Introducing James Taylor—New Head of Middle and Upper Schools

It is a pleasure to introduce James Taylor, a seasoned and talented independent school teacher and administrator who will join MSR this summer as Head of Middle and Upper Schools. A native of Vermont and currently serving in several capacities at Verde Valley School, a boarding/day school in Arizona, James is a gifted teacher and will bring a decade of administrative experience to his work at MSR. He has taught in and administered IB programs for 16 years of his career. A graduate of the University of South Florida with a B.A. in English Literature, James has two Master’s degrees, an M.A. in English Curriculum & Instruction from the University of South Florida, and an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from Georgia State University.

James’s recommenders spoke consistently about his superb skills both as a teacher and administrator; his keen insight into students and their learning; his enthusiasm for working with faculty; his gracious, collaborative, and kind nature; his high work ethic; and his track record in bringing people together to accomplish shared goals. When learning that James was being considered for a Montessori school, one recommender shared that James had encouraged her at one point to found a Montessori school. This comment didn’t surprise us as we noted during his campus visit that his temperament, educational philosophy, style, and personal values align well with MSR’s Montessori foundation.

As Associate Director of Academics at Verde Valley, James supervises the teaching staff, overseeing observations, evaluation, and coaching. He also is involved in scheduling and policy development and implementation and led the school’s recent reaccreditation process. For five years, James was Assistant Principal at King High School, an IB World School in Tampa, and oversaw academic, extracurricular, and disciplinary programs for 600 students. He also mentored and supervised teachers in the teacher orientation program.

In 2007, James was hired to develop the Wesley International Academy, a newly founded public charter and IB World School in Atlanta for children kindergarten through eighth grade. In that role, he supervised all faculty and staff, implemented the IB Primary and Middle Years Programmes, managed the educational design on an $11M school campus, developed and led student recruitment activities that moved enrollment from a handful of students to several hundred, and created a comprehensive school advisory program to promote socio-emotional growth. We spoke with the founder and Board Chair at Wesley, who said she keeps a photo on her desk of James at the ribbon cutting because “James is why my school is successful.”

Prior to Wesley, James taught and held leadership roles in two IB World schools, the Atlanta International School and the prestigious Hillsborough High School in Tampa. Assignments ranged from English Department Chair and Extended Essay Coordinator to Professional Development Chairperson and Chair of SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) and CIS (Council of International Schools) reaccreditations.

We asked recommenders to give us five adjectives to describe James’s character, and the words heard consistently were the following: genuine, articulate, gracious, collaborative, kind, responsive, and thoughtful. One recommender said, “James has incredible stamina and is fantastic with faculty and staff.” This same person added, “He is very smart and is not afraid of the messiness of growth.” Another recommender described his work leading reaccreditation as follows: “His approach was a great example of clear process. Everyone had a voice. Throughout the process, no one had a critical thing to say.” We particularly liked what one Head of School said, “James is a truly nice person. Dependable and reliable, he always has a smile. He is thoughtful and thorough and always gets buy-in from others.”

Those who interviewed James noted his positive energy, passion for education, diverse and holistic perspective, honest and genuine approach to people, and clarity of thought in the spoken and written word. What all of the information gathered throughout the process told us is that James is optimistic, visionary, devoted to leading through collaborative effort, and dedicated to students’ success and
well-being. When he was offered this position, his quick and enthusiastic acceptance confirmed that we had made the right choice. We see a steadfastness in James that will complement the resolve we all have in stewarding this wonderful school with excellence and we welcome him warmly to the MSR Community. Stay tuned for notices about James’s arrival and Get-to-Know You sessions we will schedule for the summer.