Head of School Search
Mount St. Dominic Academy is an all-girls, independent, Dominican, Catholic, college preparatory school serving 220 students. Sister Frances Sullivan, O.P. ’60, who has served as head of school for the past 23 years, recently announced her retirement. The timing requires that an interim head be in place for the coming academic year to assist the board and the school in focusing on specific areas and laying the foundation for a smooth transition for a permanent head. Working collaboratively within the school community, the interim head will provide enthusiastic, mission-
centered leadership to ensure that the school continues to provide an excellent experience for the young women.
For more information regarding this interim opportunity, please see the search prospectus and the details below:
- Mission, Overview, Sponsorship
- Dominican Education
- The School Community
- The Future
- Desired Qualities and Qualifications
- The Search Process
Mount St. Dominic Academy, established by the Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell in 1892, is a Catholic, college preparatory school for young women. We are dedicated to the education of young women from a variety of ethnic, religious and economic backgrounds.
The Mount community is committed to seeking the Truth in all aspects of life. The students are able to realize their individual gifts and talents in an atmosphere that fosters academic excellence, respect for diversity, appreciation for the gifts of creation, moral integrity and a heritage rich in Christ-centered values.
For over 125 years, Mount St. Dominic Academy has been empowering young women. With veritas and caritas at its core, the Mount encourages students to question what they encounter in the world and to be the positive change they wish to see. The Mount calls on students to find their passions and put them into action. The Mount prepares students to be global citizens.
Mount St. Dominic Academy is sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of Caldwell. The Sisters also sponsor St. Dominic Academy, Lacordaire Academy and Caldwell University. The Caldwell Dominicans became an independent congregation in 1881 and began the Mount in 1892. The Sisters are part of a larger order founded by St. Dominic 800 years ago. There are more than 27,000 Dominican religious in over 100 countries around the world. The Dominican Order is a global community of preachers, educators and scholars.
An education at the Mount reflects the Four Pillars of Dominican life. Prayer, study, community and mission are the foundation for a successful and meaningful future. Just as St. Dominic inspired his followers with loyalty to learning and virtue, the Mount endeavors to inspire action on behalf of justice and peace and instill a lifelong passion for learning and truth.
The Mount is committed to the education of young women and seeks to help students reach their full potential, to become leaders who will make a difference in the world. The single-gender environment is a critical component of the school’s success in education, one that allows the young women to focus on their studies, grow into strong leaders and flourish as individuals.
As a community of changemakers, the Mount’s program provides instruction and resources needed to develop essential skills in critical analysis, independent inquiry and effective communication. The curriculum establishes the foundation for a lifetime of seeking truth through knowledge, dialogue and participation. A Mount education ignites a passion for social justice and civic engagement. In addition, through the lens of Catholic Social Teachings, students develop their own spirituality while learning about social justice around the globe, expanding their world vision and investigating how they can effect positive change in society. Courses in social justice and spirituality galvanize students into action and empower them to advocate for peace, justice, and equality. For more information regarding the special programs available to students with specific interests in STEM, leadership, entrepreneurship and social justice, please follow the link here.
Co-curricular activities play an integral part in the life of every Mount student and complement the classroom-based endeavors of the students. These opportunities enrich the students’ academic and spiritual experiences while promoting community and fulfilling the Dominican mission to serve others — both at the Mount and in the world beyond. As an all-girls’ institution, female athletes are always in the spotlight. The school offers numerous opportunities for a range of levels and interests. (athletics) The Mount firmly believes that the arts add texture to the students’ lives and that participation in the arts helps each of the student develop her voice and communicate her unique vision of the world. (arts) Finally, the Mount offers a broad range of clubs and organizations that present the students with opportunities to get involved, take ownership and lead. These include the Siena Community Service program, the Dominican Preachers group, student government and campus ministry to name but a few.
The Mount girls spoke about the special environment that they have around them, the warm, tight community of friends, faculty and staff and families. They value the opportunity for academic and personal growth that is available to them and the strong sense of sisterhood that permeates across the campus. The young women know that faculty fully support them as they focus on self empowerment through academics, athletics and the arts. Faculty and staff at the Mount are strongly committed to girls’ education. There is a sense of community underpinned by the history of the Sisters in developing women who make a difference in the world.
Sr. Frances Sullivan, O.P. ’60, who has served as head of school for the past 23 years recently announced her retirement. The timing requires that an interim head be in place for the coming academic year to assist the board and the school in focusing on specific areas and laying the foundation for a smooth transition for the permanent head. As such, key areas of focus for the interim head of school are as follows:
Dominican Catholic Identity: The Dominican charism is integral to all that is done at the Mount. The school is preparing for the reality that it will most likely not have a Dominican Sister as its next head of school. With this likely transition from religious to lay leadership, the interim head will be entrusted to continue to promote the Dominican Catholic identity and to carry on the mission, tradition and charism of the Dominican Sisters. Specifically, the interim head will ensure that these foundational elements inform and shape all that is done at the Mount.
Institutional Advancement: The interim head will be responsible for enhancing meaningful relationships both internally and externally with all constituents (Sisters, faculty, parents, students, alums, donors, the greater Caldwell community, etc.). She/he will take a leading role in developing a comprehensive advancement program, which includes enrollment management, alumnae relations, fundraising, as well as marketing and outreach to ensure that the school has the necessary resources to fulfill its vision and mission of educating young women and maintain its strong position in the Caldwell community. The interim head will articulate and convey to both the external and internal communities the distinctive value of Mount St. Dominic Academy, its Dominican Catholic identity, the outstanding academic and co-curricular programs and the wonderful community, all of which are the hallmarks of the school.
Finances: The interim head of school will ensure the continued viability of the Mount’s long-term finances by appropriately weighting income and expense, including tuition affordability, faculty and staff compensation, other program revenue and intensive fundraising. The interim head, in collaboration with the board, will work to continue to enhance the resources as well as establish policies, procedures and practices that protect the long-term financial stability of the school and allow the school to deliver on its mission.
Administration/Faculty: Mount St. Dominic Academy benefits from a committed and dedicated professional faculty, staff and administration. The interim head will continue to effectively engage and mobilize this talent to carry out the mission of the school. As a leader, she/he will work closely with the leadership team to facilitate the school’s commitment to academic excellence, ensure the continued growth of teachers and develop strong working teams while delegating appropriately and ensuring accountability. It is critical that the interim head provides for a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities. In collaboration with the dean of academics, the interim head will be attentive to working with faculty ensuring that they not only bring their expertise and desire to fully embrace the Mount but will fully model and live out the core values of the school which are informed by the charism of the Dominican Sisters.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: The Mount is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and there is opportunity to build upon this to ensure that the school’s commitment is fully realized. Mount St. Dominic Academy seeks to further develop a more respectful and inclusive community consisting of many interesting and diverse components, all of which have meaningful, valued voices and a stake in enriching and enlivening the Mount. The interim head must be relentless in maintaining a community culture at the Mount that honors and embraces diversity and inclusivity.
Strategic Vision: With the transition in leadership, there is an opportunity for the interim, in collaboration with the board, to begin a strategic visioning process, one that establishes an educational vision for the Mount and that unifies the school, recognizes the realities of current educational trends, especially in the education of young women, and balances this with what is appropriate in the context of the Mount’s traditions, core values and beliefs. The board and the interim head must establish strategic priorities and ensure that they allow the school to continue to be relevant, that it clearly establishes the key objectives to guide the work of the board and school’s leadership and is consistent with the mission and philosophy of the school.
Caldwell University: The Mount and Caldwell University are both sponsored by the Dominican Sisters and are on a common property. The histories and facilities of the two institutions are very much interconnected and, while there have been efforts over the years to leverage this connection, there is an opportunity to evaluate and determine how the Mount might capitalize on this relationship to potentially enhance its program so that it could provide unique opportunities for the students and would also have an advantage in a competitive school market.
The board and the school community are interested in candidates who can embrace, articulate and promote the Mount’s Dominican Catholic identity as well as its dedication to prayer, study, community and mission. Paramount to success is the candidate’s proven ability to embrace the Dominican core values and her/his ability to maintain and model the school’s Dominican Catholic mission.
The interim head must be a person of faith who is able to build a school’s faith community and is mission-focused, with demonstrated experience in an educational setting. This individual must be student-focused, a visionary with a passion for, and leadership experience in, education, particularly in the education of young women and the willingness to support a culture of learning and high expectations. In addition to being a strategic thinker and skillful manager, the successful candidate is an energizing and inspirational individual who can delegate effectively while ensuring accountability. She/he will have the ability to work closely and comfortably with the board in building a partnership in governance and leadership as well as the desire to be present, visible and engaged with the Mount community. A candidate must have strong communication skills, both written and oral, so that all stakeholders can be appropriately informed of potential needs and issues.
The interim head will have an understanding of organizational dynamics so that appropriate professional structures can be established and maintained to ensure strong collaboration among faculty and staff, mentoring and encouraging them in a direct yet positive way to facilitate their responsibility to providing excellence. The successful candidate will be collaborative and transparent, able to build capacity, be genuinely inviting and respecting the perspectives of others yet be decisive when required. Finally, this individual will have a true love of and appreciation for the school’s culture, its deep history and traditions and for educating young women.
Mount St. Dominic Academy has engaged the national executive search firm, Educational Directions, to assist with the search.
Electronic submission of materials is required. Please send materials in a consolidated pdf format. Reference letters should be submitted separately.
Candidates should submit the following documents.
• Targeted cover letter explaining their interest and qualifications for the interim head of school at Mount St. Dominic Academy
• Brief personal statement that includes the candidate’s vision on leading Mount St. Dominic Academy
• Current resume
• Names, e-mail addresses and telephone numbers of five references
- Interim Head of School Appointed
- Search Firm Named
- Sister Frances Sullivan, OP Retirement Announcement
- Board of Trustees Letter
June 11, 2021
Dear Mount Community:
Based on the recommendation of the Search Committee, unanimous acceptance by the Board of Trustees and approval and appointment of the Prioress and Council of the Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell, we are pleased to announce that James “Jay” MacDonald will serve as Interim Head of School of Mount St. Dominic Academy.
Jay comes to us as a proven leader in Catholic education with considerable depth and experience as both educator and administrator. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English and Theology from Iona College and a master’s degree in Education Administration from Boston College and holds certifications in teaching and administration. Jay served nine years as President and CEO of Catholic Memorial School in Boston and prior to that as Principal and CEO of Tampa Catholic High School in Florida. He also served as an advancement officer for the Christian Brothers and Iona College and has years of teaching experience prior to serving in leadership roles. He has a proven track record of improving academic programs, increasing enrollment and major gifts, and creating enthusiasm and a strong sense of community in every institution he served. Jay is also a man of deep faith who is committed to carrying forward the Dominican pillars and the mission of the Mount. We look forward to Jay inspiring our students, faculty, staff and administration and leading our Mount community forward during this important time. A more comprehensive packet of information regarding Jay's background will be emailed next week.
This news is the culmination of a thoughtful and thorough process that began in the spring when Sister Fran announced her retirement after 23 years as Head of School. We determined that an interim head would be in the Mount’s best interest while we undertake the longer process of searching for a permanent head. We put together an interim search committee comprised of Sisters, Board Trustees, and faculty and retained a search firm. We interviewed numerous candidates from a larger pool and ultimately selected two finalists for consideration by the Mount community. We carefully conducted interviews and personal reference checks and discerned feedback from faculty, administrators, staff and Board Trustees. This process confirmed that Jay MacDonald was the best choice to lead the Mount during this period of transition and we are grateful that he has accepted the invitation to join us as Interim Head of School in July.
We are thankful for everyone’s participation in this process and look forward to warmly welcoming Jay to the Mount this summer. This is truly an exciting time for all of us! We are confident that Jay’s experience, enthusiasm and faith-inspired humility will ensure that the legacy of Mount St. Dominic Academy will continue to grow and thrive for generations to come.
Chair, MSDA Board of Trustees
March 31, 2021
Dear Mount St. Dominic Academy community:
Last month, Sister Fran Sullivan OP ’60 announced her retirement. After more than 23 years, we will miss Sister Fran and she will be a tough act to follow. As soon as we heard from Sister, the Executive Board began in earnest to work on the search for her successor. We have come to learn that the field of Catholic educational leadership has shifted considerably and searches for new leadership have accelerated significantly. Specifically, search calendars are beginning much earlier than they have in the past. Therefore, many schools seeking new permanent leadership for a July 2021 start, and even July 2022, have already begun their searches for new heads of school. In addition to the timing of our search, it is also important to note that following a long serving head, particularly a religious, brings its own unique challenges. In this context, we believe that our first step will be to hire an interim head of school, an experienced leader who can focus on our key strategic priorities and provide an appropriate transition over the next one to two years.
After careful evaluation, we selected Educational Directions of Portsmouth, RI, a nationally known and highly regarded independent school consulting firm, to work with us. The search will be led by Mathew Heersche and Risa Oganesoff Heersche who bring deep experience as educational leaders in Catholic education (including having worked at several Dominican sponsored schools) and as search professionals, their expertise and enthusiasm, to our search.
We also need to engage the Mount community in this process. To that end, Mathew and Risa will conduct an onsite visit with all of the appropriate safety protocols. During their time with us, they will interview members of groups within the school (students, faculty, parents, administrators, alumnae, board members) to learn as much about the Mount as possible and what we seek in our next leader.
Risa and Mathew will begin searching for candidates for the interim position and they will be identifying and evaluating prospects based upon the professional and personal qualities sought in this individual. Mathew and Risa will present a select group of top-level candidates for the search committee’s review. There will be further evaluation and background checks. Our goal is to have several finalists visit the campus and engage with the community. Ultimately, it is from this group that the search committee will select the individual to recommend to the Board of Trustees and the Sisters of St. Dominic Leadership for their review and approval. The committee will be led by ourselves and will include members of the Board executive committee as well as sisters from the leadership council.
We do want to move forward as expeditiously as possible yet provide enough time to do quality work in terms of recruiting and evaluating candidates for the interim head of school. We will continue to provide updates. Thank you for your continued support of the Mount.
The Interim Search Committee
Kelly King, Madeline Cox Arleo - Committee Chairs
Sister Marie Mueller, OP
Sister Donna Marie O’Brien, OP
Sister Patricia Tavis, OP
March 11, 2021
It is with mixed emotions that I announce my retirement as Head of School at Mount St. Dominic Academy effective July 1, 2021. After 4 years as a student, 15 years as a teacher, and 23 years as Head of School, the time has come for me to move on to the next phase of my life. I leave with the knowledge that the Mount is in a very positive position with excellent leadership, a seasoned faculty and staff, and a wonderful community.
My earliest memories as a student at the Mount date back to art class in the Tower Room, locker decorating, and mystery day trips to Crystal Cave, Pennsylvania. While our daily activities have evolved, some themes remain; the nervous anticipation of the first day of freshman year; the excitement each time one of our athletic teams secures another championship; or the confidence and pride that emanates from each graduate as they collectively toss their caps in the air. Words cannot fairly express the joy I have felt watching a timid eighth grader grow from someone who is scared of her new experience to someone who graduates as a talented, confident, empowered young woman.
This has been an incredibly challenging year for us at the Mount. I commend our faculty, staff, and administrators for staying the course when our task seemed daunting. The commitment, patience, and hard work that I’ve witnessed from my colleagues each year, but especially this year, reinforce my confidence that our future holds great hope. I am always appreciative of our past and present parents who have made such a sacrifice by choosing to enroll your daughters; it has been a joy and a privilege to be part of your lives, to know you and to share in our mutual love for the Mount. And to our alumnae, Trustees, donors, and friends, many of whom donate time, energy, and funds on a regular basis, I am grateful for your leadership, commitment, and dedication to our mission.
Finally, our students are our shining stars. This group of young women is strong, resilient, hopeful, and full of positive energy. Despite the obstacles thrown in their path, they have all risen to the challenge and will graduate to become effective leaders. The most difficult part of my decision is knowing I will not be present in the day-to-day experiences of these extraordinary individuals. I have a deep love and respect for the Mount, our mission, our 129-year legacy, and the opportunities we present to those who walk these halls. I will cherish the 42 years of memories, lifelong friendships, and experiences I leave with after this year, and the Mount will always hold a very special place in my heart.
With great respect and affection,
March 11, 2021
Dear Mount Community:
I am writing to share with you that our Head of School, Sister Fran Sullivan, has informed the Board that she intends to retire at the conclusion of the 2020-2021 academic school year. We share our deepest gratitude and appreciation for her 23 years of school leadership and wish her happiness and joy as she explores this new stage of her life.
Under Sister Fran’s leadership, the Mount has undergone many changes, including the building of a new athletic center and the evolution of the Doris M. Byrne Performing Art Center. The Library Media Center has expanded to be a space for digital work, the science labs are fully renovated, and the Fine Arts and Innovation Centers have been designated. The athletic programs expanded sports in each season, and our academic programs have grown to include unique selections such as Robotics and a Capstone Program. Technologic differentiators like The L.E.O. Program have further set us apart from other schools in our area. This year in particular, Sister Fran was committed to creating a hybrid learning environment so our students could benefit as much as possible in a pandemic.
As we move forward, the Board of Trustees is dedicated to finding a new Head of School who will provide the leadership necessary to move us into the future while preserving our culture and values. We are forming a search committee and will be seeking an Interim Head of School while we undertake the full search process. We will also partner with a leading academic search firm to guide us in this endeavor.
We will keep you updated as information becomes available. We look forward to including the perspectives of all constituent groups as we move toward identifying a permanent replacement. I know I speak for the Board when I share my appreciation for Sister Fran’s deep commitment to the Mount, as well as the faculty and staff who continue to educate and support our students.
Interim Head of School Search Committee
Madeline Cox Arleo, Kelly King - Committee Chairs
Sister Marie Mueller, OP
Sister Donna Marie O’Brien, OP
Sister Patricia Tavis, OP