07/24/2019 by Carney Sandoe Staff |

CS&A Q&A: Karen Whitaker

Karen Whitaker Stay connected with CS&A

We had the pleasure of chatting with CS&A search consultant Karen Whitaker recently about her work, her passions, and her hobbies. Karen is a member of our firm’s Key Administrator and Head of School Practices. Since joining CS&A, she has worked on a wide range of searches, partnering with domestic, international, Catholic, Jewish, and secular schools to appoint heads of school and key administrators across all divisions.

What are three adjectives you’d use to describe yourself?

Resourceful, steady, and compassionate.

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about my work: helping schools and candidates find the right fit. I also care deeply about the well-being of teachers, who bring compassion and curiosity and determination to a very challenging and complex job. Outside of work, I love to spend time with my extended family. I’m also an avid gardener and I love watching birds.

What brings you the most satisfaction in your work?

Two aspects of the work intrigue me. First, getting to know the school community. I enjoy the process of listening carefully to understand the community’s aspirations and challenges. I also try to recognize the unspoken cultural norms and the artifacts schools use to communicate culture. It’s like being an anthropologist. Of course, the greatest satisfaction comes from finding candidates whose values and skills are the right fit for the school.

What is a common misconception about the process of finding a leader?

Winning the job is not the same as doing the job. I’d like to see candidates take interview preparation more seriously because some great candidates who may not be natural extroverts get passed over when they are not well prepared for the rigors of the interview process.

What’s the best advice you ever received?

When I was a school administrator, two pieces of advice stayed with me and served me well: “Schools are not therapeutic institutions for the adult employees,” and “Seek first to understand. Then to be understood.”

What advice would you offer an aspiring leader?

See my recent blog post!

What’s a great book, movie, or TV show you have read or watched recently?

I was late to this book, but I just read “The Boys in the Boat” about the University of Washington crew team that won the gold in the 1936 Olympics. It’s a beautiful ode to teamwork, dedication, and how a group of individuals literally pulling together can achieve greatness.

What are your hobbies?

Yoga, gardening, hiking, and reading. I’m a northern California cliché.

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