Our goal is to have the next head of school identified and announced by late fall next year, to begin his or her service on July 2022. A search committee will be formed to guide the process and gather information of the various constituencies of the NOVA community. Aaron Coby (currently board vice chair) will transition to Board president in June, and I (as past president) will be co-chairing the search committee along with past board president Jennifer Williamson-Forster.
On behalf of the current and past trustees, I wish to express my gratitude for Barbara’s leadership and friendship.
Benjamin F. Merrifield
President, NOVA Board of Trustees
While leadership may change, the mission and core values will remain the same at NOVA. Our shared mission of “Fostering the joyful pursuit of intellectual, social, and emotional expansion through a challenging curriculum that nourishes highly capable students to develop identity, self-empowerment, and community” is core to this search. The Board of Trustees through the Search Committee will work closely with the incoming Head of School and the administrative staff to ensure a smooth transition.
As Chair of the Search Committee, we will keep the community updated through a series of emails dictated by the timeline of the search. These emails will come through the same system used for all school communications. In addition, communications will be posted to this website under novaschool.org/about/head-of-school-search.
After the finalist candidates visit NOVA, the Search Committee, with careful consideration of feedback provided by the constituencies, and other data collected during the search process, will make a recommendation to the Board of Trustees for the new Head of School. Trustees will then vote on this recommendation at a special Board meeting.
Educators’ Collaborative will advise the Search Committee on best practices, timing, and logistics during the process. Joan will virtually meet with various constituent groups and survey our entire community to gather information on the needs of the school while also realizing the school’s culture, values and mission. She will also manage the structure of interviews, visits, and reference checks to ensure the best pool of candidates.
The Search Committee will lead the process from the beginning to the end, starting with the creation of our school profile. While Joan will vet qualified candidates to present, the Search Committee will perform interviews, gather community feedback for the finalist candidates, and keep the NOVA community updated during the process. The Search Committee will present one candidate to the full Board of Trustees for confirmation. Once a new Head of School is confirmed and announced, the Search Committee may morph into a Transition Committee or a new committee will be formed. The Transition Committee will be responsible for ensuring a smooth transition of leadership while assimilating a new leader into NOVA Middle School.
We would like all members of NOVA to be engaged throughout the search process. Activities will include meeting with the Joan of Educators Collaborative, meeting with the finalist candidates during their site visits and providing crucial feedback to the Head Search Committee.
In addition, an Advisory Committee comprised of a group of faculty, staff and parents will be appointed. The work of the Advisory Committee will begin in late August/early September as we near the dates for the finalists to visit NOVA. Please stay tuned for further information.
Contact either of us, your Co-Chairs of the Search Committee. Please do not hesitate to contact us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Board of Trustees has appointed a Head Search Committee which is organized and prepared to find an inspiring, extraordinary leader. The selection of the Head of School is the single most important responsibility of the Board of Trustees. The Head Search Committee will be led by, Ben Merrifield and Jennifer Williamson-Forster and comprised of current and former Trustees.
This committee has retained Joan Beauregard of Educators’ Collaborative LLC. Founded in 1971, Educators’ Collaborative has conducted more than 500 head searches across the country. Joan was the Head of School of multiple independent schools within the Northwest Association of Independent Schools and is known for her responsiveness and ability to adapt the search process to fit the unique character of the school.
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