November 16, 2018

Dear Lab School Community,

Nearly a decade ago I stepped onto the campus of The Lab School of Washington to begin an exhilarating chapter in my life as your head of school. I was fully aware that I was committing myself to the school’s philosophy that was the brilliant conception of its founder Sally Smith. And I recognized that, of equal importance, the school needed to be responsive to a new century of thinking. I came to Lab believing that, with some adaptation, Sally’s philosophy would well serve children of this century and Lab School would continue to be a forerunner in educational practices. Having worked with students with learning differences for more than 20 years, I knew that I would be at home with and inspired by the students of Lab. I was eager to take on this exciting challenge. 

What I did not project was how energizing and rewarding this work would become as I came to know and collaborate with all of you. I soon discovered that the school is endowed with many, many deeply invested adults across the community — board members, administrators, faculty, clinicians, staff, parents, alumni families, friends and donors — an invaluable asset for a new leader. 

For ten years, my days have been filled with a sense of privilege, urgency, and joy. Lab’s mission is compelling — who wouldn’t be committed to giving the lifeline of learning to read, write, or solve mathematical equations to a child and, in turn, building the self-esteem that transforms a life? Even in the midst of the tests of leadership, I have never lost my love of the work to be done. 

For all these reasons, it has been difficult to imagine the time when I would no longer be making my short, daily commute down Reservoir Road to The Lab School of Washington; however, after much reflection, I shared with Bill Tennis, Chair of the Board, that I would be resigning as head of school as of June 30, 2020. I am communicating this decision now to allow the school sufficient time to search for new leadership.

Happily, with a year and a half of lead time, I will have many months ahead to work with faculty and staff to implement the initiatives related to literacy; diversity, equity, and inclusion; the arts; the facilities master plan, with special attention to the theater and Foxhall lease; financial aid; student progress reporting; enrollment management; and technology. These ongoing initiatives are already benefitting individual students and the community at large. Capitalizing on our momentum, I plan to lead the community to the finish line of having thoughtfully designed programs, tools, and facilities that lay the groundwork for a future of innovation and growth.

Sally Smith gave us a philosophical foundation that has served our students well for 50 years; we can expect the school to remain well-grounded during this time of change in leadership. The school is richly endowed with a faculty and staff devoted to the mission. Our current and prospective students will continue to receive an excellent education from the most talented and passionate teachers and related service clinicians, and I will continue to work with both alacrity and dedication to answer the needs of every child. Furthermore, I will join with the Board of Trustees to ensure that you and The Lab School community experience a seamless transition to new leadership. 

I am deeply indebted to the students who attend Lab. They have taught me that the key to a valuable education is the art of creating a sense of the possible for young minds, and that this is best accomplished at a school that is mission driven, as nimble as our fast-paced world demands, and staffed with the matchless expertise you find at The Lab School of Washington. In the months ahead, I will close my chapter at Lab with a heightened appreciation for my great fortune to have been the leader of such a progressive, imaginative and caring community with students who will for evermore be held in my fondest regard and highest esteem.

With gratitude,
Katherine Signature Firstname
Katherine Schantz
Head of School
November 16, 2018

Dear Lab School Community,

I write you today to share the news that Katherine Schantz has informed the Board of Trustees that she would like the 2019-2020 academic year to be her last as the Head of The Lab School of Washington. Katherine and I had a number of conversations over the quiet days of summer where she contemplated what her life after The Lab School could look like and when it might begin. I listened as Katherine thoughtfully described a desire to embrace a new and different set of challenges after more than a decade of leading The Lab School forward. Characteristically, Katherine has graciously arranged to provide us with the maximum possible runway to plan for her departure and the school’s future. I am happy for Katherine as she prepares for invigorating change but, of course, I am sorry that we will be parting ways with a gifted leader and a great friend. 

Katherine’s list of accomplishments is as long as it is varied. She brought a distinct philosophy and pedagogical view with her to The Lab School and forged an academic program for our students that is evidence-based and rooted in 21st century thinking. She celebrated the arts for their contributions to developing our students’ abilities and curiosity. She recruited and retained a faculty and staff that is truly second to none. She shored up our finances so that we are able to deliver excellence within the constraints of our fiscal reality. She raised financial aid grants from just under $50,000 to $1 million annually. She led a highly successful capital campaign, raising more than $12 million dollars for numerous improvements to our physical space. She designed, built and opened a new high school, transforming the learning experience for students and faculty alike; spearheaded the development of a new 270-seat theater slated to open in 2019; and led the separation of Baltimore Lab from The Lab School, empowering Baltimore to become a thriving institution in its own right. Under Katherine’s leadership, The Lab School overhauled its admissions process, enhancing the way we connect with prospective and newly enrolled families. Our communications and involvement with current Lab parents have also grown tremendously. And the list goes on.

But Katherine’s greatest and most lasting accomplishment was also the most difficult to achieve. With a style that is uniquely her own, Katherine has successfully led The Lab School for more than a decade, following in the footsteps of its charismatic founder and only previous head, Sally L. Smith. While Sally left us with a great foundation, Katherine showed us what could be built upon it. In so doing, Katherine created a bridge between the school’s past and its future, assuring its vitality and viability for generations to come. We have benefited greatly from Katherine’s leadership and educational vision over the last decade and, fortunately, we will continue to do so until her departure at the end of our 2019-2020 academic year. 

So now we must plan for our future without her leadership. The Board of Trustees has formed a preliminary search committee consisting of current and former Board members, which will expand to include faculty and parent representatives as the search progresses. And, after interviewing a number of search firms, we have engaged Judy Schechtman from Triangle Associates, who has advised The Lab School in the past. Triangle demonstrated a keen understanding of our needs and culture and has a positive history with heads of schools for students with learning disabilities.

I will be sharing more detailed information about our search process, including key milestones, in the coming weeks. In the meantime, The Lab School will continue to educate our students in its extraordinary ways.

Bill Tennis' signature
William J. Tennis
Chair, Board of Trustees of The Lab School of Washington