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Head of School Search

New Head of School Announced at NDB - February 4, 2022
Meredith Myall Essalat ‘98, M.Ed., has been appointed as the new head of school of Notre Dame Belmont. She will assume office in July.
“I’m thrilled to return to my alma mater as the new head of school,” said Essalat, the current head of school at Mission Dolores Academy in San Francisco. “My main goal when working with young women is to empower them. I want each student to have confidence in her inner voice and learn how to be bold enough to accomplish her dreams in this world.”
Prior to her role at Mission Dolores, Essalat taught middle school language arts and was the middle school dean of academic curriculum at Nativity School in Menlo Park. She also is the author of the popular book, The Overly Honest Teacher: Parenting Advice from the Classroom, which was released in 2020 by The Collective Book Studio.
“I’ve had the good fortune of assuming a variety of roles within the educational spectrum over the past 17 years,” Essalat noted. “All of those roles introduced me to varied aspects of the academic community—fundraising, alumni cultivation and school leadership. Each role has given me the empathy to relate to students, parents, alumni and board members.”
Essalat’s optimism and positive energy is contagious. In addition to being proud of NDB’s strong academics, she stressed the importance of the school's values-based program for women that includes campus ministry opportunities, student-led liturgies, and an overall atmosphere of inclusion, diversity, respect, compassion and spirituality.
“As an educator who has built my career in Catholic academia, I believe wholeheartedly in the necessity of faith formation for students of all ages and creeds,” Essalat said. “It’s crucial for young women to believe in something bigger than themselves.”
Essalat recognizes that being a teenager during these post-COVID pandemic days can be difficult. For the past two years, young people have relied on social media for social interaction, which has had its challenges.
“I want to help our students to reconnect with others and make a commitment to service learning,” she shared. “Our faculty and staff will help our students to serve the less fortunate and align themselves with city leaders so they can be voices of change. I believe in authentic communication. We want to empower our young women to be conversationalists . . . that means knowing how to look someone in the eye and have a strong sense of empathy.”
Essalat has fond memories of her own high school days at NDB. She enjoyed student government, NHS, CSF, Aquacades and being the yearbook editor.
“I found my voice at Notre Dame,” she remembered. “I came in as an introverted freshman and graduated as the class salutatorian. For me, the word ‘sisterhood’ symbolizes the family that is Notre Dame. My high school friendships are still strong to this day.”
Essalat was inspired by her NDB teachers, and she was determined to make a difference in education. After graduating from Menlo College, she obtained her teaching credential while working in alumnae relations at NDB.
Essalat is looking forward to returning to the NDB school community. She and her husband are the proud parents of a new baby girl.
“I cannot wait for my daughter to know what it means to be a Tiger—to grow up under the nurturing and empowering umbrella of the NDB community,” Essalat said. 
NDB Board of Directors Chair Tim Fox was delighted to hear that Essalat is returning to lead NDB as the new head of school.
“Meredith is living proof that a Notre Dame education creates women who lead," he added. "We're very grateful that the hard work of the Search Committee allowed us to consider three highly qualified finalists. We have confidence that Meredith's background in Catholic education, combined with her passion for Notre Dame, will enable us to continue to provide extraordinary school experiences for future generations of young women. Meredith’s vision will prepare our students for leadership roles in everything they choose to do.”
Recent Announcements
Dear Notre Dame Community,

The Notre Dame Belmont Board of Directors is pleased to announce that it has successfully concluded its search for the next Head of School, and will be making an announcement on February 4th. The Board is very grateful for your patience, support, and participation in this process. We are excited and look forward to sharing our news with the entire school community. 

In Notre Dame,

Notre Dame Belmont Board of Directors
We are writing to provide an update on the Head of School search process at an exciting and pivotal juncture.
In the summer, our consultants from Carney, Sandoe & Associates conducted a very thorough search. Out of a large pool of candidates and after extensive background reviews and interviews, the Committee chose 3 finalists. The finalists will each visit Notre Dame Belmont for 2 days to meet with various constituency groups, including the Board of Directors, the Search Committee, the administration, faculty, staff, parents, students and alumni. Our goal is to encourage consistency with each person or group across all meetings. Those who participate will be offered the opportunity to complete a confidential survey with respect to each finalist.
After considering the schedules of both Notre Dame Belmont and the finalists, we have confirmed the following dates for the on-site visits: December 2-3, December 6-7 and December 9-10.  
Once we have completed all of the 2-day visits by the finalists, the Search Committee will gather to review feedback and ultimately make a recommendation to the Board of Directors. We will keep you updated on our progress.
In the meantime, thank you to every member of the Notre Dame Belmont community for your partnership and support.


Head of School Search Team
Below are the criteria by which we will be evaluating candidates throughout the interview process.
Spiritual leader who prioritizes the core mission and values of the school; respects individual differences; educates for and acts on behalf of justice; partners with the community; embraces and advances diversity; builds community; educates for life.
Inspirational and visionary leader with a clear vision for educating students, transforming facilities and operations, and strengthening community engagement; strategic thinker who translates vision into actions that deliver positive outcomes; prolific fundraiser who engenders support for capital improvements and endowment; leverages technology to advance and accelerate educational outcomes; leads with purpose and makes strategic determinations on challenging choice points.
Worthy of trust; establishes partnerships; displays personal humility and builds credibility; continuously builds and sustains authentic relationships; understands that community is built through personal engagement; sincerely values connection.
Creates a culture of open, direct, and relevant communication by communicating in a timely and appropriate manner; inspires and motivates; listens, hears and understands; exemplifies commitment to the practice of dialogue and conflict resolution.
Drives the success of the team and school through a collaborative approach; recognizes and engages talent and expertise within the team; seeks opinions and perspectives from constituents; strengthens the expertise of faculty by creating a culture of continual improvement and hiring top talent.
Five Criteria
Dear NDB Community,

It is my pleasure to announce the launch of the Head of School (HoS) Search Portal. The purpose of the portal is to keep you informed of progress we are making to bring a world-class Head of School into our community. Topics include information about the search process, a timeline, and the most current information making it easy for you to remain up-to-date and quickly informed of new developments.

As Notre Dame Belmont approaches its 100th graduating class with our current sophomores, the legacy is strong and the future is bright. The next Head of School will build upon our rich traditions and offer an innovative vision that will empower all stakeholders to rise to new levels. In the spirit of the Foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, St. Julie Billiart, "We must have courage in the century we live in. Great souls are needed, souls having the interest of God at heart."

Explore this portal for the latest update on the HoS search.
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to the Search Team at:

In Notre Dame,

Tim Fox
NDB Board of Directors
Dear Notre Dame Belmont Community,

In June, our consultants from Carney, Sandoe & Associates visited the campus and deployed an online survey to hear from community members, including students, faculty, staff, alumnae, parents, trustees, and friends of the school, about what makes Notre Dame Belmont so special. We had 611 members of the community complete the survey, sharing their desires for the next Head of School. Thank you for the time, care, and commitment you have shared so far in this search!

Those survey results yielded the following common themes:

What is most valued at NDB?

48% - Academic Excellence 

45% - All Girls’ Experience & Mission 

36% - Focus on 21st Century Skills 

What are the top five priorities for the next Head?

48% - Recruiting, Retaining & Compensating Quality Faculty

32% - Ensuring academic environment of best practices

26% - Furthering policies/programs promoting DEI

What are the five most important professional experiences/qualities for the next Head?

43% - Leadership, management experience in Schools

38% - Significant knowledge of best practices

32% - Experience supporting students’ needs in today’s world

What are the five most important traits for the next Head to possess?

36% - Honesty, trustworthy, transparent 

34% - Engaging, inspiring, motivational

28% - Excellent Communicator

Through a combination of the site visit, the survey data and direct feedback from the Notre Dame Board of Directors, the position description was developed and posted in late July. The position description captures the essence of our community and outlines the challenges and opportunities for the next Head of School, as well as the desired experience and qualifications for that individual.

By the end of summer, we were well into the recruitment and outreach phase for the Head of School search. The Carney, Sandoe & Associates consultants are interviewing and sourcing a quality group of applicants from the original pool of over 100 candidates. The next phase of the process will involve the Search Committee who will work to narrow the candidates down to a group of semi-finalists.

As always, thank you for your support of this important work.


Head of School Search Committee
Dear Members of the Notre Dame Belmont Community,

As we launch the search for our future Head of School we would like to invite you to participate in a brief survey to ensure we capture input from all members of our community. 

Responses will be anonymous and confidential and will go directly to Carney, Sandoe & Associates, the Search Group we have retained. They will consolidate your feedback to ensure they encapsulate views of all key constituents when defining our criteria for the search for our next Head of School.

The survey should take about 10-15 minutes to complete and has been extended to remain open until the end of day on Tuesday, June 1, 2021. At the conclusion of the survey you will have the opportunity to nominate someone you believe to be a potential candidate for this position.

To complete the survey please use this link:

Thank you for joining us in this exciting next stage towards the future of our school. We will be setting up a page on the NDB website to keep you posted with progress on our search.

In Notre Dame,

NDB Head of School Search Committee
Dear NDB Community​,​

In accordance with the Bylaws for Notre Dame High School, the Board of Directors is required to and has established a Search Committee to begin a search for the Head of School. We will keep you apprised of our progress in this most important decision for our school. The search firm of Carney, Sandoe & Associates has been retained to guide us in this search.

The members of the Search Committee include: Board Members Rod Donaville, Suzanne Mohan and Lisa Sellers; Jolanda Breazeale ’86 (Administration); Anna Gavidia, PhD. (Faculty); John Ailanjian (Current Parent); Rita Carroll (Class B representative of the Provincial Team of the California Province of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur) and Kathleen Colin (Class A representative of the Leadership Team of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur U.S. East-West Province).  

We would also like to add our gratitude to Dr. Linda Kern, who has graciously agreed to continue to serve as Interim Head of School during this search.

In Notre Dame,

​NDB ​Board of Directors
The Board of Directors expect to name Notre Dame High School’s next Head of School (HoS) by December 2021. This individual will work closely with the Interim Head of School throughout the remainder of the 2021-22 school year. The new Head of School will be introduced to the community once the search process has been completed.
Following the comprehensive search process, the official start date for the new Head of School will be July 2022.
Dr. Linda Kern has been the acting Interim Head of School and will remain in this position through this school year. Dr. Kern and her leadership team continue to provide an educational foundation that emphasizes academic excellence, spiritual growth, and social awareness.
As the fiduciaries of Notre Dame High School, the Board of Directors holds the important responsibility of appointing the Head of School. Members of the Board shared their thoughts with the search firm prior to the development of the position specification. The Board of Directors will meet finalists, and, acting on the recommendation of the Search Committee, will vote to approve the appointment of the next Head of School.
The Board presents the finalists to Class A of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. The Class A Members may interview any or all of the candidates. The Class A Members shall present their recommendations to the Board. The Board shall have the sole authority to appoint the Head of School from among the candidates recommended by the Members.
Yes, the Search Committee will consider qualified internal and external candidates.
The Search Committee believes that the Notre Dame High School community is an important voice in this process. All constituents were included in a community survey. The finalists will be invited to campus and engage with faculty, students, and families.
Progress on the Search for the new Head of School will be communicated through the NDB HoS Search Portal.
Position Description
HoS Position Description
Head of School Search Committee

In accordance with our ByLaws the Board of Directors of NDB has established a Search Committee to identify a new Head of School. The Search Committee includes both current and past parents, alumnae, faculty and staff, members of the NDB Board of Directors, as well as members of our Class A and Class B Boards, representing the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. The Search Committee will work with Carney, Sandoe & Associates, the search firm we appointed, to obtain input from the wider community, develop an ideal candidate profile, assess qualifications and suitability of prospective candidates put forward by the search firm, interview candidates, and select finalists to be recommened to the Board.
  • John Ailanjian (current parent)
  • Jolanda Breazeale NDB '86 (Interim Associate Head of School)
  • Rita Carroll (Class B Board Member representing Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur)
  • Kathleen Colin (Class A Board Member representing Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur)
  • Rod Donaville (NDB Board Member and past parent)
  • Anna Gavidia, Ph.D. (Faculty)
  • Suzanne Mohan (NDB Board Member and past parent)
  • Lisa Sellers, Ph.D. (NDB Board Member and current parent)