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St. James’ Names New Assistant Head of School

Desmarais_Elizabeth_300w.jpgMy Dear St. James’ Family,

It was the words of her long-time head of school that first caught my eye:

I have never worked with an individual of Mrs. Desmarais’s strong work ethic, high level of integrity, loyalty, and unwavering accountability.

This came from a man I know – one not given to hyperbole and whose own communications are notable for clarity and direct, unembellished prose. Except when it comes to Elizabeth Desmarais, apparently. When I followed up on his remarks by phone, his testimony to Mrs. Desmarais’s work and ability to relate warmly to any community could only be described as “lyrical.”

And when our nine-person interview committee, representing every constituency in the school, stated their hope that the next assistant head of school would stay a while, I couldn’t help but think of the intense loyalty Elizabeth Desmarais has already demonstrated at every school where she has ever worked: 8 years at Episcopal Collegiate in Little Rock, AR; 14 years at the Westerly School of Long Beach; and 8 years at the Village School in Pacific Palisades.

But mere longevity without productivity, creativity, intelligence, and leadership is worthless, so I scoured her résumé and supporting materials for further evidence. And I found it in great abundance: She has chaired accreditations for the California Association of Independent Schools and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. She has provided in-service training for parents as well as teachers and run guidance groups for children caught up in social conflicts. She has created curriculum roadmaps, designed emergency procedures, and written faculty handbooks. She has overseen Kindergarten acceptance processes and directed procedures for matriculation into middle and high school. She has taught everything from middle school language arts to elementary math, excelling in both. Elizabeth even designed the entire 1st-grade curriculum for the Lycée Français here in Los Angeles, a city she knows and loves well and where she lived for many years previous to her relocation to Arkansas. So, in many ways, this is her homecoming.

A graduate of Rhode Island College with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, she expanded her knowledge base with a master’s from Pepperdine University, graduating with a 4.0 grade-point average. And she comes to us with a secure understanding of the Episcopal tradition in education, ready to uphold not only the school’s mission but to foster our relationship with the church as we meet our strategic goal of increasing church-school synergy.

If her references are to be believed, she is magical with students, kind and supportive with parents, and nurturing and respectful of teachers. In fact, it was a teacher who said of her:

I am in awe of her dedication to her school and her knowledge of curriculum. I can say with confidence that I am a better teacher for having worked for her.

And I can add my voice to those references because we’ve worked together previously. Elizabeth supported me as few others ever have when I served a one-year stint as an interim head of school in Long Beach a decade ago. I almost can’t believe that after ten years apart and with thousands of miles between us, I now actually have the opportunity to work with this exceptionally well prepared and talented woman again. She’s a gem. You have my word on that.

Elizabeth will begin her transition in June, but her first real day on the job will be July 1, 2016. Please join me in giving Elizabeth Desmarais a warm St. James’ welcome! I believe she’ll be a part of the St. James’ family for a long, long while.


Deborah David
Head of School