Board unanimously votes in favor of a new five-year contract for Headmaster Zack Lehman

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Headmaster Zack Lehman recently received a five-year contract extension. Photo by Erick Sun ’24.

Zack Lehman, the current headmaster, began his tenure at Hill in 2012 and is set to extend his time after negotiations with the Board of Trustees. The new five-year contract is a notable change from the two-year renewable contracts he had previously been on, signaling a long-term commitment by Lehman and the school. From interviewing Sylvia Rodríguez Vargas, the associate headmaster; Preston Athey, the chairman of the Board of Trustees; and Lehman himself, it is clear that the school has seen tangible progress under Lehman’s leadership and the board and administration expects similar accomplishments through 2026.

Although Rodríguez Vargas joined the Hill community less than a year ago, she recognizes that Lehman has gone “above and beyond” to meet the needs of the community this past year under the most “unusual and unprecedented circumstances.” Rodriguez Vargas said she is “pleased to have the opportunity to serve alongside him.” 

Unlike Rodríguez Vargas, Athey has witnessed the entirety of Lehman’s tenure at Hill, having joined the Board in 2002 and served as its chairman since 2014. Athey described the new contract as a two-way street which assures Lehman that the school is committed to his service and vice versa.

 “We feel it is really good for both parties,” Athey stated in an email. The idea of a new long-term contract originated in 2019. Following thorough research of other schools’ contracting practices, evaluation of the risks associated with a long-term commitment, and Lehman’s personal expectations from the position, the entire board voted unanimously to implement the new contract last fall.

When he first took the job, Lehman told the board he would “love to be here for at least 10 years.” Now entering his ninth, he believes that the contract provides stability for the school, faculty, and students as well as the trajectory of growth and improvement, as there is “still a lot to do.” One of his proudest achievements at the school is in the ongoing struggle of navigating Hill through a pandemic. Lehman noted that the school has done as well — “if not better” — than any other school in a circumstance that he feels “demands strong leadership, great collaboration and teamwork.”

In terms of his other achievements, Lehman thinks they are assessed better in the long run. He cited the growth of the school’s national and international reputation, which he credits to the “caliber of our program — both academic and co-curricular” and “the strength of our student body and our faculty.” 

Lehman has also led the way for many changes to the school’s campus. In his tenure, such notable projects as the renovation of the Dining Hall and the construction of the Shirley Quadrivium were completed, and the Far Fields, faculty housing and the school’s infrastructure all had improvements.These are of particular priority to Lehman, as he believes it is “important for the school’s long-term health.” 

When asked about the school’s future, Lehman responded, “We have a lot of work to do to continue to grow and update our curriculum and our academic program.” He noted that the change in academics has been particularly fast due to the pandemic, as the pandemic has led to the exploration of new learning styles and virtual learning. 

Lehman said he has learned a lot from the pandemic and has identified “several silver linings” that “we would like to continue to implement.” One of them is H-term. He thinks there should be an “opportunity for students to take unique courses or explore their own passions through independent studies or internships.” The school is looking at a way to incorporate such opportunities in future years, and modifications to the calendar and the schedule, as seen in the 2020-21 academic year, are possible.

According to Lehman, his role has always meant that he is an “ambassador and a cheerleader of the school,” working to attract the best students and faculty, as well as new resources for the school, and this role has not changed despite the pandemic.

Additionally, as schools and organizations throughout the United States strive to embrace social awareness, Lehman has become heavily committed to the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force. He said that the school’s curriculum will continue to evolve to include issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice. “We’ve been aggressive in trying to retain and recruit more faculty members from diverse backgrounds,” Lehman said, as the school aims to hire more faculty and have “more diversity than ever before.” 

For Lehman, this contract extension was a “huge vote of confidence.” As he enters into the next five years of his time at Hill, he wants faculty and students to know that he is “humbled” by the school’s commitment and hopes that each student continues to enjoy their experience at The Hill School. After all, he said, the whole community is “working towards a common goal.”  

Andres Arevalo ’22 contributed to this report.