Incoming Head of School

Friends Welcomes Incoming Head of School, Honor Taft

On behalf of Friends School's Community Board, we are delighted to announce the appointment of Honor Taft, our incoming Head of School. Honor was hired in October 2017 and will begin her leadership at Friends on July 1, 2018. Please read the full announcement and Honor's letter to the community here, and join us in welcoming Honor and her family to the Friends School community!
Back in April 2017 current Head of School Steve de Beer informed the Friends School Community Board that, after 7 years as Friends Head of School, he would be departing the school at the end of the 2017-18 school year. At that time, the Community Board formed a Search Committee and engaged leading search firm Carney, Sandoe & Associates to conduct a thoughtful and thorough national search. Our announcement spread coast-to-coast that Friends School would soon be hiring its next Head.
Our search process went beautifully, with wonderful applicants and an extraordinary group of finalists. Our entire community is grateful that this search led to Friends School's connection with Honor Taft, and we all look forward to her upcoming arrival as our incoming Head of School!

We are thankful to Honor for celebrating our 30th Birthday with our entire community in January and look forward to her next visit to Friends in April.  

Search Committee

Thank you to the following search committee members who were instrumental in interviewing and selecting candidates and making their recommendations to the Board:

Maureen Espinoza, Trustee
Elizabeth Henna, Trustee
Diane Hullet, Trustee
Anne Hunter, Trustee
Mindy Mullins, Trustee
Howard Rubin, Trustee
Chris Wirth, Trustee
Liz Richards, Elementary Teacher
Jessie Vanden Hogen, Preschool Teacher
Erika Norman, Math Teacher
Meg Hansen, Director of Marketing & Communications
Bev Cole, Founder Trustee
Larry Gold, Founder Trustee
Hope Morrissett, Founder Trustee

Updates & Announcements

List of 13 items.

  • 3/7/18 Letter from Honor Taft

    March 7, 2018
    Dear Friends Community, 

    As we move into March and east coast storms keep me on my toes, my family is continuing to prepare for our move to Colorado. With perfect timing for a little reprieve this week, I head to Atlanta, Georgia to attend the National Association of Independent School's (NAIS) Annual Conference. I look forward to this conference every year - it is a chance to connect with old friends, meet new colleagues and come together around teaching, learning and leadership (three of my greatest passions), and be inspired! 

    This year I will be presenting at and attending the conference.  I’m excited to share a bit of my presentation on peer coaching with the Friends School community here.
    I am reuniting with colleagues from the Caedmon School Matthew Stuart (Head of School), Lisa Oberstein (Assistant Head of School), and Tyler Jennings (Director of Curriculum Design and Innovation). We are presenting a project that was initiated while I was at Caedmon and has been successfully carried on by the team named above, led by my successor, to its present state.

    We offer a powerful argument for peer coaching as necessary and central in a transformative faculty evaluation program. The development of the model began five years ago with a teacher-led task force charged with redesigning the Caedmon School's faculty evaluation program. The first year involved a tremendous amount of research, discussion with teachers and administrators, and important foundation building. The model has now been in place for four years with continuous adjusting and tweaking based on experience and feedback from participants. 

    Often, traditional faculty evaluation programs are designed to foster individual improvement and/or "counsel out"  those who are not meeting the required standards. These evaluations are generally limited in scope, vague in terms of expectations, and ultimately create a culture of competition, isolation and even fear among staff. We wanted to move away from this - to change the experience of being evaluated into one that is welcomed and sought-after, and that impacts the learning experience in positive ways. Our program is a growth model that encourages educators to open their doors, spend time in one another's classrooms or work spaces and experience the value in their peers' perspectives. 

    We designed this model based on shared beliefs about the best educators: 1) They never stop reflecting on their work, 2) they continuously seek out ways to improve their craft and 3) they will find tremendous power in cultivating deep professional connections with their colleagues. Ours is a model designed to "raise the lake in order to raise the boat". Under this model, Caedmon’s teachers have thrived and grown professionally in ways they only dreamed of before the new system was implemented. We are looking forward to sharing our approach at NAIS and hope that we will inspire others to build a culture of professional learning in their schools as well. 

    As we head towards Spring and seek inspiration to fuel us forward in these last few months of the school year, I encourage you to take a moment to pause and reflect on the distance you and your children have traveled so far this year. What you see is the effort, love and care of every person in the Friends Family. The strength of our community has made this possible. Together we can achieve tremendous things. 

    I look forward to seeing you all again in April. Best wishes to you all,

    Honor D. Taft
    Head of School Elect
  • 2/5/18 Letter from Honor Taft

    February 5, 2018
    Dear Friends Community, 
    It has been two weeks since my family visited the Friends School campuses and had the pleasure of spending time with many of you; we are still abuzz about the visit. Our children feel that they have friends in Boulder and are therefore excited about our move. As you know, happy and secure children make everything both easier and more enjoyable! We all felt that we were welcomed with open hearts and we have the deepest gratitude for this. Thank you. 
    My schedule was busy, yet I truly enjoyed every moment, from my time spent in classrooms to meetings with faculty and staff, as well as my varied opportunities to meet and talk with parents. Thank you for taking the time to share your stories with me. I am looking forward to another visit this spring with more time spent listening and learning as I more deeply understand the strengths and opportunities at Friends School. Until then, you may enjoy learning more about my values and priorities in education, and one way to do this is to follow me on Twitter (@HonorTaft).  
    I wish you a fun-filled February and I look forward to our next time together!
    Honor D. Taft
    Head of School Elect
  • 1/16/18 Letter from Honor Taft

    January 16, 2018
    Dear Friends Community, 

    My family and I are very excited about our upcoming visit to Friends School. Doug and I are eager to share the school with our children. We know that they will feel the warmth and joyful learning that spoke deeply to us and that make Friends so special. Gwyneth and Wyatt keep talking about seeing the classrooms, meeting the teachers and getting to know their future classmates. They are particularly eager to check out the lockers - a novelty for them!
    For me, this visit is about reconnecting with many and getting to know people I was unable to spend time with during my September visit. I am eager to immerse myself in the Friends community - to listen to your stories and get to know the core of the Friends Family. I suspect that many of you are eager to know what I think, or what I will do about one thing or another come July. Please know that my first priority is to get to know you and the children we care for together. As a teacher and as a school leader I have found that if we keep the child at the center of our decisions then we will do the right thing - and it is your children I will keep at the center as we travel this road together. 
    I look forward to seeing you all and celebrating 30 years of Friends School on Friday evening!  

    Honor D. Taft
    Head of School Elect
  • 9/29/17 Letter from Honor Taft

    Dear Friends School Community,
    Joyfully and enthusiastically I welcome the opportunity to join the Friends community as your next Head of School. From my first telephone conversation during the summer, to my visit in September, I enjoyed getting to know the people that make Friends such an exquisite place. The passion for children, teaching, and learning that is central to every endeavor at Friends is exactly aligned with my priorities and values. This is a school that is not only committed to excellence today, but is working to prepare young people to make tomorrow better and brighter for all. 
    Thank you to the Search Committee, the Community Board, the Founders, and all who supported me and worked diligently to curate an inclusive search process. Having the opportunity to meet with a variety of community members gave me a more complete picture of the school - and what an incredible place! During every moment I was deeply moved by your love for Friends School. The inclusion of the Teacher Preparation Program sets Friends apart and raises the bar in every way.  These things, along with the professionalism of the faculty and staff and their commitment to providing the very best for every student, make Friends exactly the kind of school for me. 
    My husband, Doug, and our children Gigi (8) and Wyatt (6) are all excited about our upcoming move to Boulder. We have already been welcomed by many members of the Friends family and we are excited to become a part of this community where we will all grow and learn together. 
    As we navigate the many elements of this important transition, I look forward to getting to know each of you. Being a school leader gives me the unique opportunity to work with teachers, families and children as we make learning in the preschool, elementary, and middle school years both a joyful and empowering experience. 

    Honor D. Taft
    Head of School Elect
  • 09/29/17 FRIENDS ANNOUNCES INCOMING HEAD OF SCHOOL (effective 7/1/2018)

    Dear Friends School Community,

    On behalf of Friends School's Community Board, I am delighted to announce the appointment of our next Head of School, effective July 1, 2018. Please read the full announcement here and join me in welcoming Friends School's next Head of School. 
    Thank you,
    Elizabeth Henna
    Community Board Chair
  • 08/31/17 Update from Elizabeth Henna

    August 31, 2017

    Dear Friends School Teachers and Staff,

    I want to give you a brief update on the status of the head search, which is certainly now in high gear. After interviewing 10 semifinalists this past weekend, the Search Committee met, and after lengthy deliberation (a good problem to have - we had many good choices!), unanimously agreed to invite four candidates back as finalists for the Head of School position. I am delighted to announce that all four have now accepted the invitation and are scheduled for their 2-day finalist visits in September. More information on the visits and opportunities for you and other school constituencies to meet with the finalists will be announced soon, but in the meantime, please note the following dates the finalists will be on our campuses:

    #1: September 7-8
    #2: September 11-12
    #3: September 14-15
    #4: September 18-19

    Thank you!

    Elizabeth Henna
    Search Committee Chair
  • 06/19/17 Update from Elizabeth Henna

    Dear Friends School Families,

    I hope this note finds you well and enjoying the first month of summer! I don’t want to intrude too much on your summer break but do want to take a moment to let you know about an opportunity to be involved in the search for Friends School’s next Head of School. As noted in the most recent Search Committee update, the Search Committee is forming four Search Support Committees, who will have a critical role in the latter stages of the head search. These groups will host and interview finalist candidates this September and will provide comprehensive feedback (though not rankings) on the candidates to the Search Committee. They will receive training from the school's head search consultant, Jake Dresden, prior to the candidates’ visits to make sure that they understand their role and are prepared both to interview effectively and to market the school well. 

    We will have four Search Support Committees: alumni (former parents, students, staff, and trustees), current staff/teachers, current parents, and current students. I have several volunteers for the staff group and recommendations for some of the others, but if you or your child has a strong interest in being considered for the parent or student group, of if you know someone who would be interested in joining the alumni group, please let me know by June 30 by emailing me at The Search Committee will then finalize the Search Support Committees later this summer prior to the start of school.

    Thank you for your engagement in and support of the head search process!

    Elizabeth Henna
    Search Committee Chair
  • 05/30/17 Search Committee Update

    Search Committee Report
    Prepared by Elizabeth Henna, Chair
    Day-to-day work on the head search is currently being conducted primarily by search consultant Jake Dresden and his associates at Carney Sandoe. The Search Committee met on May 22, though, to establish agreements for our upcoming work and also to hear firsthand from a few key members of the 2010 Search Committee, including Fred Marienthal and Carol Hampf, who co-chaired that search, and Shelby Pawlina, who was one of two staff members in the search group that year. Fred, Carol, and Shelby graciously shared their experiences and lessons learned about the process, and I believe the Search Committee will benefit a great deal from their insights and suggestions.
    Members of the Search Committee, including teaching and administrative staff as well as community trustees, also worked this month to refine the consultant’s position description, which will soon be posted on the Carney Sandoe website and on our website. The position will also be marketed in the “Blue Sheet,” a traditional advertising venue for head and senior administrator searches. While Jake advises that such traditional advertising is no longer as effective for head searches, we are choosing to include this one source to cover bases as the search community is still somewhat in transition in terms of marketing.
    Jake reports that initial responses to the position’s announcement on the Carney site and his personal sourcing have been positive. He still has a great deal of sourcing and vetting to do before presenting an initial field to the Committee in August.
    Dates for presentation of the initial field and for first-round interviews have been set for the second half of August. We are on track for second-round interviews and finalist visits to campus in September and an election of a new head in October, as planned.
    There are two more projects for the Search Committee to work on before we begin interviews in August.  The first will be a thorough review with Jake of the search survey results (thank you to all who participated!) and the head’s job description (recently updated by the Board) to develop consensus around non-negotiable and desired characteristics and experiences of the candidates. This work, which the representatives from the prior search indicated would have been helpful to them, will put the group in a stronger and more unified position to begin evaluation of the field of candidates in August.
    The second early summer task for the group will be to form the Search Support Committees, who will have a critical role in the latter stages of the head search. These groups will host and interview finalist candidates this fall and will provide comprehensive feedback (though not rankings) on the candidates to the Search Committee. They will receive training from Jake Dresden prior to the candidates’ visits to make sure that they understand their role and are prepared both to interview effectively and to market the school well. Both of these jobs will be equally important, because in every single interaction with candidates and anyone connected to them (references, family members, etc.), it’s imperative for us to remember that we need to attract strong candidates to our wonderful school just as much as candidates need to convince us they are right for the job!
    We will have four Search Support Committees: alumni (former parents, students, staff, and trustees), current staff/teachers, current parents, and current students. I have received several staff volunteers and recommendations for some of these groups, but If you know of individuals whom you would recommend to be considered for one of these roles, please do let me know as soon as possible, but no later than June 2.
  • Survey open until 5/5/17

    Dear Friends’ School Community, 

    As part of the search for the next Head of School, who will start in July 2018, the Search Committee is seeking input from all constituents of our community. We want to know what you value most about the school and what priorities and hopes you have for our next leader.

    Please follow this link to complete the survey, which will be live until 3 PM MDT on Friday, May 5.

    Head of School Search Community Survey

    Thank you in advance for your participation in this exciting next chapter in Friends’ School history.

    In gratitude,
    Elizabeth Henna
    Search Committee Chair
  • 04/21/17 Update

    Thank you to everyone who met with our head search consultant, Jake Dresden, of Carney, Sandoe & Associates on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. He had a wonderful site visit and came away with a good understanding of what makes our community special and is looking forward to recruiting great candidates for our next head of school. A community-wide survey will be emailed on 4/24/17 asking for input into the process.
  • 04/10/17 Update from Elizabeth Henna

    April 10, 2017
    Dear Friends’ School Community,
    Please take a moment to read this first update on the search for Friends’ next Head of School. I warmly invite you to participate as the search formally gets underway.
    The Community Board, which is responsible for hiring and supporting the Head of School, has moved quickly to take steps to ensure that we will have an inclusive, thorough, and professional search for our next Head.
    The Board has formed a Search Committee of trustees and staff to conduct the head search and to recommend a candidate to the Board. The Search Committee includes trustees Maureen Espinoza, Elizabeth Henna, Diane Hullet, Anne Hunter, Mindy Mullins, Howard Rubin, and Chris Wirth; teachers Liz Richards and Jessie Vanden Hogen; and administrative staff member Meg Hansen. Friends’ three Founder Trustees, Bev Cole, Larry Gold, and Hope Morrissett, are also members of the Search Committee.
    The Board has retained consultant Jacob Dresden of Carney, Sandoe & Associates to assist Friends’ in our search. Carney, Sandoe is the biggest and most well-known head and educator search firm, and we are pleased that our search will benefit from Carney’s extensive resources in attracting excellent applicants. What made our decision, though, was not the big search firm, but the personal and professional qualities of Jake himself.
    Jake is warm, engaging, and extremely knowledgeable about and experienced with head searches. He served as a long-time head and assistant head himself over several decades in independent schools. He conducted a successful search for another Colorado independent school and has a son who is a long-time teacher and now an administrator at Graland in Denver, so he is familiar with the landscape of independent schools in our state. A veteran of several progressive schools, Jake has a deep understanding of schools with open and collaborative cultures such as Friends’, and he has a strong affinity for working with those schools. He eagerly seeks to learn as much as he can about a school, from as many people as he can, and I know he will do his best to understand our leadership needs and desires for our next Head of School.
    Jake will be visiting Friends’ School next Tuesday and Wednesday, April 18 & 19. During his visit, he will attend community events, tour both campuses, and meet our wonderful teachers and staff. There will also be two opportunities for parents and other community members, including alumni students, alumni parents, and former trustees, to meet Jake, provide input into our search process, and ask questions. I highly encourage you to attend if you are able. Please note these two events:
    6:30-7:30 PM, Tuesday, April 18: Open House for alumni, alumni parents, former trustees, and current parents not able to attend Parent Council forum
    8:45-9:45 AM, Wednesday, April 19: Parent Council forum for all current parents 
    Both of these events will take place in the Great Room in the elementary building on the South Campus.
    As the search progresses, the Search Committee will continue to keep the community informed, and there will be opportunities for everyone to meet and provide feedback on finalists in September. The search process will also include use of a Search Support Committee to interview finalists during their visit to campus and to provide direct feedback to the Search Committee. This group will not rank finalists or make the final decision on a candidate but will provide critical feedback to the Search Committee and will also play an important role in hosting the finalists during their 2-day visits to campus. The group will comprise representatives of many school constituencies including parents, teachers and staff. We anticipate that the Community Board will announce the appointment of the new Head of School in October and will then begin planning for a smooth transition of school leadership in the summer of 2018.
    I am grateful to Steve for his commitment to making the transition to a new Head of School as smooth as possible. He has given the community ample notice for us to be able to do a comprehensive search for the next Head. Equally importantly, after the appointment of a new Head, the entire school will have time to plan and conduct a thoughtful and inclusive transition process. Steve’s support of the search and transition process has already proven invaluable, and his dedication to Friends’ will continue at full strength for the next 15 months at the school. He has also promised to remain available into the tenure of the new Head of School. While change is rarely easy, I am confident that his involvement will contribute to a successful start for our next Head.
    My fellow trustees and I know the selection of the next Head of Friends’ School is perhaps the most important decision we will make during our time on the Community Board, and we take that responsibility very seriously. I hope and trust that the search process we are beginning, with help from each of you and all members of our community, will lead Friends’ to an exciting new chapter in the school’s history. I look forward to sharing that journey with you.
    Please let me know if you have any questions.
    Thank you,
    Elizabeth Henna
    Chair, Friends’ School Community Board
  • 4/4/17 Letter from Elizabeth Henna

    Dear Friends’ School Community,
    I am sure you share my sadness in learning of Steve’s decision. We will certainly miss him. I trust, though that you, like me, also wish him and Steph the very best in their next adventures.
    For the past 6 years, Steve has worked incredibly hard and accomplished a great deal at Friends’. I know we all have our own mental lists of what he has done and continues to do for the school each day, but certainly some of the highlights include strengthening our academic program and transforming the fifth-grade year into a not-to-be-missed capstone of our elementary program. Steve has hired many of our incredibly gifted teachers and reorganized and professionalized our administrative staff to reach new levels of service to the school. He has also infused his love of children’s theater into everything from the Harvest Celebration “Stone Soup” story and Halloween parades to the fifth-grade plays that have become a highlight of the whole school’s year. Of course, his leadership has been instrumental in the school’s expansion and addition of our wonderful new middle school program. Most importantly, he has lived, and continues to live, Friends’ mission of educating the whole child: head, hand, and heart. Steve is a tall guy, but he never talks down to a child (even one who’s been sent to see him for misbehavior!). His firm but gentle and respectful manner with our students demonstrates every day that he truly lives by the famous words of Dr. Seuss, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
    Steve’s departure will certainly be a loss for our community, but it is also an exciting opportunity to move into a new chapter of the life of the school. The Community Board, which is responsible for hiring the Head of School, has already begun making plans for a comprehensive and inclusive search for the next Head. We are forming a search committee of talented and committed trustees and staff. We will be working with a leading national (and international) search firm to identify our community’s leadership needs and dreams for our next Head and to attract an excellent group of candidates for the position. In the coming weeks and months, you will hear much more about the search process and about ways that all of you – teachers, staff, parents, alumni, alumni parents, and students – can be involved. I warmly invite each of you to participate.
    As our previous Head of School once observed, Friends’ School does seasonal observations and celebrations better than anyone. I know that when the time comes, we will mark and celebrate a change of seasons for Steve and Friends’ in a fitting way. In the meantime, though, Steve has assured me he is 100% committed to leading Friends’ the rest of this year and next. That time span is a long time in the lives of our kids, and he, and we, owe it to all of them not only to conduct an excellent search for our next Head of School but also to make the remaining 15 months of Steve’s tenure as productive, full of growth and improvement for everyone in the community, and happy as we can make them. I look forward to working on that with him and with each of you.
    Thank you,

    Elizabeth Henna
    Chair, Friends’ School Community Board
  • 4/4/17 Announcement from Steve de Beer

    April 4, 2017
    Dear Friends’ School community,
    After much reflection and thought, and with a saddened heart, I am writing to let you know that I will be leaving Friends’ School at the conclusion of the 2017-18 school year. 
    I am proud and honored to have served as your Head of School for these last six, going on seven, years. My time at Friends’ has been, and continues to be, inspirational and fulfilling work for me as we have worked together to know, love and educate these amazing children. I value my work, your partnership and friendship, my colleagues on staff and on the board, the mission and philosophy of this wonderful school, and of course, most of all the children.
    This decision is in no way a reflection of my work or the direction of Friends’ School. With both my daughters away at college beginning in 2018, Steph and I have made the decision, as empty-nesters, to seek new pastures, with a move out of state, and quite possibly overseas. We are strongly considering a move to Europe so that we can be much closer to my family in the U.K. We are both excited at the prospect of being part of a truly international and diverse school community and the opportunity to be near to my parents during this phase in their lives.
    We teach our students that while change can be unnerving, it can also be an opportunity.  In the spirit of that message, I want to emphasize that schools are living institutions greater than any one person and I am certain that Friends’ School will continue to be an exceptional place that nurtures the head, hand and heart of our students.
    I have the greatest confidence that the Community Board, faculty, and staff will continue to advance our mission, values, and philosophy. Our teachers expertly live and breathe our mission statement every day. The school is well-positioned for this transition – enrollment is good, our staff is exceptionally passionate and skilled, our financial state is healthy, and the support and strength of our Board and wider community is steadfast.  These qualities will remain intact as we move through this transition.
    For the next fifteen months, you can rest assured that I will continue to give this school all of my energy and expertise as I always have, until my successor begins in July of 2018. We will continue to enhance our preschool and elementary programs at the South Campus. We have work ahead of us to continue to build our middle school and develop the North Campus. We will keep graduating outstanding teachers from our Teacher Preparation Program. We will always be a safe, nurturing, and educationally challenging place for children to learn.  We will continue to be a supportive, dynamic community committed to educating the whole child and to training exceptional teachers for tomorrow’s classrooms.
    It is an honor to have played a part in Friends’ School’s history and to remain part of that history for one more school year. I wish to thank all members of the Friends’ family who have made these past seven years both a passion and a joy for me. 
    Teachers and staff, you are truly incomparable in your intelligence, dedication, and love.  Your friendship and laughter has fed me and I am honored to work with such incredible colleagues. Trustees, your vision, encouragement, and inspiration have made my time at Friends’ remarkable for me both personally and professionally, as we have worked to grow our school and bring it forward to an exciting and sustainable future.  Parents, your support, belief, and passion continue to make me proud to be a part of your lives. And of course to all of the children, you are, and always will be, the reason I come to work each day.   With my deepest gratitude to all of you, it has been, and will continue to be, a great privilege to educate our children. 
    This is not goodbye, but the beginning of us taking the next steps to guide this school to unparalleled success and an outstanding future.
    Thank you for everything.

    Steve de Beer
    Head of School


July 2018
November-June 2018
Transition implementation
October 2017
Search Committee recommends new head-elect to Community Board
Community Board elects new Head of School
Announcement of Appointment
Transition planning begins
September 2017
Campus visits by finalists
August 2017
CS&A presents strongest candidates to Search Committee for review
Search Committee selects and interviews semi-finalists
May-August 2017
CS&A develops candidate pool and conducts initial interviews
May 2017
Position profile and job description completed, posted on CS&A and Friends websites
April 2017
Head of School search announcement
Jacob Dresden of Carney, Sandoe & Associates (CS&A) retained as search consultant