Head of School Search

1st & 5th grade group

After almost two decades of Dr. John Carlstroem being Black Pine Circle School’s illustrious Head of School, he is moving on to his next adventure in Maui, and we are looking for a new Head of School to begin with the 2025–2026 school year. As BPC looks to the future, with exciting new opportunities for growth, we are focused on building on our foundational principles of Curiosity, Community, Inquiry, and Voice.

Black Pine Circle School, K–8, is renowned for its unique approach to education, blending challenging academics with a high-caliber arts program. A 50-year-old elementary and middle school with a compelling mission and a distinctive place in the Bay Area independent school landscape, BPC is a beacon of innovation and excellence with an unwavering commitment to marrying Socratic discourse with a deep dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Our exceptional school provides a nurturing environment where students are encouraged to engage in critical thinking, creative expression, and collaborative learning. The fusion of rigorous academics, a vibrant arts program, and an exceptionally warm community cultivates well-rounded individuals with a lifelong love of learning who are well prepared to excel in the complexities of the modern world.

Head of School Search Updates

John Carlstroem


Dear BPC Community,

I have some bittersweet news to share with you all. After 19 years as BPC’s Head of School, I will be moving on at the end of this school year.

I’m going to move to Maui, Hawai’i, to run a Montessori school located in Makawao, and will begin there on July 1, 2024.

We have six months to continue enjoying our wonderful partnership.

As you can imagine, this is an extraordinary opportunity and a huge professional and personal shift for me and my family. I’ve always believed it is my job to “walk the talk" when I tell the students to push themselves to keep learning and growing into their zone of proximal development, and this is another opportunity for me to model that essential element of the BPC experience.

This school community has meant so much to me, my wife, Natasha, and our daughter, Marina, (proud alum –class of 2015). The relationships we’ve made with the people who make up this unique school will be relationships we hold on to for the rest of our lives. So even announcing my plans has me misty-eyed.

I’d like to especially thank the wonderful Board Members I’ve worked with in my time, and in particular the Board Chairs, David Kellert, Eric Sullivan, Peter Wong, and Shalini Sharp.

I’d also like to thank every teacher and administrator I’ve had the pleasure of working with over these past 19 years.

For 50 years, Black Pine Circle School has underlined and emanated Socrates’ most famous line: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” And like so many of us, over the past three-plus years, I’ve been examining where the next challenge will be for me, professionally. Montessori School of Maui has much in common with Black Pine Circle School, despite a nine-acre campus, banyan trees, and miles of blue water in the distance. We’ll see how this proverbial “city mouse” does in a new habitat. We are, as a family, excited and know it will be hard to say goodbye. However, If COVID taught us anything, it is that this life is not a dress rehearsal.

Some of you know that as a younger person I was able to spend summers in Southeast Alaska researching humpback whales, and winters in Maui, with many of these same Alaskan whales (fluke identification helped me know this to be true). So, in many ways, returning to Maui to run a school is a dream come true.

Black Pine Circle School will always be one of the most special places in the world to me! I hope to visit often and can’t wait to see BPC’s plans for the future come to fruition.


John Carlstroem
Head of School
Black Pine Circle School

Shalini Sharp


Dear BPC Community,

As John Carlstroem has let you know, he will be leaving Black Pine Circle School at the end of the 2023–24 school year after 19 years. This certainly is a bittersweet moment, as we know that John and his family are making big and exciting changes, and we wish them all the very best. At the same time, of course, John will be sorely missed. I’d like to thank John for his tireless work on behalf of the school over almost two decades, for his unwavering dedication to always putting students first, for his compassion and empathy for our whole community, and for his thoughtful and philosophical approach to life and work. We will find further occasions to celebrate John between now and the end of the year, and we will never be able to truly thank him for all that he has given to our school.

John will remain Head of School through the remainder of this school year. After this time, and for the 2024–25 school year, DeAndre Calhoun, the Head of our Upper School and Assistant Head of School, will take on the role of Interim Head of School, during which time we will conduct a formal search process. At the same time, Andra Marziano, Dean of Upper School Students and Assistant Head of Upper School, will take on the Interim Head of Upper School role. We are lucky to have such experienced and committed professionals to take the helm at this time of great change, and the Board looks forward to working with DeAndre and Andra.

Thank you again to John for making BPC the special place that it is today.


Shalini Sharp, Board Chair,
on behalf of the BPC Board of Directors

Lukasz Strozek

Head of School Search Update, 2/12/24

Dear BPC Community,

On behalf of the Board of Directors, we have begun taking initial steps to identify BPC’s next Head of School, who will join our community on July 1, 2025. While hiring the Head of School is the ultimate responsibility of the Board, we are focused on making the process leading up to the Board's decision inclusive, and we welcome your active participation.

As you heard at BPC’s State of School, we have formed a Search Team. Members of this group will collaborate with consultants Cathy Hunter and Steve Morris from the nationally acclaimed school search firm RG175 on various parts of the search process, including the selection of a handful of qualified finalists for the position. The broader BPC community will be invited to participate both in person and through surveys. Based on a broad array of feedback and their own time learning about the candidates, members of the Search Team will make a recommendation to the BPC Board.

How can you take part?

The RG175 team is distributing a survey and will conduct in-person meetings to understand BPC's strengths, the challenges/opportunities likely to face our next Head, and the qualities we seek in candidates. To participate, you can:

1 - Meet with our consultants.

Parents are invited to a Zoom meeting on Thursday, February 15, at 7:00pm or an in-person breakfast meeting on Friday, February 16 at 8:00am at 844 University (entrance at 2010 Addison Street).

Faculty, administrators, staff, and students will meet with our consultants one-on-one or in small groups.

2 - Complete the brief online survey, which will be open until Sunday, February 18.

The survey will also provide an opportunity for you to let our consultants know about any potential candidates who you think they should contact. Input from the diverse constituents of our Black Pine Circle community will help us improve our outreach to candidates and better determine the qualities we need in BPC’s next leader.

Thanks to John Carlstroem's superb stewardship of the school and the generous lead-time we have before his departure, we will have the luxury of carefully considering an extraordinarily strong group of applicants between now and November 2024. We are committed to facilitating a smooth leadership transition and will continue to update you as our work progresses.

Thank you,
Lukasz Strozek

BPC Parent
Chair, Search Team
Vice Chair, BPC Board of Directors

Head of School Search Update, 4/22/24

Dear BPC Community,

Friday, April 19 was the application deadline for BPC's next Head of School, and we are pleased to report that we have an impressive, robust, and diverse set of applicants. Our Search Consultants at RG175, Steve and Cathy, have been hard at work cultivating and doing deep dive interviews with numerous candidates, as well as meeting with the Search Team to solicit input and to move the process forward.

This week, the Search Advisory Committee will help identify 7-9 semi-finalists. In May, we expect to have 3-4 finalists who will then visit BPC in September/October 2024 for the finalist round. All community members will be invited to meet our Head of School finalists when they come to campus.

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact me at strozek@gmail.com.

Lukasz Strozek
BPC Parent
Chair, Search Team
Vice Chair, BPC Board of Directors


Search Timeline

  • February 2024

    Search Team established / Consultants visit BPC for Discovery

  • March 2024

    Position Statement crafted and disseminated broadly

  • March – Early May 2024

    Candidate recruitment

  • May 2024

    Selection of finalists

  • September – Early October 2024

    Finalist Round and Appointment of next Head of School

  • July 1, 2025

    Head of School begins tenure at BPC

Head of School Search Q&A

We expect the search to take place between now and September 2024, culminating in the selection of the next Head of School in late September-early October for a July 1, 2025 start.

The Search Team assists the Search Chair and the search firm we have selected, RG175, in all aspects of the search, including identifying and interviewing candidates, and making a final recommendation to the BPC Board of Directors. The Search Team includes smaller committees (such as the Search Advisory Committee) tasked with specific responsibilities. The selection of the Head of School is the ultimate responsibility of the Board of Directors.

RG175 has already coordinated opportunities for the community to provide feedback about the most important criteria in this search. This feedback, along with interviews, and references and background checks, will inform the recommendation for Head of School to the Board of Directors.

The Search Team intends to ensure that the search process fulfills Black Pine Circle School's commitment to be thorough, fair, transparent, and inclusive.

Search Team members include upper and lower school parents, faculty, administrators, and Board members. They were chosen by the Board of Directors for their deep connections and contributions to Black Pine Circle School as well as their expertise in specific areas, such as K-8 education. Members of the constituent committees agreed to specific commitments required to perform the committees’ duties.

We are very fortunate to have a strong, diverse, and expert community to help guide our search.

During the process, there will be various opportunities for Black Pine Circle community members to provide input. Most recently, community members were invited to meet with RG175 consultants and to participate in an online survey. RG175 has also met with administrators, faculty, parents/guardians, and students.

All community members will also be invited to meet our Head of School finalists when they come to campus. Information about the schedule will be announced when available.

In addition to the faculty/staff who will serve on the Search Team and the various committees, Black Pine Circle School employees will be actively engaged throughout the search by taking the time to meet candidates when they visit the school, welcoming visitors into their classrooms, and providing other means of input as requested by the Search Team. The search process takes place over an extended period and will not impact the effectiveness of Black Pine Circle School employees nor will it significantly reduce classroom time for our teachers.

No. Our faculty, staff, and administrators remain committed to fulfilling our primary goal, which is to transform the lives of students through extraordinary educational experiences. Additionally, our Head of School, John Carlstroem, remains committed to the day-to-day responsibilities of leading our school through June 30, 2024, and will have the full support of the Board during his final months of service. 

After this time, and for the 2024–25 school year, DeAndre Calhoun, the Head of our Upper School and Assistant Head of School, will take on the role of Interim Head of School. At the same time, Andra Marziano, Dean of Upper School Students and Assistant Head of Upper School, will take on the Interim Head of Upper School role.