BREAKING NEWS: Head of School Norm Colb announces retirement
At a special all-school faculty and staff meeting on Tuesday Dec. 13, Head of School Norm Colb announced he will retire in 18 months after the 2012-2013 school year. “It’s time,” Colb told the overflowing Martin Lecture Hall before going on to talk about the future of Menlo and the succession process. Colb sent out an email blast to parents right after his announcement to the faculty and will inform the entire student body at the all-school Holiday Assembly on Wednesday Dec. 14.
Colb explained that he initially was planning on announcing his retirement last year, but decided to wait another year for multiple reasons. For one, he “wanted to see the capital campaign through.” He also didn’t want a new Head of School to have to deal with WASC – the accreditation process – in his or her first year. Finally Colb also wanted to help the school expand the role of technology, as evidenced by the quickly expanding iPad program that was officially launched this year.
“He’s going to be missed,” Chair of the Board of Trustees Susan Ford Dorsey said during the faculty meeting. Middle School science teacher Grace Limaye later echoed Dorsey’s words when she stood up and said, “Thank you Norm. This is a very inspiring place to work.” This comment was quickly followed by a 30 second applause from the faculty and staff.
During the 25-minute meeting, Colb explained that there are certain “values that have become a part of the DNA of the school.” He cited commitment to diversity, enjoyment of learning, and faculty and student relationships as key elements of Menlo. “This school is a precious item,” Colb noted. Ford Dorsey agreed, stating, “This school is strong and the intent is for that to continue.” Both she and Colb emphasized that whoever is hired will also be committed to those values. “We would only pick a leader with those values [Colb listed],” Ford Dorsey reassured the faculty. But Colb acknowledged that the new Head of School should re-evaluate Menlo and come up with a new vision, while simultaneously recognizing the current values of the community. There will inevitably “be changes of course,” Colb said. However, the administration doesn’t plan to hire someone who will “come in and slash and burn” the school, but rather someone who will work “within the [current] framework,” Colb explained.
Colb and Ford Dorsey were both quick to address the plans for Colb’s succession. “We want to find the most extraordinary person to follow him,” Ford Dorsey said, also noting that this is now “the highest priority” for the Board of Trustees. She noted that the Board has already been working on succession plans for a while and is “optimistic about the future.” The Board has formed a succession committee, which will be headed by Trustee Bill Mitchell, but will also include twelve others including Upper School Director John Schafer, Upper School science teacher and Technology Coordinator David Spence, Middle School teacher Mima Takemoto, Karen Gilhuly of the MSA Executive Board, an alumni representative, and several trustees. This committee has already hired Gregory Floyd and Associates as a consultant to provide assistance with the hiring process. The firm, which has conducted about 160 searches in the past, will help Menlo’s committee work through the process and will be responsible for using its connections to contact possible candidates. Representatives from the firm will visit campus for three days in mid-January to learn more about the school and talk to the community.
Ford Dorsey explained that there will be many opportunities for faculty, parents, and students to be heard during the process. “We want to hear opinions and suggestions,” from all of the different constituencies, she said.
Ford Dorsey and the committee expect to know the finalists for the Head of School position by late spring and then will make a decision by the end of this academic year. At that point they will spend the summer negotiating a contract with the chosen individual. Based on Ford Dorsey’s message to the faculty it appears the school will be conducting a national search for candidates and will not be looking to hire someone already working at Menlo. “It’s going to be a long and evolved process but it will be worth it,” Ford Dorsey said. “We intend to find the best person possible.”
But Colb’s tenure isn’t over yet. With 18 months left he has “no intention of fading,” but rather has “some serious work to do.” He outlined a couple areas he still hopes to work on before his departure. He wants to continue to make Menlo the single most attractive independent school. He also is going to look at the school’s support systems to make sure the students accepted to Menlo have every chance to succeed. Finally he noted that the technology discussion is ongoing and that there’s “more thinking to do” on “how we use technology to support” learning. “It’s a great privilege to be your Head,” Colb said near the end of the meeting.
Colb did not disclose his retirement plans, but when asked if he plans to stay close by he said he hopes so. Ford Dorsey asserted that before his departure, the school plans to find many ways to honor Colb and his legacy.
“On we go. We are going to be fine,” Ford Dorsey added before concluding the faculty meeting.Tags: 18 months, applause, Bill Mitchell, Board of Trustees, capital campaign, David Spence, faculty meeting, featured, Grace Limaye, Head of School, holiday assembly, John Schafer, legacy, Mima Takemoto, Norm Colb, retirement, succession, Susan Ford Dorsey, technology, WASC