The Riverdale Experience: Inspiring Education

 

The Position

POSITION RESPONSIBILITIES

Reporting to Dominic Randolph, head of school, and serving as a member of his leadership cabinet, the director of strategic communications (director) shares broad responsibilities to advance the mission, reputation, and capacity of Riverdale Country School in fulfillment of its strategic priorities across all three divisions—lower school, middle school, and upper school. Along with Riverdale’s senior leadership and external consultants, the director will manage and elevate the school’s brand through strategic planning, market insight and trend analysis, and consumer feedback to provide strong cohesion across the school’s activities. The director will oversee strategic planning and processes that yield integrated school-wide communications and marketing that support the school’s mission; convey its commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging with authenticity and sophistication; meet the needs of multiple constituencies and departments; and advance Riverdale’s standing in the local community and the independent school community nationwide.

This senior leader will collaborate with the admission office to ensure that the school’s overall and division-specific messaging effectively communicates the value of a Riverdale education to prospective families, while partnering closely with the development office to ensure that the communications for fundraising and alumni connections appropriately reflect the school’s mission and voice and support the office’s objectives. Additionally, they will collaborate closely with the head of school, senior leadership team, and board of trustees on the school’s public relations approach. This includes managing media contacts and requests while working with the head of school on communications to proactively promote the school and safeguard its reputation in moments of crisis.

The director will build, coach, and manage a high-performing communications team that is equipped to meet the needs of a dynamic and evolving school, including digital strategy, social media, print publications, brand management, and media and public relations. In addition to leading the work of the Riverdale communications team and external resources (brand consultant, WordPress developers, freelance photographers, and video production specialists), the director will have an opportunity to hire an additional staff member to ensure all needs are met.

HISTORY OF THE POSITION

Lila Locksley has served as the director of communications for Riverdale since August 2014 and retired from the position in June 2021. Under her leadership, the office has grown its role and impact at the school through key initiatives, including a strategic rebrand and refinement of Riverdale’s profile, development and launch of the school’s new website, creation of a videography and digital communications function within the office, and a substantial investment in external partners who support the school’s ambitious communications, marketing, and brand management priorities. The office has been regularly recognized with InspirED Brilliance Awards for its in-house videos since 2017.

LIKELY OPPORTUNITIES, PRIORITIES, AND CHALLENGES OF THE POSITION

There are several aspects of the role of director of strategic communications at Riverdale Country School in which the successful candidate will need to be prepared to lead. These include:

• Developing a trusting and transparent relationship with the head of school to understand both his personal communication style and his vision and priorities for Riverdale.
• Establishing reciprocal relationships and systems of collaboration with school stakeholders and offices, including but not limited to, the senior leadership team, board of trustees, the Riverdale Parent Association, admissions, development and alumni affairs, community relations, faculty, and Riverdale’s student and alumni community.
• Partnering with colleagues on the senior leadership team to strategically articulate and promote the broad vision of Riverdale and its affiliated initiatives and creating coherent and compelling content that authentically communicates the school’s value proposition broadly and the specific stories of each of the three divisions—lower school, middle school, and upper school.
• Ensuring that all communications and related activities exemplify a clarity of commitment, process, and voice regarding diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB), consistent with Riverdale’s DEIB goals and the school’s annual equity action plan.
• Articulating a clear vision and direction for the communications office, clarifying roles, and building a creative and high-functioning team through mentoring, team building, professional development, and assessment of the staffing infrastructure.
• Partnering with members of the senior leadership team to connect the school’s strategic plan and accompanying priorities to an ambitious and data-informed communications strategy.
• Collaborating with the head of school and Plussed+ leadership team to integrate its distinctive work more strategically with the Riverdale master brand and maximize its potential and impact.
• Forging meaningful relationships within the Bronx and broader local communities and establishing trust with a wide variety of stakeholders.

Qualifications

This position is an exceptional opportunity for an ambitious and equity-minded leader who is a big-picture thinker with a track record of innovation, collaboration, and mission-driven leadership. Minimum qualifications include a bachelor’s degree (advanced degree preferred) in marketing, communications, public relations, journalism, education or a related field, and seven years of progressive, full-time experience in strategic communications and/or public relations, with at least three years of experience managing a communications team. Preference will be given to candidates with experience in strategic communications for independent schools, colleges or universities, or social impact organizations.

Additional qualifications include experience and demonstrated success in the following areas:
• Sophisticated utilization of social media, web, digital, print, and multimedia strategies in support of organizational mission, values, and priorities;
• Exceptional writing, editing, and oral communication skills and proficiency in communicating and engaging effectively with a wide range of constituencies, including senior leadership, faculty, board members, parents, staff, alumni, and students;
• Creating and leading integrated communications campaigns, brand awareness, and media strategy with a relevant portfolio of proven outcomes;
• Knowledge of trends and best practices in brand management and public relations, as well as communication technologies;
• Proactive integration of diversity, equity, and inclusion into communications and brand strategies;
• The ability to develop and implement strategic campaigns and research-based communications plans;
• Expertise in making presentations and communicating with the media and key stakeholders, especially in a crisis or controversial situation; and
• Managing complex projects in a fast-paced organization with multiple stakeholders.

In addition to the required and preferred qualifications above, Riverdale stakeholders indicated that the next director of strategic communications should be one who:
• is a strong manager of people;
• is nimble and flexible;
• can quickly garner the trust and confidence of colleagues and break down siloes;
• is personally committed to education and has a love of schools;
• is skilled in matching communications to many intersecting, and at times competing, audiences;
• is up to date on technological tools and solutions;
• has a genuine interest in connecting with students and their families;
• has the confidence and emotional intelligence to serve as a trusted advisor;
• can examine communications through the eyes of parents and family members;
• is comfortable initiating and nurturing strategic relationships;
• can quickly and deftly leverage the foundational elements of the Riverdale brand; and
• is transparent and clear in their decision-making and leadership style.

Leaders at Riverdale Country School are expected to show competence in all domains outlined in the R+ Leadership Capacities. In this position, the following capacities are prioritized: commitment to the mission of Riverdale Country School; effective communication in all forms; collaboration while leading teams through change; working purposefully; and valuing and cultivating a diverse community.

Institution & Location

INSTITUTIONAL BACKGROUND

Founded in 1907 by Frank and Francis Hackett, Riverdale Country School (Riverdale) is one of the preeminent and oldest country day schools in the United States. With an enrollment of 1,200 pre-K through 12th grade students, Riverdale is a place of endless possibilities and prepares its students to develop the confidence, independence, knowledge, and character necessary to join, succeed in, and meaningfully contribute to a constantly evolving 21st-century world. The school community reflects the diversity of New York City—students come to the school from 14 zip codes, and 42 percent of students self-identify as a student of color. At Riverdale, free expression and diverse viewpoints contribute to deeper and more nuanced questioning, reflecting, and understanding of the world in which we live. To this end, the school works each day to become an anti-racist, anti-bias institution and a safe space for LGBTQIA+ community members.

Riverdale’s history is characterized by continual innovation: it ignited the “country school” movement in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century, championed global education in the 1940s and 1950s, and created new interdisciplinary courses in the 1980s and 1990s. Today, Riverdale is a place where people feel strongly that one should work with a sense of purpose and be able to tell their story humbly and authentically. Community members engage in rigorous, joyful education that incorporates interdisciplinary and experiential opportunities on its two campuses which are located on 27.5 stunning acres in the Bronx. The River Campus is home to Riverdale’s Lower School, while the Hill Campus houses the Middle and Upper Schools.

Virtual tour of River Campus:

Virtual tour of Hill Campus

School Mission

Riverdale is a Pre-K through grade 12 independent school in New York City committed to empowering lifelong learners by developing minds, building character, and creating community in order to change our world for the good.

Endowment: $60 million
Active alumni: 5,900

Total enrollment: 1,200 students
• Lower school: 400 students
• Middle school: 280 students
• Upper school: 520 students

Students of color: 42 percent
Nationalities represented: 72

Number of faculty: 200
Faculty of color: 25 percent

INSTITUTIONAL LEADERSHIP

Dominic A. A. Randolph, Head of School

Dominic A.A. Randolph is Riverdale’s sixth head of school and a leader in the international character education movement. Prior to Randolph’s appointment in 2007, he served as assistant head of school at The Lawrenceville School and worked in a variety of teaching and administrative roles in schools in Europe and the Middle East. At Riverdale, his work has focused on curriculum development, interdisciplinary studies, design thinking, and the implications of cognitive and technological advancements for learning, character development, and positive psychology.

Randolph is a co-founder of the nonprofit educational research organization, Character Lab, along with Dave Levin ’88, founder of the KIPP charter schools, and Angela Duckworth, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the best-selling book, Grit. Randolph is a steering committee member of the International Positive Education Network, and a board member of the Mastery Transcript Consortium. He is a member of the leadership team of nXu, an out-of-school program that helps highly promising New York City high school students explore, identify, and pursue their life purpose. Randolph has written on character and opportunity for the Brookings Institute. In 2015, he published an exchange on the nature of education with Max Ventilla, CEO and founder of AltSchool, a San Francisco-based education startup that operates schools in San Francisco and New York City.

Known as an innovator, Randolph is the founder of Plussed+, a learning experience design studio based at Riverdale. Working with IDEO’s Design for Learning Studio, Plussed+ developed The Teachers Guild, a platform for creating and sharing new teaching strategies. Also with IDEO, Randolph collaborated on the Design-Thinking Toolkit for Educators and The Purpose Project, a digital platform currently in beta testing, developed to help students use design-thinking methods to prototype their purpose.

Benefits Overview

Riverdale provides a comprehensive and competitive benefits package that includes the following:
• Medical Coverage;
• Dental Coverage;
• Vision Insurance;
• Basic Life and AD&D Insurance;
• Short-Term and Long-Term Disability;
• Voluntary Accident and Critical Illness Insurance;
• Flexible Spending Accounts: health care, dependent care, and parking and transit;
• Tuition Reimbursement Program;
• Defined Contribution Retirement Plan;
• Supplemental Retirement Plan;
• Full-time Daycare;
• Health Advocate;
• Vacation Accrual; and
• Additional Paid Time Off.

Detailed information about Riverdale’s benefits program can be found at www.riverdale.edu/careers/benefits/.

Application & Nomination

Riverdale has retained the services of Spelman Johnson, a leading national executive search firm, to assist with leading this search. Review of applications will begin Monday, August 9, 2021 and continue until the position is filled. To apply for this position please click on the Apply button, complete the brief application process, and upload your resume and position-specific cover letter. Nominations for this position may be forwarded to Michel Frendian at mrf@spelmanjohnson.com. Applicants needing reasonable accommodation to participate in the application process should contact Spelman Johnson at 413-529-2895.

Visit the Riverdale Country School website at www.riverdale.edu.

Riverdale Country School seeks diversity in its faculty, staff, and student body. In admission and employment policies and practices, in financial aid and loan programs, and in all its educational programs, Riverdale does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national and ethnic origin, disability, sexual orientation, sex, gender, gender identity or expression, and any other protected categories under applicable law.

It is the policy of Riverdale Country School to provide equal employment opportunities without regard to race, color, religion, sex, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, national and ethnic origin, citizenship, marital status, disability, military status, or any other basis protected by applicable law to all qualified employees and applicants for employment.