Head of School Search

Mr. Christopher Durst, The Altamont School's new Head of School.

October 13, 2017
Dear Altamont Family,
On behalf of the Search Committee and the entire Board of Trustees, I am pleased to announce Mr. Christopher Durst as Altamont’s new Head of School. Chris will become the fifth Head of School since Altamont was formed in 1975 through the merger of Birmingham University School and Brooke Hill School. He will begin his duties on July 1, 2018.

We are excited about welcoming Chris to the Altamont family. Chris holds a deep appreciation for and commitment to independent school education, evidenced by his length and breadth of experience in independent schools. During our selection process, his respect and appreciation for Altamont’s Mission, as well as for our traditions and values, were evident. The Board is convinced that his vision for Altamont will honor our traditions and culture and keep us on the forefront of modern education. These attributes are just a few of the reasons we believe him to be the best fit for Altamont.

Chris writes, “I am humbled and honored to serve the Altamont community as its next Head of School. During the interview process I learned about the school’s rich legacy of excellence and became inspired by the extraordinary commitment to the school through its distinguished faculty, supportive families, and talented students. The school has rightly earned its place as a preeminent independent school in the southeastern United States, and I eagerly look forward to getting to know the Altamont community as the school moves into its next iteration of excellence.”

As many of you know, Chris was selected from a large and robust pool of applicants during a ten-month, national search headed by Carney Sandoe & Associates, a national search firm specializing in Head of School searches for independent schools. He will succeed current Head of School Sarah Whiteside, who is retiring after 40 years of service at Altamont, 11 as Head of School. For additional information, please see this press release.

Many thanks to everyone who participated in the search process. Your feedback and support played a critical role.

Best regards,
Mike Denniston
President, Board of Trustees

Updated September 7, 2017
Dear Altamont Families and Friends:
Your Search Committee and our search consultants, Marguerite Lloyd and Tom Redmon of Carney Sandoe & Associates, have been hard at work over the summer on the Head of School search.We are approaching the end of the search process and want to update you on our progress and ask you to keep several upcoming dates in mind.

As we expected, Marguerite and Tom received an excellent response to our call for candidates. Marguerite and Tom undertook a thorough review of over 70 applications (having received many more initial expressions of interest).The Committee has selected finalists that we will invite to Altamont for on-campus interviews.We are in the process of informing finalists and deciding which dates will work for which finalist for a visit by the finalist and his or her spouse.

We are committed to engagement of our community in the process, and we want to rely on you as we approach this final stage.When a finalist visits, he or she will have a full schedule of two days of meetings.The candidate will meet with students, Sarah, deans, academic department heads, administrative department heads, faculty, staff, and the Board of Trustees.We also have set aside time the evening of the first day of each finalist visit for you to meet with each candidate.Those meetings will be held on campus in the Cabaniss-Kaul Center for the Fine Arts, and will be at the following times:
September 14 – 6:00 p.m. – 6:45 p.m.
September 18 – 6:00 p.m. – 6:45 p.m.

All current parents, parents of past students, alumni, and friends are invited to these sessions.

Thank you for your continued trust and support.

Michael S. Denniston
For the Search Committee

Updated April 27, 2017
Dear Altamont Families and Friends:

Our search for the next Head of School has reached an important milestone!

First, the Search Committee would like to thank all of you that engaged with our search consultants, Marguerite Lloyd and Tom Redmon of Carney Sandoe & Associates. Many of you – students, parents, alumni, friends, faculty, staff, and trustees – attended meetings with Marguerite and Tom during their site visit on March 21 and 22. Even more of you participated in the online survey they helped the Search Committee prepare. In all, over 350 individuals responded to the online survey. Between those meetings and the robust survey results, Marguerite and Tom came away from Altamont knowing what we all know: The Altamont community is vibrant, engaged, and committed to finding a Head of School that will build upon Altamont’s legacy.

In the weeks following their visit, Marguerite and Tom worked with your Search Committee to process the information gleaned in their visit and from the online survey. That effort resulted in the preparation of a position description that we and they will make available to candidates for the Head of School position. The position description provides an overview not only of Altamont, but also of what Birmingham has to offer. The interviews Marguerite and Tom conducted and the survey results provided invaluable information about our community’s view of the myriad strengths Altamont has and the challenges we face, as well as the qualities and qualifications you indicated we should seek in our next Head of School. That position description is now available on the Carney Sandoe website, and also is available at our website. In addition, Carney Sandoe has widely distributed the position description, and already is receiving good responses to their efforts.

So, what’s next? As the academic year concludes at Altamont and other schools, Marguerite and Tom will do the heavy lifting for the next several months. Between now and the end of the summer, they expect to receive dozens, if not hundreds, of inquiries about our Head of School opportunity. Many of those inquiries will result in a candidate submitting materials to Marguerite and Tom expressing interest in the opportunity. Your Search Committee has received several direct inquiries, and we expect to receive more. We are passing those contacts along to Marguerite and Tom. By the end of the summer and beginning of the 2017-18 academic year, Marguerite and Tom will present a fairly large group of the most qualified candidates to the Search Committee for our review.

Again, the Search Committee thanks all of you for your interest and support. If you have any questions or suggestions for candidates, then please contact me or another member of the Search Committee. We will pass all candidate information along to Marguerite and Tom.

Michael S. Denniston
For the Search Committee

March 14, 2017
Next week, our search consultants from Carney Sandoe & Associates, Marguerite Lloyd and Tom Redmon, will visit Altamont for an intensive two-day site visit. In preparation for that visit, we are providing a variety of materials to them about Altamont in response to a data request they submitted to us. Those two days will be packed with meetings between Marguerite and Tom and the many stakeholders in our community. In those meetings, they will be learning more about our school and will be exploring the qualities, attributes, and strengths we seek in the Head of School that will lead us in our next phase. The information we provide to them, and the feedback they receive in their meetings will guide them as they assist the search committee in preparing the position description we will use to recruit candidates for our next Head of School

Marguerite and Tom have a full schedule that includes meetings with students, faculty, staff, and your Board of Trustees. We also have scheduled three important meetings I want to highlight:

Tuesday, March 21
5:30 p.m. to 6:10 p.m. – Meeting with Altamont Alumni Association Board
Cabaniss-Kaul Center for the Fine Arts
All alumni are welcome to attend this meeting.

Wednesday, March 22
8:50 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. – Meeting with Parents
Cabaniss-Kaul Center for the Fine Arts
All current parents and past parents are welcome to attend this meeting. We have scheduled the meeting at this time so parents can stay after morning drop off.
11:20 a.m. to noon – Meeting with Parents, Alumni, Friends
Cabaniss-Kaul Center for the Fine Arts
This meeting is open to all with an interest in meeting with Marguerite and Tom.

We understand that everyone who wants to attend a meeting may not be able to attend. But, we want your input. In addition to the meetings on March 21 and 22, we will be conducting an online survey. The survey will open on March 21, and will remain open at least until the end of that week. Details will follow in the communication about the opening of the online survey.

If you have any questions about the process, or input you would like to provide beyond what is covered in a meeting or the survey, or if you have any candidate referrals, please get in touch with a search committee member. We will pass any candidate referrals along to Marguerite and Tom, who will be screening all candidates for eventual submission to the search committee.

Michael S. Denniston

March 2, 2017
The Altamont Head of School Search Committee has retained the services of Boston-based firm Carney Sandoe & Associates to aid the school with the Head of School search process. Carney Sandoe consultants Margeurite Lloyd and Tom Redmon, who have advised a number of schools in the South and Southeast in their Head of School searches, will assist and guide us. Learn more about Carney Sandoe, Marguerite, and Tom by visiting their website at carneysandoe.com.

In the next few weeks, Marguerite and Tom will visit Altamont for two days of meetings. Details will follow in another report posted

to this page in the upcoming weeks. Those meetings will include many members of our community, including students, parents, faculty, staff, and friends. As soon as we have settled on the schedule, we will provide an update by email and by posting to this page.

Please continue to check for updates in the search process and announcements of scheduled retirement gatherings in Mrs. Whiteside’s honor.