Introducing Matt Levinson, UHS's 10th Head of School
July 1, 2021
Dear Members of the UHS Community,
On behalf of the UHS Board of Trustees and the Head of School Search Committee, it is our great pleasure to announce that Matt Levinson has been unanimously selected as our next Head of School starting in the 2022-2023 school year. Matt will succeed Julia Russell Eells in July 2022, following Julia’s remarkable nine-year tenure as Head of School.
A thoughtful, visionary, and experienced Independent School leader, Matt Levinson has 28 years of experience as a passionate educator. Starting his career as a history teacher for the first 14 years, he has also served in various school leadership roles, including Department Chair, Grade Level Dean, Division Director, Assistant Head of School at Marin Country Day School and the Nueva School, and Head of School at University Prep, a 6-12 independent school in Seattle. Matt is currently the Head of School at The Pingry School, a K-12 independent school in New Jersey.
Matt’s appointment as UHS’s 10th Head of School represents the culmination of a comprehensive, national search process. Thanks to the thoughtful and detailed feedback from our community, we articulated the community’s aspirations in our position specification and conducted a comprehensive search. Additionally, we wish to thank the numerous faculty, staff, department heads, alumni, board members, parents, students, and other members of our community who provided invaluable guidance during the search process.
When we set out on our search, we wrote to you that we would look for a transformative academic leader who is student-centric, collaborative, inspiring, and who also possesses a proactive commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) as well as substantial financial, operations and fundraising acumen. We not only found all these qualities and experiences in Matt, but we also discovered a warm, engaging person whose heart is in the right place. His personal and professional characteristics align with our core values of inquiry, integrity, care, interconnection, and agency.
In all of our engagements and queries, we came to appreciate that Matt put students first. He loves engaging with students and supporting them in their journey into young adulthood. Matt was a history teacher and coach for 14 years before he went into administration, and his focus and love for student well-being have continued to inspire. Matt strives for academic excellence while keeping the whole child in mind. His colleagues have said that he wants to know everyone – every student, every parent, every teacher, every staff member, and every alum. He holds people when they are down, and he celebrates every achievement. Matt is a true community builder.
Equally important to Matt is his commitment to the principles of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging - work that he has prioritized and has been dedicated to for nearly a decade. At Pingry, Matt created an Anti-Racism Task Force to examine and transform practices and culture while developing strategic recommendations. Through this work, Matt and his colleagues reformulated hiring processes, implemented ongoing professional development of faculty and staff, initiated affinity groups for parents and caregivers and middle school students, and created a permanent DEI Board Committee. At University Prep, he led the community to adopt a diversity mission statement and a strategic diversity plan that led to enhanced professional development for faculty and staff, articulation of equity-based teaching practices, creating a permanent DEI Board Committee, and establishing equity-based hiring practices.
At both schools, DEI was central to Matt’s and his entire administrative team’s work, starting with extensive training of the board and the administrative team led by Alison Park of Blink Consulting. Matt believes that DEI work is critical at all levels and that the board and his administrative team are central to creating the tone and setting the culture for the entire community, beginning with their own commitment and training. Finally, Matt’s highly collaborative style and the strength in the relationships that he builds have shown to be highly effective in moving school communities forward, deepening their commitment to DEI.
We are excited for you to meet and work with Matt. His energy is captivating, and his creativity is inspiring. As a lifelong innovator, Matt has brought many initiatives to transform the student experience. At University Prep, Matt and his colleagues created a new daily schedule and launched “intensives” – three-week immersive, interdisciplinary courses twice per year that enabled students to examine and solve real-world problems while engaging in place-based learning in and around the city of Seattle. This past year, at Pingry, Matt and his colleagues created and implemented Pingry Anywhere, a learner-centered experience that allowed for both in-person and remote learning throughout the entire school year while engaging students in the entirety of the Pingry program, including arts, athletics, clubs, and extracurriculars.
After extensive research and time spent meeting with many candidates, the 13-member Search Committee enthusiastically concluded that Matt is the right person to be the next leader of our school. The Search Committee unanimously recommended him to the UHS Board of Trustees. The Board, in turn, unanimously accepted this recommendation and is delighted to introduce Matt Levinson as UHS’s next Head of School.
We are deeply grateful to our entire community for your engagement, thoughtfulness, and support. We could not have done this work without an incredible Head of School Search Committee and the excellent guidance from consultants at Spencer Stuart. The Committee’s insight, care, dedication, and commitment to the principles of DEIB, were crucial in finding the right leader for our school. Each member’s perspective, experience, generosity of time, and appreciation for UHS inspired the entire Committee to work hard and conduct a thoughtful, thorough, and rigorous search process.
Laura Spivy, the Chair of the Board of Trustees, shared, “I am incredibly excited to work with Matt. He is a head of school who puts students first and leads from the heart. This, combined with his strong strategic orientation, will enable him to effectively lead our school to the next level, achieving our future goals and vision. I am so grateful to the Search Committee for their time and incredible insights in finding such an inspiring and able leader for our school.”
More information about Matt, including a letter from Matt to the UHS Community can be found on the UHS Head of School Search page.
Please join us in welcoming Matt, his wife, Priyanthi Alahendra, and their college-age children, Sanjay and Maya, back to the Bay Area. Matt is eager to meet all of you. Matt will be on campus several times over the course of this coming year and will be working closely with Julia and her team to ensure a smooth and successful transition in July 2022.
Raj Atluru (P'19, '22, '24)
Search Committee Co-Chair
Kay Yun (P'19, '21)
Search Committee Co-Chair
A Message from Matt Levinson
Dear UHS Faculty, Staff, Students, Families, Alumni, Trustees and Friends,
I am thrilled to be joining the UHS community as the next Head of School. From the first minute I spent with the Search Committee throughout the entire process, I was inspired and moved by the shared commitment of everyone to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, student wellness, academic and intellectual growth, and a culture of inquiry rooted in strong support for teacher development. Over and over, I heard stories of UHS students engaged in academics, arts, and athletics, being able to find pathways to reach their full potential. The innovative, entrepreneurial, and inclusive spirit of UHS, coupled with kindness and compassion, came through clearly and helped me feel welcome, seen, and valued.
Having lived in the Bay Area, I have long known about UHS’s reputation as a school focused on nurturing a sense of belonging through the nationally recognized mentor program as well as providing an innovative academic program, filled with opportunities for students to pursue their passions in the hands of skillful teachers committed to their growth and development. UHS is a community that never stands still. The school continues to seek ways to expand and enrich the student experience and asks important questions about what is best for students now and in the future. The Search Committee challenged and pushed me to think with them about the future of UHS and what I see as visionary and transformational while also being firmly rooted in the founding principles of equity and excellence.
Having spent the first 14 years of my career as a history teacher and coach, I value listening to and empowering student voices to help shape community and see students light up with joy and curiosity when they are engaged in meaningful, deep learning with outstanding educators. Every member of the Search Committee had one story or another of how a UHS student is filled with joy and, as the UHS mission statement says, “a purpose larger than the self.”
I feel grateful to be following Julia Eells, a superb and visionary educator who has built an enduring, positive, and transformational legacy at UHS. She has forged a path that I want to follow.
The Search Committee could not have put more effort, thought, and care into this comprehensive process. I learned from them at each step along the way, and they showed me the level of devotion and love they have for UHS, which reflects the broader UHS community that I so eagerly await the opportunity to get to know.
My wife, Priyanthi Alahendra, and our two college-age children, Sanjay and Maya, along with our dog Avi, cannot wait to join UHS in July 2022.
I look forward to seeing you all soon.
Matt Levinson and his wife, Priyanthi Alahendra, are lifelong independent school educators who have devoted their lives and careers to educating young people, building and strengthening community connection, cultivating a sense of inclusion and belonging, and developing innovative programs. Matt was born in Bethesda, Maryland. The greatest influences in his life are his mother and father, who have helped shape him into the person and educator he is today. His mother is a professional artist and imbued in Matt an early appreciation for creativity. At the same time, his father was a lawyer and law professor, infusing a commitment to the importance of language, history, and social justice. Matt was an avid athlete in high school and college, where he played soccer at Haverford College and majored in history, combining his twin loves of athletics and academics. He later earned his M.A. in Social Studies Education from Teachers’ College, Columbia University.
Matt began his career at Princeton Day School in New Jersey, where he served in various roles, including middle and upper school history teacher, grade level dean, department chair, and coaching the girls’ and boys’ varsity soccer teams. Matt’s 14 years in the classroom set a strong foundation for his leadership approach grounded in student belonging, growth, and wellness.
Matt served in senior leadership roles at some of the country’s top independent day schools. He made his first move to the Bay Area in 2007 when he became the Assistant Head of School and Middle School Director at the Nueva School. He then joined his wife, Priyanthi, a first-grade teacher at Marin Country Day School, where he served as Assistant Head of School and Head of the Upper Division. At both schools, he helped to lead strategic initiatives, a passion for Matt throughout his career.
Matt is an experienced head of school, leading both University Prep in Seattle, Washington, and The Pingry School in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. At both schools, he helped to lead strategic work in diversity, equity, and inclusion, promote student support and wellness, and develop innovative academic programs to best meet the needs of all students.
Matt and Priyanthi are excited to return to the Bay Area, along with their two college-age children, Sanjay and Maya, and their dog Avi. The Levinson/Alahendra family will join the UHS community July 2022.
Raj Atluru (P'19, P'22, and P'24)
Board Trustee, Search Committee Co-Chair
Kay Yun (P'19 and P'21)
Board Trustee, Search Committee Co-Chair
Katie Albright (P’18 and P’21)
Board Trustee, Chair
Lily Beischer (P’21)
Board Trustee, Audit Committee Chair
Music and Western Civ Teacher & Junior Mentor
Dan Carroll (P’13)
Former Board Trustee
Sue Decker (P’15 and P’21)
Sean Hamer (P’23)
Sherief Meleis (’88)
Jessica Osorio (’10)
English Teacher & Mentor Coach
Dean of Students
Laura Spivy (P‘18, P‘20 and P‘23)
Board Trustee, Vice Chair and Capital Campaign Chair
Paul Wythes (P’23)
Click HERE to view full Search Committee bios
- Update From the HOS Search Committee - June 9
- Search Committee Update - April 22
- Search Committee Update with Position Specification - March 2
- 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