Durham Academy Welcomes New Assistant Head of School Kristen Klein


In the coming months, Durham Academy will experience a change in climate, not just with the arrival of spring, but as the community itself grows; the spring breeze will bring with it new Maymester programs, a new campus, and a new Assistant Head of School, Kristen Klein.

The position of Assistant Head of School feels so tied to Lee Hark because he stepped into the position several years ago after Michael Ulku-Steiner returned to serve as the Head of School. The position has actually been around for decades. Over a decade before Mr. Hark took the position, Mr. Speir served in a similar role. However, no one filled the position for many years after he transitioned into a new role.

The job description of Assistant Head reads that the person in the position “mirrors the [Head of School’s] principles of good practice; supports the head’s daily operation of the school; takes an active part in the full life of the school; and understands and promotes the culture, standards and policies of the school.” And as DA students and faculty have seen through the years, Mr. Hark and Mr. Ulku-Steiner have always had a particularly strong rapport with each other professionally, as well as musically.

In this aspect, Mrs. Klein will be stepping into a new role and a new culture. However, she is more than prepared to begin her position in July. Yaakov Huba, a junior who was on the student interview panel to choose the new Assistant Head, is excited to see what she will bring to the Durham community: “She created this entire program with her Pittsburgh school about connecting to Pittsburgh, and if she’s able to implement something like that at DA, it will really put [us] on the map.” Senior Scarlett Reade was also impressed by Mrs. Klein’s ideas and adds, “She was also really friendly and easy to talk to, so that was a bonus.”

The student panel, composed of four seniors and three juniors, gave students the opportunity to be involved in the process of adding someone new to the DA community. While the panel was not involved in the final decision-making process, Huba says, “We definitely reached a consensus that we did really enjoy [Mrs. Klein] as a candidate, so the fact that she got chosen sort of reaffirms the fact that we got a good say in the process.”

From an administrative viewpoint, Mr. Hark explained, “Every time you hire someone, you try to improve the school that way, and you are always aiming to get someone who can be a little bit better than the person who was there before.” Though he is sad to leave a community he loves, he says, “I felt good, because I knew that there was going to be be someone a little bit better than I was in the job.”

For Upper School Chinese teacher Bonnie Wang, what stood out most about Mrs. Klein was her abundant energy. She recalls the after-school sessions when the faculty met with each of the candidates: “[By then,] the candidates had had a long day. They had lunch meetings with the committee, they met the Parents’ Council, they met all the division heads… Some of [the candidates] came to the meeting open to faculty and showed really tired expressions (which, Ms. Wang admits, made her sleepy as well), but [Mrs. Klein] made it fun.”

Furthermore, Ms. Wang is looking forward to seeing more female leadership at DA: “I think she’s going to set a really good model for a female leaders [at the Upper School].