Board of Trustees Selects Dr. Theresa Smith as Head of Schools Starting July 2023
May 17, 2021
Dear Members of the Webb Community,
The Board of Trustees is thrilled to announce our selection of Dr. Theresa Smith to succeed Taylor Stockdale in July 2023 as the seventh Head of Schools for The Webb Schools.
Since joining Webb 10 years ago, Theresa has crafted an exceptional record of leadership, guiding a transformative reimagining of the curriculum, championing equity in hiring, engaging faculty, staff, parents and alumni, and strengthening Webb’s role as a national thought leader in independent school education.
Theresa also shares with Taylor and our Board of Trustees a commitment to Webb’s philosophy of moral courage and unbounded thinking as well as a vision for a future that continues to provide unparalleled opportunities for students to be leaders in our nation and global society.
In making this selection, the Board of Trustees designed and executed a rigorous assessment, including extensive interviews with Theresa, a meticulous review of her record, community surveys and focus group reports, consultations with a Faculty and Staff Advisory Group, 14 reference checks, a survey of representative talent in the marketplace and the advice of experts in independent school executive searches.
In the end, we were unified in our view that Theresa Smith is far and away the best person to deliver on the vision and innovation that Webb will need in our second century of serving students. We believe she is also the best person to build on the legacy of leadership established by Taylor Stockdale and Susan Nelson and our previous Heads of Schools.
Taylor may have put it best when he shared his support for Theresa’s appointment:
“One of the best things I’ve done as Head of Schools is hire Theresa Smith, and it has been a true privilege and pleasure to mentor her as she has grown into an exceptional leader. Her depth of skills, commitment to Webb’s values and focus on creating an engaging, dynamic and relevant student experience will position Webb for even greater success in the future.”
About Theresa Smith
Theresa holds a Bachelor of Arts in history with a minor in Spanish from UC Berkeley, a Master of Arts in history from UC San Diego and a Ph.D. in history from UC San Diego with focuses in early modern European history, modern European history and colonial Latin American history.
She started her career as a visiting assistant professor at Claremont McKenna College before joining Oakwood School in North Hollywood as social studies department chair in 2002. She rose to Director of Winter Immersion Programs before Taylor Stockdale hired her as Director of Academic Affairs in 2011. She became Assistant Head of Schools in 2017 and Associate Head of Schools in 2020.
At the direction and support of Taylor, Theresa led Webb’s movement to replace antiquated Advanced Placement courses with flexible, in-depth Advanced Studies courses and launched an academic program that allows students to map personal paths from among dozens of dynamic courses ranging from exploration of existentialism to the intersection of press and politics, from biotechnology to organic chemistry.
She collaborated with top-tier colleges to ensure the courses not only satisfied admission requirements but stood out as highly desirable academic options. She also ensured our world-class Alf Museum curriculum was recognized by these institutions, including the University of California.
Theresa and her team created academic partnerships and experiential programs to extend student opportunities well beyond the classroom and campus. Webb now offers students the chance to learn from faculty at institutions across the Los Angeles Basin, such as Pomona College, Harvey Mudd College, Western University of Health Science, UC Riverside and the Keck Graduate Institute. She helped reinvent Webb’s summer program as a boarding school experience for middle school students that routinely generates new freshman applications.
She also has championed equity in hiring, creating the most diverse faculty in Webb’s history – a diversity she will contribute to personally when she becomes one of the few women to lead a co-ed secondary boarding school.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Theresa’s leadership enabled Webb to shift quickly to remote instruction while maintaining academic rigor and addressing the significant student social and emotional needs related to the pandemic’s forced isolation.
The effort included collaborating with our Medical Advisory Board and campus team to develop novel instructional models for 2020-21 sensitive to the critical time differences for students across the globe, restructuring programs to ensure full inclusion in academics and campus life no matter where our students resided. She also led the effort to return students safely to campus under hybrid learning conditions in spring 2021.
Theresa has collaborated with Webb’s facilities leaders to promote modernized classrooms and science labs and gender equity in student housing. Her passionate advocacy inspired donors to fund a full remodel of the Appleby dormitory that will, for the first time, create an equivalent number of single and double rooms for boarding boys and girls in fall 2021.
She is also active in the broader independent school community, serving on the Board of Trustees for the highly regarded National Coalition of Girls’ Schools and as a Planning Committee member for the SoCal Diversity Recruiting Fair.
Beyond even these qualifications, Theresa also shares a deep and abiding affection for Webb and our students – whether she’s teaching a class, designing yet another course, baking holiday cookies with students, celebrating at a campus gathering or deep in a quiet chat with a student.
Taylor and Theresa have formed an incomparable team for Webb, providing a depth of leadership that has ensured seamless execution of the goals laid out by our Board of Trustees.
The timing of this appointment – with a two-year transition period – will allow Taylor and Theresa to continue their partnership as Taylor leads us through our Centennial Years and Theresa prepares to assume the executive post. After 2023, Taylor will provide support and actively engage our Webb community in his role as Head Emeritus.
In closing, we would like to thank the Webb community for your guidance and rich perspectives during this process. Just as we are united by our love of Webb, we are all also excited to see our schools thrive as they continue to adapt and innovate in the years to come.
Webb Board of Trustees, Chair
Head of Schools Selection Committee, Co-chair
Dr. Wendin Smith
Webb Board of Trustees, Executive Committee Member
Head of Schools Selection Committee, Co-chair
May 17, 2021
10:27 AM PDT
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