Last week, after an extensive and rigorous search process, the Board of Trustees, acting on the recommendation of the Head of School Search Committee, voted unanimously to appoint Ryan S. Dahlem as Rivers’s ninth head of school, succeeding current head of school Ned Parsons. Ryan will officially join Rivers on July 1, 2023.
Since 2016, Ryan has served as assistant head of school at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School, a PK – Grade 12 school of 1,240 students in San Juan Capistrano, CA. At St. Margaret’s, where he arrived in 2006, Ryan has held leadership roles across the academic and administrative sides of the school, serving for four years as director of admission and financial aid and six years as upper school assistant principal. In his current position, Ryan works closely with the Board of Trustees and leads strategic plan implementation across the school. He created a unique student-centered Innovation Strategy that is rooted in design thinking and has been recognized nationally in the world of independent schools. Through this approach, Ryan successfully led a schoolwide schedule redesign, the implementation of innovative new course offerings, a reimagined service learning program, a faculty innovation grant program, and the creation of a director of equity and inclusion position. Ryan also served as interim mathematics department chair and taught psychology, AP statistics, and entrepreneurship.
Prior to joining St. Margaret’s, Ryan served as associate director of admission at Stanford University, where he oversaw admission for Stanford athletics and partnered with Stanford’s math faculty to recruit students with extraordinary mathematics talent. Previously, Ryan was a tenured mathematics teacher at University High School in Irvine, CA, where he also coached varsity wrestling. He began his teaching career in Boston, at Fenway High School.
Ryan graduated from Stanford University with an AB in psychology and from the Harvard Graduate School of Education with a master’s degree in teaching and curriculum, and he has served as an author and presenter for the National Association of Independent Schools. He is a trained musician and avid mountaineer who has climbed the highest mountain on each of the seven continents. Ryan and his wife, Anne, have three children: Peter (age 18), Ella (16), and Colin (8). Anne also has extensive experience in the independent school world: She currently serves as the director of communications and marketing at St. Margaret’s, a role she has held since 2007.
In his announcement to the community, Search Committee Chair and Trustee Alan Rose Jr. ’87 wrote, “Ryan stood out as a top candidate through a rigorous search that attracted many highly qualified applicants. Very early in the process, it became clear that Ryan is an inspiring, visionary leader with a keen understanding of multiple facets of independent school management and leadership—as well as a compassionate, thoughtful educator who, as he put it in his initial application, holds an ‘abiding belief in the transformative power of education and a deep commitment to the promise, care, and growth of young people.’ ”
Board President Harley Lank P’21 added, “Ryan is a highly qualified leader who embodies all of the ideals of Excellence with Humanity and who, above all else, places students at the center of his work. He has a proven track record of leadership and management in a complex educational setting. I have the utmost confidence in Ryan, and I cannot wait to see what the future brings for Rivers under Ryan’s leadership.”
For his part, Ryan is thrilled to join the Rivers community. After last Thursday’s announcement, he said, “I was initially drawn to The Rivers School for its mission, core values, and tradition of Excellence with Humanity, which resonates so deeply with my own educational philosophy. When I visited campus, I saw these aspirations coming to life through reflective senior speeches, empowered student voices in the classroom, and a spirited Red and White competition. Immediately, I knew this was a very special place.”
Ryan and his family are eagerly looking forward to a move to the East Coast and to all the opportunities that lie ahead. “With an extraordinary faculty, visionary Board of Trustees, dedicated parent community, and, most importantly, a curious and vibrant student body, Rivers was the clear choice for me and my family. I am honored, humbled, and inspired to build on the tremendous momentum at Rivers and lead the school into the next exciting chapter of its accomplished history.”