Head of School Search

As announced in June 2018, Speyer began a search for a new Head of School in the fall of 2018. After completing her four-year contract with Speyer in June 2019, Dr. Tischler will be taking up a new role in 2019-20 to work in consultation with our country’s leading experts in gifted education to develop a proprietary training and professional development curriculum for the Speyer faculty.

While the primary responsibility for managing the process of nominating the next Head of School was with the Search Committee, the Board of Trustees was committed to making this an inclusive process and provided opportunities for community input through in-person gatherings and electronic surveys. All announcements regarding the search process and Search Committee activities is on this page, including the wonderful announcement that Lawrence T. Donovan, Jr., Head of Lower School at Poly Prep Country Day School, Brooklyn, NY, accepted the invitation of the Board of Trustees to be Speyer’s Head of School, effective July 1, 2019.

The Speyer Legacy School Names Lawrence T. Donovan, Jr. as Head of School

Lawrence T. Donovan, Jr., Head of Lower School at Poly Prep Country Day School, Brooklyn, NY, has accepted the invitation of the Board of Trustees to succeed Dr. Barbara L. Tischler as the Head of The Speyer Legacy School effective July 1, 2019.

Speyer’s Board of Trustees made the appointment upon the unanimous recommendation of its 10-member Head of School Search Task Force. Today’s announcement was made by Greg J. Peterson, Chair of the Board of Trustees, and Jennifer Selendy, Speyer Co-Founder and Chair of the Search Task Force. Speyer’s Search Task Force was advised by Deirdre Ling and Jo Butler of Educators’ Collaborative.

“Larry Donovan’s academic background, New York City school experience, educational philosophy and vision, combined with his personal disposition, character, and core values, stood out during the search process,” said Peterson. He described the teacher, administrator, and educator as an “empathetic, insightful and inspirational leader with an intuitive sense for understanding how Speyer’s accelerated learners learn, interact, serve, and grow.”

“Larry’s inspiring leadership, warmth, intelligence, passion, and extensive record of accomplishment at each stage of his professional career were the qualities that were reflected by our Search Task Force and our Board,” said Peterson. He added, “As we got to know him over the course of the search, it became clear that he has the essential qualities and dedication to lead The Speyer Legacy School in its future development. Larry is instinctively collegial and has a naturally collaborative leadership and management style.” 

Jennifer Selendy, Co-Founder and Chair of the Search Task Force, concurred, adding that Speyer will enter its second decade with a renewed focus on its mission to serve the intellectual and emotional needs of accelerated learners. “The selection of Larry Donovan is an affirmation of Speyer’s commitment to unite a warm and dedicated community of faculty, administrators, and parents in support of the unique needs and potential of Speyer students. Larry is a visionary leader whose hard work and love of children mirror those qualities that propelledand sustained Speyer over its first 10 years. As we turn to the future, it is more important than ever, that Speyer faculty receive the training and support that they need to consolidate and build upon the many innovations that have come to represent the very best of a Speyer education, including our accelerated interdisciplinary curriculum that nurtures and responds to the passion for learning and questioning in each of its students.” She added, “Larry will continue to build on the mission established by Dr. Leta Hollingworth at the original Speyer School, marrying Hollingworth’s foundational insights regarding accelerated learners with best practices in 21stcentury education.”  

Larry is eager to begin preparing his transition. “I am thrilled to be joining The Speyer Legacy School!  Over the course of my many years as an educator and school leader, I have seen the tremendous challenge facing teachers who strive to meet the needs of accelerated learners in mainstream classrooms, while doing the same for their classmates. During my visit to Speyer, I experienced firsthand the benefits of an environment in which children learn side by side with peers who have similar strengths and a passion for learning.  At lunch with middle schoolers and then first graders, I met children whose intellectual curiosity and facility with knowledge and concepts were as beyond their years. Yet, I was most struck by the children’s remarkable love for their school and their teachers.  Speyer’s equal focus on the academic and emotional needs of accelerated learners is immediately apparent when speaking to the students. Similarly, at the school’s entrance during drop-off and while walking along the Boulevard, I was inspired by the collegial interactions between the adults. I feel truly fortunate to join a warm community with such a distinct mission nurturing the minds and hearts of accelerated learners.” 

Larry comes to Speyer with more than two decades of experience in education. As the Head of Lower School of Poly Prep, a co-ed school for grades N-12 serving over 1,000 students, Larry currently leads a stand-alone campus of approximately 250 students grades N-4 and 60 faculty and staff. 

Beginning his educational career as a camp counselor and second grade teacher at The Chestnut Hill School in Chestnut Hill, MA, Larry eventually became Camp Director and assumed the role of Director of Studies. He was ultimately promoted to Assistant Head before moving to Brooklyn to assume his position as Head of Lower School at Poly Prep. Larry earned his BA in Political Science from the University of New Hampshire in 1989 and a MEd in Elementary Education from Lesley College in 1997. Additionally, Larry earned a MA in Independent School Leadership from Columbia University in 2015.

During his time at Poly Prep, Larry refined the admissions process and achieved a 15% growth in enrollment over nine years. He reorganized the learning specialist department to increase staffing and improve differentiation of instruction. He also began affinity groups for faculty, students and parents of color, students with divorced/separated parents, and female students. Larry was an integral part of Poly exceeding a school wide annual fund goal of $1.5 million, setting a school record. Lower school faculty participated at a rate of 100%, and lower school families participated at a rate of nearly 95%.

Larry founded Lower School Leadership, an association of heads and assistant heads of school in New York City, which serves as a think tank on educational practices and policy. He is a member of the Brooklyn Early Childhood Directors Association and a former Board member of The Ethical Community Charter School, also in Brooklyn. 

Upcoming Opportunities to Meet the Candidates

We are pleased to offer opportunities to everyone in the Speyer community to meet and speak with our four Head of School candidates.
All meetings are 8:30 AM – 9:15 AM in the Dining Hall on the following dates:

  • Tuesday, October 30

  • Tuesday, November 6

  • Thursday, November 8

  • Thursday, November 15

For the latest information, please refer to the email from HOS Search Committee Chair Jennifer Selendy on Wednesday, October 24. 


All current parents are encouraged to meet the Educators’ Collaborative consultants during  a drop-in session with Deirdre and Jo at 3:30 PM on Wednesday, September 12.


All members of the Speyer community are encouraged to fill out this brief survey, which will help the Search Committee in their process of finding and nominating a new Head of School. Please click on the link below to provide your insight and thoughts.



This message was sent to the Speyer community on September 5, 2018:

Dear Members of the Speyer Legacy Community, 

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I am writing to share with you an update regarding our search process for the next Head of The Speyer Legacy School, who will succeed Barbara Tischler on or about July 1, 2019. As I mentioned in my message to you in June, the Board has appointed a Search Committee to conduct a comprehensive national search for a new Head of School. I am chairing the Search Committee and will be joined by the following members: Olga Breydo, Dr. Dev Brar, Kristina Berger, Leah Gardiner, Marjorie Mvemba, Matt Thoren, Samantha Gabrielli, and Diane Borgmann (Head of the Sycamore School).

While the primary responsibility for managing the process of nominating the next Head of School lies with the Search Committee, the Board of Trustees is committed to making this an inclusive process and will provide opportunities for community input through in-person gatherings and electronic surveys. The first opportunities in this regard will occur when our search consultants visit the school, presently scheduled for Wednesday, September 12, and through the brief on-line constituent survey which we would appreciate you completing. The survey can be found at: 


Deirdre Ling and Jo Butler of Educators’ Collaborative, a national consulting firm which specializes in working with independent schools, have been engaged to assist us with our search. As noted above, the Educators’ Collaborative consultants will be visiting Speyer Legacy on September 12, to interview members of the school community and to meet with the Search Committee. They have already begun the work of building a pool of candidates by listing the position with appropriate agencies and associations, contacting selected educational leaders to solicit recommendations for the position, and reaching out to potential candidates with whom they and their colleagues are familiar. After the candidate pool has been developed, the Search Committee will meet to review the credentials of the top candidates identified by our consultants. 

I would like to invite all current parents who are not already scheduled to meet the Educators’ Collaborative consultants to attend a drop-in session with Deirdre and Jo at 3:30pm on September 12.

The Speyer community can follow the Search Committee’s progress on the Speyer Legacy website where there will be a Head of School search process page which you may access within the next few weeks. Our goal is to complete the search process and announce the appointment of a new Head of School no later than December and perhaps earlier.

If you have questions, we encourage you to talk with members of the Search Committee. The members of the Search Committee and Board of Trustees are grateful for your support and will offer periodic updates on the search as the process moves forward. We look forward to seeing current parents at the information session in September. 

Jennifer Selendy, Chair
Head of School Search Committee


Jennifer Selendy, Chair
Olga Breydo
Dr. Dev Brar
Kristina Berger
Leah Gardiner
Marjorie Mvemba
Matt Thoren
Samantha Gabrielli
Diane Borgmann (Head of the Sycamore School)