Groton School issued a statement this morning, announcing that “Headmaster Richard B. Commons has announced that he will leave Groton School at the end of June 2013 to become President of Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles.”
“The honor of serving as Groton’s seventh headmaster and leading one of the great secondary schools in the world remains a professional dream come true for me,” Commons said. “The experience of living within the Groton Circle has been profoundly meaningful for our family.”
Commons also serves as one of five trustees of the Lawrence Homestead Trust, which is negotiating with the town of Groton over the sale of a portion of 11 acres of pasture on Farmer’s Row as a potential site for a new fire station.
The announcement reads:
The decision was driven by family as well as professional considerations. Commons and his wife, Lindsay, have two small children; the Harvard-Westlake position provides both the ability to live near Lindsay’s family and an exciting professional opportunity.
Groton School’s Board of Trustees has formed a Leadership Succession Committee to find the next leader, the School’s eighth since its founding in 1884. “The Board maintains a constant readiness to manage leadership transition in a thoughtful, deliberate, and well-defined way,” said Board President James H. Higgins. “While Rick and Lindsay will not be leaving the Circle until after next year, the first steps toward ensuring a careful succession already have begun.”
Commons joined Groton School in 2003. During his tenure, he has been committed to making a Groton education accessible to every talented applicant, regardless of his or her ability to pay. As a result, the percentage of students receiving financial aid of all types increased significantly, from approximately 30 to 45 percent of the student body.
Commons also will be remembered for significantly strengthening faculty salaries and benefits, for substantial improvements in Groton’s arts and athletics programs, and for the School’s lead participation with the town of Groton and other conservation groups in a purchase of land for conservation, which preserved 360 rural acres in the town. During Commons’ years, applications to Groton School skyrocketed, from 590 in 2004 to 1,150 this year.
“Rick’s imprint has been substantive and unmistakable,” Higgins said. “While the many achievements in each of these areas have had consequential and tangible day-to-day impact, Rick’s greatest contribution to generations of Grotonians to come has been his ability to embody, to give voice to, and to protect Groton’s enduring values of character, learning, leadership and service.”
Commons is returning to Harvard-Westlake; he was an English teacher, college counselor, assistant dean, and soccer coach there in the early 1990s. Commons came to Groton from McDonogh School in Maryland, where was assistant headmaster, and prior to that worked at Woodberry Forest School in Virginia. He received a BA with distinction in English language and literature from University of Virginia, where he was an Echols Scholar; an MA in teaching from Stanford University; and an MA from the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College.