Nishimachi Welcomes New Head of School for 2019-2020 School Year

Kacie Leviton

Dear Nishimachi Community,


It is with great pleasure that the Board of Directors announces the appointment of Karen O'Neill as the next Head of School, effective August 1, 2019. Her profile is available below for your review.
 
We would like to thank the faculty, staff, administrators, TNK, Nishimachi Kai, StuCo, current parents and trustees for their interaction with the finalist candidates and valuable feedback from the interviews, parent presentations and coffee mornings.
 
During her visit, Karen was deeply impressed by the warm hospitality shown by the Nishimachi community, and she and her family are thrilled to be moving to Japan. Please see Karen`s note below, which she requested we include with this announcement.
 
Please join us in warmly welcoming Karen and her family into the Nishimachi Community. We look forward to partnering closely with Karen in creating a new future for Nishimachi, where students from all over the world come together "to share, to live and learn together, and yet keep a special identity" and develop into global ambassadors for the future.
 
Sincerely,
 
Philip Greenan
Nishimachi International School
Chairperson, Board of Directors


 
Dear Nishimachi Community members,
 
It is with great joy and excitement that I "rejoin" the Nishimachi family in August of 2019 as your next Head of School. The warmth and collegiality that I experienced when meeting with faculty, staff, students, and parents in early December was incredibly special and I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the members of this amazing community.  My two children and husband are also looking forward to reengaging with our relatives in Japan and I am eager to share my cultural heritage and experiences as a young Nishimachi student with them.
 
Nishimachi with its child-centered focus, emphasis on community, multiculturalism, and dedication to Japanese language instruction is unique within the independent school landscape, and I cannot imagine a better and more perfect place to spend the next several years. I would like to thank the Board, Michael Hosking, and the many staff members who dedicated time to putting together a perfect visit schedule for me. I cannot wait to see everyone again and look forward to our next reunion. In the interim, a heartfelt thank you from me and from my family to everyone in the school.
 
Sincerely yours,
 
Karen O'Neill

 


Profile of Karen O`Neill
 
Karen O'Neill is a school administrator and educator with advanced degrees in independent school leadership from the Klingenstein program at Columbia University and from Bank Street College of Education. While she has been an educator for the past 15 years, she was also an international investment banker for the prior 16 years, living in Tokyo, London and New York, at one time a managing director co-leading a team of 120 worldwide. She began her career at McKinsey & Company in Tokyo after graduating from Stanford University with a degree in East Asian Studies and a concentration in Japanese Economics. 
 
Most recently Karen served as the Head of Lower School (PK-4) at Norwood School in Bethesda, MD, overseeing a student body of 225 students and 40 faculty and staff. While at Norwood, she helped build a new diversity leadership council, planned, launched and expanded the school with a new pre-kindergarten program, facilitated programmatic changes, and championed the work of faculty and staff. She worked closely with families to help them integrate into daily school life, was active in the recruitment and retention of students, and spent significant time listening closely to individual stories.
 
Prior to her time at Norwood, she was in the classroom as a second, third and fourth grade teacher, the majority of which was at the renowned Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C. Karen takes pride in her calm presence combined with excellent listening and organizational skills. She loves challenges and leads with patience and humor, and spends time fostering a sense of belonging and community, valuing professional and community input. She has deep respect for children and all that they have to offer.
 
Karen believes that Nishimachi, with its emphasis on inquiry and creativity, is a progressive educational model that is aligned with her journey as a child-centered educator. She feels that engagement with materials, ideas and people are critical ingredients in her practice. She loves working with families and has spent her entire career in education with children in the elementary and middle school age bracket. Through her educational philosophy and training, she demonstrates her strong conviction that teachers, administrators and children alike should be in a climate where one can safely face challenges, and be open to risk-taking, inquiry, self-reflection and conversation. Her practice has its foundation built on supporting and respecting a mosaic ofidentities and beliefs in order to sustain a strong and vibrant community. She has continually embraced theidea that a racially, ethnically and socioeconomically diverse student body and faculty provides childrenwith a context for becoming active listeners, vocal participants and ultimately, agents of change.
 
Finally, Karen is also a former student of Nishimachi, having attended Nishimachi in the early 70's for two years. Her mother is from Japan and her father was a Japanese historian which allowed for her family to live in Japan for a number of years when she was a child. As an adult, she chose to return to Tokyo where she worked as an investment professional and consultant for a total of five years. She remembers Nishimachi fondly and has strong ties to Japan as several of her relatives are still here. She has a solid bilingual / bicultural upbringing and speaks Japanese.
 
Karen's husband is a co-founder of an independent asset manager with a presence in the US, Europe and Asia. They have two school-aged children and are excited about the prospect of returning to Tokyo – and Karen, to Nishimachi.

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