Head of School Search

In June 2021, Head of School Tad Roach and Dean of Teaching & Learning Elizabeth Roach will leave St. Andrew's, after 24 years of leadership and more than 40 years of service to the school. An international search for St. Andrew's fifth Head of School is now underway. 

Tad and Elizabeth announced their decision to the school community on October 16, 2019. "Over the course of the summer of 2019, Elizabeth and I had the opportunity to pause and reflect before we embarked on another exciting year at St. Andrew’s," Tad wrote in a letter to the St. Andrew's family. "The last twenty-three years have provided us with the honor of leading St. Andrew’s into the 21st century and strengthening its position as one of the best schools in America."

"After much deliberation and conversation, we have decided to complete our work at St. Andrew’s in June 2021, two years from now. Our decision and announcement this fall give St. Andrew’s Board of Trustees ample time to find the fifth Head of School in the school’s history."

"Our announcement today also intensifies our passion, commitment, and dedication to serving the school over the next two years. We have a lot more work to do: we want to inspire St. Andrew’s to a new exhibition of excellence in this time."

Dean of Teaching & Learning Elizabeth Roach and Head of School Tad Roach

Search Committee

Kellie Doucette ’88, P’18,’18,’21, Trustee

Michael Evans ’98, Trustee

Heather Mitchell ’92, Trustee

Paul Murphy P’17,’19,’22, Trustee

Henry Ridgely ’67, Vice Chair, Board of Trustees

Laurisa Schutt P’18,’23, Trustee

Scott Sipprelle ’81, P’08, Chair, Board of Trustees

Richard Vaughan ’88, Treasurer, Board of Trustees

Jason Honsel, Director of College Counseling

Gretchen Hurtt ’90, P’22, Dean of Studies

Harvey Johnson ’97, Dean of Math and Science

Ann Visalli, Chief Operating Officer

Leadership transitions represent an important opportunity to redefine both values as well as opportunities, and feedback will be solicited from the community as we begin our formal search process. Every member of our community deserves to be heard on this important question.

The school is also eager to have the assistance of our large St. Andrew’s network to source candidates; nominations can be emailed to:

headsearch@standrews-de.org
To manage the search process, our Board of Trustees has formed a search committee composed of eight Trustees and four members of the faculty and staff. 

The executive search firm Spencer Stuart has been retained to assist us in identifying candidates and in managing the search process.

The St. Andrew's community will be kept informed with regular email communications throughout the search process, and this page will also be updated as the search progresses. 

Head of School Search Communications

Letter from Scott Sipprelle, Chair of the Board of Trustees - November 4, 2019

Dear Members of the St. Andrew’s Community,

Several weeks have elapsed since Tad and Elizabeth shared the news that they would retire from their work at St. Andrew’s at the conclusion of the 2020-2021 academic year. This momentous announcement has naturally produced an outpouring of emotion from the community that they have both served so well.  

For over four decades, Tad has served St. Andrew’s as teacher, coach, department Chair, Assistant Head, and Head of School. He has been a mentor, advisor, colleague, and friend. As he described it during his Chapel announcement to the community, Tad found a calling at St. Andrew’s. In ways both visible and subtle, Tad has redefined the purpose and spirit of a St. Andrew’s education. He has recruited and supported a faculty that is completely committed to our students. He has molded a culture that is kind, curious, and engaged. He has demonstrated that rigor and empathy can and should comfortably co-exist. Elizabeth in her turn has provided four decades of leadership as an exceptional teacher, coach, Dean of Teaching and Learning, Chair of the English Department, Head of the Women’s Network, Head of Girls Residential Life, Director of Girls Athletics, and mentor and advisor for so many students. Through their unyielding commitment, Tad and Elizabeth have developed and sustained personal relationships with a multitude of St. Andrew’s alumni and families who now feel a lifelong connection to our school. 

As we launch the search process to identify Tad’s successor, every member of our community should be comforted by the fact that our school has never been in a stronger position. Our academic program is vigorous, probing, and aspirational. The reputation of St. Andrew’s continues to provide an extremely robust admissions pipeline as prospective students and parents search for a program that promotes both intellectual and personal growth. The culture of philanthropy has grown dramatically at St. Andrew’s under Tad’s leadership, with annual fund giving now providing over 12% of annual expenditures. Our capital campaigns have raised over $100 million to fund critical investments in financial aid endowment, faculty development, and facilities. We have made important investments to renovate and revitalize old spaces while also adding vital new spaces like the O’Brien Arts Center, the Sipprelle Field House, and Amos Hall "2.0". Most importantly, our faculty, staff, students, and Trustees are prepared and eager to work even harder on behalf of St. Andrew’s in order to secure a successful leadership transition.

Since Tad’s announcement I have spoken with faculty, staff, Trustees, alumni, and parents. From these conversations I have gleaned many insights and opinions about the key qualities and characteristics required of our next leader. Every member of our community deserves to be heard on this important question. Leadership transitions represent an important opportunity to redefine both values as well as opportunities, and we will continue to solicit your feedback as we begin our formal search process. We are also eager to have the assistance of our large St. Andrew’s network to source candidates and we would invite you to email nominations to: headsearch@standrews-de.org.

To manage the search process, our Board has formed a search committee composed of eight Trustees and four members of the faculty and staff. These search committee members are:

  • Kellie Doucette ’88, P’18,’18,’21
  • Michael Evans ’98
  • Heather Mitchell ’92
  • Paul Murphy P’17,’19,’22
  • Henry Ridgely ’67
  • Laurisa Schutt P’18,’23
  • Scott Sipprelle ’81, P’08
  • Richard Vaughan ’88
  • Jason Honsel, Director of College Counseling
  • Gretchen Hurtt ’90, P’22, Dean of Studies
  • Harvey Johnson ’97, Dean of Math and Science
  • Ann Visalli, Chief Operating Officer

The executive search firm Spencer Stuart has been retained to assist us in identifying candidates and in managing the search process. They will be visiting the St. Andrew’s campus in December to conduct initial stakeholder meetings and to immerse in the life of our St. Andrew’s community. 

Sincerely

Scott Sipprelle ’81, P’08
Chair, Board of Trustees

Letter from Tad & Elizabeth Roach - October 16, 2019

Dear St. Andrew’s Community,

Over the course of the summer of 2019, Elizabeth and I had the opportunity to pause and reflect before we embarked on another exciting year at St. Andrew’s. The last twenty-three years have provided us with the honor of leading St. Andrew’s into the 21st century and strengthening its position as one of the best schools in America.

After much deliberation and conversation, we have decided to complete our work at St. Andrew’s in June 2021, two years from now. Our decision and announcement this fall give St. Andrew’s Board of Trustees ample time to find the fifth Head of School in the school’s history.

Our announcement today also intensifies our passion, commitment, and dedication to serving the school over the next two years. We have a lot more work to do: we want to inspire St. Andrew’s to a new exhibition of excellence in this time. 

Today, we see a school that has established a momentum that is exciting, vigorous, and inspiring. Our administrative team is strong, diverse, talented, and experienced. Our faculty represent the art of boarding school education at its best, focusing on both academic and human excellence. Our staff bring tremendous commitment, dedication, and expertise to every office and program within the school. Our beloved students are intelligent, generous, kind, responsible, creative, and deeply committed to St. Andrew’s and a public good. 

St. Andrew’s, since its founding, has redefined the very purpose and spirit of American boarding schools. We were the first boarding school to create a mission to serve students and families that could not afford private education. Today our financial aid program offers over six million dollars in assistance to families in virtually every socio-economic class in America. Almost fifty percent of our students receive financial aid, and each year we celebrate the energy, broad perspectives, intelligence, and unity that emerge from our diversity. 

As St. Andrew’s has moved into its 90th year, the school’s reputation and demonstrated accomplishment continue to provide both strong admissions and college admissions programs. We have found that in the 21st century, students, parents, and college admission officers are searching for a school that cares about both intellectual creativity and moral and ethical commitments to the service of others. We are proud to say that St. Andrew’s graduates bring intelligence, engagement, maturity, and generosity to their lives in college and beyond. They are, individually and collectively, changing the world.

Inspired by the opportunity to create the best teaching and learning academy possible, St. Andrew’s has explored a dynamic and enlightened approach to education. We created the program to inspire intellectual passion and authentic engagement and understanding, relying on our teachers’ expertise and the encouragement and endorsement of college professors who identified the skills and habits of mind they most valued. We not only inspired a new generation of scholars liberated to find their voice, pursue their passions; we also began a movement that led so many St. Andrew’s alumni to honor their school by pursuing careers in public, private, and undergraduate education. 

St. Andrew’s culture of philanthropy has grown dramatically as parents, past parents, alumni, trustees, and friends have supported endowment for financial aid, faculty professional development, and essential investments in our physical plant. Our philanthropic spirit now promises to lift St. Andrew’s into the next era in its history. 

Most importantly, we are a school with a soul and an abiding spirit of engagement, inclusion, and empathy. As St. Andrew’s has cultivated a powerful and engaging academic program, we connected that work to the goal of deepening our embrace of the human family, emphasizing service to the poor, invisible, and forgotten in the world, supporting urgent efforts to save the earth.  

The community has sought to bring school values to the very heart of our daily lives at the school. We fight every day for a community of grace, dignity, and peace. Our students take care of one another and form a peer culture that liberates them to do their most courageous work; they honor and respect the teachers at St. Andrew’s who literally and metaphorically inspire them to live with empathy, kindness, and integrity. 

St. Andrew’s has expanded its contribution to a public good: supporting the founding of St. Anne’s Episcopal School and the Delaware College Scholars. We have increased and intensified opportunities in community service throughout the MOT area in education and developed important relationships with Delaware Special Olympics, Andrew’s Place, and Epiphany House in Wilmington. We have stewarded and expanded our 2200 acres as a natural sanctuary, explored important environmental initiatives, created a solar array, protected the health of Noxontown Pond, and acquired key land parcels around the pond and school.

Our Women’s Network conferences and colloquiums have featured explorations of audacious and compelling career paths within our alumni body; our visiting speakers program has brought leaders in America and across the world to St. Andrew's for inspiration, challenge, and education. We will never forget what it meant to welcome speakers like Bryan Stevenson, Paul Farmer, Jesmyn Ward, Diane Nash, Alexander Nemerov, and so many others to the stage in Engelhard Hall.

Each year, the St. Andrew’s ethos inspires Elizabeth and me; it changes us, gives us voice, courage, and intention to fight for goodness, grace, equality, and opportunity in the world. We have met students, colleagues, parents, alumni, Trustees who have inspired our educational vision and helped us remember that schools can and should be transformational, and affirming of the very principles of our democracy. 

It is impossible to come up with the best or the perfect moment to leave a career, a calling, a life that has inspired us over five decades. In the end, we decided to leave St. Andrew’s at the very height of our expertise, commitment, and attention. 

In this new stage of our life after St. Andrew’s, we want to intensify our fight for quality education for all, particularly for those denied such opportunity; we seek to cultivate moral and ethical leadership, reverence for human rights, and a pursuit for equal justice. We very much want to speak and write about the issues and opportunities within the world of 21st century education. We want to share the passion and wisdom we developed here with endeavors that promote what Abraham Lincoln described as “a new birth of freedom.” 

Of course, we will enthusiastically support the school’s search for a new Head of School, and we will make sure that our new leader has the best foundation for success. That is what Jon and Joan O’Brien did for us. 

I have been working for some months now on the succession planning process with a special committee of the Board of Trustees. Our commitment to you is to deliver a smooth leadership transition that honors all of the values of St. Andrew's.

We look forward to the next two years of our most passionate and creative service to the school we love. As we get closer to the summer of 2021, we will try to find ways to thank the Trustees, faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents, and friends that together made our career here so powerful and transformational. We love all of you, and we will treasure each day to come within this community.

Daniel T. Roach, Jr.
Merrill M. Stenbeck Head of School      

Elizabeth M. Roach
Dean of Teaching and Learning

Chapel Talk to Students Given by Tad Roach - October 16, 2019

"When You Have a Calling, Life Goes Really Fast"

 

In this Wednesday evening Chapel Talk, Tad shares with the student body his intention to leave St. Andrew's, with Dean of Teaching & Learning Elizabeth Roach, in June 2021.

Mrs. Roach and I want to speak from the heart tonight and express our love and appreciation for this St. Andrew’s community that represents our home and school for us and our family for over 40 years now.

My greatest hope and aspiration for each one of you is that your lives will be patient, passionate, earnest, open-minded searches for the essential calling of your soul and spirit.

A calling, one of my wise mentors once taught me, is the essential expression, demonstration of what one aspires and commits to do and be. The search for the abiding spirit and mission of our lives does not involve anything transactional, strategic, or artificial. It isn’t really a search for a school, a college, a job, or a plan for making a lot of money. It is a spiritual quest: it comes from the soul, and it slowly emerges as a fundamental need to do something creative, new, fresh, urgent, and necessary.

A calling is what Alyosha describes in the passage Mr. Speers read: “let us never forget how good we all felt here, all together, united by good and kind feelings as made us, for the time we loved the poor boy, perhaps better than we actually are.” Can you hear it? Can we see why this passage became the metaphor for St. Andrew’s culture of kindness? You do not even need to know the story of this poor boy: harassed, mocked, derided by peers because of the public humiliation of his father (a deed committed by Alyosha’s brother). You only need to feel and know that we have the capacity to come together for goodness, for healing, for rescue. 

Alyosha’s gift was to teach children the virtue of empathy, grace, and love, and in so doing he found his energy, his courage, and his eloquence. He changed and developed and learned even more than his students did.

Only you can define what that essential passion and commitment is going to be. It usually involves the opportunity to live so passionately that the work actually transforms you forever—brings you to readings, people, conversations, commitments, sacrifices that inspire, expand, and transfigure you.

If you find such a calling, you never work a day in your life; rather, your work becomes the fundamental expression of your heart and soul. It expands each passing day and month and leads to audacious expressions and demonstrations of creativity.

For me, St. Andrew’s itself was the foundation for my discovery of what exactly I needed to be doing, needed to be fighting for, needed to defend, needed to express.

This calling emerged gradually: first when I made the decision at the age of 23 to forego my life long plan to go to law school—I think I wanted that career for the apparent prestige, security, and coherence it would provide. Instead, Mrs. Roach and I decided, at first tentatively and soon passionately to fight for the emergence of what Mr. O’Brien told me would be (with lots of work) the best small boarding school in the world.

We fought for St. Andrew’s by focusing on the love and care for our students, our colleagues. We learned to teach, coach, mentor, inspire students; through the precious and intense moments of illumination that emerge through human conversation, collaboration, and connection at St. Andrew’s, I could begin to sense my calling. Rather than writing and speaking in a courtroom, I would write, speak, and fight for values like opportunity, equality, justice, mercy, forgiveness, and grace in a school house. I would share my new passions and calling with those who inspired me every day: my faculty and staff colleagues and my students. 

And to make this epiphany more powerful, our students told us that they needed us, relied on us, loved us for recognizing them, affirming them, fighting for them—especially those in those days who were a small and vulnerable part of our community. That work—now called diversity, inclusion, human rights work—transfigured us completely. 

When I began as Head of School, the calling at first became a bit clouded with doubts, fears, anxieties: it seemed daunting to follow my mentor Jon O’Brien, and I had not completely learned how to go on the offensive for goodness. But Mrs. Roach, Mr. Speers, and the Trustees encouraged me to create my own headship, my own counter-cultural approach to school leadership. I wanted a school that taught not for the College Board but rather for the awakening of passion, curiosity, and understanding. I wanted our students to know that education was not about preparation or waiting; it was about taking responsibility now for the kind of world we accept and create. 

I chose to teach, advise, and be present for as many of the incredible moments in each St. Andrew’s day as possible. I had the freedom and opportunity to read, to write, to think imaginatively about what we might become as a school. I learned how to create a St. Andrew’s response to the fragmentation, pessimism, and anxiety of our century. I experienced the joy, wonder, and privilege of speaking to you in Chapel, in Forbes Theatre, and ultimately in Engelhard Hall, and in so doing I have recognized and appreciated the essential beauty and majesty of your generation: you have all given me courage, appreciation, and love. 

As Ms. Ramirez’s reading suggested: “there is a time for every purpose under heaven”—it was a reading my predecessor and mentor Mr. O’Brien chose when he announced his retirement in 1996, and it is a reading I offer in his honor and memory tonight.

This summer Mrs. Roach and I talked about our career at St. Andrew’s, our love for all of you, our gratitude to the alumni, Board of Trustees, and past and current parents. We thought about what St. Andrew’s and all of you have taught us about humanity, generosity, diversity, kindness, and love. We also talked a lot about the joy, the opportunities, the complexities that come with growing older. Where has the time gone?

When you have a calling, life goes really fast.

After a lot of thinking and deliberation, we decided that we would stay at St. Andrew’s through the end of the 2020-2021 year, about 20 months from now. We decided we would leave St. Andrew’s on July 1, 2021, the end of our 24th year of leadership at the school. It will also be my 42nd and Elizabeth’s 40th year at the school.

This decision gave us the precious opportunity of two more years in the community we love. It gave the Board of Trustees ample time, with our full support, to find our successor. Finally, the decision allows us to devote the rest of our lives in service to the causes that created our calling here: educational opportunity for all; the cultivation of moral and ethical leadership; reverence for human rights; pursuit of equal justice; protection and healing of the environment. These are the passions St. Andrew’s inspired in us.

When I accepted this position 23 years ago, we were living in the Honsels' house. Board President Hick Rowland congratulated me and after a few moments asked how long we might stay as St. Andrew’s Head. I told him we wanted to stay forever. I think we got pretty close to that goal, but, you see, we also did not want to stay too long. 

Our love for St. Andrew’s taught us to honor the school by giving the community our best work and best selves; we never wanted to be like that leader, that athlete, that actor, that artist who stays on too long and fails to sustain their energy, grace, intelligence, and agility. We wanted to end our St. Andrew’s time with our and St. Andrew’s greatest expression of excellence.

Over the next 20 months, we will intensify our calling to each and every one of you—giving you our very best, most passionate energy, grace, and mentoring. And yes, Classes of 2022 and 2023, Mrs. Roach and I will pack four years of ethos, spirit, teaching, mentoring, and love for you over the next two years. You will soon be so strong, so resilient, so full of integrity and ethos that you will become our viceroys, our leaders who will welcome, greet, and inspire an incredible new Head of School whom we will all love, support, and celebrate. For when you bring that energy, goodness, and kindness, you change everyone.

All of you know that we will continue to support your dreams, aspirations, and calling for as long as you need us. We will write for you, fight for you, advocate for you, love you as long as we have breath.

All this, to me seems far in the future, but I want you to know in your hearts and minds tonight that the St. Andrew’s we have built together, is as strong and resilient as the foundation of Founders Hall, as bright and hopeful as the sunlight pouring into the O’Brien Arts Center, the Sipprelle Fieldhouse, and Amos Hall. 

The St. Andrew’s ethos most importantly lives and endures because of the human connection that each day made us faculty, staff, and beloved students “better than we actually are.” 

We love you with all our heart and soul.
 

You can also listen to the audio of this talk here.

Chapel Talk to Students Given by Elizabeth Roach - October 16, 2019

"The Sense of an Ending"

In this Wednesday evening Chapel Talk, Dean of Teaching & Learning Elizabeth Roach shares with the student body her plans to leave St. Andrew's, with Head of School Tad Roach, in June 2021.