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

Donovan holdsa BA from the University of New Hampshire, a MEd from Lesley College and a MA from Columbia University.

Donovan holdsa BA from the University of New Hampshire, a MEd from Lesley College and a MA from Columbia University.

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.