Head of School Transition

Q&A with Alona Scott

List of 7 items.

  • What attracted you to Buckley?

    Initially I was drawn to Buckley for the holistic pedagogical approach of the 4-Fold Plan, for the commitment to equity and inclusion -- it’s the only school of which I’m aware that is bold enough to state its commitment to DEI in the first sentence of its mission -- for its interest in planning for the future, and for its model of K-12 education. Once I had a chance to visit and meet students, faculty, staff, admin, parents, alumni, and trustees, I was excited about the people. Here I found individuals who deeply value community and live by values near and dear to my own heart – respect, kindness, curiosity, collaboration, and joy to name just a few.
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  • What was your favorite subject in school and why?

    My favorite subject varied from year to year throughout elementary, middle and high school. Thinking back to those years, I now understand why one year I loved math, another English, another history and another science. My “favorite” was always the subject or subjects with teachers who were engaging, who took an interest in me, and who shared something of themselves beyond the actual content.
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  • How did you get into the field of education?

    I love learning – actually, I LOVE learning. When I was in fifth grade, I particularly enjoyed studying early American history and I thought it would be fun to help other kids get excited about American history and learning in general. I knew then that I wanted to be a fifth grade teacher. However, I grew up hearing my dad’s story about his own career path and it gave me pause. When my father was 12, he decided to be a lawyer. He never thought about it after that – he knew what he wanted to be and that was that. It wasn’t until his second year of law school that he realized he was in the wrong field. While he ultimately found an extremely fulfilling profession, he made sure that my sister and I held off on choosing our career paths until we were older.  
    Throughout high school and college I held a number of internships in other fields, and I also babysat, worked as a camp counselor, and was an assistant teacher in my synagogue’s religious school. It was the work with kids that was most inspiring, most engaging, and most fulfilling to me. So, when it came time to select a college, I found one where I could choose any major I wished and minor in teacher preparation, earning my teaching credential by the time I graduated. As senior year rolled around, I continued to explore opportunities outside of education, but my heart led me right to the classroom. I started my teaching career as a fourth grade associate teacher in a K-12 independent school in Manhattan. There, I received exceptional mentoring and encouragement to begin work towards a master’s degree in education. The rest, as they say, is history.
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  • Do you have a favorite author?

    I have lots of favorite authors, in part because I am and will always be a fan of books for all ages, and in part because I love how different authors help expand my knowledge of the world and appreciation of how others have lived. For Lower School students, I love Mo Willems, Patricia Polacco, Ashley Spires, Maurice Sendak, Judith Viorst, and, how can I resist, JK Rowling. For Middle School students, I’ve recently discovered Adam Gidwitz and Jason Reynolds. For older students and adults, ’m still a huge fan of Lois Lowry, Wilson Rawls, and Harper Lee. I’ve also just read Educated by Tara Westover and Becoming by Michelle Obama. I sometimes shy away from books that receive as much publicity as these have, but they are both stories that leave the reader (or listener) feeling truly inspired about the power of the human spirit, determination, hard work, and family. I could go on and on and on...
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  • Describe a teacher who inspired you.

    Robin McCleary began our ninth grade science class by lighting a tea candle and blowing it out. She then proceeded to put the candle, wick and all, into her mouth, chewed and swallowed. And then she asked us to share observations and opinions about what she had just done.

    Once our discussion came to a lull, she said, “Now, let me show you what I did before you came into the room.” At that point, she pulled out a banana, peeled it, and cut a half-inch chunk from it’s center. She opened a bottle of canola oil, opened it, and poured a few drops into a petri dish. And she opened a bag of slivered almonds, selected one, dipped it in the canola oil, and placed it in the center of the banana standing tall, appearing to be a wick. She then lit the “candle,” blew out the flame, and ate it. Robin saw the astonishment on our faces and said something like, “This class is about observing carefully and challenging your assumptions. Not everything you see is as it seems.”
    From that moment on, I was hooked. I hadn’t been interested in science before, but suddenly it was my favorite class. And while I did quite well and came to better understand and appreciate science more in that year than in any before or after, the most important lessons I ultimately learned from Robin were not about science, but about life. At one point she talked about the significant relationships in her life and shared that in those that mattered most to her, in the ones that worked best, the math didn’t make sense.“You see,” she said, “One plus one does not equal two. It equals three. Because when I’m with that person and they’re with me, we’re each better than we would be on our own.”
    On another day, something prompted her to share her belief that it’s important to relish simple pleasures. “Have something that will make you smile that is always within reach,” she advised. When I asked her what she meant, she said something along the lines of, “Well, teachers don’t make a lot of money, but you can learn to love great music, candles, heck, even brownie batter. It’s so much better raw than baked, she added.  
    I can no longer balance chemical equations (well, to be fair, I haven’t tried in 25 years), but the lessons I learned in Robin’s classroom are now deeply embedded in my own life.  I question my assumptions. I seek out the relationships where one plus one equals three. And I relish simple pleasures. Watching the hand on the gas gage of my car move from empty to full is one. A nectarine in summer is another. And time with my family - well, that’s the best of all.
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  • Describe yourself as a young student.

    Oh, I was a pleaser. I was organized - the kind of student who had every paper neatly punched and filed, the kind who knew the daily schedule so well that I’d remind the teacher when we only had two minutes left of class. And I loved to learn. I was fascinated by numbers and the way they fit together, maps and the brightly colored countries with names I could neither pronounce nor spell, stories and the way writers could keep you turning page after page. I was lucky - I had teachers who appreciated my curiosity and who went out of their way to make sure I was continuously challenged.
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  • As a native Angeleno returning to your hometown, what are some of your favorite haunts?

    Los Angeles has changed a lot since I last lived here. Having grown up in Windsor Square, the neighborhood just east of my high school, it’s no surprise that Larchmont Village always brings back fond memories. My friends and I used to walk home after school and stop at Penguins frozen yogurt for milkshakes. When the Coffee Bean opened we switched to Iced Blendeds (then called “Larchmont Specials” – and in existence before Starbucks developed the Frappuccino). The old Farmers Market on Third and Fairfax near the Grove is another favorite haunt. When my grandfather came to town he loved taking us out for breakfast at Dupar’s. When I was in first grade, my class took a field trip to sing at a nearby home for the aged and afterwards we got to go to the Farmers Market for pizza and ice cream. What’s fun about returning to favorite spots is that it prompts me to tell Mo and Zeke stories about my childhood. It gives them a peak into who I was as a kid.
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Save the Date

Parents and guardians are invited to two meet and greets with Alona Scott in The Center for Community and the Arts. Invitations will be sent closer to the dates.

Tuesday, February 26
8:30 to 9:30 a.m.

Thursday, May 2
8:30 to 9:30 a.m.

List of 1 items.

  • A Letter from the Board of Trustees Chair

    Dear Buckley Community,
    On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I am thrilled to announce that Alona Scott will be the next head of The Buckley School as of July 1, 2019.
    Her appointment is the result of a rigorous national recruitment effort aimed at finding the right leader to promote Buckley’s mission and well-rounded educational approach while ensuring we remain a first-rate learning institution.
    A native Angeleno and alumna of Marlborough School, Ms. Scott holds an AB in religion from Princeton University (cum laude) and two masters in education – the first in reading and literacy from Bank Street College and another in private school education from Columbia University, Teachers College. Since 2013, she has been the Head of School at Keys School in Palo Alto. Prior to that, Ms. Scott served as the Director of Middle School at the Hackley School, in Tarrytown, New York, and the Head of the Lower School at La Jolla Country Day School, in La Jolla, California. She serves as a trustee at Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos, where she is the co-chair of the rabbinic transition and vision committees, and a member of the strategic planning and trustee nomination committees.
    These robust qualifications, along with an empathic approach to K-12 teaching and learning, innovative approach to pedagogy, and commitment to equity and inclusion united both the search committee and board of trustees, who voted unanimously for Alona’s appointment. We were also pleased to receive an overwhelmingly positive response from the entire Buckley community. A huge thank you for your active participation and feedback, which proved invaluable in the decision-making.
    Alona, her husband Lacarya Scott, and their sons Mo (10) and Zeke (8) are very excited to move to Los Angeles and join the Buckley community.
    Over the coming months, the board will work closely with Alona as she gets to know Buckley and together we will develop a plan that results in a smooth and successful onboarding. We also continue to be grateful for the strong leadership of Andrew Wooden, who will be an integral part of the transition. We are confident that we can all collaborate on completing a successful school year while looking to the future with great optimism. 
    Valeria Rico Nikolov
    The Buckley School Board of Trustees, chair
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