Wilson to become new Upper School Director
The six-month search for the new Upper School Director concluded early this February, as Lanis Wilson, current Dean of Students and English and psychology teacher, was chosen to replace Lee Hark, the current Upper School Director, next year. Hark will be transitioning into a position as become the Associate Head of School, serving under Michael Ulku-Steiner, Head of School.
The position, previously described by Hark as being responsible for “overseeing the faculty and their growth and evaluation, and also the student culture,” was the focus of an intricate selections process which, in early January, narrowed the field down to six candidates.
A number of focus groups, consisting of students, faculty, alumni, parents, and others, all weighed in on the candidates, and, according to Ulku-Steiner, “there was a clear consensus that Wilson was the best person.”
While Wilson had the most support, the other five final candidates each had backers in the focus groups. Hark said that support for the candidates did not fall along along any factional lines, although he joked that it would have made “a juicier story if it had.”
Hark noted, “Each of the finalists brought something different and unique to the table.”
“Any of the other candidates could have led the school,” agreed Ulku-Steiner. “We could have rolled the dice, and I would have been happy with the result.”
Wilson ended up being picked above the other candidates for a multitude of reasons: Ulku-Steiner noted Wilson’s emphasis on “academic improvement, diversity and inclusion, and civic engagement.”
Ulku-Steiner also believed that Wilson’s roots as a native Durham resident who attended public school give him an understanding of “the role Durham Academy can play in Durham.”
Hark cited Wilson’s “length of time at the school, the fact that he knows the community well, [and] his intelligence and his sense of humor” among other factors that stood out in the application process.
“Wilson was the best person, especially to help us do what we want to do as a school over the next years,” said Ulku-Steiner. “For what we want to do as a school right now, Wilson suited us best.”
Moving on from his position after eight years, Hark did not cite any specific goals that he wanted to accomplish during the remainder of his tenure as Upper School Director, instead saying “we have an ambitious slate of projects in front of us by the strategic plan; those things aren’t going to wait.” He stressed that he is going to keep pushing the school forward, “looking to make sure that the students and faculty have a good experience every day.”
“I am both humbled and eager to be assuming a new role as Upper School Director here at Durham Academy, a place that has been my home for the past 14 years,” read Wilson’s official statement regarding the appointment. “I look forward to leading the Upper School as we implement the ongoing improvements set forth in the Strategic Plan. We have amazing faculty and staff in place, a high-caliber student body and an exciting vision for our future. It is an honor to be given this opportunity to be a part of the growth of Durham Academy."