The Student Newspaper of Poly Prep Country Day School

The Polygon

The Student Newspaper of Poly Prep Country Day School

The Polygon

The Student Newspaper of Poly Prep Country Day School

The Polygon

Poly’s Next Chapter: Board Announces New Head of School

Dr. Noni Thomas López will be Poly’s next Head of School, Andrew Foote, Board of Trustees Chair, announced to the community in an email on Wednesday afternoon. Thomas López, who is currently the Head of School at the Gordon School in East Providence, Rhode Island, will not officially take the position until July 1, 2025, 18 months from now. Interim Head of School John Rankin will remain in the position through the 2024-2025 school year. 

“A longtime New Yorker and a natural leader, Dr. Thomas López understands what it takes to elevate a school and uplift a community,” wrote Foote in his email. The Board voted unanimously for her appointment.

Foote and Rankin did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Thomas López was not immediately available for comment. 

The announcement comes after a months-long search for a new Head of School after Audrius Barzdukas stepped down from his position at the end of the 2022-2023 school year. On January 16, Laurie Rosenblatt and Robin Bramwell Stewart, Co-Chairs of the Search Committee, announced to the community that the search had been narrowed down to 4 top candidates from an initial list of more than 100. 

Thomas López, who has more than 30 years of experience in education and leadership within independent schools, prevailed. “I am thrilled to begin the next chapter of my professional journey at Poly Prep,” she said in a message within Foote’s email. “Not only because I am returning to a city that has played a central role in my personal story and my family history, but because I am joining a community that shares in my belief that schools should be sites of joy, intellectual engagement, belonging, and purpose.”

Thomas López had no intention of leaving her community as of the beginning of this school year, according to a message published on The Gordon School’s website on Wednesday. “This fall, however, it became clear that my extended family would be needing more attention in the coming years than [she is] able to provide from Rhode Island,” she wrote. “The opportunity at Poly came into my view this winter and offered me a chance to continue my work as a school leader at Poly, an exceptional institution whose mission aligns with my own, while allowing me to be in the ideal position to navigate some new familial realities.” She informed the Gordon Board of Directors of her departure on Monday. 

“While this next chapter is exciting, it is also bittersweet. Gordon is not my school. It’s my family. It’s my home. It’s my heart. Grateful for this community like no other,” Thomas López posted on X on Wednesday. 

Thomas López went to middle and high school at Greensboro Day School (GDS) in North Carolina, according to her 2019 profile on the National Association of Independent Schools website. There, she recalls not having any teachers of color. “As an African-American and Puerto Rican girl, I felt isolated and self-conscious quite often, but I still had no doubt that I belonged at GDS,” she said in the profile. “I have my teachers to thank for this, specifically for the way they engaged me on both a personal and intellectual level.”

After getting a BA in English from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, she found herself on the other side of the desk at GDS, despite not expecting to have a career in teaching. “I was immediately interested in the ways the school attended to the needs of culturally diverse students. I wanted to use my experience to create an environment where all students of color felt they belonged.” She also taught at the Ravenscroft School in North Carolina.

Thomas López went on to get an “MA in Education Leadership from Columbia University, with a concentration in Private School Leadership, and an Ed.D in Educational and Organizational Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania,” according to Foote’s email. 

Next, Thomas López spent 20 years in teaching and leadership positions at independent schools in New York City, primarily involved with middle schoolers. She taught middle school humanities at Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School (LREI) for 8 years, served the Middle School Director at the Calhoun School for 2 years, and was as the Head of Middle School at the Nightingale-Bamford School for 5 years. From 2014 to 2018, she was the Assistant Head of School for Teaching and Learning at Ethical Culture Fieldston School. She also serves on the Board of the NAIS along with several other local, regional, and national boards, according to Gordon’s website.

Sarah Bates, Head of Upper School, and Daniel Doughty, Head of Middle School, both said they are excited about Thomas López’s appointment. “Her extensive background in classroom teaching, experience as division head, and leadership as a current head of school is exactly what Poly Prep needs in their new leader,” Bates said in an email to the Polygon. “I am especially excited about her extensive experience with middle school students and faculty,” said Doughty.

According to Bates, Foote, and Thomas López herself, she and Poly are a match. “Advancing Poly’s commitment to diversity and academic excellence is an endeavor that I do not take lightly, and it’s one that calls for the engagement of every member of the community,” she said in Foote’s email. “I am looking forward to 2025 and joining students, families, faculty, staff, trustees, and alumni in the good work of pulling forward the best of Poly’s past to envision and create an extraordinary future together.” 


NOTE: This story is breaking news and will be updated with more information and quotes as soon as possible.

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