Beacon names new head of school

Evanston-based Beacon Academy, an independent Montessori and International Baccalaureate high school, has hired Marja Brandon as its new head of school

She will succeed Beacon’s founding head of school, Jeff Bell, who is leaving to become head of school at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Raleigh, North Carolina. 

Brandon has worked as an educational consultant, teacher, dean, curriculum director, admissions officer, and head of school. Beacon will be the fourth headship for Brandon who previously founded and led Seattle Girls’ School. “The common denominator in all those roles is my love of working with kids and school communities,” Brandon said in a statement. 

Beacon's nationwide search that led to Brandon's appointment included Zoom interviews with the finalists this spring amidst the COVID pandemic. 

“Throughout the interview process, Marja demonstrated adaptability and embraced creative problem solving when she quickly pivoted to accommodate the hurdles of completing the interview process under unprecedented circumstances,” said Patty Abrams, chair of Beacon’s Board of Trustees. “Her experience with schools in various stages from start-up to sustainability prepared her well to take on this new and important role at Beacon Academy, and for the challenging times we are living in.” 

Brandon holds a bachelor's degree from Wellesley College, a master's degree in education from Harvard University, and completed a fellowship at Columbia University.

Brandon says she has devoted her career to implementing innovative curricular and anti-bias education aimed at supporting the development of the whole person, based on the latest neuroscience research.

Brandon, who talks openly about her struggles learning to read and focus, was diagnosed with dyslexia, ADD, and dysgraphia during her first year in college. “Understanding my own learning differences also led me to one of my passions, the study of the brain. I wanted to know why my brain was different. If mine was, then likely so was everyone else’s. The passion to truly understand our brains and help all students and their parents understand their brains has guided my educational journey,” said Brandon. 

During Bell’s seven years at Beacon, the school grew from 37 to 217 students. "He adeptly broadcasted the mission of this start-up and attracted the school’s founding families," Abrams said, and "hired a phenomenal, entrepreneurially-minded faculty who embody the school’s mission.”

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