We Focus on Middle School

Hyla Middle School

Head of School Search

Introducing our new Head of School

February 15, 2017

Dear Hyla Parents,

It is my great pleasure to announce that the Hyla Board of Trustees has unanimously selected Suzanne Messinger to be Hyla’s next Head of School, starting on July 1, 2017.

This decision concludes an intense and rigorous process, which gave careful consideration to an impressive pool of candidates. The search committee, made up of parents, alumni parents, board members, teachers, and consultant Meade Thayer (former Executive Director of NWAIS), benefitted from the input provided by parents, students, faculty, and staff who met the finalist candidates. Thank you all for your thoughtful feedback after the finalist visits.

Suzanne comes to Hyla with a rich and vibrant background in school leadership, community building, and teaching. Suzanne is currently the Assistant Head of School at the Jewish Day School of Metropolitan Seattle (JDS), a position she has held since 2013. Prior to that, she served as their Director of Elementary Education, Curriculum Coordinator, and upper elementary teacher. In recognition of her accomplishments at JDS in visioning, strategic planning and teacher professional development, NWAIS identified Suzanne as an emerging school leader, and they selected her for their elite Pathways to Leadership Program. This 2-year program for women supports their professional development in school governance, finance and leadership. Suzanne is one of three participants to be appointed as a Head of School this year.

As an educator and administrator, Suzanne celebrates inquiry-based learning, and prioritizes what she calls the “action phase of the inquiry cycle” by encouraging children to use the knowledge they acquire to make positive changes in their school community, environment, local community and the world. Her approach and values are an exciting fit with Hyla’s mission, philosophy and future. As we head into Hyla’s 25th year, the board feels strongly that Suzanne’s inclusive, collaborative and motivating leadership style will have a positive and lasting impact on the school. Feedback about Suzanne from students, parents, and faculty alike emphasized that she “gets Hyla” – that intangible but powerful spirit at the heart of our school. We are confident that Suzanne’s leadership will honor the Hyla spirit, support it, and help it grow into the future.

In the coming weeks, the board will appoint a transition team to ensure the smooth transfer of leadership. There will be opportunities for parents to meet with Suzanne before July, and we will share those dates with you when the schedule has been finalized.

As we welcome Suzanne to the Hyla community, I would like to thank the people who have helped us reach this new and exciting phase in the history of the school. First, I’d like to thank the search committee for their considerable investment of time throughout this entire process. Many weekends and late nights were devoted to finding a new Head of School, and we are grateful for their diligence and thoughtfulness. I would also like to thank Paul for his care and leadership this year. Having Paul’s historical perspective at the helm as we position the school for the future has been a special and meaningful connection for which we are all grateful. We will have the opportunity to honor Paul and send him into official retirement, and we will share details with the Hyla community as we finalize plans.

Already part of the Bainbridge community, Suzanne is eager to join the Hyla community, and we are thrilled to welcome her. 
Thank you,

Brenda Hall
Hyla Board President


Timeline and Process to Date


May 2016: The Board of Trustees announces that former Head of School Vicki Jenkins will not return for the 2016-2017 school year. Click here to read the Board’s letter. including Vicki’s message to the community. .
July 2016: Paul Carroll stepped in as Interim Head of School. Click here to read the Board announcement about Paul, and his letter to the community.
September 2016: The Search Committee is formed. See below for the full member list and bios.
October 2016: The Board of Trustees formally begins the search process. You can access the full Head of School job description here: Head of School Job Description.
November – December 2016: The search committee reviews applications.
January/February 2017: Finalists visit the school.
February 2017: The Hyla Board appoints Suzanne Messinger as the new Head of School.
July 1, 2017: Official start date for the new Head of School.


Search Committee Members


Brenda Hall: Brenda is a senior consultant at Mosier McCann. She is starting her second year on the Hyla board, and is currently the board chair. Previously, she served on the board and was the board chair of Montessori Country School as it went through a major transition and brought on a new head of school. She is the parent of an alum, a sophomore now, and has a child currently in our 8th grade.

Meghan Skotheim: Meghan was formerly on the Hyla board and is currently the head of Montessori Country School, a pre-K to 6th grade school on the island. She is a Hyla alum parent three times over, with her youngest close to finishing college.

Kris Rogers: Kris is starting her 13th year as Hyla’s school counselor, and currently also serves in that role with The Island School on Bainbridge. She has two daughters who have graduated from Hyla; the younger is in college and the other is serving on the Hyla board as our first alumni trustee. Kris served on the search committee for The Island School that found the current head of school.

Kris Van Gieson: In June of 2016, Kris retired from teaching the Human Relations curriculum at Hyla, after 21 years at the school. He has had two children come through the school, both now out of college. He was a member of Hyla’s first head of school search committee, and has served on Hyla board committees.

Laura Jones: Laura started teaching art at Hyla in January of 1994, in the first year of Hyla’s existence, and she will retire after the current school year. She was the faculty representative on the board for 2 years, and has one daughter who graduated from Hyla in 2003.

Drew Wolff: Drew is an executive at Starbucks, and has served on other boards, both national and local. He has two children who have attended Hyla, one a sophomore, and the other a current 8th grader.

Shaunna Duffy: Shaunna has served on the Voyager Montessori Elementary School board and is currently a member of the Hyla board. She is an executive in HR with Avalara and has had one child graduate recently from Hyla, and the other is in 7th grade at the school.

Jess Talavera: Jess serves on the Hyla Board of Trustees and is currently on the Personnel Committee. She has also served on the Board Development Committee and was our Annual Fund lead for a year. Professionally, Jess has worked as an attorney and a health care tax consultant for Arthur Andersen LLP. She has a daughter in 6th grade at Hyla, a son in 8th grade, and also a Hyla alumnus at Bainbridge High School. 

Paul Carroll: Paul has had a long career as a teacher at The Bush School and Hyla, and was the founding head of Hyla, serving in that position for 14 years. He served on a head search committee at Bush, and has served on numerous boards since moving to Bainbridge. He has had three children who have attended Hyla.

Meade Thayer: Meade is the former executive director of the Northwest Association of Independent Schools (NWAIS). During his tenure, he helped many schools prepare for head searches by reinforcing commonly accepted best practices and sharing recent search trends. Since his retirement, Meade has been serving as a governance, admission, and financial aid consultant, and is consulting with Hyla on our head search.