Final director candidates submitted to university, but names not released


Midway staff

The identities of the two final candidates for the director search have been withheld.

Caroline Hohner, Arts Co-Editor

Two final, unnamed candidates for Laboratory Schools Director have been selected and sent to top University of Chicago administrators, according to a Feb. 9 email from the Search Advisory Committee, and some in the Lab community say the lack of transparency relative to previous searches could mean that their interests were represented too little and too late. 

The finalists have been forwarded to President Robert Zimmer and Provost Ka Yee Lee, who will meet with the finalists and bring the process to a close, the email stated. The published timeline estimates that the final candidate will be announced late winter and will be in place to start the next school year.

According to Samuel Nekrosius, a middle school humanities teacher and faculty representative on the committee, the identities of the candidates have been withheld to ease the application process for a broad range of candidates. 

“In order to get that wide range and excellent across the board, you have to be able to promise those candidates discretion because this is a really difficult year to encourage anyone to be thinking about leaving a job that they’re in, that they love and are good at and feel safe at,” Mr. Nekrosius said. 

Yet many teachers are frustrated with the search committee’s added layers of confidentiality, including science department chair Zachary Hund, who was not a member of the committee.

“I cannot tell you who the finalists were. I can’t tell you how many finalists there were. I can’t tell you the name of the top two candidates that were given to the university for who they’re going to pick for the director,” Dr. Hund said. “The fact that I have no idea who the two candidates are to lead our school as a teacher at the school is incredible.”

In previous searches for Lab senior administrators, candidates have come to campus to meet with faculty and student representatives. During the director search, input at the final stage was limited to small videoconference interviews with Student Council leadership, elected heads of the faculty at each school, principals and senior administrators, and parent and alumni group representatives. 

High school faculty chair Joseph Scroll, a math teacher, interviewed the finalists. According to Mr. Scroll, who has worked under three previous directors during his 13 years at Lab, the exclusion of teachers from search processes has been a trend over the past years.

“More and more faculty are being excluded from the process,” Mr. Scroll said. 

According to Mr. Nekrosius, the interviews were held to acquaint the candidates and school leaders after the search process had been narrowed to the finalists. 

“My sense is that the goal was to give the finalists a chance to get to know us by getting to talk to the people that we as a community have chosen as our leaders, and also to give the people that we as a community have chosen as our leaders a chance to see and hear from the two finalists,” Mr. Nekrosius said. 

The directors that have been hired without faculty have not stayed that long.”

— Joe Scroll

Senior Omar Siddiqui, all-school president, took part in interviewing the final candidates, alongside a small group of Student Council leaders. Omar said he was overall satisfied with the search committee’s level of transparency but that community leaders could have been involved earlier in the process.

“I understand that there’s a lot of candidates, and they have to weed out a lot of candidates,” Omar said. “But if we could have been brought in a little bit earlier in the search, it would have been nice.”

According to Dr. Hund, faculty members were not aware of the faculty head interviews until after the fact, and the faculty heads themselves had little advance notice. Consequently, most teachers were unable to have significant input into how faculty interests were represented during the search process. 

“It sounds like the entire time, the faculty were waiting,” Dr. Hund said. “There’s not a single colleague of mine who read that email from the committee last week and went, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s exactly what I was expecting.’ Every colleague I asked about it said, ‘Wait, did I miss something?’”

Mr. Scroll noted a connection between transparency in search processes and the success of previous directors. 

He said, “The directors that have been hired without faculty have not stayed that long.”