Tao Smith ’90 Named Gould Academy’s Next Head of School

October 17, 2019
Gould's newly named Head of School Tao Smith ’90
Tao on the hill at KMS

The Gould Academy Board of Trustees is extremely pleased to announce that Tao Smith ’90 has been selected as the Academy’s next Head of School, to start in July 2020. 

The Board has chosen Smith to lead Gould into the future based on extensive research, interviews, background checks, references, feedback from the Gould community, observations during on-campus visits, and careful deliberations by the Head of School Search Committee. Above all, the committee and the trustees were most impressed by Smith’s love for the school.

“Tao clearly loves Gould,” says Board President Phyllis Gardiner. “As an alum and former faculty member, he brings credibility in understanding Gould and its community that few candidates could match. If the past is prologue, then Tao will bring a level of commitment and loyalty to our mission based on his past experiences at Gould. Even after 18 years at Killington Mountain School (KMS), Tao likes to say that Gould is in his DNA.”

Gould's newly named Head of School Tao Smith ’90 with his wife Dawn and twin daughters.
Tao, his wife Dawn, and their twin daughters.

“My wife, Dawn, our children, and I are thrilled about joining the Gould community,” says Smith. “When I left Bethel in 2001, I did not imagine that the opportunity to return would present itself in such a way. And, while my time at KMS has prepared me to lead, it was my experiences at Gould — as a student in the ’80s and a faculty member in the ’90s — that led me to apply last spring. What I have discovered is that while many of the wonderful qualities that I remember of the school still exist today — the close-knit community, a skilled and caring faculty, the arts program, rich and diverse program offerings, the amazing natural setting, among others — Gould has evolved in impressive and surprising fashion. The school’s academic program is outstanding and forms the heart of the student experience and continues to evolve in ways that are innovative and inspirational. I invite any wayward alumni or past parents to stop by campus and see for yourself the enduring traditions and innovations that define a 21st-Century Gould experience. You will be impressed!”

Smith was the unanimous choice of the Search Committee, which began this process last December. Finding an experienced boarding school leader was identified early in the process as a clear priority, and they were impressed by Smith’s proven track record as a head of school. 

Gould's newly named Head of School Tao Smith ’90 answers questions from students.
Tao answers questions from current Gould students during a campus visit.

Under his leadership at KMS, enrollment doubled from 63 to 125, the campus was expanded and renovated, and the school implemented a full-term academic program recently accredited by NEASC. He developed their seminar series, taught “Disruption and Social Change,” and serves as head of College Placement. Their operating budget increased from under $1 million in 2001 to $5 million in 2019. He has been responsible for budgeting, fundraising, enrollment, and operations and dealt with all aspects of running a school, albeit a different type of school from Gould.

He brings a great deal of experience in the on-snow, ski world — a depth of understanding Gould has never had in a head — that will serve Gould well as we work to analyze and improve our on-snow programming. The relationship he built with Killington Resort and parent company, Powdr Corporation, demonstrates his ability to manage and to maximize all aspects of our already strong relationship with Sunday River. He also has a strong relationship with U.S. Ski & Snowboard and helped make KMS a United States Ski and Snowboard High Performance Center and Official Training Site of the US Ski Team.

“Gould has evolved in impressive and surprising fashion. The school’s academic program is outstanding and forms the heart of the student experience and continues to evolve in ways that are innovative and inspirational.”

– Tao Smith ’90

He has demonstrated a commitment to developing strong programs off snow, including competitive road cycling and mountain biking programs at KMS. He also developed and executed a strategic vision to transform KMS from a tutoring Winter Term program to a full-fledged NEASC-certified high school. It was a commitment to a coherent strategic plan and disciplined implementation that allowed this growth. 

A graduate of the University of Vermont, where he majored in religion and minored in history, he was part of the Varsity Alpine Ski Team that was two-time Division I National Champion and twice runner-up. He also competed on the 1992 National Ultimate Frisbee Team and the UVM Road Cycling Team.

He returned to Gould to teach in the History, English and World Language departments from 1995 to 2001. He coached lacrosse, skiing, and cycling and was director of the Outing Club and founder of the Philosophy Club. He chaired the “Values” Committee of the 1999 NEASC Accreditation. 

His colleagues speak highly of his ability to create solid teams and bring constituencies together. His empathy has helped him build trust with both students and faculty. Others spoke to his collaborative approach in nearly all areas and to the fact that people trust him.

Gould's newly named Head of School Tao Smith ’90 with wife Dawn.
Tao & Dawn

Smith says he is guided by one enduring principle: Leave a place better than you found it.

“Gould Academy still has room to grow, and if my memories of this amazing school and community are what first inspired me to apply, the promise of a better future is what cemented my desire to return as Head. I want to improve alumni engagement and institutional support, continue to modernize the physical plant, stabilize and grow enrollment while paying close attention to the important issues of diversity and inclusivity. 

“I am confident that with the support of the incredible faculty and staff, the leadership of the trustees and the full engagement of our parent and alumni community, there is no limit to what we can accomplish. I look forward to connecting with many of you starting in the summer of 2020, and spending my first year as Head just listening to your thoughts on the school’s inherent strengths and opportunities.”

“Smith is exactly the right leader for Gould’s next chapter. He brings a deep understanding of Gould’s history and who we are—the core principles that are the foundation of this school. He will bring real leadership experience and an entrepreneurial spirit to Gould. His love of our place in the mountains of western Maine is unquestionable.”

– Phyllis Gardiner, P ’09
President, Gould Academy Board of Trustees

As our Interim Head of School, Chris Gorycki will be working closely with the Board and senior staff to accomplish a smooth transition at the end of this school year. The Board thanks him for his leadership and very much appreciates his gracious and open approach to the transition process.

The Board is also extremely grateful to the Search Committee for all the hard work they have put into this selection process over the past 10 months. It was a job well done!

About the Search

The Head of School Search Committee was formed in December 2018 and has worked diligently with Bob Henderson and Clay Stites at the consulting firm RG175 to recruit and identify the candidate who best fits Gould’s current leadership needs. RG175 will continue to provide support throughout the transition and Smith’s first year as Head.


4 Responses

  1. Avatar Kimberly Siebert says:

    Wonderful news! I’m excited that the search committee has chosen an alum –and one with such impressive credentials and deep understanding of so many aspects of the school! It is also wonderful to read that “improved alumni engagement” will be a priority. This is a theme very dear to my heart! Welcome, Headmaster Smith!

  2. Greg Gilman Greg Gilman says:

    Thank you for the support Kim! We’re excited too!

  3. Avatar Kristofor Graber says:

    I remember that Tao was in the class that graduated just ahead of mine. I recall that I had a class with him my junior year. He seemed like a good guy and really smart. I think Gould picked a winner, congratulations!

  4. Avatar Creighton Runnette says:

    Congratulations Tao! Gould Academy is in good hands.

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