The Ross School community was rocked as the academic year resumed this week by news that three of its top administrators will be leaving. A Dec. 16 missive from Courtney Sale Ross, the private school’s founder, to parents and faculty bid adieu to Michele Claeys, the head of school, announcing that she will leave at the end of the school year.
Only two weeks later, two further resignations — that of Bill O’Hearn, the Middle School director, and his wife, Andi O’Hearn, director of college counseling and enrollment management, were revealed. The school, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, has campuses in East Hampton and Bridgehampton.
“It is with great appreciation and complete understanding that the Ross Institute board of trustees accepts the resignation of Michele Claeys,” the letter from Ms. Ross read. “We were recently informed of her resignation and we support Michele’s decision to step down from this important leadership role in order to pursue other opportunities, including those here at Ross Institute.”
Ms. Claeys has been with the Ross School for 16 years in many capacities, and became head of school four years ago. The school’s institute is devoted to the concept of global education and to spreading the school’s model to public schools.
On New Year’s Day, a letter was e-mailed to Ross parents, faculty, and staff from Ms. Claeys, thanking Bill and Andi O’Hearn “for their many years of service and longstanding commitment to Ross School.” The couple had been offered, the e-mail said, “the opportunity of a lifetime to work in China.” Their resignations will also be effective at the end of the school year.
“While Ross School has blossomed as an educational institution, I, too, have grown and developed as an educator and school leader in my 16 years here, and I am ready for a new challenge,” Ms. Claeys said when reached yesterday.
“While I am considering numerous opportunities, I am very committed to the East End and Ross and am delighted that Ross Institute has asked me to stay on in a new role, the details of which are being worked out. It is a vibrant institution doing critically important educational work at Ross School and across the globe.”
In their own letter to the Ross School community, the O’Hearns wrote, “We have been offered an opportunity to work together as senior administrators in Beijing, China, at the Beijing City International School.”
“If not for our time at Ross, we do not believe that we would have been able to appreciate this endeavor to the extent that we do. It is because of our collective education at Ross that we approach this move with an appreciation of the importance a cultural understanding of China will be to [our daughter] Reilly as she enters the future work force.”
“We see this as an opportunity that does not come often in life; however, we will leave Ross with heavy hearts as we both genuinely believe in the curriculum, the faculty, and in Courtney Ross.”
The school held a parents association meeting yesterday with Lower School parents and faculty to discuss the search for a new head. Another meeting is scheduled for this morning for the Middle School, along with a schoolwide meeting on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. Jennifer Chidsey, the Manhattan-based chief operating officer of the Ross Institute, will attend today’s meeting.