This year we have several new faculty members in our community. I had the pleasure of interviewing Dennis Bisgaard, our interim head of school while the administration searches for someone to fill the position permanently. I wanted to ask him about how he’s adjusting to a new community over Zoom, as well as a few questions so our community can get to know him.
The first thing we talked about were the qualities of Northwest that attracted him to the school. The importance of arts in education and social justice were the key focuses of the community that he touched upon. He also talked about how having a school for 6th through 12th graders creates an environment for role models and leadership within the student body, which was true at the school where he was previously working. He has only been able to meet a small fraction of the students despite being on campus nearly every day. When sports events are able to happen he intends to attend games to support the athletes, and to find virtual ways to interact with as many people as possible in smaller groups. He said that he’s “trying to meet people in smaller groups, a setting which is far more conducive to getting to know people.”
I then briefly inquired about his position specifically and what his priorities are for the rest of his year as the interim head. One of his goals is to serve as a “reflective mirror, a sounding board to bring out the very best in Northwest.” He explained that before he can help stabilize the school for the coming year, he has to speak with as many students and faculty as possible to fully understand the ideals that the community is built on and to reestablish them. The school has been under turmoil, with Covid-19 and general unrest, and his goal is to help set up the school for a successful future with a new head of school.
Dennis Bisgaard has a very impressive resume. Most of his background is compiled into emails and articles provided by the school as a chance for students to get to know him, so I didn’t ask much about his previous work. However, I did ask about one accomplishment that I found particularly interesting, which was the Kingswood Oxford Leadership Institute for Educators of Color. This was an organization that he founded to help People of Color who are interested in teaching to find a way into the education pipeline. He has helped people become quite successful, as senior administrators and heads of schools across the country. He’s also been a part of a startup school in Washington DC, built on diversity, that he believes shares many of the same ideals that make up Northwest.
I ended the interview by asking about his favorite books, since the majority of students are spending most of their time at home and looking for new things to read. He listed four that he used to teach and his top choice is a book called Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko. The others are Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston, and The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, all written by Women of Color. I enjoyed my conversation with Dennis and I encourage students to reach out to him with questions, or for the chance to get to know him.