In preparation for the previously-announced changes in administrative structure on the Goshen Campus for the 2020-21 school year, we conducted an extensive and international search for our new Middle School Director. Four incredible finalists visited the School in February, each of whom met with the Middle School faculty, the Leadership Team, and student leaders from the Student Council, BSA, QSA, and Culture Club. We are thrilled to announce that after reviewing the copious feedback provided by all who met with the candidates, we have selected Zak Cohen as our new Middle School Director. Because Zak cannot wait to get started, he will be visiting Louisville from his current home in Johannesburg, South Africa, while on his school’s spring break. He will be available for an informal meet and greet coffee with parents on Tuesday, March 10th from 8:15 – 9:00 a.m. in the Main Amp. Here’s a quick video from Zak introducing himself to the School community. To recap the new Goshen Campus administrative structure: Shelly Jones, our current Middle School Dean of Students, will be our new Associate Head for Teaching and Learning and overseeing the JK-8 curriculum, teaching, and faculty, as well as serving as the overall leader of the Goshen Campus JK-8. Zak will serve as Middle School Director and Jen Griffith will continue in her role as Lower School Director, as will Renee Hennessy in hers as Preschool Director. Reed Gabhart, our current Goshen Campus Head, will remain a beloved member of the faculty. Reed will direct the Middle School Drama Project, teach math, and provide administrative support in areas he enjoys while remaining a source of valuable institutional knowledge to the School given his 30 years of service, which we look forward to celebrating later this year.
One of the reasons Zak stood out from the group of finalists was his clear commitment to and understanding of Progressive education and his belief, from the very beginning, that St. Francis was the perfect fit for him. Zak is a product himself of a very similar school to St. Francis: St. Ann’s School in Brooklyn, NY. It is also a Progressive school with roots in an Episcopal Church but now non-denominational. This experience led him to believe that Progressive education is the best way to educate children. Zak then went on to Hamilton College where he earned a B.A. in government, played varsity baseball all four years, and spent a semester abroad in Morocco. He also holds an M.A. in education from Lesley University, and he is currently working on his doctorate in education from Drexel University. After college, Zak lived in Xiangtan, China for two years, where he co-founded a company that tutored Chinese nationals who wanted to go to school in the U.S. He then returned to the U.S. to get his M.A., and taught middle school social studies and English at the Pingry School in New Jersey (our own July Riendeau and Michelle Salerno’s alma mater!), a large (1,100-students) K-12 Independent school. From there, he spent the last five years in Johannesburg, South Africa at the American International School of Johannesburg, where he taught middle school social studies and served on the middle school leadership team. In addition, Zak has coached both basketball and baseball throughout his career (and he also has experience playing soccer), and he is looking forward to continuing to coach at St. Francis. Zak possesses tremendous energy and enthusiasm for working with middle school students and their families, and we can’t wait for you to meet him!