Kate Saunders Named Interim Head of School
Bryan Geary

Dear Tilton School community:

We are writing to share news regarding a change in leadership at Tilton School.

David Thiel recently informed the Board of Trustees of his decision to resign from his position as head of school. We thank David and his wife, Vita, for the year they spent at our school, and we wish them the best in their future endeavors. We are especially grateful for David’s leadership during the pandemic, and, in particular, his ability to keep our school community safe during uncertain times.

We are excited to announce that long-time Tilton Assistant Head of School, Kate Saunders, has agreed to step into the role of interim head of school, effective immediately. Kate becomes Tilton’s 28th – and first female – head of school in its 176-year history. She has committed to serving in this role as the Board of Trustees conducts a formal and thorough search for the next permanent head of school. A special board-appointed search committee, with the assistance of a professional search firm, will spearhead this search.

Kate has been part of the Tilton family since 2004 in both her current role and as the assistant head of school for enrollment. When Kate and her family joined Tilton, she was instrumental in significantly increasing total enrollment over her first four years as director of admissions. She also played a pivotal role in managing our work with nationally recognized leaders in curriculum and design, a partnership that created the foundation for the school’s Mastery Approach educational program.  

As the assistant head of school, Kate often served as the operational leader of the school when the head of school was absent from campus. At both the local and national level, she regularly presents on important topics concerning leadership, program design, and partnerships for The Association of Boarding Schools, the Independent Schools of Northern New England, the Small Boarding School Association, the Enrollment Management Association, as well as the Independent Educational Consultant Association. 

Beyond her accomplishments as a leader, Kate has served the Tilton community as an advisor, dormitory head, set designer, and educator. As both an administrator and a parent, she has first-hand knowledge of all aspects of academic, co-curricular, and residential life programming. Her two children, Isaiah ‘17 and Mackenzie ‘21, were five years old and 18 months old, respectively, when she and her husband, Matt, joined Tilton 17 years ago.

Kate is deeply passionate about Tilton, and she continues to be a community backbone on a daily basis. She has seen the power of the Tilton experience not only as an administrator, but also as a mother who has raised two Tilton graduates.

As Jim Clements, former Tilton head of school and a long-time member of the school community, says of Kate, “She possesses a rather unique combination of skills and talents that combine to produce a leader. She builds meaningful relationships with people from every area of the school, including students, parents, faculty and staff, and Board members. Kate is a person of the highest personal integrity and exhibits genuine humility, empathy, and positivity, at all times and in all interactions.”

Kate has the wisdom, experience, institutional knowledge, relationships, and leadership skills necessary to lead our school and our community forward. More importantly, she is deeply committed to creating and maintaining an environment that fuels curiosity, ignites passion, and fosters a love of learning – in the classroom, in the arts, on the athletic fields, and in developing the personal connections that are such an integral part of a Tilton education.

In addition to Kate becoming our first female head of school, there are a variety of new construction projects on campus and enhanced course offerings that make this an extremely exciting time to be at Tilton. Thanks to the generosity of multiple Tilton families and alumni, we are investing $1 million in renovations to the mansion, $1.3 million in renovations to the dining hall, constructing a new amphitheater next to Hamilton Hall, and building a new outdoor pavilion on a portion of the undeveloped property east of the campus.  

Please join us in congratulating Kate on her new role at Tilton. We are thrilled that she will help pave the way for new long-term leadership at our school, and we know our community will continue to embrace and support her and her family as we begin preparations for an exciting – and hopefully more normal – school year.   

On behalf of the Tilton School Board of Trustees,

David McElhinny
Tilton School Board of Trustees

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