Educator Charles Abelmann named director of UChicago Laboratory Schools
From David Fithian, Executive Vice President, University of Chicago, and David Kistenbroker, Chair, Laboratory Schools Board:
We are delighted to share with you the news that University President Robert J. Zimmer, upon the recommendation of a search advisory committee and the Laboratory Schools Board, has appointed Charles (Charlie) H. Abelmann to an initial five-year term as Director of the Laboratory Schools, commencing July 1, 2017. Charlie will also be engaged with educational initiatives at the University, contributing his expertise to those initiatives and fostering partnerships and programs of mutual benefit for Lab and the University.
Charlie is currently Head of the Barrie School in Silver Spring, Maryland, a position he began in 2010. Prior to that, he oversaw investments for the World Bank in educational programs and schools in Indonesia, China, and Mongolia and conducted policy analysis and aided capacity building with ministries of education and local governments across East Asia and other countries including Latvia, Uganda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Guatemala, and Colombia. Charlie also managed leadership development programs for World Bank staff as well as programs on language and culture. Earlier in his career, Charlie served for three years as principal of the Janney Elementary School in Washington, DC, while on leave from the World Bank.
At Barrie, Charlie was instrumental in strengthening academic programs by promoting coherence across divisions, ensuring coordination between the divisions (which are physically separated on campus), and pedagogical innovation. The school, under his leadership, significantly advanced the way in which educational spaces could be reimagined to promote collaboration. He developed a teaching fellow and intern program and formed partnerships that attracted guest artists and visiting teachers from other countries. The school formed local and global partnerships that afforded students and faculty new opportunities to contribute to outside organizations and benefit from the linkages. The school also grew its international student population and links to other schools abroad, and, with Charlie’s leadership, became a convener of other educators on important topics in education.
The Search Advisory Committee, which was unanimous in its enthusiasm for Charlie’s candidacy, was impressed with his deep commitment to teaching and learning that recognizes the whole child and is responsive to student passion. Colleagues with whom he has worked before praised his strong analytical skills, his embrace of experimentation and collaboration, his compassion, and his ability to provide visionary leadership. Charlie is very excited about the richness of the educational experience he found at Lab and is eager to work with us all to pursue opportunities that further enhance the excellence of what we offer to our students.
Charlie received his bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, in English and religion from Duke University in 1987 and a doctorate in administration, planning, and social policy from the Graduate School of Education at Harvard in 1996.
We hope you will join us in welcoming him to Lab, to the University, and to Chicago this summer. We will be planning a community-wide welcome reception for him at the start of the school year.
We also hope you will join us in expressing great appreciation to Beth Harris who admirably led the Schools over the past year, guiding us through this transition with her deep understanding of the Lab community and commitment to advancing the very special education that Lab affords. We will continue to benefit from Beth’s broad experience, strong connections to the University and community, and wisdom about Lab as she has agreed to serve as an advisor to Charlie and a resource to Lab’s leadership team through the fall term.
Finally, we wish to thank all of you who were engaged and active participants in our search process. Your input informed the search in many important ways and helped guide us to what we believe is a great outcome.