Head of School Search

Welcoming Christine Fairless as our new Head of School

Welcoming Christine Fairless as our new Head of School
February 4, 2022

Dear Members of the GMS Community,

With great excitement and profound optimism for the future of GMS, we are thrilled to inform you that The Girls’ Middle School Board of Trustees has unanimously approved the appointment of Christine Fairless as our new Head of School, effective July 1, 2022.  

Christine currently serves as the Director of the Middle School Division at St. Paul’s Episcopal School in Oakland.  Starting as an Eighth grade Math and Science teacher in 2001, Christine subsequently served as Director of Technology before being named Head of the St. Paul’s  Middle School Division in 2014. Christine also has served on the Board of Trustees of Saint Andrew’s Episcopal School in Saratoga since 2019. A native of the Bay Area, Christine holds a Master’s Degree in Education from Stanford University, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Math Education from the University of Wyoming, where she holds the record as all time leading scorer in women’s basketball. 

When the Search Committee embarked on the mission of finding a new Head of School, we canvassed the GMS community for your views on what makes GMS special, the opportunities, and challenges that the school faces in the years ahead, and the personal and professional characteristics you believe are most important in our next Head of School. Parents, faculty, staff, students, alumnae, and trustees all agreed that we want a leader who aligns to our mission, embraces progressive pedagogy, loves the middle school student’s developmental passage, and demonstrates a passionate commitment to the  values of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. These goals energized and directed the work of our Search Committee and our consultants at RG175 over these past several months. We are delighted and grateful to have found in Christine Fairless a leader who personifies these characteristics and whose experience and personal vision align perfectly with GMS’s priorities.

The feedback from the community after meeting our three highly qualified and diverse finalists overwhelmingly reflects the conclusion that Christine is the right person to lead our school.  So many of you shared deep and thoughtful responses to our survey, praising Christine as an authentic, community-focused leader and educator who connects deeply with our mission and values. 

Among the most moving comments were from parents who found Christine deeply resonating with the essence of GMS: 
  • Christine's understanding of GMS, of the middle school years especially for the girls, is really very deep. She is very practical, thoughtful, and really would make a good Head of School. She drew on her life experiences to illustrate where she was coming from which was very authentic and refreshing. She was also comfortable being vulnerable and spontaneous.
  • What impressed me most was Christine's dedication to "doing the work". When asked about DEI or SEL, her answers were anecdotes from experience- she did not need to use buzz words to get her vision across.., I can see her walking onto campus her first day and immediately fitting in with students, faculty, and parents.
  • I LOVED every single answer Christine gave. She was SO real. So authentic. Just simply amazing. As I was listening, my daughter came out and said, "oh is that one of the candidates speaking. She was so friendly and SO nice mom. I loved her." I couldn't agree more. I'm just so impressed around her thoughts and real experiences around equity, teachers, students....really, just EVERYTHING. PLEASE hire her. 
GMS faculty and staff were equally impressed by Christine:
  • Christine feels like she deeply understands who GMS is, has a vision for us, and is still very willing to stand by us and listen to staff…The questions she asked and conversations she engaged in showed that she is interested in GMS's continued growth, and also totally on board with who we are now. I would be so excited to have her as an HoS. 
  • Christine is the BEST candidate! She is personable, a great listener, spoke well of her experiences, and didn't shy away from hard questions…She connects well with teachers, administrators, and kids alike. She shows commitment to our values and our mission and is excited to be at our school …It already feels like she is a part of our school and I am thrilled to see where she takes us!
  • Please give Christine an offer to be our next Head of School. I would not only want to collaborate with her, I want to learn from her. She has a WEALTH of experience, knowledge, and as she says – is SO thoughtful. She’s the one!!!

We received dozens of similar comments from parents, administrators, and trustees. Viewed together, the Search Committee was left with no doubt that Christine connected deeply with our community during the selection process and is the right person to lead us into the future.

Upon hearing of her appointment, Christine shared: “I am deeply honored to be selected to lead this joyous learning community into its next chapter of providing a rich and impactful education for students at such a crucial time in their lives. The Mission of The Girls’ Middle School deeply resonates with me and aligns with my values as an educator and a person. Providing students opportunities to express their voice in a progressive educational setting builds confidence and the belief that they can make a difference in their immediate communities and beyond. Thank you so much to the Search Committee and everyone I met at GMS that made me feel welcome during my visit. I cannot wait to get started working with this amazing community!”

Our interim Head of School Tesha McCord Poe and Assistant Head of School Laura Reeve will be working with Christine and members of The Girls’ Middle School Leadership Team and the Board of Trustees over the next five months to ensure a seamless transition so that Christine can hit the ground running in July 2022.

Thank you for the tremendous community participation in this important process for GMS. We especially would like to acknowledge the outsized efforts and contribution of the Search Committee members—GMS Trustees Lisa Coca, Terry Lee, Raena Saddler, and Barbara Schneider, Assistant Head of School, Laura Reeve, and 7th Grade Humanities Teacher, Caitlin Clendaniel —and express our sincere gratitude to the entire community for your engagement and support in making this a success for GMS.

Sincerely, 

Megan Miller, GMS Co-Chair                                

Carrie Coltman, GMS Co-Chair

David Finke, GMS Trustee, and Chairman of the Head of School Search Committee

 

Previous updates:

Head of School Search Update 12-06-2021 (English) (Spanish

Position Statement Published: A Letter from the Search Committee Chair (English) (Spanish

Head of School Search Update Letter (English) (Spanish)

Letter from The Girls' Middle School Board of Trustees (English) (Spanish

Letter from former Head of School, Jennifer Ayer (English) (Spanish

Letter announcing the appointment of the 2021-22 school year Interim Head of School (English) (Spanish