Kai Bynum, Lakeside School’s 11th head of school, officially joins the Lakeside community in summer 2022. Stay tuned for invitations to special events occurring this fall, where members of our community can meet Bynum and welcome him to Lakeside School.
Get to know Kai Bynum, Lakeside's 11th head of school!
July 23, 2021
Bynum made his first official campus visit in June as Lakeside’s future head and met with faculty and staff, students, parents and guardians, and alumni. While on campus, Bynum shared more about his educational approach, his experiences at schools, and why “Lakeside is it.”
A message from Carey Crutcher '77 Smith and Bert Valdman
June 15, 2021
Dear members of the Lakeside community,
We are excited to announce that Lakeside School’s Board of Trustees unanimously supports the selection of Kai Bynum as Lakeside School’s 11th head of school. Kai will join the Lakeside community in July 2022, succeeding Bernie Noe, current head of school.
A thoughtful, dynamic educator and administrator, Kai Bynum comes to Lakeside with deep experience leading curricular and programmatic change in independent schools. He is currently the head of school at Connecticut’s Hopkins School, the third oldest independent school in the nation, where he has served since 2016. In our pool of outstanding educational leaders, Kai was very much ahead of the group in the depth of his educational vision and his experience as an administrator in executing on that vision. The search committee was drawn to the joy he exudes for the art and discipline of teaching young people and his respect for all.
A student-focused educator
Kai brings a strong belief, fully aligned with Lakeside’s values, that students come first. His focus on students’ experiences encompasses every aspect of their education; he understands that students need to know they are seen and cared for as part of their educational experience. As head of school at Hopkins School, Kai grounded every decision in this question: What is best for students’ intellectual, social, and emotional growth? In his roles at Hopkins and at The Roxbury Latin School, where he was the director of studies and director of academic and strategic initiatives, and Belmont Hill School, where he was the director of community and diversity, he partnered with faculty and staff, as well as parents and guardians, to move these institutions forward to better meet the evolving needs of students.
In talking with his current and former colleagues, we heard repeatedly about Kai’s ability to connect with students of all ages — both inside and outside the classroom. Like the best educators, Kai is warm, empathetic, and accessible. He has a special gift that helps kids think, care, and believe they can have an impact. Our students are going to love him.
An experienced leader
Kai is an energetic leader who will thrive in Lakeside’s culture of growth and innovation. Fundamental to his leadership is his experience in multiple roles: Kai has been a teacher. A coach. A head of school. A director of academics and strategic initiatives. A diversity, equity, and inclusion professional. A board member. An advisor and dorm parent. Kai has studied and published on teenagers’ spirituality and emotional intelligence. He’s taught middle schoolers, high school students, and graduate students. And he’s done this at institutions of the same caliber as Lakeside, including some of the nation’s most highly regarded independent schools.
His training in educational leadership has been rigorous. Kai holds a doctorate in educational and organizational leadership from The University of Pennsylvania — a program that invited him back as a faculty member. At Columbia University, where he earned a Master of Education, he focused on independent school leadership and financial sustainability. And Kai’s training as a teacher is grounded in his studies at Harvard University, where he earned a Master of Liberal Arts, and the University of Washington, Seattle, where he earned his bachelor’s degree.
Kai’s blend of experience and education enabled him to lead with vision and implement significant change at Hopkins. As the Hopkins board chair shared with us, when Kai was handed the framework of a strategic plan, he examined it from all angles, reshaped it into a comprehensive plan embraced by the full community, and led its execution. At Hopkins, Roxbury Latin, and Belmont Hill, he led initiatives focused on academic excellence, innovation and global education, access and affordability, diversity and inclusion, faculty hiring, student wellness, and community engagement. Kai understands how to bring everyone to the table, make the work relevant, and ensure it gets done.
In learning about Kai’s experience, we saw a history of building bridges and bringing people along with him. We experienced this ourselves. During the search process, Kai engaged the search committee and, ultimately, our full board, in a strategic discussion about the future of Lakeside. His vision resonated deeply with us and aligned with our community’s values. Like our current head, Bernie Noe, Kai is not afraid to innovate, take measured risk, sometimes fail, and learn from experience. Kai has the skill set, temperament, and fortitude to manage through complexity and make hard decisions that are guided by core values.
Kai will keep Lakeside School at the forefront of educational practices and innovation. Alongside our inspirational and dedicated faculty and staff, and guided by his focus on the student experience, Kai will encourage bold questions and ideas, welcome discussion, and have the courage and confidence to propose and implement exciting, visionary programs at our school.
A collaborative mentor
Kai is a community builder with a collaborative, approachable style. He’s a listener who seeks understanding and appreciates different points of view. In all his schools, he has demonstrated a capacity to cultivate relationships and build coalitions — critical skills in a school leader.
Kai’s mentorship of students and colleagues is informed by his experience as an athlete and as a coach. After graduating from high school in Olympia, Washington, Kai attended his dream school: the University of Washington, Seattle, where he played football. Following graduation he coached football, first for UW and later in brief stints for the Denver Broncos, the University of Wyoming, and Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan. He continued to coach football and track and field at independent schools.
His collaborative style of leadership and mentorship — pulling people together while urging them forward — extends to Kai’s presence in the field of education. He has served as a trustee on the boards of nationally recognized schools and is currently president of the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools and the chair of the executive committee of the Fairchester Athletic Association (similar to our Metro League). Kai also serves as a steering committee member of the Malone Schools Online Network, a program similar to Global Online Academy. In these roles, through his teaching and mentorship at the University of Pennsylvania, and in so many informal paths and relationships with students, alumni, and colleagues, Kai exemplifies the service mindset we so value at Lakeside.
When we asked Kai what united his approach to life, he replied: respect for all people. That respect came through in all his interactions with our committee and in our conversations with his current and former colleagues. Kai treats everyone with respect, regardless of their role or position. This is a quality we know will resonate at Lakeside and serve as a model for our students and our community.
To our community: Thank you
Thank you to every person who provided input and advice during this search. In surveys and meetings, faculty and staff, students, parents and guardians, trustees, and alumni shared their perspectives on what is distinctive about Lakeside and what we should look for in a new head. Your responses shaped the head of school position description, our rigorous process, an outstanding pool of finalists, and the culminating selection of Kai Bynum. It is our collective vision for the school that convinced Kai that Lakeside School was the community he wanted to join.
We are deeply grateful to the members of the head of school search committee for the commitment, insight, and care they brought to this process. Conducting a leadership search is an enormous responsibility and working within the restraints of COVID-19 brought its unique challenges. The committee drew on all their knowledge of and love for Lakeside in representing the collective desires of the community.
We set out to find a forward-thinking, empathetic, and student-centered educator; a collaborative partner and mentor to our talented faculty and staff; an accomplished and confident leader who could engage the community in charting the school’s path forward. We wanted someone who would find joy in the daily life of the school and embrace and embody Lakeside School’s values of academic excellence, equity and inclusion, global citizenship, and ethical behavior.
The search committee found all these qualities in Kai Bynum and unanimously recommended him to Lakeside’s Board of Trustees. The board, in turn, has unanimously accepted that recommendation and is proud to appoint Kai Bynum as Lakeside’s 11th head of school.
The final reason our search committee selected Kai is his energy and infectious enthusiasm. There’s something about Kai that makes you want to be around him and follow where he is going. He is a positive person who uplifts others. We can’t wait for you all to meet him so you can experience this yourselves.
We know you will be as eager to meet Kai as he is to meet all of you. This week, Kai will visit Lakeside’s campus to spend time with our faculty and staff, our board, and with small groups of students, parents and guardians, and alumni. Over the next year, there will be more opportunities to meet Kai in person before he officially assumes the role of Lakeside’s head of school in summer 2022, before the start of the 2022-2023 school year.
Thank you again for being part of this journey with us. We hope you will join us in welcoming Kai to our community!
On behalf of the Lakeside School Board of Trustees and head of school search committee,
Carey Crutcher ’77 Smith P'11 '14
Board of Trustees, Chair
Bert Valdman P’17 ’20 ’26
Search Committee Chair
Board of Trustees, Immediate Past Chair, Treasurer
A message from Kai Bynum, Lakeside School’s 11th head of school
Dear Lakeside School community,
I am eager and excited, as well as deeply grateful and honored, to serve all of you as the next head of school of Lakeside School. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the members of the community I have met during this process and I look forward to meeting many others in the near future. I have admired Lakeside since my own high school years in Olympia, and I am humbled to be welcomed into such a wonderful community of thinkers, learners, artists, athletes, and activists. Even though I have been away from the Pacific Northwest for 21 years, this region of the world has always felt like home, and I’m ready to be a part of the community again.
For years, I have appreciated the ways in which Lakeside realizes several of its core values — delivering academic excellence and balance, a commitment to diversity and inclusion, and fostering global curiosity and connections. Roughly 12 years ago, I was able to spend some time on the Lakeside campus with Bernie Noe, teachers, and students to witness those values in action, and that meeting has informed my approach to schools ever since. The spirit that attracted me then is the same energy that I feel now.
One of the factors that made this move so compelling was the opportunity to leverage Lakeside’s platform to have a much broader impact on both the Seattle community and the landscape of education in general. I have long been impressed by Lakeside’s spirit of innovation and educational philosophy as I observed and applauded some of the school’s initiatives over the years. Through this search process, however, I was newly inspired by how the school continues to center on the student experience as it strives to cultivate both the most dynamic learning environments possible and meaningful connections within the community.
I was also encouraged by the shared understanding that the soul of Lakeside is the people at the school, and that the teachers and students are at the heart of it all. From the beginning of my career, I have loved teaching literature, working with kids, and sharing ideas with colleagues. I truly enjoy connecting with people and realizing the power of the impact we can make when we work together — be it in the classroom, on the field, on the stage, or in the community. Lakeside has the skill, will, and capacity to continue creating transformative educational experiences that will set the tone for the rest of the country, and I look forward leaning into this important work with all of you.
I thank the search committee for their tireless work throughout the process. The extraordinary amount of time and attention they provided was emblematic of their love for the school, and I appreciate their commitment, kindness, collaboration, and perspectives. I am also thankful for my time at Hopkins, in part because of the kind and committed people, and because it prepared me for this wonderful opportunity. With great appreciation and respect, I am delighted to be joining the Lakeside community and returning to Seattle. Thank you – I look forward to meeting you all very soon.
Kai Bynum was born in San Jose, California, and spent his childhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. When he was 11, his family moved to Olympia, Washington, where he was a standout student at Capital High School. He fell in love with theater and poetry there, played three instruments, and competed in four varsity sports. He followed his passions for academics and athletics to the University of Washington, Seattle, where he studied history and literature and played on the school’s football team.
Bynum’s personal odyssey took him away from home to advanced degrees from Harvard University (a Master of Liberal Arts), Columbia University (a Master of Education), and the University of Pennsylvania (a Doctor of Education) and teaching and administrative positions at New Bedford High School in Massachusetts and some of the country’s most prestigious and respected independent schools: The Governor’s Academy, Belmont Hill School, The Roxbury Latin School, and Hopkins School.
A scholar of 19th-century literature, Bynum’s rise in the national landscape of independent school leaders is rooted in his experience in the classroom. He taught English while serving as director of community and diversity at Belmont Hill School, a position he held from 2007 to 2012. At Roxbury Latin — founded in 1645, the second-oldest independent school in the nation — he served as director of studies, director of academic and strategic initiatives, and as the head of school’s right hand. He assumed the top post at Hopkins (the nation’s third-oldest independent school) in 2016. At Hopkins, he has also made time to teach poetry and Shakespeare classes. He is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania, where he teaches a doctoral course in the Graduate School of Education — the same program in which he earned a doctorate and published his thesis on spirituality and emotional intelligence in teenagers.
At the end of the 2021-2022 academic year, Bynum will return to the Pacific Northwest and assume the role of head of school at Lakeside School in Seattle.
May 26, 2021
Head of school search update
The search committee for Lakeside’s next head of school has been busy! A number of highly qualified candidates from around the world were considered for the position. As we progressed from a long list of candidates to a short list, the Lakeside community’s input has been foremost in our mind. Thank you again for your thoughtful comments; the community surveys and stakeholder meetings helped shape the finalist pool — and helped candidates understand Lakeside as it is today and our community’s hopes for the future.
Our search is on schedule. We look forward to sharing exciting news with you early this summer. Keep an eye on your email and, as always, you’ll be able to find updates on this webpage.
Feb. 24, 2021
Head of school position description
The head of school search committee and Spencer Stuart are pleased to present the head of school position description, the document that describes Lakeside as it is today and lays out hopes for the new head.
Jan. 22, 2021
Share your thoughts as the search begins for Lakeside’s next head of school
Feb. 1: The survey is now closed. Thank you for your feedback.
All members of the Lakeside School community are invited to share their ideas and feedback on Lakeside and our next head of school.
Feedback from this survey — along with information from meetings with representatives from the faculty, staff, and administrators; students; parents and guardians; alumni; and trustees — will inform the position description and guide the work of the search committee. Individual responses are anonymous and will be aggregated by our search consultants at Spencer Stuart.
The survey will be open through Feb. 1 at 2 p.m.
Jan. 21, 2021
Search committee members announced
Lakeside School is pleased to announce the members of the head of school search committee.
- Bert Valdman, P’17 ’20 ’26, committee chair
- Caryn Abrey
- Joanna Lin Black P’21 ’23
- Ronnie Codrington-Cazeau P’20
- Tim Panos ’85, P’22 ’24 ’24
- Carey Crutcher Smith ’77, P’11 ’14
- Ed Taylor
The seven members are drawn from across the Lakeside community and encompass current and former trustees, alumni, parents of current students, parents of alumni, faculty, and experts in education. “The members bring a diversity of perspectives and opinions to the process as well as a demonstrated commitment to Lakeside’s mission and values,” shared search committee chair Bert Valdman. Find more information on the search committee’s role and each of the committee members in this news article.
Jan. 5, 2021
At the beginning of this school year, I went for a socially distanced walk around the track with Lakeside Board Chair Carey Crutcher Smith ’77 and shared that next year would be my 23rd and final year at Lakeside School. It has been one of the great privileges of my life to serve as head of school. It is now time to move on to new adventures: playing a role in the many changes to come in the world of independent school education, being a loving and present grandparent, and running in road races hopefully into my 80s!
I have to say, 22 years have gone by in a flash. When Killian and I arrived in June 1999, our daughters were rising 3rd and 5th graders. They are married now, and our youngest daughter had a baby five weeks ago and our oldest is due in February. Killian and I loved watching our daughters go through Lakeside and having their friends over to the house. We loved it all: Middle School basketball on Saturday mornings, the first dance in 7th grade, the amazing education in both divisions, and the lifelong friendships our daughters formed while at Lakeside.
My tenure at Lakeside has been an extremely rewarding one. Our Board of Trustees has been incredibly supportive of me, taking an entrepreneurial approach to education and committing wholeheartedly to the school. It has truly been an honor to work with them. And my administrative colleagues, past and present, are some of the most talented administrators in the independent school world; eight have become heads of other schools. Their creative and courageous work has made Lakeside a great school and opened its doors to many new students.
It has also been a tremendous privilege to work with so many talented and committed faculty and staff members, individuals dedicated to excellence in teaching and excellence in every office of the school. Our students are fortunate to be taught by faculty and staff who care so deeply about them, who want all that is good for them, and who hold them to high standards of intellectual and ethical excellence. The faculty at Lakeside never rest on their laurels. They change and refine their teaching every year, and Lakeside students could not get a more thoughtful, caring, or innovative education anywhere.
Unquestionably, my greatest joy at Lakeside has been working with our diverse student body. I taught seniors for 18 years, advised nearly every year, and got to know literally thousands of our students. Running into students and alumni on the street and catching up on what they are doing now brings so much richness to my life. So, if you see me around Seattle in the next couple of decades, please do say hello.
I am grateful to parents and guardians for all of the support given to me over the past 22 years. Many of the deep friendships Killian and I have formed in Seattle are with parents of Lakeside students. It has been a true privilege to be in partnership with all of you in the education of your children, and I enjoy knowing so many of you and running into you in Seattle and even around the world.
And, it is not over yet. There is much to do in the next 18 months. We will be working to get the students back on campus for in-person learning, launching our transition to competencies and mindsets, and deciding on changes to make in the school based on what we have learned in the COVID-19 era. It will be an exciting and dynamic period. I also plan to spend a lot of time in my final year watching our students in action at games, performances, in class, and in the hallways.
My gratitude for all of you — trustees, fellow administrators, faculty and staff, students, and parents and guardians — goes beyond words.
I look forward to seeing you all at events soon.
Head of School, Lakeside School
I write today to share that our friend and colleague Bernie Noe has let us know that the next school year, his 23rd, will be his final year serving as head of school at Lakeside. I know I speak on behalf of us all when I express gratitude for the passion, dedication, and brilliance Bernie has brought to our institution and to the field of education.
In his time at Lakeside, Bernie has transformed almost every aspect of our school, and his legacy will continue to shape Lakeside for decades to come. Under his leadership, the focus of a Lakeside education has broadened from academic excellence to encompass student ethics, engagement in service — both locally and globally — and commitment to making Lakeside and our greater communities equitable and inclusive. He encouraged students, and all of us, to look beyond ourselves and live joyful lives of meaning and service in the world.
Bernie has strengthened a tradition of progress and innovation at Lakeside and fostered a culture of boldness. In the last 22 years, Lakeside has made critical investments in people, technology, facilities, and, mostly importantly, ideas. Bernie’s global orientation led to a shift from a Eurocentric curriculum toward global and multicultural perspectives. He has overseen multiple reviews and redesigns of the school’s curriculum, including Lakeside’s current re-envisioning, an initiative that embraces the competencies and mindsets that students need to develop in preparation for their future educational goals and their personal and professional lives.
Our community has become increasingly diverse under his leadership. Bernie spearheaded diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives including the Mission Focus, the Diversity and Inclusion Initiative, and, most recently, Our Work Together: Inclusion, Multiculturalism, and Respect. During his tenure, we’ve increased the number of students who access financial aid from 16% to 33%, with an average aid grant of 80% of tuition and fees. Our student body has become much more racially and ethnically diverse: Today 65% of Lakeside students identify as people of color compared to 28% in 2000. And students come to Lakeside from around the region: Our current student body is composed of students from 250 different schools.
Working alongside dedicated colleagues, Bernie launched new programs — including Summer School Programs, Global Service Learning, and the Lakeside Lecture Series — and has grown and revamped others, such as the student and family support program, Lakeside Athletics, the music program, the Lakeside Educational Enrichment Program (LEEP), the technology program, and faculty and staff professional development.
And critically, Bernie raised the funds to realize these innovations and programs, particularly in the Living Our Mission campaign, which raised $135.6 million. Today, our endowment of $212 million continues to fund these programs and many others.
While Bernie has brought many changes to Lakeside, he has also shared his ideas, talents, and passion with peers and independent schools across the country. He was a motivating force in launching Global Online Academy, a nationally recognized innovative nonprofit that reimagines learning to empower students and educators to thrive in a globally networked society. A proponent of new models of education, Bernie helped launch the micro-school movement in this country and founded The Downtown School: A Lakeside School. And for many years, he has served in various capacities with the National Association of Independent Schools, including his current service as chair of the NAIS Board of Trustees.
In many ways, it seems impossible to imagine Lakeside without Bernie at the helm. But it is his commitment to progress — also held by former Lakeside heads like Robert Adams, Dexter K. Strong, Dan Ayrault, and Terry Macaluso — that will guide us through this upcoming transition.
When Bernie shared his decision this past fall, I knew the board would have ample opportunity to conduct an inclusive and deliberate worldwide search for a new head of school and manage a smooth transition in leadership. Over the past few years, the board has been actively engaged in succession planning and preparing for Bernie’s eventual departure. We are now engaged in a period of reflection, vision, and imagination, as we consider Lakeside’s history and look forward to its future.
The search for a new head of school will be led by trustee Bert Valdman, immediate past chair of the board, and a committee made up of members drawn from across our community. To guide us through the search process, we have retained the executive search firm Spencer Stuart, which is deeply experienced in supporting independent schools and colleges in discovering the leaders who are right for them. There will be opportunities for all members of our community — faculty and staff, students, families, and alumni — to take part in the selection process by providing input and feedback during the next few months. You will receive more information on the search process and timeline in the coming weeks.
In this moment, I invite you to join me in reflecting on and appreciating the enormous dedication and profound influence of Bernie Noe on Lakeside over the past 22 years.
Bernie, thank you for your brilliance, passion, and commitment — for making Lakeside the school it is today. All of us look forward to thanking you and celebrating your work, from now through the end of the 2021-2022 school year.
Carey Crutcher Smith ’77, P'11 '14
Board of Trustees, Chair