Head of School Transition

Head of School Search

On September 20, 2021 Seattle Waldorf School Head of School Raquel Scharf-Anderson and the Board of Trustees announced Ms. Scharf-Anderson’s departure at the end of June 2022. You may read the community announcement here.

Board Appoints Vanessa Kohlhaas as Next Head of Seattle Waldorf School

Dear Friends,

It is with great enthusiasm that I announce that the Board of Trustees has unanimously appointed Vanessa Kohlhaas as the next Head of School at Seattle Waldorf School.

VANESSA KOHLHAAS

Many within our school community know Vanessa. She joined SWS in 2019 as the Early Childhood Director, and her thoughtful, wise leadership has been a great gift to our school community. Over the past two years, Vanessa has worked closely with our current Head of School Raquel Scharf-Anderson, and with other members of the senior leadership team. As the Board considered a number of external candidates during the Head of School search process, we recognized that the best candidate for the next Head of Seattle Waldorf School is already here.

We are thrilled that Vanessa decided to apply and has agreed to serve the school in this capacity, and we are looking forward to partnering with her to strengthen and enhance SWS.

Prior to becoming a member of the SWS community, Vanessa spent many years as an Early Childhood teacher at Whidbey Island Waldorf School. She served as the Professional Development Committee Chair, establishing both a nursery program and a family connections program. Vanessa has been very involved in the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America (WECAN) organization, representing the northwest region from 2010–2018 and she served on the planning committee for the 2021 national conference, themed Toward a Kinder, More Compassionate Society: Black Lives Matter in Waldorf Early Childhood Classrooms and Communities.

Vanessa received her undergraduate degree in Music from the University of Texas, Austin and a Masters of Education from Antioch University. Since 2021, she has been a participant in the Northwest Association of Independent Schools (NWAIS) Pathways to Leadership Program, a selective leadership training program. Vanessa holds numerous certifications: through the State of Washington her certifications include Early Childhood Teacher, Elementary Teacher, Special Education and Early Childhood Special Education Teacher, and she holds a Waldorf Early Childhood Teacher certification.

Vanessa has successfully led a number of important initiatives during her three years as a Director at Seattle Waldorf School. She initiated a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Work Group for the early childhood faculty and guided a long-range vision process with the early childhood faculty and a Board Work Group. Her innovative vision was key to the design and implementation of the SWS remote early childhood program during the pandemic. Her collaborative work on the Pedagogical Leadership Council, which considers curricular decisions for preschool through grade 12, as well as her work with the senior leadership team and on Board committees, has given Vanessa great insight into all areas of Seattle Waldorf School.

While leadership transitions bring change, and Raquel’s strong leadership will be missed, we are very confident in Vanessa’s abilities. We feel so fortunate to know that our next Head of School knows and loves our school community, understands Waldorf education deeply, and will bring great passion and commitment to serving all of us at SWS as our next Head. We hope you will join the Board in our enthusiasm and congratulate and thank Vanessa as she prepares to serve as the next SWS Head of School.

Eva Elliott
Chair, SWS Board of Trustees

Search Consultant

One of the most important roles of the Board of Trustees is the hiring and support of the Head of School. The Board has engaged Jane Armstrong of Independent Thinking (IT), who has partnered with independent schools on leadership searches since 2000 and has worked with many schools throughout the country.

Independent Thinking logo

Search Committee

With the guidance of our search consultant, the Board has formed a Search Committee to work on behalf of the entire SWS community. The Committee will interview and vet candidates and ultimately make a hiring recommendation to the Board of Trustees. Members of the Committee include:

  • Brigitte Bertschi, Board Member and Co-chair
  • Curt Eckman, Former Board President and Co-chair
  • Tanja Omeze, Board Member and Co-chair
  • Eva Elliott, Board President
  • Brett Calhoun, Board Member
  • Clara Lippert, High School Pedagogical Carrying Group Member and Faculty Co-chair
  • Robert Murphy, Grade School Pedagogical Carrying Group Member and Faculty Co-chair
  • Gina Burger, Early Childhood Faculty Member

We are grateful to these individuals for the great service they will be performing.

Opportunity Statement

Created by our search partner with input from families, faculty, staff, and students, the Opportunity Statement opens the SWS Head of School search to candidates and provides details about the school and the position.

Community Involvement

The search for the next SWS Head of School is an inclusive process that will take into account our community’s hopes and dreams for the school while identifying and preserving all that is special. Initiatives include:

  • Community-wide survey. A confidential survey was shared with the SWS community with the goal to collect feedback from all stakeholders. Responses will be collectd by Independent Thinking.
  • Stakeholder meetings. Jane Armstrong is onsite October 18–19 to visit campuses and meet with stakesholders. Jane and her team are conducting in-person and virtual meetings with students, faculty, staff, Community Association leadership, and administrators. If you have questions or comments for Jane Armstrong, please reach out via email.
  • Dedicated email address. Community members can provide feedback and ask questions by sending email to headsearch@seattlewaldorf.org.
  • Dedicated webpage. This webpage is regularly updated with pertinent information.

Past Communication

Announcement with letters from Raquel Scharf-Anderson and SWS Board of Trustees President, Eva Elliott

Search Consultant and Search Committee announcement

Announcement of Opportunity Statement and Position Statement

Board appointment of next Head of School and acceptance letter

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