NYC Private School Head Exits Dalton After Tumultuous Year

Jim Best, the head of school at Dalton, is leaving the New York private institution after a tumultuous year dealing with the impact of the Covid pandemic and backlash from parents and faculty over its diversity efforts.

Best wrote in a note to parents that he will depart after 16 years at the school, while Aly Jeddy, President, Board of Trustees, said that Ellen Stein will serve as interim head for the next academic year as the school searches for a replacement.

“Spencer Stuart will help us identify candidates that embody Dalton’s commitment to progressive education, academic excellence and meeting the needs of the whole child, and who are equally committed to advancing our diversity, equity and inclusion work,” she wrote in the note, referring to the executive recruitment firm.

The school, where tuition runs to $54,180 a year and whose alumni include actress Claire Danes and journalist Anderson Cooper, has faced criticism from parents over the quality of their children’s education during the pandemic, principally the decision to teach remotely rather than getting kids back in the classroom, while other elite institutions adopted a hybrid model.

It’s also found itself in the middle of a cultural battle over how it’s responding to racial inequalities after the Black Lives Matter protests rocked the U.S. last summer. A group of faculty and staff wrote an eight-page document that suggested a radical framework to overhaul Dalton’s approach to diversity and inclusion. Ideas included donating 50% of fundraising dollars to New York’s public schools if Dalton fails to meet diversity metrics and the teaching of classes centered on “race, identity, difference, and social justice.”

The New York Post described it as an anti-racist manifesto, noting how it included courses on black liberation and highlighted the opposition of some parents. Vanity Fair on Friday reported on the “power struggle” between those demanding change and those wanting the status quo.

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