New Assistant Head of Schools: Webb Enters a New Chapter


Dan Danylov

Dr. Theresa Smith’s office in the Admin Office building. Many administrators’ offices are located here. The building is easily accessible to the students; displaying transparency within the administration-student relationship. Students are always welcome to go into the building for a variety of reasons. The plaque currently reads “Associate Head of Schools” as Dr. Smith is in the process of transitioning into the role of Head of Schools.

The Webb Schools are undergoing remarkable changes. With Taylor Stockdale, Head of Schools, retiring and Dr. Theresa Smith, Assistant Head of Schools, succeeding him as the Head of Schools, our community faces the challenge of defining our future through a new school administration. As such, Dr. Smith’s transition into the position poses the question: Who will fill her role of the Assistant Head of Schools?  

The rigorous process behind the selection begins with Webb’s advertisement of the position on a multitude of websites. After receiving a barrage of applications, a selection committee consisting of key members of the community including Steve Wishek, Director of Athletics and Afternoon Activities, John Choi, Director of Equity, Michael Szanyi, Dean of Faculty, Melanie Bauman, Director of Wellness, and Dr. Smith reviewed each applicant’s resume and narrowed down the list of candidates to a select group of 10 to be interviewed via Zoom.  

Only half of those candidates made it to the final stage. The four finalists then visited campus to converse with student leaders and faculty before touring Webb to ensure they have a clear vision of the schools’ missions and values.  

While the Head of Schools, Taylor Stockdale, works with the community of alumni, parents, and board of trustees, Dr. Smith works closely with the community in its day-to-day operations, collaborating with students and faculty alike. These responsibilities range from reviewing academic programs to improving the culture and climate of the school.  

So, what is our community looking for in a leader within the administration? Students weigh in on the qualities needed for the new Assistant Head of Schools.  

“I believe that it’s the right time [for a leadership change] because we are having structural changes as well,” Julia Tyck (‘23) said. “I hope that the new candidate cares about including student voices because we are going through so many structural changes in the school. I just hope that they value what will benefit the students the most instead of what will make the school look the best.” 

Students seek a candidate who truly engages in the community by listening to all voices. Which strengthens the bonds across the school population by providing transparency to the sometimes-mysterious administration. 

“I hope that the new candidate is someone that embodies the spirit and values of Webb, as well as someone that will work to make Webb better in the coming years,” said Ale Fountain (‘24). “A specific candidate [which he toured around campus] has stood out to me because of his honesty, and it was very clear to me that he was being transparent, and he wasn’t the type of person to tell people what they wanted to hear.” 

With the advancement towards a diverse, inclusive, and equitable environment, the school must select someone ready to transform the culture, preserving important traditions and core values while determining the future of the institution.  

“[Webb] was based on white males back in the day, then we got Vivian Webb, so we had women coming in,” said John Choi, the Director of Equity. “Then we had more people of color and the population started to change and shift. We have to change the culture and the shape of the school without completely changing its mission statement and its original goals but to evolve and to be more relevant to the current population that is here. One of the challenges is – how do we make an inclusive environment for a very diverse range of people?” 

Candidates must fulfill Webb’s mission statement, which begs the question, will the new Assistant Head of Schools be hired from within Webb or from the outside? 

“There is value and benefit in both types of candidates [internal, Webb faculty, and external],” said Ken Rosenfeld, Dean of Campus Life. “Bringing in someone from the outside is valuable because, as someone who’s been here quite a while, you see everything through a specific lens, and that lens is very much colored by your experiences here. Institutional memory is valuable but at the same time, it is also very narrow and limited. Sometimes bringing in a fresh perspective allows us to grow and change in ways that we ordinarily would not be able to.” 

While the benefits of hiring candidates outside of Webb are great, the value of hiring within Webb cannot be ignored. Candidates within Webb harbor the knowledge of Webb’s life and culture; they understand the school’s traditions and their value to students, as well as an already established relationship with students. 

With the final decision announced a couple of days ago, Mr. Michael Hoe, the current Director of Studies, will rise to the position of Assistant Head of Schools starting next year. After an extensive process including candidates from all over the nation, the Webb community can rest assured that Mr. Hoe is ready to guide Webb with the community’s best interests at heart. As Dr. Smith said in her update email, “As [Webb] continues to balance innovation and tradition in our evolution toward the one school model, I can think of no one better to serve in this role.”