Chicago administrator will be next U-High principal


Midway Staff

Martin Woods, who served as an administrator for Wolcott College Prep in Chicago will be U-High’s next principal.

Clare McRoberts, Assistant Editor

Update May 1: This story has been updated to add reactions from students and members of the principal search committee.

Martin L. Woods, who has served on the leadership team at Wolcott College Prep in Chicago since 2018, has been selected as U-High’s next principal. 

Director of Schools Tori Jueds sent an email to the Lab community on April 21, following a national search to replace Principal Paul Beekmeyer, who is departing this summer. 

Mr. Woods, who is director of student life, dean of students and director of diversity and belonging at Wolcott, was picked from a large pool of candidates and was among four finalists who visited U-High. 

In Ms. Jueds’s announcement email, Mr. Woods said, “I look forward to getting to know the members of this community as we join together to honor our past and look to the future of U-High.”

Before working at Wolcott, Mr. Woods, who was born in Chicago and comes from a family of educators, worked as a classroom teacher at Noble Charter School Network. Earlier, he served as an assistant executive director and performing arts director at St. Margaret of Scotland School. He has studied music at Morehouse College and Roosevelt University, and is also an opera singer. 

During interviews before his selection, Mr. Woods said that a goal of his is to truly connect with the student body and the communities within it.

“What I would love to do is first connect with the groups that you have already established. I think that’s a great way to kind of get to know you,” he said. “So whether it be your affinity groups, your sports teams, Student Council, etc., I will love to spend some time with you all to hear your thoughts.”

Ms. Jueds, a leader of the principal search committee, said Mr. Woods seemed to connect strongly with all members of the Lab community. 

“Out of a large, diverse and talented pool of candidates, Martin drew admiration from our community and wholehearted support from our Search Committee for his warmth, embrace of Lab’s mission and values, and success in furthering impactful academics, supporting students and building bridges.”

Mr. Beekmeyer, who is leaving U-High after four years to be the Upper School Head at Saint Andrew’s School in Boca Raton, Florida, said in an email that he views Mr. Woods as a good fit for the next principal.

“I am delighted to hear that Mr. Woods accepted the job of High School Principal,” Mr. Beekmeyer said. “He brings experiences and qualities that make him an excellent fit for our school, especially his ability to connect with students. I look forward to working together as we transition.”

As Mr. Woods moves into his new role, one of the challenges he may contend with is the tension that has emerged in recent months between the administration and students over accounts of an unwelcoming and discriminatory school environment, sophomore and Asian Students’ Association member Karis Lee pointed out.  

“I hope to see Mr. Woods really connect with the affinity groups that were not satisfied with the way the administration treated them,” Karis said. “Considering the things BSA and JSA talked about in their assemblies, I really want to see Mr. Woods take that into account and do his best to ensure each student feels comfortable.”

Camille Baughn-Cunningham, a U-High counselor who was a member of the search committee, echoed Karis’ hope for a stronger bond between the administration and students.

“I think what we look forward to is having a community where there’s a greater connection between the faculty and the students,” Dr. Baughn-Cunningham said, “as well as the administrators, and specifically, the principal and the students.”

Dr. Baughn-Cunningham also said that something the committee had to consider in making their decision was the high staff turnover in the past couple of years. She said that she believes Mr. Woods will be able to take on this challenge.

“One of the things we knew, both as faculty as well as students, is that there’s been a lot of turnover,” Dr. Baughn-Cunningham said, “and that’s hard on a community. So we were looking for someone who really wanted to be a principal, and could see themselves in that role for a good stretch of time.