New director brings accessible, receptive reputation

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Nicky Edwards-Levin

Kavi Gandhi, student body president at Westtown School in Pennsylvania, recalls Lab’s new director Victoria Jueds striving to know students and hear other perspectives.

Progressive, down-to-earth and welcoming are words used by students at the Westtown School to describe their head of school, Victoria “Tori” Jueds, who will take over as the director of the Laboratory Schools Aug. 16.

Ms. Jueds will finish the year at her current job at Westtown School, a pre-K to Grade 12 college preparatory day and boarding school in West Chester, Pennsylvania, where she has served since 2017. 

Ms. Jueds is very accessible to students and receptive to what they have to say, said Kavi Gandhi, a senior and the student body president at Westtown, where students address teachers and administrators by their first names.

“What’s really cool is her office is right in the middle of our main building, so we’ll often see her pop out and just stand,” Kavi said. “We call the middle of our building ‘central,’ and she’ll normally just stand there and talk to students. So it’s nice to have those interactions. We’re all in love with her dog, she brings her to the office, pretty much every day. So, if we’re not seeing Tori around we’re seeing Phoebe, who’s her dog. We’ll sometimes just go into her office to pet the dog and say hi, which is normally pretty fun.” 

A student to her is not just a face that she’ll see in the hallway. I think she really strives to know who that student is, so in a lot of my interactions with her — I run cross country — she’ll say, ‘Oh hey how’s the cross country season going.’ Or, ‘How is this class that you’re taking.”

— Kavi Gandhi

Ms. Jueds also makes an effort to be present for students at their performances, athletic competitions and other school events, according to Kavi. 

“A student to her is not just a face that she’ll see in the hallway. I think she really strives to know who that student is,” Kavi said, “so in a lot of my interactions with her — I run cross country — she’ll say, ‘Oh hey how’s the cross country season going.’ Or, ‘How is this class that you’re taking.’”

Ms. Jueds also listens to the student body and takes action to address the issues they have, according to Kavi.

“I think she’s been really good at recognizing that her perspective might be incomplete and really striving to hear that other side of ‘Let’s learn where this person is coming from’ in whatever incident or issue they’ve experienced,” Kavi said.

 In his experience, Ms. Jueds thinks about the big picture when issues arise among individual students, and looks to see if it is indicative of a larger problem at the school.

Ms. Jueds graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1991 and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree at Harvard College, graduating magna cum laude. She is a 2001 graduate of Harvard Law School. Ms. Jueds worked as a law clerk and on civil liberties cases from 2001 to 2006, before teaching at George Washington University Law School. From 2007-2017 she was assistant, associate and then the senior associate dean of undergraduate students at Princeton University.

According to Interim Director David Magill, what distinguished Ms. Jueds as a candidate were her experiences in education and in diversity, equity and inclusion work in the legal field. Mr. Magill also described how as head of school at Westtown Ms. Jueds led the transition to distance learning and return to in-person learning.

“She’s already dealt with some of those issues at her own school — the going remote and in person and also having a boarding school associated with it all, so she’s experienced,” Mr. Magill said.

As part of the hiring process, Ms. Jueds met with community leaders in interviews conducted with the final two candidates. All-School President Omar Siddiqui participated in the interviews. According to Omar, student leaders were impressed by Ms. Jueds’ experience in DEI work and commitment to transparency.

“She seemed like to really, really care what the students had to say,” Omar said, “and she kind of had a clear vision of where she wanted Lab to be and where she wanted Lab to go.”

Kavi said Ms. Jueds’ first year at Westtown during the 2017-18 school year was mainly spent observing and trying to understand the community before making decisions about the direction of the school. According to Kavi, since Ms. Jueds has been head of school, Westtown has hired diversity coordinators and expanded DEI programs in lower, middle and high schools. 

“I think she really tries to resemble that in all of her work that she’s not just an administrative figurehead,” Kavi said. “She is the person who’s running a school for students and to cultivate a next generation of thinkers and leaders.”