Head of School Search
On December 15, Head of School Julia Russell Eells and the Board of Trustees announced the plan for her retirement at the end of the 2021-2022 school year. We will have the benefit of Julia's deeply inspiring and trusted leadership for the next 18 months, while giving the Board ample time to conduct a full and thorough search. The Board is getting to work immediately to ensure a smooth transition. Spencer Stuart, a highly regarded international search firm with deep education and independent school experience, has been selected to partner with us in this work. We intend the process to be as transparent, engaging, and open as possible to foster success.
We have established a confidential mailbox for our community and the market to use for nominations and general comments: UHShead@spencerstuart.com.
- Head of School Search Community Survey - February 4
- UHS Head of School Search Initial Steps - January 27
- Announcement of Search Committee and Search Firm - January 21
- letter from board chair Katie Albright - December 16
- Letter From Julia Russell Eells - December 15
February 4, 2021
Dear Members of the UHS Community,
Thank you for your time and attention over the past several weeks as Spencer Stuart and the Head of School Search Committee gathered input from the UHS Community, including faculty, administration, students, parents, and alumni. We would like to invite the entire community to share their thoughts regarding the direction and leadership of UHS and the qualities the ideal candidate should possess through this online survey.
We want to be respectful of your time, and this survey should take no more than 15 minutes to complete. Individual responses are anonymous and will be aggregated by our search consultants at Spencer Stuart. We appreciate your time and candor, and your feedback will help inform the position specification and guide our work. Responses should be submitted by midnight Monday, Feb. 15, when the survey will close.
We look forward to remaining in touch with periodic updates on the search process as we move forward.
Raj Atluru and Kay Yun
Search Committee Co-Chairs
January 27, 2021
Dear members of the UHS Community,
As co-chairs of the UHS Head of School Search Committee, we are writing to share with you our goals and initial steps in the search for the next Head of University High School. As mentioned in Katie Albright's letter to you on January 21, we are able to approach this search from a position of exceptional institutional strength, thanks to Julia's remarkable leadership and the community we have collectively fostered. Our goal is to create a transparent, engaging, and as open process as possible, which includes input from the UHS community.
As we commence the search, the Committee and consultants at Spencer Stuart will solicit feedback from the UHS community, including faculty, administration, students, parents, and alumni. These conversations will provide an opportunity for you to share your thoughts regarding the direction and leadership of UHS and the qualities the ideal candidate should possess. Each conversation will include the following four questions
- What is distinctive about UHS? What do you value most about the school?
- What do you see as the significant challenges and opportunities that the next Head of School at UHS will face?
- What proven professional characteristics, experiences, and personal attributes would you most like to see in UHS' next Head of School?
- Is there anyone you would like to nominate for the position?
The insights shared in these conversations will help the Committee create and refine a position specification, which we will use to promote the opportunity to prospective candidates and guide our work in the months ahead.
In the coming days, you will receive an email that outlines the specific dates, times, and details for the discussions with Spencer Stuart. Thank you in advance for making time in your schedule to participate in these discussions. For those unable to participate, there will be additional opportunities to provide your feedback through an online survey as well as an email address (UHShead@spencerstuart.com) that has been created for the Committee and Spencer Stuart to receive questions and input. Throughout this process, we direct you to the Head of School Search page for information and updates related to the search.
Thank you in advance for your support and participation.
Raj Atluru and Kay Yun
Search Committee Co-Chairs
January 21, 2021
Dear UHS Faculty, Staff, Students, Families, Alumni, Trustees and Friends,
I hope you are well and safe. This letter provides an update on the Board of Trustee’s process to hire a new Head of School, following my letter and the announcement of Julia’s retirement in June 2022.
As I mentioned in my December letter, the University High School Board of Trustees is entrusted with hiring our next Head of School. Thanks to Julia’s remarkable leadership and the community we have collectively fostered, we are able to approach this search from a position of exceptional institutional strength. In undertaking our search for Julia’s successor, the Board will remain firmly grounded in our school’s core values of inquiry, care, integrity, agency and interconnection, as well as our strategic vision to create a transformational high school experience. Consistent with our shared belief that diversity is excellence in education and guided by our Equity and Community Statement, we will seek to build a strong and diverse pool of candidates for our top leadership position.
I am honored to announce that Raj Atluru and Kay Yun will serve as Co-Chairs of The Head of School Search Committee. Kay (P’19 and P’21) has been a member of the Board since 2016 and serves as the Treasurer and the Chair of the Finance Committee. Raj (P’19, P’22, P’24) has been a member of the Board since 2018 and serves as Chair of the Investment Committee. In addition to myself, our other Search Committee members are:
- Lily Beischer (P’21), Audit Committee Chair
- Terrence Brewer, Music and Western Civ Teacher & Junior Mentor
- Dan Carroll (P’13), Former Board Trustee
- Sue Decker (P’15 and P’21), Board Trustee
- Sean Hamer (P’23), Board Trustee
- Sherief Meleis (’88), Board Trustee
- Jessica Osorio (’10), English Teacher & Mentor Coach
- Alexandra Simmons, Dean of Students
- Laura Spivy (P‘18, P‘20 and P‘23), Board Vice Chair and Capital Campaign Chair
- Paul Wythes (P’23), Board Trustee
The Search Committee will be supported by a team from the Education and Nonprofit Practice at Spencer Stuart, a leading global executive search and leadership consulting firm. We are excited to be working with the Spencer Stuart team of Mary Gorman, Susan Clifford, and John Harpole. Spencer Stuart has conducted searches for many of the nation’s leading independent schools, and recent searches include the leadership searches at Phillips Academy in Massachusetts, Punahou in Honolulu, St. John’s School in Houston, and Chapin School in New York. Beyond independent schools, this team has worked on college, university, foundation, and research institute searches across the nation. We have already established a confidential mailbox for our community and the market to use for nominations and general comments: UHShead@spencerstuart.com.
Our goal is to create a process that is transparent, engaging and as open as possible to ensure success. To this end, Kay and Raj will be sharing more information with you about the search process, including opportunities for you to participate in the days, weeks, and months ahead. Additionally, we have created this webpage with up-to-date information about the search process.
In addition to our audacious responsibility to select a new Head of School, we will also be sharing details over the coming months about how we can come together to celebrate Julia for her tremendous leadership and to thank her husband John for his partnership and service to our school.
In closing, I wish to convey sincere appreciation to all the members of the Search Committee. In the meantime, the important work of UHS continues without pause, and the Board of Trustees is deeply grateful for your vital role in the search. Your participation and commitment make it possible to anticipate UHS’ future with enthusiasm and confidence.
Katie Albright (P’18 and P’21)
Chair, Board of Trustees
December 16, 2020
Dear UHS Faculty, Staff, Students, Families, Alumni, Trustees and Friends,
I write to announce that our Head of School Julia Eells has chosen to retire at the end of next school year in June 2022, having then served our community for nine incredible years. On behalf of the entire University High School Board of Trustees, I wish to convey our deepest gratitude to Julia for her outstanding service to our school and our community.
This time marks one of reflection and appreciation as we consider all that our school community has accomplished under Julia’s profound leadership. Under her guidance, our school has reached new heights through the development of a shared vision for a transformational high school experience, based upon our collective values of inquiry, care, integrity, agency and interconnection. Through this work, Julia has always been ever-focused and ensured that our school culture is student-centered, diverse and full of warmth, care and connection. We certainly see this every day in our mentoring program, a hallmark of this commitment. At the same time, Julia has ensured that our school strategy is based on research, data and sustainability.
In addition to our programs, our campus is now on a path of transformation because of Julia's leadership and her partnership with the Board of Trustees, with the opening of Paul Goode Field in 2017 and the current development of the school's property on California Street. Exemplifying Julia's commitment to our students’ wellness and our community, Paul Goode is not only a true home field for UHS athletics, but also affords our students with wellness through increased time given its proximity to the campus and community, and the sharing of the field with nonprofit partners and neighbors throughout the city.
We are also on the critical journey to fulfill our values as stated in our Equity and Community Statement developed under Julia’s leadership. These values include expanding financial aid at twice the rate of tuition increases for four consecutive years; securing Summerbridge as an essential part of UHS’s community, culture and public purpose; and, developing our faculty, staff, and board of trustees to achieve increased diversity, equity and inclusion.
And, throughout the challenges of the global pandemic faced this past year, Julia has been the deeply inspiring and trusted leader that we all have needed. Julia’s constant calm has provided stability and hope -- ensuring community safety, prioritizing mental and physical well-being and creating excellent online learning for our students.
Now, the UHS Board is entrusted with hiring our next Head of School and, with that, helping to set the path to our future. Initially, the Board will guide the search process, selecting a Search Committee and finalizing the selection of a search firm in the next few weeks. We intend the process to be as transparent, engaging, and open as possible to foster success. You will hear much more from the Board and the Search Committee about the search and how to become involved over the coming weeks and months. We believe that UHS is one of the most attractive opportunities for Head of School candidates in the Bay Area and beyond, and we expect to select a new leader from an impressive and highly qualified pool of candidates.
Together with the full Board of Trustees, I am extremely confident about our school's future. Julia will be at the helm until the end of the 2021-2022 school year continuing to direct our school as we search for and identify a new Head of School, and she will work to ensure a smooth leadership transition. Over the next 18 months, we will also create opportunities to celebrate Julia for her tremendous leadership and to thank her husband John for his partnership and service to our school. Until then, please join me in expressing thanks and appreciation to Julia for her incredible contributions to our school and our community.
Very truly yours,
Katie Albright (P’18 and P’21)
Chair, Board of Trustees
December 15, 2020
Dear Members of the Board of Trustees of San Francisco University High School,
Having the opportunity to lead San Francisco University High School continues to be the single greatest professional honor of my life. What originally drew me to UHS was our collective desire to grow and adapt as a school with a reputation for excellence without complacency in all areas of our programs and community. Even in the midst of this global pandemic, the work of preparing our students for the complex world they are entering remains deeply gratifying and inspiring.
However, as much as I am energized and challenged by the work, I am also looking ahead to the next chapter of my life after 40 years working in independent education. I am writing to let you know that I will be retiring at the end of the next school year (June 2022) having served as Head of School for nine years. Though it is still 18 months away, I want to give the Board all the time it needs to identify and choose the next Head of School to lead UHS through the next chapter in its history.
My husband John and I have devoted our lives to our family and to our respective careers in education. We are fortunate to have our health and a vibrant family that includes grandchildren who are growing up too fast. My Head of School responsibilities have been engaging and all-consuming and it is time for us to focus on family, travel, volunteerism, and our love for and engagement in the arts.
As I reflect on our work together, I have such a sense of pride in the foundation UHS has built on the development of our shared core values and vision for a transformational high school experience. Our Strategic Design boldly positions UHS to be a leader in shifting high school culture to one of challenge, balanced with support and care to inspire authentic engagement. It has been gratifying to acknowledge that UHS is not only in the conversation of educational reform, but leading it with a national reputation in independent schools for strategy, research and student wellness.
So much has changed at UHS since I arrived in 2013. During our time together, we have made significant headway in
- realizing many aspirations of our Equity and Community Statement,
- expanding access by increasing financial aid,
- securing Summerbridge as an essential part of UHS’s community, culture and public purpose,
- enhancing faculty compensation and financial support for professional development,
- significantly diversifying our faculty, staff and board of trustees,
- promoting multi-disciplinary curricular development and assessment innovation,
- realizing the potential of our signature mentoring program and
- opening Paul Goode Field – not just for UHS to have as a true home field, but to share with our nonprofit partners and neighbors throughout the city.
The vision that we, together, are realizing and continue to steward will provide a robust onramp for dedicated leadership of the school in the future. In the meantime, our work isn’t done. I look forward to tackling our self-study for the upcoming CAIS reaccreditation in 2021-22; completing the entitlement process for the California Street property that will unlock potential across our entire campus providing an integrated and state-of-the-art facilities for STEM education, community and athletics; continuing our fundraising momentum to realize that dream; nurturing and celebrating some sense of normalcy after COVID; and supporting a successful leadership transition.
The privilege to work with such a talented and committed team of faculty, staff and senior administration has been inspiring, humbling, and a lot of fun. I will always carry with me the deepest admiration and fondness I have for my UHS colleagues. I have also been so moved by the support, dedication and talent of the UHS Board of Trustees who are championing a dynamic strategic vision; heartily endorsing and participating in our journey toward a stronger, more equitable and inclusive community; and stewarding a campus master plan that will be the most significant (and transformational) capital project for the school since our opening in 1974.
Finally, I want you to know that my time at UHS has been especially enhanced by working with our UHS students who are curious, clever, passionate, resilient, playful, kind and dedicated. My admiration for their camaraderie and spirit despite unimagined setbacks during the past nine months is the single greatest treasure that I will carry into my retirement. They remain at the center of our work and at the center of my heart.
With deep appreciation, respect and affection for the entire UHS community,
Julia Russell Eells
Head of School
- What is the role of the Board of Trustees?
- What is the role of the Search Committee?
- Who is on the Search Committee?
- What role did diversity play in the formation and selection of the Search Committee?
- What is the role of Spencer Stuart, the search firm?
- What is the timeline of the search process?
- How can members of the UHS Community participate in the search process?
As the fiduciaries of UHS, the Board of Trustees holds the important responsibility of appointing the Head of School. Members of the Board will share their thoughts with the Spencer Stuart consultants prior to the development of the position specification. The Board of Trustees will have the opportunity to meet with the finalist candidate(s), and, acting on the recommendation of the Search Committee, will vote to approve the appointment of the next Head of School.
The Board of Trustees has asked the Head of School Search Committee to engage in a thoughtful and thorough process to develop and assess prospective candidates, ultimately recommending one or two final candidates to the Board for consideration as the next Head of School. The Board expects the Committee to engage broadly with the School community and listen to a wide variety of views about the School and the qualities needed in the next Head of School. The Board asks the Search Committee to keep the community informed and engaged throughout the search process while respecting the confidentiality of the candidate recruitment process.
The search committee is comprised of former students, current faculty and administration, current and former board members, and the board chair. More information about the Search Committee can be found here.
Our Equity and Community Statement, which guides our all of our hiring and staffing decisions, states, “At UHS, we believe that the deepest learning requires collaboration among people who embody a diversity of backgrounds, beliefs, experiences, and perspectives. In order to build and sustain a community that is comprised of a wide range of social and cultural identities, we must continually engage in furthering our self-knowledge, equity literacy, and ability to communicate effectively across differences.” This commitment to an inclusive community guided the selection of the members of the Head of School Search Committee who collectively represent a diverse set of demographic criteria.
Spencer Stuart is the highly regarded national search firm selected by UHS Search Committee. The team of Mary Gorman and Susan Clifford of Spencer Stuart's Education, Nonprofit, and Government Practice and John Harpole of Spencer Stuart's Leadership Advisory Practice will support and advise the Committee throughout the process. As this is a highly iterative process, they will be constantly engaging with the Search Committee. They will gather input from outreach discussions and an online survey and draft a position specification for the search committee’s review. Spencer Stuart will conduct extensive outreach to sources and prospects with the goal of developing a highly talented, diverse slate. They will also conduct extensive referencing and coordinate meetings between the Search Committee and the candidates. Spencer Stuart will guide the Search Committee through the entire recruitment process, ensuring that the candidates' and the Committee's need for information and diligence are met.
The Search Committee is eager to hear from all members of the UHS community and will provide several opportunities to do so:
- Virtual meetings with the search firm: These are opportunities for UHS community members to share their thoughts and perspectives via video or phone with Spencer Stuart.
- Complete the online survey: The Committee welcomes all school constituents to share input via an online survey.
- Send us a message: The Committee welcomes questions, advice, and nominations. Please send any comments to UHShead@spencerstuart.com.
- Continue to visit this webpage: This page will serve as the repository for all public information about the search.