May 20, 2024

Dear MPA Community,

The Board of Trustees at Morgan Park Academy has launched a search for the next Head of School. Over the coming months, the search will engage members of our community — including students, families, alumni, staff, and teachers — to help guide this critically important work.

MPA is a beloved institution with more than 150 years of history. As such, the search for our new leader will be marked by careful deliberation and thoughtfulness at every step, with the aim of selecting the next Head of School by the fall of 2024 for a term that will begin July 1, 2025.

Carney, Sandoe & Associates, a nationally-known consulting group that specializes in finding senior leaders for independent schools, has been retained to guide the process and ensure we identify candidates with the skills and experience necessary to lead MPA’s diverse community, uphold our values, and continue to deliver on our promise of educational excellence.

Carney Sandoe consultants have already begun their work, and a Search Committee made up of members of the MPA community has been formed. Together, this team feels confident that our search will attract an excellent pool of candidates, both internal and external.

Our 17th Head of School, Mercedes Z. Sheppard, will continue to lead our school until her retirement on June 30, 2025.

Giving parents and caregivers, faculty and staff, alumni, and students the opportunity to share their input is a vital part of the search process. The first opportunity for this was earlier this month when the consultants visited our campus to meet the MPA community and conduct a community-wide online survey.

More information will be added to this page as the search process unfolds. You also can send questions or concerns via email to Charlie Britton, Jenny Fry, and Kim Peeples at Carney Sandoe.


Sen. Elgie R. Sims Jr. P’23, ’27
Chair, Head of School Search Committee
Vice President, Morgan Park Academy Board of Trustees


The search process will consist of three primary phases.

In the first phase, the Carney Sandoe consultants get to know the school through conversations with the Search Committee, the Board of Trustees, the administration and faculty, parents, and students; a community survey; and reviewing data and documents provided by the school. This enables the consultants to develop a leadership profile for the next Head of Morgan Park Academy. Simultaneously, the consultants publicize the leadership opportunity and begin their outreach to prospective candidates.

The second phase takes place almost exclusively behind the scenes and is highly confidential, as the Carney Sandoe consultants recruit and do the initial vetting of candidates through interviews and reference checks. While any qualified candidate will be considered up until the completion of the search, interested candidates will be asked to contact Carney Sandoe and be appropriately vetted.

In the final phase, the Search Committee will conduct preliminary confidential interviews, select the finalists, and coordinate the finalists’ visits to the school. The work of the Search Committee will conclude when it presents its nomination of the candidate of choice to the Board of Trustees.

The Search Committee, appointed by the Board of Trustees to aid in the search, is comprised of faculty, trustees, parents, and alumni. This group brings a deep understanding of Morgan Park Academy and represents a broad range of perspectives and voices. The members of the Search Committee are:

  • Sen. Elgie R. Sims Jr. — Trustee and Parent (Chair of the Committee)
  • Andi Durbin-Odom — Trustee and Alumni Parent
  • Heather Cleveland — Middle School Teacher and Alumni Parent
  • Tina Isom — Incoming Trustee and Parent
  • Dr. Carlos Smith, DPM — Retired Trustee and Parent
  • Dr. Lawrence White, DDS ’81 — Incoming Trustee, Parent, and Alumnus
  • Dr. Heng Zhao, PhD — Middle & Upper School Teacher

The final phase will conclude in Fall 2024. Each search has its own unique pace and timing, however, and the time frame may shift, if necessary.

(Click the timeline image below to see a larger version.)


The Board of Trustees is committed to making the search an inclusive process and will provide opportunities for community input at various times throughout the search. The first opportunities occurred May 6-7, 2024, when the search consultants from Carney Sandoe visited campus to learn more about MPA’s strengths, the opportunities facing the school over the next several years, and the traits, skills, and experience desired in the next Head of School. Members of the faculty and staff, parents, and students participated in these sessions. In addition, members of the school community including alumni were invited to share their thoughts about the school and the search through a confidential online survey administered by Carney Sandoe consultants.

Finally, when the search nears its conclusion, members of the school community will have an opportunity to meet the finalist candidates and provide feedback to the Search Committee as to their impressions of each.

Morgan Park Academy is committed to an open and transparent search with frequent communication as needed. Watch for more information in the Independent Thinker, Alumni News, and other emails to the community as the search progresses. All past communication will be logged at the bottom of this page for the community to see.


The Search Committee will take the lead in the search process and is charged with recommending a candidate to the Academy’s Board of Trustees, which bears the ultimate responsibility for appointing the Head of School.

The Board of Trustees conducted broad research on national search firms. They reviewed proposals and conducted initial and follow-up interviews. Following reference checks, the Board of Trustees selected Carney, Sandoe & Associates.

Carney Sandoe is a nationally-known search consulting firm which specializes in finding heads and senior leaders for independent schools. Consultants who have many years of experience as independent school leaders will lead the search. Collectively, they have assisted numerous schools with head and senior administrator searches.

They will provide guidance to the Search Committee on format, logistics, procedures, and best practices in the search process. In addition, they will interview candidates, check references, and support the Search Committee throughout the interview process. Carney Sandoe will also provide transition support to the new Head of School after that person has been hired and throughout the new Head’s first year.

The search for MPA’s new Head of School is broad in scope. Candidates from throughout the United States will be considered, and nominations are welcome. The consultants also devote considerable effort to recruiting candidates who might not be actively seeking a new position. Many candidates will not want it known at their current institutions that they are considering a change, and for this reason we must maintain strict confidentiality about individual candidates right up until the finalist stage of the process.

All candidates, both internal and external, who are interested in the opportunity to be the next Head of MPA are encouraged to apply. In addition, the confidentiality of internal candidates is as important as that of candidates from outside the school.

To every extent possible, the Search Committee will attempt to create a level playing field, ensuring that the eventual nominee is assessed in the context of the entire field of candidates.

Candidates will be assessed in light of the skills and characteristics identified by the community and described in a leadership profile. Those skills and characteristics will be drawn from the survey responses and listening sessions conducted by the Carney Sandoe consultants. With the assistance of the consultants, the Search Committee will go through a series of steps to acquaint themselves with the pool of candidates before narrowing that group down to a group of semi-finalists who will be confidentially interviewed, and then to a smaller group of finalists (likely three or four).

The Head of School is the only employee who is hired by and reports directly to the Board of Trustees, and, as a result, choosing a new Head of School is one of the Board’s most important responsibilities. The Board of Trustees researched and approved the retention of the search consultants, Carney, Sandoe & Associates. The Board decided on the membership of the Search Committee and has charged the Search Committee with conducting a comprehensive search for a new Head of School. The Board of Trustees will refer all inquiries related to the search to the Co-Chairs of the Search Committee and Carney Sandoe. As the process draws to completion, the Board will review the recommendations of the Search Committee, formally resolve to pursue a candidate, bear responsibility for negotiating any terms of employment, and ultimately appoint the new Head of School.

The next Head of School will start on July 1, 2025. The Head-Elect may be moving across the country for this exciting new opportunity. Thus, it is customary for the Head-Elect to be chosen with enough time to relocate or get other affairs in order to begin work July 1. We anticipate that there will be opportunities during the 2024-25 school year when the Head-Elect will be on campus and have a chance to learn more about the school, but it is a high probability that the selected individual will have ongoing professional responsibilities elsewhere.

Prior Communications

Morgan Park Academy is committed to an open and transparent search with frequent communication as needed. Watch for more information in the Independent Thinker, Alumni News, and other emails to the community as the search progresses. Past communications will be logged here for the community to see.

February 23, 2024 — Letters to the Community from Mrs. Sheppard and the Board Chair

April 25, 2024 — Update from the Board Chair

April 30, 2024 — Schedule for Consultant Visit