A Message from Erica Corbin

Introducing Cathedral’s 19th Head of School

It is with excitement for the future that we write to announce that Erica Corbin will join The Cathedral School of St. John the Divine as Head of School on July 1, 2021. After a thorough search, the Head of School Search Committee unanimously voted to recommend her candidacy to the Board of Trustees, who also unanimously voted in support of her appointment. Ms. Corbin knows and loves The Cathedral School, having begun her career in independent schools here. She will join us from The Chapin School, where she is Director of Community Life and Diversity. 
The Head of School Search Process
The Board of Trustees began a comprehensive search for The Cathedral School’s next Head of School last spring, when Marsha Nelson announced her decision to retire at the end of the 2020-2021 academic year. After 18 years at The Cathedral School, Ms. Nelson will leave a tremendous legacy, and so our challenge was to find an outstanding successor to lead our community going forward. The Board appointed a representative search committee, whose members spoke with several respected search firms before ultimately choosing Resource Group 175, a highly-regarded organization that specializes in this type of search. RG175 spent much of the spring getting to know our community and conducting an open survey. From there, they developed a Head of School Position Statement and spent much of the summer soliciting nominations and recruiting nearly 100 excellent applicants. Upon thorough review by the Search Committee, ten mission-aligned semi-finalists were selected and interviewed to further assess the candidates’ areas of experience and expertise across all categories of school management—academic, operational, financial, and beyond. Following those interviews, the Committee recommended four candidates for public community visits. 
While we may not have been able to woo our finalists with the beauty of our extraordinary campus in the time of COVID-19, our characteristic passion for the school and community warmth were on full display throughout the aforementioned visits. We are grateful to our finalist candidates for spending two and a half days each in Zoom meetings with a broad range of constituents. Following these visits, members of the Search Committee pored over survey responses, talked with members of the community, and conducted deep referencing on the remaining candidates. Upon the Board of Trustees’ vote to move forward with the Search Committee’s recommendation of Erica Corbin, Board President Bill Bermont said:
"We are thrilled that Erica will be returning to the Cathedral community as our next Head of School. Erica is a tremendous talent who brings a wealth of experience to the position. She is a formidable, dynamic, and inspirational educator, and we are fortunate that she will be leading our community into the future."
Cathedral School’s Next Head of School, Erica Corbin
Ms. Corbin has spent her career in independent schools in New York City, with leadership roles at The Collegiate School and The Chapin School, where she is in her sixth year as Director of Community Life and Diversity and more recently as Co-Dean of Class 12. She is also co-director of the Justice, Equity, and Diversity Institute (JEDI) for the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS) and is a core faculty member for the Interschool Leadership Institute (ILI). She is widely respected in the independent school community and beyond. In the words of one of her references:
“Erica Corbin is one of the most talented administrators I have worked with in my 30+ years in education. She is able to see the big picture, take multiple viewpoints and requirements into account, attend to detail, and see projects through to success. She is adept at working with everyone from Board members to kindergartners. Teachers respect her, and she works well with a variety of administrative and other staff members. She has experience working on curriculum as well as multicultural initiatives. I would be thrilled to have my children attend an institution that she is leading.” 
Members of The Cathedral School community said that:
“She embodied the spirit of possibility” and that she “made me see not only the best of who we are as a school community but also the best of who we could be.” 
Ms. Corbin’s words upon learning of her appointment reflect her deep care for Cathedral and lens of empathy throughout her work:
“I began my independent school career on the Close, and I am honored, humbled, and thrilled to be returning to Cathedral as Head of School. The students, families, faculty, staff members, and friends of this respected institution all recognize that true academic excellence cannot be separated from warmth, kindness, and joy, which are critical elements to a successful learning environment. Over the past several years I have dearly missed the Cathedral magic that is made by and well-known to our community members. I am eager to come back to this special school and contribute some magic of my own!”
Ms. Corbin will arrive at a school that is stable and strong—even amidst the challenges of 2020—having flourished under Marsha Nelson’s dynamic leadership for the last 18 years. Ms. Nelson completed a transformative capital campaign which built the visionary Expansion; strengthened the academic program into one widely recognized for its rigor; grew the athletics program such that over 95% of Upper Schoolers participate in a sport; and deepened the school’s traditions—honoring our long-held and highly revered Choristers program while also adding meaningful initiatives like the Convocation ceremony and formalizing our Core Values as well as the Character Education and Identity curriculums. We are grateful for Ms. Nelson’s phenomenal service, particularly through this unprecedented school year, and know that she will partner well with Ms. Corbin to ensure a seamless transition.
The Right Reverend Clifton Daniel III, Chair and Dean of the Cathedral, said:
“I am thrilled for Erica Corbin‘s election to be our next Head of School. She brings vitality and dedication to children’s education in the coming years. We can all be proud of and thankful for the great leadership exercised by Bill Bermont, President of the Board, and Katie Conway, Chair of the Search Committee, for their dedication and perspicacity in leading an extensive and thorough search. I give thanks for Marsha Nelson and her great leadership in bringing The Cathedral School to this moment in its life and mission. Prayers for blessings and Godspeed in the days ahead.” 
We thank the Search Committee, whose tireless and focused work allowed us to conduct a thorough search even given the unique challenges of this year and, indeed, the entire community for your participation in this process.
We know you will join us in celebrating both the wonderful leadership of Marsha Nelson and the arrival next summer of Erica Corbin. In the meantime, best wishes for a vibrant—if unique—holiday season. 
Bill Bermont, President of the Board of Trustees
The Right Reverend Clifton Daniel III, Chair and Dean of the Cathedral

Frequently Asked Questions

List of 10 items.

  • Will Cathedral School’s Mission or Philosophy change with a new Head of School?

    No. The School’s mission has been thoughtfully developed and evolved over time. An important factor in evaluating the next Head of School will be the degree to which candidates understand, support, and can enhance our mission.
  • Is there a search firm supporting the search process?

    The Search Committee has engaged the firm Resource Group 175 (RG175) to partner with us on our Head of School search. Jerrold I. Katz and Robert P. Henderson, Jr., both of whom are experienced former heads of school and recognized thought leaders regarding school leadership transitions, will facilitate and support our search process.
  • What is the timeline for the search?

    The current plan is to be able to announce the appointment of a new Head of School by early 2021. We are hoping to be able to have finalist candidates visit the Cathedral School in the fall, after which the committee will make a recommendation to the Board of Trustees, with whom the final decision and responsibility to appoint the next Head of School lies. They hope to announce the appointment of a new Head of School next winter. We are so grateful to have Marsha’s continued leadership through the end of the 2020-2021 academic year, after which her successor will assume responsibility.
  • What is the role of the Board of Trustees in the search?

    The Board is responsible for selecting the Head of School. This is one of the most important roles that the Board plays for Cathedral School. The detailed task of conducting the search will be undertaken by a Board designated Search Committee. 
  • Who is the Search Committee?

    Search Committee members share a deep appreciation for Cathedral School’s mission. They include individuals who offer a diverse set of experiences and points of view as well as a strong degree of commitment to and involvement in the school community. Members of the Search Committee are:
    • Katie Conway (Trustee Vice President), Chair
    • Bill Bermont (Trustee President, ex officio)
    • Dean Daniel (Trustee, ex officio)
    • Satrina Boyce (Trustee, Parent)
    • Joseph Ciancaglini (Trustee)
    • Kirstin Kearns Jordan (Former Board President/Parent)
    • Laura Higgins (Head of Lower School)
    • Delilah Lora (Upper School Faculty, 7th Grade Dean)
    • Janet Barzilay (Director of Outreach and Enrollment Management)
    • Committee Support: Devoynne Prophet (Executive Assistant to Head of School)
  • What is the role of the Search Committee?

    The Search Committee is charged with engaging and learning from all constituents to define the qualities required of the next Head of School. The Search Committee will review candidate files, interview the most viable candidates, and, after carefully considering input from multiple constituents, recommend one candidate for appointment by the Board of Trustees.
  • Will the Head of School search impact student experience?

    No. Marsha Nelson will remain Head of School until June 30, 2021. The Head of School search will have little or no visibility with students. 
  • Will the search impact the faculty's time in the classrooms or the administration's time and availability?

    No. While the faculty and administration’s input will be sought throughout the search process, it will not intrude on classroom time or ongoing school operations.  
  • How will the Search Committee keep the community updated?

    There will be periodic communication from the Search Committee throughout the process. It is important to note that most of the search process must be confidential, and that will shape the communication. 
  • How can I help during the search?

    Broad community input will be critical to effectively defining the leadership, professional and personal qualities required in the new Head of School. Selected school and community leaders will be interviewed by our consultants, and all faculty and community members will have an opportunity to complete an online survey. Here are some further ways in which you can help:
    • Please make our search consultants aware of any individuals whom you would recommend as potentially strong candidates.
    • Please carefully read future communications from the Search Committee.
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