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Head of School Search

Dear CDS Community:

We are delighted to announce that Shelly Luke Wille has accepted the invitation from the Board of Trustees to serve as the next Head of School at Children’s Day School, effective July 1, 2018.

Last February, the Board of Trustees and its Search Committee — with the assistance of the premier educational leadership search firm, Carney Sandoe & Associates — began the process of recruiting the strongest and best-matched candidate to be our next Head of School. Carney Sandoe reviewed a large pool of applicants and presented the Search Committee with fifteen preferred candidate profiles. Following preliminary, confidential interviews with eight semifinalists, the Search Committee selected the three finalists who visited the school this past September. During those visits, the finalists met with faculty, staff, students, parents/guardians, and trustees. Many of you shared your thoughts after each finalist visit. The input from all constituencies, as well as conversations with numerous references and a host of other data points, were considered by the Search Committee. On October 9, the Board of Trustees unanimously approved the Search Committee’s nomination of Shelly Luke Wille as our next Head of School.

Shelly brings to CDS a deep knowledge of and commitment to progressive education. She believes passionately in our child-centered, constructivist approach and is delighted to be joining our talented group of faculty and staff in support of the CDS mission. Shelly, a Bay Area native, and her husband, Michael, also were thrilled to find a mission-aligned school for their own children, and are excited to join the CDS community as parents of two middle schoolers, Braden and Seamus. Their eldest son, Kaffie, for whom they became guardians in 2014, will be entering college next fall.

Shelly holds a Master's in Special Education and a BA in Diversified Liberal Arts (with an emphasis on Math and Science) from St. Mary’s College, California, as well as credentials in Educational Administration, Multiple Subject Teaching, and Special Education. Shelly comes to CDS with an impressive background in education and stellar references. She has an outstanding track record as Head of School (and former Assistant Head and Elementary School Head) at Chadwick International in South Korea, and as Assistant Head and Lower School Head at Hillbrook School in Los Gatos, California. Colleagues, mentors, families, and students know Shelly as a visible and approachable presence at school. At Chadwick, a diverse international community, she is respected and loved by faculty, staff, and families for her ability to manage a K-12 school of 1,200 students while maintaining warmth and a sense of humor. According to her colleagues, Shelly builds teams, mentors leaders, cultivates authentic connections with students, and makes decisions with transparency and integrity.

Shelly joins CDS at a time when enrollment is strong and finances are sound, thanks to the leadership of Molly Huffman, our current Head of School. Our community owes Molly a debt of gratitude for all she has done for CDS. In the coming months, you can expect further communication regarding the upcoming transition plan.

We are thrilled that Shelly and her family are joining our community. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, join me in welcoming them to CDS.

Cheryl Porro
Chair, CDS Board of Trustees


Dear Children’s Day School Community,

When my family and I were contemplating a return to the Bay Area, I knew this would only be possible if I found a school whose values deeply align with my own. A school that is courageously progressive, that knows that teacher collaboration is essential, and that empowers everyone to share ideas in a safe environment where mistakes could be made (because without risk there is no great reward). A school that values diversity, which gives all of us the ability to see beyond ourselves and develop empathy, compassion, and strength. A school that believes that students and teachers need to get their hands dirty as they work to observe, ask questions, and understand. A school that recognizes that play is important not only for social-emotional learning but for academic learning as well, and that students should have the space and encouragement to take action on their ideas.

Children’s Day School, at its heart, embodies all of this and more. I am proud and humbled to become your next Head of School. Having worked at an international school for the past seven years, with students, families, and faculty from many countries, I know that passionate citizens do indeed change the world. I look forward to working together to continue to foster the activism and social justice commitment that the CDS community, and especially its faculty and students, already embrace. Throughout my career, I have lived the belief that a school is most successful if administrators and teachers develop strong, deep, and meaningful connections with each other and with students and families. At times this was challenging in my present school, with 1,200 students, and I look forward to creating community in a relatively smaller and close-knit school.

During the head search process I learned that, like all independent schools, CDS faces its share of challenges, including the skyrocketing cost of living in San Francisco that makes teacher retention difficult and the need to continue to build community after the recent growth to a two-campus school. In addition, the pace of technological changes in education demands that we be thoughtful about when and how technology is incorporated into the classroom so that the collaborative experience central to progressive education remains at the forefront. Also, of course, the facilities needs of the school must be met, including replacing the preschool bungalows and making St. Joseph’s Hall ADA-compliant and accessible (absolutely critical if CDS is to live its mission of diversity and inclusion).

I am energized and excited to partner with you to take on these challenges. Working together, we will meet these challenges and continue to grow CDS as an educational leader and a joyous learning community.

Thank you for your faith in me. My family and I are excited to join this extraordinary community. We hope to visit later this school year, and look forward to getting to know you all soon.

Warm regards,
Shelly Luke Wille