Rocky Fork Enterprise

Eighth head of school

Soderberg joins Columbus Academy as first female leader

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Columbus Academy's board of trustees has selected Melissa Boocock Soderberg as its first female and eighth head of school.

Soderberg will join CA on July 1, 2013, replacing John Mackenzie, who will leave in June after 16 years.

"I am tremendously excited about continuing the great work of John Mackenzie in leading Columbus Academy," Soderberg told ThisWeek. "While I am sure being female will inform some of the ways I do things, the school is such an open place, with forward-thinking initiatives like an emerging ethical literacy curriculum, extensive diversity work and increased and thoughtful use of technology in classes, that its bright future will be realized through its own rich history of a devoted faculty, able students and exceptionally supportive parents, alumni and trustees."

She said everyone would work to ensure that Columbus Academy is the most compelling education offered in the Columbus area.

CA's trustees announced on Oct.12 that Soderberg, current Upper School director at Breck School in Minnesota, had been selected as its new leader.

"We are thrilled to have Ms. Soderberg and her family join our community," said Poe Timmons, chair of the board of trustees. "We are confident that she will carry on the fine work of John Mackenzie and lead Columbus Academy to continued success in the future."

Soderberg's professional experience as an independent school educator includes roles as a division head, college counseling director, dean of students, history teacher and numerous coaching positions, in addition to extensive work in finance, admissions and development.

She has degrees from Middlebury College and the Teachers College at Columbia University, where she was a Joseph Klingenstein Fellow.

The appointment is the result of an extensive international search in which the board search committee and a specially appointed advisory committee screened and interviewed various candidates from the United States and Europe.

"We heard from our community as a whole its desire for a head of school who will lead our school with vision, integrity and commitment," Timmons said. "We believe that we have found an individual who possesses those qualities and who will weigh every decision based on the best interests of Columbus Academy and the students it serves.

"We are confident that Ms. Soderberg's capacity for visionary leadership, commitment to education in the 21st century, personal warmth and deep appreciation for Columbus Academy's traditions will serve our community well," Timmons said.

Soderberg said she knows about CA's positive reputation.

"I have known Columbus Academy much of my life as one of the strongest schools in ISACS (Independent Schools Association of the Central States), as it enjoys an enviable reputation in the independent school community," she said. "Obviously, the core of that reputation comes from the rigorous academic program, but in recent years, Columbus Academy has revealed itself to be very forward-thinking with diversity strategies, securing a significant grant to further financial aid and finding new ways to develop ethical initiatives while maintaining its character as a school with a rich history."

The coeducational, independent school serves more than 1,070 students in pre-kindergarten to grade 12 from throughout central Ohio.

"As I spent time with the incredibly thoughtful faculty, smart and introspective students, caring parents, loyal alumni and devoted and energetic administrators and trustees during my recent visit, I began to more deeply understand and appreciate the impact of John Mackenzie's steady leadership of the school and its constituents," Soderberg said. "I am humbled to have the amazing opportunity to lead -- and have my family be a part of -- a school that so appealingly melds character and academic rigor while it seeks to be self-examining in curricular practice and service outreach. I cannot imagine a better place than Columbus Academy for my family to call home."

Soderberg's husband, Dr. John Soderberg, is managing director of the Anthropology Laboratories at the University of Minnesota. They have two sons, Angus and Philip.

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