A letter from the Ancona School Board of Trustees

Dear Ancona Community,

On behalf of the Search Committee and the Ancona School Board of Trustees, we are thrilled to announce that Nancy Nassr has been chosen as Ancona’s next Head of School. We believe Nancy’s expertise in teaching and learning, her lifelong commitment to social justice and diversity, and her exceptional results this year as interim Head of School make her the ideal person to lead Ancona into our next chapter.

For 55 years, Ancona has been dedicated to diversity in both our community and our curriculum. As a school, we are committed to providing the highest quality progressive education rooted in social justice that empowers our students’ voices. We were thrilled when our world-wide search for our new leader yielded three exceptional finalist candidates. After a rigorous process (which involved extensively interacting with all three), we are confident that Nancy embodies Ancona’s values and can best help us continue to build on our legacy. See below for a more detailed discussion of the process.

Nancy has been an educator for over 15 years: as a classroom teacher, instructional coach, and school leader. Nancy joined the Ancona community in 2016 as Assistant Head of School, and has served as Ancona’s Interim Head of School since August, 2017. In her short time as interim, Nancy has worked with the school’s administration to improve our enrollment by all early measures, strengthen our understanding of the school’s financial picture, and to build a climate of both professionalism and joy. She also reimagined the school’s leadership structure, with a goal of empowering teachers and increasing collaboration. She is leading the implementation of various systems and protocols for improved performance, including a new Student Information System for streamlined communications. The midyear faculty and staff survey showed overwhelming agreement that the School is headed in the right direction under Nancy’s leadership.

Before Ancona, Nancy served as Associate Director of Chicago International Charter Schools (CICS) Chicago Quest; prior to that, she spent over ten years teaching humanities to middle and high school students. She earned an M.A. in Educational Leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University and a B.A. in the Teaching of English at the University of Illinois, Chicago.

Nancy shares: “To be selected as Ancona’s new Head of School is a great honor, and even greater responsibility. There are no words that would be sufficient enough to describe the overwhelming pride I feel each day I enter our school to work alongside our brilliant educators and staff members, serving our incredible students and their families. For all of us here at Ancona, whether families or employees, we have a choice—a choice to attend school here, a choice to work here, and a choice to stay here. The fact that we each choose this school, in this place, and in this moment in time is a reflection of what I hope to be a fundamental tie that binds us all—the belief that children, if provided with the right setting and supports, can change the world. To truly educate a child is to provide them with choices in how they learn, how they relate to the world and even how they understand themselves. At Ancona this is what we aspire to do everyday. I graciously accept the prodigious task of leading Ancona in its next iteration—cultivating the rich legacies that came before me, and the ones we will create together. Thank you for this opportunity. I hope that we will find and create avenues for thoughtful collaboration and growth as we embark on this journey together. After all, we are each a beautiful thread in the tapestry of this great institution.”

Nancy was born in Egypt and immigrated with her family to the United States as a child. “In my household, we were raised with the belief that sound character and education were fundamental to our existence as human beings. As a practicing Muslim, social justice is a concept that underlies all of our practices as a family. Raising my two beautiful multiracial boys, I am committed to cultivating strong individuals who understand that they too have a responsibility to the people and world around them.”

In her free time, Nancy enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She is an avid hiker, reader (post-apocalyptic novels are her current favorites), and photographer. Nancy lived in Hyde Park for many years. Her sons were young ones when they lived here, so she is very familiar with all the toddler hot spots. She spends her weekends traveling across the tristate area for her sons’ soccer games.

Ancona Board Chair Lara Moynihan says: “Our commitment to the pursuit and practice of cultivating diversity within our community made Nancy, an accomplished Muslim woman of color, an outstanding choice that reflects who we are and what we stand for. With over 80% of heads of independent schools being white, and 66% being men, we are thrilled to have this opportunity to reflect diversity in our leadership. The Board of Trustees heard from many members of the search committee that the search afforded them an opportunity to sit with Nancy and have authentic and inspiring conversations about leading Ancona. They shared with us that everyone in the community should have that opportunity because Nancy’s virtues of integrity, commitment, and self-reflection truly set her apart. As Nancy moves forward in her role as Ancona’s Head of School, she looks forward to hearing from and sharing with all members of our community who afford her that opportunity.”  

About our process:

The Head of School search process was extensive and international in scope. The Search Committee was tasked with assessing and refining the Head of School job description, recruiting applicants, creating a vetting process specifically designed to identify candidates whose skills matched the core competencies we identified as essential for this role, identifying a slate of top candidates for the position, leading the community in engaging with the finalists, and making a final recommendation to the Ancona Board of Trustees. The fourteen search committee members represented the Ancona faculty, staff, parent, and alumni parent communities. Each member was chosen based on their expertise in the areas of education, social justice, and/or executive search.

The Search Committee reviewed over 50 applications for the position. They narrowed down the exemplary pool of candidates to 18 first-round candidates, seven semi-finalists, and finally three finalist candidates. After compiling feedback from the student, parent, faculty, staff, alumni, and alumni parent communities, reviewing each candidate’s performance during the finalist interviews, and engaging in thoughtful conversations with the candidates’ references, the Search Committee presented their findings to the Board of Trustees. Ultimately, the Board determined that Nancy’s training, experience, skill set, and passions make her the best candidate for the role.

Throughout the process, the Search Committee welcomed and encouraged input from stakeholders across the Ancona community in a variety of ways, including: surveys; two town meeting events; extensive discussion with faculty and staff; dialogues with students; and a community forum with the finalist candidates. We are so excited that well over 200 members of the community participated in this process. Your contributions were incredibly valuable in making this important decision.

The Head of School Search Committee was led by co-chairs, and Ancona parents, Monica Santana Rosen and Rachel Waldron. Monica, CEO of Alma Advisory Group, an education leadership search and development firm, says: “As co-chair of the Head of School Search Committee, I understood the effort before us as we launched this search. I came into the process ready to find the best-qualified candidate for our school. As someone who focuses on school leadership everyday in my work life, I feel so confident in the decision to offer the Head of School position to Nancy. At every step of the process, Nancy demonstrated an exceptional ability to lead a strong educational program, to help our faculty learn and grow, and to inspire both current and prospective families. I look forward to getting to see Nancy lead our school into the next stage of its development, while protecting those aspects of our culture and progressive education model that make our school such a special place.”

Thank you to the Search Committee for their tireless work to ensure a thorough and equitable search process and to you, our wonderful community, for your guidance and insight throughout the search. Please reach out via email at gro.l1529836702oohcs1529836702anocn1529836702a@hcr1529836702aesan1529836702ocna1529836702 if you have any questions or feedback.

Warm regards,

The Ancona School Board of Trustees