Head of School

Head of School Transition


Dear Island School ʻOhana,
Such a gift this year has been. You could easily be forgiven for not even knowing I had parachuted in last summer to pitch in for this single voyage through the academic calendar, culminating in the graduation of the remarkable seniors showcased in the pages of this publication. There’s every chance that you may not remember me, but I surely, surely will remember you. The newness and the differentness of it all guarantees that these recollections will stick.
At the top of the to-do list on arrival was finding a talented, engaging, receptive next head of school to carry the baton here. It would be hard to imagine anyone more perfect for that combination of challenge and opportunity than Nancy Nagramada. Where I lived in the moment, she will be looking to the horizon. Where I worked around the edges of things, she will get to the heart of what matters. Where I tried to microwave a few ideas, she’ll be able to marinate and stew the next big projects—all with your considerable help. Hers is the chance to know this school community, from Hāʻena to Kekaha, the way it deserves to be known. Time will be her ally, and Island School’s ally, if you let that happen.
What happens here is unlike anything that my wanderings in the world of schools have yet shown me. Maybe in part because we lack any colleagues on island in a similar situation, much of what we do and how we do it is filtered through examples from far away, in both time and distance. What results is our own answer to doing school. My guess is that with Nancy’s landing Island School may more actively search out our educational cousins in other settings, that we’ll do more of what the rest of the world has started calling benchmarking.
If we went in that direction, we’d likely discover a few essential truths. Island School stretches a budgeted dollar further than almost anyone, and we budget more of those dollars for need-based aid than others would ever imagine possible, and we bring together a community of people from an amazing range of backgrounds and mindsets to somehow agree on enough to make this place possible. To do all three of those things simultaneously stands as even more amazing. I would defy even the most capable school hotshots to replicate what we already have.
And then it would be time to think about what we will do next, having reached this particular shore—where do the Voyagers go from here? Our campus, for all the right reasons, is maxed out, as we saw on May Day, with every square foot occupied. We’re bringing on essential classroom space with the David Pratt building you’ll read about in the pages that follow, but we’re strapped every day at lunch for places to sit down. And we feel the local housing crunch acutely every time we offer a faculty position, not to mention the strain that the general cost of living puts on our modest wages and salaries.
Fortunately for us, if we decide to solve these riddles, we’re doing so from a position of strength. You cannot convince me that Island School does not have the people and the resources to figure this out, to find a way to make this part of paradise an educational oasis. As I’ve said to the dedicated, idealistic, risk-tolerant founders who got us started, we just need to commit to something that’s as hard as what they did. 
Let me sign off with a question. Having developed a huge feeling of aloha for this remarkable school, I wonder about our theory of change, about the what, the how, and the when, not to mention the why, of the right next steps here. May you find the way forward together, understanding the power of this time in the school’s history, rooted in our singular past and leaning toward the future.
With so much gratitude for your kindness,

Vince Durnan
Interim Head of School 2022-2023


Dear Island School Community,
What a pleasure it is to be looking ahead to join you so soon. My family and I had a wonderful visit in April, learning the lay of the land, spending time on campus, scoping out where we might live, and even joining the incredible Gala. What a vibrant and welcoming community lies at the center of Island School. In fact, Milo, my son who will enter 7th Grade in the fall, had such a wonderful time sitting in on 6th Grade classes that he wanted to return for another day with his new friends – a true testament to the warm welcome from the 6th Grade teaching team, the 6th Graders themselves, as well Stephanie, Sean, and Christine.
After my visit last month, I have no doubt that my nearly 30 years of teaching and leading in schools has led me to Island School. I couldn’t have predicted this journey, not even a year ago, but from day one, I have felt welcomed and valued for who I am and what I can bring to this community. My parents, who immigrated from the Philippines and had to build their own lives in the United States brick-by-brick, modeled for me that it is through hard work, love of family, care for our environment around us, and dedicated study that my siblings and I could build our own lives as we dreamed. It is this foundation that I bring with me to all that I do, and I look forward to what we will sustain and build together.
I have been spending my spring having regular meetings with Vince, and I feel so grateful that he and I have established a strong communication routine so that our transition can be a smooth one. He has done meaningful work in his short time at the School, and I have no doubt that he will be missed dearly. I feel such gratitude that he has offered to remain in touch in the fall.
For the remainder of this spring, I will be closing out my work in San Francisco and will arrive at Island School in late June to officially begin the handoff between Vince and me. So for now, I will turn towards closing the year at The San Francisco School, organizing the many meaningful traditions that mark the end of the school year. My family will then pack up our lives – give away much and store our winter jackets for when we visit family on the mainland – and have many, many goodbye-for-now celebrations with our own families as well as the communities we have built in California. Island School is in wonderful hands with Vince to close the year. I look forward to hearing about it all when I arrive, for I know that for me to have any hope for a strong future as Island School’s next Head of School, I must dedicate time to listen to the community — students, faculty, staff, families, alumni, Board members, broader community members — to talk-story so that I can come to a deeper understanding of the Island School and Kaua’i history.
I cannot close my letter without expressing my deepest gratitude to the role each of you played in the Search process. The way in which the Search Committee, led by Sam Pratt and Jed Gushman, as well as Kathy Richardson and the Board developed a process that allowed Island School to shine as well express its needs and for me to feel fully seen as I shared what I had to offer — that is not an easy dance. Your process was strategic and both honored the past and shared a hope and vision for the future. The Board and Search Committee centered student, faculty, and staff voices and created critical space for parents to participate as well. And now, in collaboration with the Transition Committee - led by Chris Ing and Sam Pratt with Vince, Board, parent and staff members, we are well on our way to start the next voyage into Island School’s future.
I look forward to being a Voyager alongside you.
Warm regards,

Nancy Nagramada
Head of School