Students seek balance in next principal


Kenneth Peters

Only four students attended the principal search open session where they said they wanted a principal who can balance the high achieving and stressful aspects of Lab.

Clare McRoberts, Assistant Editor

Correction: Jack Colyer’s name was misspelled in a previous version of this article. Edit made April 12 at 10:20 am.

As the search for a replacement for Principal Paul Beekmeyer continues, students say they are looking for a student-focused principal who can balance the high achievement and stressful aspects of U-High and be a supportive figure at school.

Over the past few weeks, the search committee of faculty and administrators has held Zoom meetings with U-High faculty, all Lab employees and parents of students. The committee held an in-person listening session for U-High students on March 7 during open time, which was attended by just four students, according to some who were present. 

Mr. Beekmeyer has announced plans to depart at the end of this school year, and officials have said they hope to announce a replacement by the first or second week of April.

Director of Schools Tori Jueds, search committee co-chair, said she noticed common themes when it came to what students are seeking from the next principal.

“They’re looking for somebody who’s attuned to the balance of your lives,” Ms. Jueds said, adding that students had made it clear that they are hoping for leadership from someone who both appreciates the academic rigor of the U-High experience and who is attuned to other concerns. 

She said that she heard from students “the fact that this is such an achievement-oriented student body, on the one hand, and we like lots of that, but we want to balance that against excessive stress and considerations of mental and emotional wellness.”

Jack Colyer, a sophomore who attended the student session, said he wants the next principal to be student-focused and to address mental health issues for students head on.

Ms. Jueds said students also seemed to be seeking another principal who was deeply connected to the school community as she said Mr. Beekmeyer has been. 

“They feel known and seen by him,” she said, “and they liked that and they’re looking for that in our next principal.” 

Ms. Jueds said that the next principal’s understanding of young peoples’ lives online also seemed to be important to students.

“They would want somebody who understands what your experience in your generation is like,” she said, “in terms of technology and the way technology shows up for you in the learning environment and in your social environment.”

Carla Ellis, associate director of schools and co-chair of the search committee, noted that much has changed in the four years since Mr. Beekmeyer arrived in 2019. 

“The school is in a different place right now,” she said. 

Dr. Ellis said she hopes the principal search will lead to “someone who can move the work that we’re doing in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion forward.” 

On March 28, the search committee met to consider candidates presented as part of the consulting firm’s work so far. 

“What they’ve told us,” Ms. Jueds said, “is that a lot of people want to work at Lab, and a lot of people want this job who have really strong backgrounds and really great personal characteristics. I think that that’s something that the school should feel proud and encouraged by.”