School Leadership
After a thorough and thoughtful search led by our dedicated Search Committee members and our partners at SpencerStuart, the Thacher Board of Trustees and the Head of School Search Committee are excited to announce the appointment of Jeff Hooper as Thacher’s next Head of School. Jeff will assume the position, transitioning from his role as Interim Head of School, effective immediately.
As we embarked upon this important process last fall, the Search Committee solicited and received extensive and valuable input from the broader Thacher community. More than 400 of you shared your perspectives via our online community survey, and in December, we conducted in-person meetings with students, faculty, and staff. The information we gathered informed our Opportunity Statement, the detailed overview of the responsibilities, experience, capabilities, and characteristics you sought in our next Head of School.
Among other priorities, we learned that you seek a leader and educator dedicated to excellence in education with a belief in the power and importance of collaboration, community dialogue, and intellectual inquiry. You want a Head who will understand the history and uniqueness of Thacher, while partnering with the community to strategically cultivate a vision that inspires its evolution. You told us you want a leader who fosters a culture that embraces the diversity of all its members, ensuring they feel an authentic sense of belonging. You shared that you want a Head who will prioritize the School’s commitments to the aspirational pillars of honor, fairness, kindness, and truth. And you highlighted the importance of a willingness to listen, learn, and lead with the growth and well-being of adolescents at the center of their decision-making.

Interest in the position was incredibly strong—we started with 165 initial prospects, 50 of whom were identified by members of the Thacher community. From there, the search committee evaluated 20 candidates, interviewed six, and narrowed the field to a small group of finalists that included some of the most accomplished and thoughtful educators in the country. At the conclusion of this exploration, it was clear to the Search Committee and Board that Jeff Hooper is the right person to lead the School at this important moment in its history.
Those who have worked with or know Jeff understand that he possesses the qualities our community highlighted and more, including humility, kindness, empathy, compassion, and vigilance. As a teacher, administrator, and coach, Jeff has demonstrated his unwavering commitment to the School and its students, including when he stepped up in support of community safety and well-being by joining the Special Committee that shepherded the MTO reports through to release. His ability to bring people together in dialog and healing has been particularly important as our community strives to honor the courage of our survivors by embracing the moral imperatives that emerged from the reports.
Whether in the classroom, on the field, or at the podium, Jeff’s love of living and learning alongside adolescents is palpable, and his accessibility, presence, and interest in the lives of students and colleagues is evident.As the leader of Thacher’s covid response efforts, Jeff also did an exceptional job bringing our students and teachers back to campus both safely and with fewer disruptions than almost any other school.
In 2021, Jeff assumed the role of Acting and then Interim Head of School at a time when our community needed him most. Among his many contributions, he has strengthened the School’s policies, procedures, understanding of, and capacity for dealing with all kinds of interpersonal harm, including racial, sexual, emotional, and physical. He expanded the School’s diversity, equity, and inclusion team and efforts in support of the student, alumni, and community members whose stories and lessons gifted Thacher with reckoning and understanding that our school has not always risen to this challenge. Jeff has also embraced the School’s responsibility to proactively address student emotional and mental health, highlighted by the recruitment of Thacher’s inaugural Director of Counseling and Wellness, who officially began this summer.
The Board is excited to continue our work with Jeff as he looks ahead to further developing Thacher’s strategic direction and building on the important and impactful work that he and so many in our community have started. As Jeff shared in an assembly talk last school year, "To be a community free from interpersonal harm must be a forever ambition. Although not easy to achieve, it is essential…that we strive for it together." 
We have also been fortunate to benefit from the experience, wisdom, and commitment of Jeff’s wife Kara over these past 16 months and throughout her more than 20 years of service to the School. Kara is a caring and dedicated member of not only the Thacher community, but the broader Ojai community as well, evidenced by her recent selection as Grand Marshal of the town’s Fourth of July Parade. She is the founder of O-Higher Ed, an organization that helps students of the Ojai Valley access higher education, serves as the Librarian at the Monica Ros School, both directly supports and coordinates student support of several community organizations throughout the Ojai Valley, and oversees all events in the Head’s home. Kara and Jeff are also the proud parents of two Thacher Toads—sons Hayden ’23 who graduated this June, and Hiram ’25.
Thank you to our Search Committee for their time, care, and insights that helped us reach this wonderful outcome, as well as to all who engaged with us throughout this process, sharing your perspectives and suggestions. Our community’s love for Thacher and its students was palpable, helping us to attract and secure the right leader for the next chapter of our wonderful school.

About our Search Partner, Spencer Stuart

For more than 20 years, Spencer Stuart's Education, Nonprofit & Government Practice has helped the world’s preeminent nonprofit organizations build and assess superior leadership teams and boards to meet the evolving demands of the nonprofit sector. 

Their team of experienced consultants bring comprehensive knowledge of and access to top talent throughout the academic sector, as well as a thorough understanding of the sensitivities and cultural nuances of academia.

For more information on Spencer Stuart, visit their website at

Contact Us

Do you have questions or thoughts you'd like to share with the committee and consultants? Click here to get in touch.

Search Committee

Laura Van Winkle James CdeP 1993
Gretchen Milligan P ’00, ’02
Dr. Seth Boyd, English Department Chair
Scott Brittingham P '17, '20
Justin Faggioli CdeP 1969 P '00, '02
Blake Grayson CdeP 1991
Annica Howard P '12, '12, '16
Brisha Howe CdeP 2013
Maria Morales-Kent, Director of College Counseling;
P' 12, '13
Anna Ortiz Morfit P '24, '26
Dawn Porter P '19, '22
Yung Roman, Director of Admission Operations; P '13
Janie Richardson CdeP 1983 P '15, '17
Mark Robinson, P'18, '21, '24
Catalina Saenz CdeP 1995, P  '23, '26
Danny Sonenshine CdeP 1991, P '20, '24

Search Consultants

Notice of nondiscriminatory policy as to students: The Thacher School admits students of any race, color, national, and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the School. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national, and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admission policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other School-administered programs.