Ellis School searches for new leadership

A. Randol “Randie” Benedict resigned as head of school at The Ellis School in Shadyside last week.
A. Randol “Randie” Benedict resigned as head of school at The Ellis School in Shadyside last week.
| Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

The board of The Ellis School, a private all-girls school in Shadyside, is moving quickly to replace its leader who resigned just a few weeks after classes started, a spokeswoman said.

“The board is finalizing their strategy for recruitment now. A search is planned,” Kitty Julian said on Monday.

She said the board is working on a job description. In August, the board adopted a plan for the school that aims to redefine education for young women in a global society, enhances health and athletics, and develops confidence and competence in girls.

A. Randol “Randie” Benedict resigned as head of school Sept. 17. She did not respond to phone calls, but Julian said there was no “wrongdoing” involved in her departure, and that she is pursuing other opportunities.

“In fact, there is great respect for Randie Benedict and the work she did for the school,” Julian said.

The board named Robin Newham, who had been director of Ellis' Upper School since 1998, to replace Benedict on an interim basis. She joined the faculty in 1981 as an art history teacher.

Julian said the timing of Benedict's departure should not complicate the search for a replacement.

“Typically, interim folks remain in place until the start of the next school year,” she said.

Benedict became head of school in July 2009, after 19 years as director of admission and financial aid at Garrison Forest School, an all-girls school in Owings Mills, Md.

Her four-year tenure at Ellis is well below the average for the head of a girls school, according to the National Association of Independent Schools. In 2009, the latest year for which data are available, the average tenure was 12.6 years, said association spokeswoman Nancy Raley.

A statement from the Ellis Parents Association welcomed Newham's ascension to the top post.

“Robin brings to her new role a wealth of experience and a deep love of Ellis,” the group said.

Lauren Laschon became interim director of the Upper School. She had been the Upper School's dean of students.

The Ellis School, which opened in 1916, has enrollment of about 410 students in pre-K through 12th grade. Annual tuition ranges from $9,000 to more than $26,000 depending on the grade level, but about 35 percent of students receive financial aid.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

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