Letter from the Chair, Board of Trustees
January 9, 2018
Dear Oakwood Community,
Jim Astman has been the soul of this institution for four decades, passionately championing the mission of the school and growing Oakwood into what it is today. So it is with a heart full of emotion that I write these words: After what will be 44 years serving Oakwood School, Jim Astman has decided to step down as Headmaster in June 2019.
The Board of Trustees is deeply gratified that, following his retirement as head of school, Jim has agreed to serve as Headmaster Emeritus. We will all be the beneficiaries of Jim’s wisdom, institutional knowledge, and passionate educational vision.
There is no adequate way to summarize all that Jim has done for our school. He has shepherded Oakwood from its fledging years to become a major educational presence in Los Angeles and throughout the independent school world. While he has served on multiple boards (NAIS, ERB, CAIS) and taught in major universities (Stanford, UCLA, Oxford), he is most at home working directly with our teachers and students.
Everyone connected to Oakwood will appreciate that Jim is first, last, and always an educator. He has mentored generations of administrators, teachers, and students, and stays in active touch with countless alumni. He has developed groundbreaking educational programs, connected Oakwood with the community beyond its doors, and helped the school become a far more diverse and inclusive place. Thanks to his eloquence as a writer and speaker, he has brought our distinguished school philosophy to life through word and action.
During his years as Head, Jim has presented thousands of diplomas to elementary and secondary school students, all of whom he came to know. He has overseen the significant growth of our student population, helped grow our endowment exponentially, and transformed our campuses. He has guided the school through multiple city approval processes, spearheaded the acquisition of many new properties, and been the inspiration for building beautiful new facilities on both campuses, including our exquisite new bridge.
In a world where the average school head tenure is under five years, Oakwood has been extremely fortunate to have a Headmaster of Jim’s stature for close to four decades. When Jim informed the Board of his intentions two years ago, we began an intensive process of succession planning. In recent weeks, we have appointed a Search Committee chaired by Bridget Baker (parent and trustee) and Mitchell Butler ’89 (alumnus and trustee). We have also hired a local search firm with an international reach and a clear understanding of Oakwood’s uniqueness.
For all these reasons, we are confident we will attract a rich pool of highly qualified candidates who will embrace the privilege of leading this extraordinary school. In the coming weeks, we will be soliciting input from various members of our school community and providing updates of the Search Committee’s progress.
Personally, I will savor working with Jim as he continues to lead our school over the next eighteen months. Thanks to Jim’s stewardship, Oakwood has a bright and promising future.