Lee Thomsen, the new head of school, has been working since July 1. He formerly was principal of the upper school at Rowland Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah. We checked in with him after the first two weeks of school.
Q: What did you do between the end of working for Rowland Hall and starting at SCDS?
A: I stopped working on June 20, and then I was in the process of moving. My family and I drove from Salt Lake City.
We stopped at the Bonneville Salt Flats (the site where most land speed records are set) on the way, and that was the high of the trip. We arrived in the last week of June, and then I was busy moving into the house before work started.
Q: How’s the transition been?
A: It’s been great. It’s an incredibly exciting change. I was at Rowland Hall for 12 years, so to come in and learn about this new community and take on a new role was energizing. Every single thing is new to me.
Q: How was it getting used to SCDS?
A: The first two weeks were exhausting because it takes a ton of energy to be present in every single moment that’s brand new. I’d go home at the end of the day and be completely wiped out. But after two to three weeks, I felt back in shape again.
Q: Have many people come by to visit you?
A: Actually, I’ve been doing something called “entry interviews.” When I got here, my goal was to meet with every single employee and trustee at the school for about an hour. That’s about 110 people.
I started the moment I got here, and I’m probably about two-thirds of the way done.
Q: How are those interviews?
A: I have a series of questions that I ask each person. Everyone I’ve seen is very pleased to sit and talk for the hour.
It’s given me a chance to know each person individually and personally better than if I had waited until the start of the school year.
The process also allows me to get a snapshot of where the school is today and shows me what the strengths are and where we need to improve.
Q: Have you visited any classes?
A: I’ve visited a class in every division. I went to Latin II, ninth-grade history and a middle-school science class. I went and saw the kindergarten working on patterns. I’ve always been a high-school administrator or teacher, so I really enjoy seeing the classes from other divisions.
Q: Did you enjoy any in particular?
A: I really enjoyed visiting Maura Perotti in the first grade. It was fascinating to watch her manage a dozen or so squirrely kids.
Q: Have you had any big projects since you started working here?
A: It’s too soon to start something big. I’m still in the listening-and-formulating stage. I plan to report back to everyone I’ve interviewed and ask, “Here’s what I’m hearing. Does this sound correct?” I’ll let that help guide the future of the school.
Q: What do you like about Country Day?
A: I love the energy that happens on the first day of school when kids come back from two months of not being students. I love the dedication and sense of shared purpose in the faculty and staff. I also love that this school is in a place with such great weather so the students don’t spend the entire day inside buildings.
I came from a school that was renovated from a public school that had two floors with one long hallway on each floor. In between classes, students there would go out into the hallways. Here you go outdoors. It’s a different environment, and I love it.
Q: Anything to add?
A: I’m thrilled to be here. The job and the people have only exceeded my expectations of how great it would be.