The Student Site of Castilleja School


The Student Site of Castilleja School


The Student Site of Castilleja School


‘Double down on what we do well’: New interim head aims for stability after tumultuous year at Castilleja

Eells talks little of construction impact
Kalissa Huang
Profile photo of the new Castilleja interim head, Julia Eells

In a wide-ranging interview with Counterpoint last month, Julia Eells said she plans to strengthen existing programs and bolster community relations at Castilleja while the school continues its search for a long-term head of school.

The Board of Trustees announced that Eells would take on the interim head role in mid-December following the abrupt departure of longstanding former head Nanci Kauffman three months prior.

Eells said she retired in 2022 after a 40-year career working in independent schools. She previously was head of school at Lincoln School, an all-girls Quaker institution in Providence, RI, and most recently, head at University High School in San Francisco before retiring.

She said that when initially approached about the interim head role at Castilleja, her response was “categorically no.” But then, she said, she changed her mind.

“I reflected on two things,” Eells said. “One, in this interim space, Castilleja deserved to have an experienced leader, because that’s the leadership Castilleja always attracts, and, looking at the transitional issues, I felt I could be of help.”

The new interim head said her main goal will be to “double down on what we do well” to improve the student experience, instead of launching new initiatives or beginning new projects.

“An interim head is not the person to set out the school’s vision for the next 10 years,” Eells said. But she clarified that she sees her job as more than being a placeholder while the future head of school is selected.

“It’s not caretaking,” she said. “It’s not seat-warming. It’s more than that. But it’s important to understand that my role is to be the ‘reassure-r’-in-chief, the thanker-in-chief, the calm person who’s responsible for this school.”

Prior to Eells’s arrival, Castilleja announced it will continue with construction plans despite setbacks in May 2023, this time keeping students on campus throughout the process. But Eells said for the moment, she has little information on how construction may impact day-to-day campus life.

“I have been wonderfully shielded from a lot of the construction conversations so I can spend this time getting to know the community and doing some discreet projects for the school,” she said.

Eells shared that one project she is working on is drafting a set of “community agreements,” which she said will be rooted in the idea of seeking unity over unanimity, a philosophy she attributed to her time following the Quaker ethos at Lincoln School.

“We would unify around a collection of agreements,” she explained. “Is everybody going to love all [seven to ten] of them? No. But everybody [will] hopefully, in unity, think ‘yeah, they do express what we aspire to.’”

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About the Contributors
Ruby Dowling
Ruby Dowling, Editor-in-Chief
Ruby Wright Dowling ’24 is an Editor-in-Chief of Counterpoint. She attended the Medill-Northwestern Journalism Institute in 2023 and is now an editorial intern at the Los Altos Town Crier. When she’s not reporting, Ruby enjoys scorekeeping at baseball games—especially when the Red Sox are in town.
Kalissa Huang
Kalissa Huang, Photographer
Kalissa Huang ‘27 is a photographer for Counterpoint. She is currently a freshman, and enjoys baking, playing sports, playing the cello and, of course, taking photos!

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