New Leader Joins the Co-op as its Seventh Head of School
December 9, 2014.
The Montclair Cooperative School today announced that Namita Tolia will assume the school’s top leadership position beginning July 1, 2015. Ms. Tolia, who lives in South Orange, NJ with her husband and daughter, comes to the Co-op from the prestigious Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School in Manhattan where she has served as the Principal of the Lower School since July 2008.
“Namita is a rising star in the progressive education community and her skills and experience fit perfectly with the Co-op,” said Aaron Delaney, Chair of the school’s Board of Trustees. “She was the enthusiastic choice of both the Board and the Head of School Search Committee as we look to build on our 50 years of history here in Montclair to become a leader in the progressive education field. I cannot imagine a better and more inspired choice than Namita to lead us forward towards this goal.”
Ms. Tolia has 20 years of experience in education, including leading the Lower School at the Little Red School House for seven years. During her time at Little Red, one of the most respected progressive schools in the country, she made major contributions to strengthen educational programs and administration. Key initiatives included creating a rigorous mathematics program based on problem solving and flexible thinking, enhancing the reading program based on balanced literacy, creating a child-centered music program based on the Orff approach, and building a more diverse lower school faculty. Though she grew up in Bergen County, New Jersey, Ms. Tolia also spent 10 years in California at The San Francisco School, serving as a teacher and the school’s first ever Lower School Head in her last year before returning to the East Coast.
“I am extremely excited to join Montclair Cooperative School. My experiences in education since 1994 have rooted in me a deep appreciation for how children learn and what they need to thrive,” said Ms. Tolia. “Throughout the selection process, I saw that same appreciation and commitment to progressive education in the Co-op’s warm community. I am very much looking forward to the unfolding of a dynamic new chapter in my own life and in the life of the Montclair Cooperative School.”
Ms. Tolia’s professional contributions extend beyond the classroom. She serves as a panelist, workshop leader, and planner at conferences such as the annual Division Heads conference for the New York State Association of Independent schools and has mentored rising talent through the NYSAIS Emerging Leaders Institute. She is also a rising leader in the national movement to increase diversity in independent education – both at the faculty and student level – including collaborations with the National Association of Independent Schools’ People of Color Conference and the Wellesley Center for Women’s Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity program.
Ms. Tolia graduated with a B.S. in International Politics from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, before going on to earn an M.A. in Russian and Eastern European Studies from Stanford. Her degrees in education include a teaching credential from the University of San Francisco and a Masters in Educational Leadership from the Klingenstein Center at Columbia Teachers College.
As the new Head of School, Ms. Tolia will succeed Angela DeGraff who has served as the school’s interim head for the past 18 months.
“Angela’s leadership during this interim period has been inspired,” said Delaney. “She has made critical improvements to our early education, math and science programs, while continuing to build on the core values and philosophy that make our school unique. Angela has done a fantastic job and has created the perfect conditions for our new head to step in and thrive.”
“This is an important time, not only for the Co-op, but for education as a whole. As debates over testing, curriculum and evaluation continue to rage, we need leaders like Namita who can articulate – and more importantly implement – an educational program that focuses on how our kids actually learn and thrive in the classroom,” Delaney added. “That is what the Montclair Co-op has always stood for and the Board looks forward to working with Namita to build on and grow this legacy in the coming years.”