Flintridge Prep Board of Trustees Appoints New Head of School

Flintridge Preparatory School’s Board of Trustees has appointed Vanessa Walker-Oates as its next Head of School effective immediately.

It goes without saying that the past year has been incredibly challenging for schools and Heads across the country. For Jim in particular, in his first year as Head of School at Prep, it was difficult to establish the deep relationships with the team, faculty/staff, Board, and community that could have happened in a year without COVID. During this time, it became clear to him, and the Board agreed, that he could best serve Prep as the bridge to a new Head of School.

In his letter to the Board of Trustees, Jim shared, “As difficult as it is to leave Prep, circumstances of this year have led Susie and me to reevaluate our priorities. The time is right to pass the torch to a new person and turn my energy toward matters of a personal nature. Susie and I have aging parents on the east coast that will necessitate our increasing attention and travel.”

Read Vanessa Walker-Oates’ first message as Head of School. Video included.

Dear Families and Friends,

I wanted to take a moment to send a personal message to share how excited I am to serve as Prep’s Head of School as we grow forward into a brand new school year.

Over the past 18 years that I have been at Prep, I have witnessed the remarkable growth of this community in pursuit of our mission. Even with this perspective, I have never looked forward to the opportunities before us with so much eagerness and anticipation as I do today.

We are a community at an exciting crossroads.

The disruptions of the pandemic, while challenging in so many ways, have opened doors for us to reflect, reimagine, and redesign where needed. Building on Prep’s solid foundation both in resources and in values, we stand poised to fulfill our mission through ever more expansive, inclusive, and creative teaching and learning that foregrounds Prep’s commitment to encouraging every student to pursue a life of purpose and joy. We are ready to begin this journey together.

As I imagine the coming months, I find myself thinking of one of my favorite professors, John Shearman, whose book Only Connect argues that the transformative aspect of Renaissance art is the dissolution of the boundary between viewer and viewed. With the barrier removed, art and audience are connected in deeply human, emotional ways.

If we accomplish only one thing in the next three months, it will be to “Only Connect.” This summer and fall, we will renew existing connections and forge new bonds between our students, our families, our faculty and staff. Relationships have always been the foundation of Prep’s success.

On Monday morning, I spoke with our faculty and staff for the first time as Head of School. I addressed school priorities, including educational vision, plans for student support and wellbeing, and the Board’s comprehensive strategic planning and long-term vision for diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. This fall, Dr. Elizabeth Denevi will be leading student, parent, and faculty-staff education in building healthy, equitable and inclusive relationships, and the Institute for Social and Emotional Learning will be working with us on expanding student support and advising programs. We will work with intention and action this fall. These are only the first steps.

Our dialogue in the next few months will form the basis for our future strategic planning; reinvigorating our healthy culture and relationships will give our strategy wings.

We look forward to a full return to campus in August for in-person learning and reengaging in all school events, programs, and activities. We will no longer offer a learn-from-home option for our students. With this decision, I hope that we can achieve our most important goal of the year–to reinforce the value of our relationships. Let’s take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to be together again. The California Department of Public Health recently released new guidance for reopening K-12 schools, and we will send more detailed information about our plans in the coming weeks.

While I look forward to the start of the school year, I am eager to see as many of you as possible, as soon as possible. We have lost time to make up for! For those who are interested, Prep will be hosting a few casual Meet and Greets with the Head of School and members of the Leadership Team, faculty and staff in the first week of August. These events are completely optional, and no RSVP is required. We will offer time for informal conversation and tours of our new campus facilities. For those of you who may not have been on campus before, this will be a lovely opportunity to visit us before the school year’s activities begin in earnest. We will continue to host our usual coffees and receptions later in August and September, so there will be many opportunities to connect beyond these first weeks.

Tuesday, August 3 at 5:30 p.m., 7th and 8th Grade Meet and Greet, Ahmanson Plaza
Tuesday, August 3 at 7:00 p.m., 9th Grade Meet and Greet, Ahmanson Plaza
Thursday, August 5 at 5:30 p.m., 10th and 11th Grade Meet and Greet, Ahmanson Plaza
Thursday, August 5 at 7:00 p.m., 12th Grade Meet and Greet, Ahmanson Plaza
Outdoors, masks are not required for vaccinated individuals.

Other Campus Events in August and September
(Click here to view our school calendar.)

For more information, go to https://www.flintridgeprep.org/news/news-story/~board/news/post/summer-message-from-vanessa-walker-oakes


Flintridge Preparatory School, 4543 Crown Ave., La Cañada Flintridge, (818) 790-1178 or visit www.flintridgeprep.org.






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