VCS Announces New Head of School – Dexter Mahaffey, Ph.D
March 24, 2014
Dear Members of the Vermont Commons School Community,
The Board of Trustees of the Vermont Commons School is pleased to announce the appointment of Dexter Mahaffey, Ph.D as Vermont Commons School’s fifth Head of School, effective July 1st, 2014. Dexter joins us with over twenty years in education during which time he has taught, led, coached, administered, and published extensively. Dexter currently serves as Director of Diversity and Global Studies at Kentucky Country Day School in Louisville.
In Dexter’s current role he has primarily worked to recruit and retain a student body from broad cultural, socio-economic and religious backgrounds. Dexter’s community-driven work impressed and inspired many in the VCS community who met him. His collaboration with students, parents, faculty, fellow administrators, and broader community partners helped establish initiatives, policies, and programs that enabled his school to envision and situate itself as a 21st-century learning community. Having also established long-term exchanges with sister schools in Argentina, France, Ghana, and Haiti, Dexter regularly leads trips and oversees the visits of student groups. In support of these programs, Dexter has led several successful philanthropic efforts internally and externally, making use of grants, capital campaigns, and grassroots undertakings.
Dexter began his career at the Summerbridge program for gifted but at-risk inner-city youth, an experience that instilled in him a belief in the concretely transformative power of education for students and their families. Launching from this initial experience, Dexter went on to work as an English teacher, retreat director, honor program administrator, running coach, outdoor trip leader, and myriad other positions across the age groups at independent schools around the country, from Maine and North Carolina to Colorado, Washington, and California.
A 1993 graduate of Middlebury College with a degree in sociology and anthropology, Dexter subsequently completed his Masters in English from the Bread Loaf School of English in 1998 and earned his Doctorate from the University of Louisville in 2013 with a dissertation exploring historical rhetoric about Africa. A running and fly fishing enthusiast, Dexter is married to Era MacDonald, a landscape designer and educator specializing in native plants. Their two young sons—Iain and Kai—join them in family pursuits of music, agriculture, fostering animals, and a love of the outdoors.
Dexter is thrilled to be joining the Vermont Commons community and is particularly inspired by the school’s mission of leveraging academic and intellectual work towards specific and pragmatic acts of environmental, global, and social engagement and stewardship. During his campus visit, he recognized that Vermont Commons’ practice of giving its students real world experience through the Encounter Week and Research and Service programs sets it apart from other schools in the country and uniquely stages it to create the next generation of leaders for Vermont and beyond. He was particularly struck by the mature and thoughtful bearing of the students who engaged whatever they undertook without hesitation while at the same time according the greatest of respect for their faculty, a dynamic that was clearly reciprocated.
Seeing a rich opportunity to help Vermont Commons grow through further development and implementation of its unique and essential mission as well as bringing the story of Vermont Commons to the broader community, Dexter is most excited to make such efforts at a place that already shares his ethos at its very core.
The Board of Trustees would like to thank everyone who contributed to the extensive search process and to thank all of the search committee members and all of the support group members. We would especially like to thank Tina Mueller, chair of the search committee, and Chuck Burdick of Carney Sandoe. We could not have hoped for a better group of people to conduct this search.
Please join me and the Board of Trustees in welcoming Dexter, Era, Iain, and Kai to Vermont Commons School and to our community. We look forward to all we will accomplish under Dexter’s leadership as our next Head of School.
Chair, VCS Board of Trustees