Steamboat Springs The Lowell Whiteman School is under new leadership following the sudden retirement of Head of School Chris Taylor.
The school's Board of Trustees announced the leadership shuffle late last week.
“Our core programs of which we are so proud and which benefit our students every day ... have been enriched during his tenure,” the board wrote in a letter to friends of the school. “The school thanks Chris for helping us to advance the mission of the Lowell Whiteman School.”
Meg Morse, the private school's academic dean, will serve as the school’s interim leader.
Taylor started at Lowell Whiteman in the summer of 2010 and his contract with the school wasn't set to expire until June 2014. According to the board, Taylor was planning to retire at the end of his contract next year, and a search for his replacement already was under way.
A consultant from a national search firm was at the campus for three days last month interviewing students and staff to gauge what they want to see in Taylor's successor.
“It seemed to be a good time to make the change,” board Chairman Nicholas Rose said Monday morning about Taylor's sudden departure. “It was perhaps a mutual decision.”
Messages left for Taylor on his cell phone weren't returned Monday.
Board members reached Monday wouldn't comment on who initiated Taylor's early retirement, which came as students and staff at the campus were off on a spring break that lasts until April 8.
Rose said Taylor’s departure was due to a variety of reasons.
“Chris did a great job for the school,” Rose said. “When he was hired, there were some changes in the organization and the structure of the school that needed to be put in place and he did a good job making them. He was a little controversial, but he got in there and did a fantastic job.”
Making a mark
During his tenure at the rustic campus north of Steamboat Springs, Taylor made a mark and tried to reverse the school's trend of declining enrollment that started four years before his arrival.
The school had 106 students during the 2006-07 school year. Today, it has 55.
Last school year, Taylor spearheaded a recruiting effort in China that successfully brought multiple students from the Asian nation to learn here in Steamboat.
“The world is getting smaller and smaller,” Taylor told the Steamboat Today at the time. “I think it’s going to be really exciting to have Chinese kids here and for our students around here to learn more about China.”
Also under Taylor's leadership, the school hired a new dedicated director of admissions and brought on a specialist to work with students with identified learning disabilities.
Rose said Taylor also changed the structure of the school's residential program, increased the safety at the campus and made other staffing changes.
“Some of the changes weren't initially well received, but once the changes were understood, people got used to them,” Rose said. “Everything he did was necessary.”
Taylor, an avid skier, biker and hiker, came to Whiteman after serving as the interim head of school at the Indepenent School in Wichita, Kan. Before that, he spent 10 years at the Alexander Dawson School in Lafayette, near Boulder.
“I have been in private school education for more than 30 years,” he told the Steamboat Today after he was hired at Whiteman. “I don’t think I’ve seen a more interesting program (than Whiteman's). It has a very strong academic program and has set up a schedule for a highly competitive program for kids to ski and snowboard. It has an extensive foreign travel and service program.
“You put all those together, and you’ve got a very exciting program and a very exciting community.”
Whiteman board members said Monday they were excited to have Morse serve as the school's leader through June of next year.
The interim head of school has been with the campus for 14 years and has taught English and Algebra II classes. She also has served as the school's college counselor.
“We're excited by Meg taking over, and we believe it will be an excellent move,” board member Sandy Horner said.
Reached Monday, Morse said her promotion came as a surprise, and she looks forward to taking the reins.
“For me, there's always opportunities in transition,” Morse said. “It's time to look at all the great things we do and improve them. It's nice to be in a leadership role to help facilitate the process.”
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com