Head of School Search

The Next Eugene McDermott Head of School

More than 100 years ago, Miss Ela Hockaday opened the doors to her school and set out a mission to provide the highest quality education for girls. Today, The Hockaday School is the largest independent girls school in the nation and its graduates continue to live up to the high bar she set so many years ago.

Looking to our future, the Board of Trustees searched for the next inspirational leader, someone to guide the School toward new heights.

The Board selected a Search Committee, and that group led the process along with the nationally recognized school search firm RG175.

The Hockaday Board of Trustees named Dr. Laura Leathers as the Eugene McDermott Head of School, effective January 1, 2023.   

List of 3 frequently asked questions.

  • The Search Committee

    Led by Chair Mandy Ginsberg ’88, the Search Committee comprises some of the most talented and accomplished members of the Hockaday community. These volunteers including alumnae, current and past Trustees, parents, faculty, business, and community leaders, are united by their passion for Hockaday and their support of its mission.
    Mandy Ginsberg ‘88, Search Committee Chair and Former Trustee, Parent ’16
    Mandy served on the Hockaday Board of Trustees from 2014 to 2019. After graduating from Hockaday in 1988, she received her BA in English from U.C. Berkeley followed by an MBA from The Wharton School of Business. Mandy has served as CEO of Match Group, one of the fastest-growing publicly traded technology companies in the world. Spanning 20 offices, she oversaw more than 3,000 employees and managed brands including Match.com, Tinder, OKCupid and Hinge. In addition, Mandy held the CEO role at both The Princeton Review and Tutor.com. She currently serves as a board member for Thredup (TDUP) and Uber Technologies, Inc. Mandy and her husband have two daughters including Talia ’16, currently at Texas A&M School of Medicine, and Maya ’27.

    Nancy Bernardino ’97, Trustee
    Nancy joined the Hockaday Board of Trustees in 2021 and serves on the Education and Student Life Committee and Finance and Administration Committee. A 1997 graduate of Hockaday, she is the founder of Solar Preparatory School for Girls and is now Executive Director for Single Gender and Transformation Schools in Dallas ISD. Nancy holds a Master of Education degree from Texas A&M-Commerce as well as the following degrees from Southern Methodist University: Doctorate in Education Leadership, Master of Liberal Arts, Advanced Graduate Studies in Dispute Resolution, Bachelor of Arts in Spanish, and a Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs and Corporate Communications.

    Shonn Brown, Trustee
    Shonn joined the Hockaday Board in 2018 and serves as Chair-Elect of the Board and Chair of the Education and Student Life Committee. A highly respected trial lawyer and bar and civic leader, Shonn is Vice President & Deputy General Counsel for Kimberly-Clark, overseeing the personal care customer product giant’s global litigation docket. Shonn received a BS from Southern Methodist University and her JD from SMU School of Law and received the law school’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2016. She has served on the Board of Trustees of the Dallas Museum of Art and The Lamplighter School, and on the Board of Directors of the Dallas Women’s Foundation, Dallas Black Dance Theater, Big Thought, and the Dallas Bar Association. Shonn’s family includes her daughters Ryan ’24 and Lily ’26. 
    Kathy Crow, Former Trustee, Parent ’21 
    Kathy is a well-known civic volunteer in Dallas and leads the Family Council of Crow Holdings, a privately owned real estate investment management and development firm. Kathy has a distinct focus on supporting education, serving on the Board of Trustees at Southern Methodist University, the Executive Advisory Boards of SMU’s Cox School of Business and Simmons School of Education, and on the Board of Advisors of the Kenan-Flagler School of Business at the University of North Carolina. She sits on the President’s Advisory Board at Princeton University, UT Southwestern Medical Center, and the James Madison Program of American Ideals at Princeton University, among others. Kathy served as a Trustee for Hockaday for 10 years and recently completed service as Chair of the Board of the St. Mark’s School of Texas. Kathy earned her MBA from Southern Methodist University and her BA at Princeton University. 
    Andrew Hill, Trustee, Parent ’22 
    Andrew joined the Hockaday Board of Trustees in 2020 and serves as Treasurer of the Board and Chair of the Finance and Administration Committee. Andrew is a Partner and Portfolio Manager for Ranger Investments, specializing in U.S. small and micro-cap equities. He earned a BA in Economics, Phi Beta Kappa, from Vanderbilt University. In addition to his Hockaday service, Andrew is a Director and was previously President and Treasurer of the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center Foundation. Andrew and his wife have one daughter who attended Hockaday, Libby ’22. 
    Jun II Kwun, Trustee, Parent ’22, ’29
    Jun Il and his family moved to Dallas in 2011 after two decades in Asia. He is the Founder and Managing Director of Actium Group, an investment firm with holdings in life science and technology companies. He previously served as Managing Director and Senior Advisor at the Carlyle Group and as Executive Director at Goldman, Sachs & Co., based in Hong Kong, New York, and Seoul, and has served as a director of more than 25 corporate and nonprofit boards in Asia and the United States. In Dallas, he serves as Trustee and Treasurer of the Dallas Museum of Art and a Member of the President's Advisory Board of UT Southwestern Medical Center. Jun Il is a graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy and holds an AB from Harvard College, an MA from Johns Hopkins, and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business. His family includes Minje ’22 and Mina Lydia ’29.  
    Janie Strauss McGarr ’72, Life Trustee and former Board Chair, Parent ’00, ’03  
    A graduate of Hockaday in 1972, Janie has been extensively involved in many facets of leadership with the School for the past three decades, working to assure that future generations of students will continue to have a robust Hockaday experience. She served on the Board of Trustees from 1990 to 2000 and as Chair of the Board from 1996 to 1998. In addition to her extensive involvement with Hockaday, she has been active in numerous civic and volunteer organizations, serving as Board Chair for KERA North Texas Public Broadcasting, Planned Parenthood of North Texas, Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center, Girls Adventure Trails, and Dallas County Juvenile Board Advisory Committee. Janie received her BA from The University of Texas at Austin and earned her JD from The University of Texas School of Law. Janie’s family includes her daughters Elizabeth ’00 and Kathryn ’03. 
    Jacquelin Sewell Atkinson, ’99, Former Trustee 
    Jacquelin is a Partner at Sewell Automotive Companies and is President of Operations with responsibilities for all aspects of operations, including the operations of 18 dealerships. Jacquelin is a member of the Dallas Chapter of the Young Presidents’ Organization, serving as an Executive Board member and a member of the Membership Committee. In addition to her previous service on the Hockaday Board, Jacquelin previously served on the Board of Directors for the AT&T Center for the Performing Arts in Dallas and is a former Chairman of the President’s Advisory Council. Jacquelin received her BS in Social Sciences from New York University and earned a Master's degree in Management from SMU’s Cox School of Business. 
    Nicole Ginsburg Small ’91, Chair of the Board, Parent ’24, ’27
    Nicole joined The Hockaday School Board of Trustees in 2017 and currently serves as Chair of the Board. She is the Chief Executive Officer of LH Holdings, Inc. and president of the Lyda Hill Foundation, related entities, which use their resources to fund game-changing advances in science and nature, empower non-profits, and to improve the local communities of greatest importance to the organization's founder, Miss Lyda Hill. Nicole is well-known for her leadership and passion for STEM education, previously serving as CEO of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science from 2002-2014, where she directed all aspects of day-to-day operations and the development of the new downtown facility that has garnered international attention. Nicole holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. She has worked at McKinsey & Co., Goldman Sachs, and multiple technology and venture capital firms. She and her husband have two daughters, Julia ’24, and Sadie ’27.
    Michelle Neuhoff Thomas ’83, Former Trustee and Board Chair, Parent ’11, ’16
    Michelle has been involved at Hockaday for more than four decades. A 1983 graduate, she served on the Board of Trustees from 1995 to 2011, with positions that included Board Chair, Vice Chair, Chair of the Executive Committee, Treasurer and Chair of the Finance Committee, and Chair of the Enrollment Management and Financial Aid Committee. She served as Chair of the Building Committee, overseeing the construction of the Nasher-Haemisegger Family Center for the Arts. Michelle has also served as President of The Hockaday Alumnae Association and currently serves on the Board of Trustees of The Lamplighter School. Michelle’s family includes Connor ’11 and Electra ’16 as well as three other children. Her other Hockaday connections include her mother Judy ‘60, Aunt Jane ‘57, Great-Aunt Dorothy ’28, and many other extended family members. Currently a consultant for Ruhter & Reynolds, Michelle received a BA from Duke University and an MBA from the University of Dallas.
    Sabrina Kessee, Trustee, Lower School Music Teacher
    Sabrina is a Lower School Music teacher who has taught at Hockaday since 2002. She has served on the Load and Compensation Committee, acted as faculty representative on the 2010 Head Search Committee, helped create and implement the Hockaday Lower School Character Education Program, The Hock-A-Way, and started the Hockaday Orff Ensemble in the Upper School. A native of Dallas, she attended the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts with a concentration in vocal performance. After high school, she attended Fisk University and the University of North Texas to major in performance and music education. She earned a Master of Science in Counseling from Southern Methodist University in 2014. In addition to teaching, she has had the opportunity to perform with artists from Shania Twain to Christiania Aguilera, on stages as various as The House of Blues and Carnegie Hall, and in televised events such as Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Country Music Awards.
    Darin Jeans, Middle School History Coordinator
    Darin is a Sixth Grade History Teacher who has taught Middle School history at Hockaday for 20 years. He plans and implements the Williamsburg Trip each year and is the current Middle School History Curriculum Coordinator.  He also ran the Middle School Student Council for 11 years and has served on the Admission Committee. Darin received the Ackerman Award for Character Education in 2014 and was named a Distinguished Teacher in 2022. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Social Science from the University of Southern California. Darin is married and has two children.
    Brandi Finazzo, Upper School Science Teacher, Parent ’31
    Brandi has been teaching Upper School Science courses since 2006. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Texas A&M University and before coming to Hockaday, worked as a Nurse Manager for a prestigious Neurologist team at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas. Brandi previously served as US Form III Dean and on the US Faculty Advisory Committee. Over the years, she has helped redesign the curriculum for AP Biology and Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy. In 2019, she partnered with Laura Day, the Director of The Hockaday Institute for Social Impact, to design an innovative biology class centered on building empathy, problem-solving, and social impact. In addition, she helps coordinate and chaperone the Marine Biological Laboratory experiential learning trip to Woods Hole, Massachusetts for Upper School students. Brandi received the Ellen Higginbotham Rogers Award for Faculty Excellence in 2019 and was named a Lyda Hill ’60 Distinguished Teacher in 2022. Brandi and her husband have two daughters named Ava ’31 and Tessa.
  • Our Search Partner

    Recognized as a leading Search Firm for independent schools across the U.S., Resource Group 175, or RG175 as it is known, has been retained in the search for the next Eugene McDermott Head of School. The RG175 team is led by Rebecca T. Upham, whose impressive career as a leader in independent schools includes nearly a decade as head of a PK-12 girls school. Most recently, Ms. Upham was part of the RG175 team that successfully led a search for the new Head of School at Greenwich Academy in Connecticut.

    RG175 consists of 18 highly successful, long-serving former heads of school and senior administrators. The firm’s success rate is noteworthy. Ninety-six percent of heads placed in the past five years remain at their respective schools. In addition, nearly 50 percent of the firm’s placements have been women and 20 percent have been people of color.

    RG175 has a longstanding commitment to and expertise in girls schools. One of the two founding partners, Edes Gilbert, was a long-serving head of the Spence School in New York City.
    Learn more about RG175 here.
  • FAQs

    What is the role of the Head of School Search Committee?
    The committee has five key goals:
    • Define and oversee the search process, including vetting and selecting a search firm
    • Gather and consider input from key constituent groups
    • Interview and evaluate candidates
    • Make a recommendation to the Board for the next Eugene McDermott Head of School
    • Plan for the transition and successful onboarding of the newly selected Head
    Who are the committee members?
    The Committee Chair is Mandy Ginsberg ’88, Parent ‘16, ‘27. Membership includes Trustees, current and past; Alumnae; and faculty representatives from each division. You can read more about the other members above.

    If we have a committee, why is there also a search firm?
    Finding the right Head of School is a specialized process, one that involves firsthand knowledge of the position and access and insight into the appropriate talent pool from across the nation. It also requires an understanding of the unique requirements of running an independent school for girls, and the particular needs of our School. The firm we have chosen to help us, RG175, has a long history of working with independent schools, knowing the candidates, and determining the proper fit for each institution. RG175 has an excellent record, with 96 percent of their head of school placements remaining in their positions for at least five years.
    What is the role of the Board of Trustees?
    The Board formed the Search Committee and as with any such process, the Board of Trustees’ role is to evaluate the information it receives and then make a decision about the individual who should lead The Hockaday School. Ultimately, that decision and the responsibility for it rest with the Board.
    What is the scope of the search?
    Given Hockaday’s reputation and history as the largest and one of the most well-respected independent girls schools in the nation, our search for a new Eugene McDermott Head of School is broad in scope. The committee will look far and wide, and here at home, to find the right individual to lead our School in the years ahead.  
    How can I help during the search process?
    You can join others in our Hockaday community – parents, alumnae, faculty, donors – and take part in a comprehensive survey that the committee will distribute.
    Beyond that, you’re doing one of the most important things right now by reading this page and the others associated with it. Please bookmark this page to stay informed about the progress of our search.
    How will the Search Committee keep the community up to date?
    We will use this website as a communications tool and will supplement it with direct communication to our important Hockaday audiences.
    Who is the current Head of School?
    Our interim Eugene McDermott Head of School is Dr. Laura Leathers, who previously served as Hockaday’s Assistant Head of School for Academic Affairs. You can read more about Dr. Leathers, her background, and her history at Hockaday here.
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