MMFS Announces New Head of School

Mary McDowell Friends School is delighted to announce the appointment of André Del Valle as the next Head of School, effective July 1, 2023.

André Del Valle is an educator of great experience and even greater heart, with a bone-deep belief in the potential of every student. He built his reputation as a dynamic community builder and educational innovator as Head of School at George Jackson Academy, an independent middle school for “academically-talented boys from underserved communities.” He joined George Jackson in 2004 as a fifth grade teacher, and was named Assistant Head of School three years later. In 2015, the board asked him to become Head of School. During his time as head he supervised a $1.6 million school building renovation and a $2 million dollar capital campaign. In 2019 André took the opportunity to become Head of Middle School at Poly Prep Country Day, leading a large and diverse division at one of New York City’s leading independent schools.

André will be only the fourth Head of School since MMFS was founded in 1984 and the first new leader in 30 years. We are honored that he has chosen to join our community, and delighted to welcome him to MMFS.

Photo courtesy Poly Prep Country Day School


I am drawn to mission-driven schools, and it’s clear that MMFS’s commitment to the success of students with learning disabilities transforms lives.

André Del Valle

Head of School Search Committee

Larry Botel, Co-clerk (Trustee, Alum Parent)
Andrea Davis Pinkney, Co-clerk (Trustee, Alum Parent)

Committee Members
MaryAnn Cassidy, Alum Parent
Tatesha Clark, Director of Diversity and Equity
Deborah Edel, Board Member and Former MMFS School Psychologist
Daniel Freelander, Clerk of the Board of Trustees
Felice Friedman, Trustee
Molly Hoagland, Parent
Beth Schneider, Associate Head of School
Maria Torre, Parent
Rosa Witsell, Trustee, Grandparent
Angus Yuen-Killick, Trustee, Parent

We are grateful for the willingness of the committee members to engage in this important work and thank them in advance for giving their time and energy to support our school.

The Process, in brief

The board of trustees is responsible for hiring MMFS’s next head of school, which assures continuity with our mission and core values. The board appointed the search committee and its co-clerks, and hired the consulting firm Carney Sandoe & Associates to facilitate the work of the committee. Carney Sandoe does a lot of the groundwork, like holding meetings and focus groups with MMFS parents, faculty, and staff, and collating the findings of a confidential questionnaire about what the community is looking for in a new head of school. Based on that initial research, CS&A writes a job description (the “Position Statement”), vets the applicants, and develops a list of candidates to present to the search committee. The search committee will conduct interviews with the semi-finalists and finalists. The final candidates will visit MMFS so that faculty and staff also have an opportunity to meet them and provide feedback to the search committee. At the end of the process, the search committee will present a candidate to the board of trustees for confirmation.

About the Search Firm: Carney Sandoe & Associates

The board of trustees has engaged Carney Sandoe & Associates, a renowned search firm that specializes in leadership search for schools, to serve as consultants to the search committee. CS&A has led hundreds of searches for independent schools in New York City and around the country.

Carney Sandoe & Associates provides advice to the search committee about format, logistics, procedure, and best practices in the search process. In January, consultants Bob Vitalo and Burke Zalosh gathered data from an online questionnaire, focus groups, and one-on-one interviews in order to understand MMFS’s culture and needs. Working closely with the search committee, they will translate the school’s mission, philosophy, and objectives into a leadership profile. The consultants ensure that this position description includes the personal characteristics and style required for the new head of school to succeed.

CS&A interviews and checks references of all candidates before referring their credentials to the search committee for review. The consultants also facilitate the flow of feedback between the candidates and the search committee.

Upon confirmation of the candidate by the board, the Carney Sandoe consultants will work with the board of trustees to facilitate a smooth leadership transition.


Contact Us

If you have any thoughts or suggestions to share with the Head of School Search Committee, please reach out to