New Head of Lower School brings valuable experience, new perspective


Gabrielle Solymosy

Tom McLaughlin poses next to the giraffes in his office. McLaughlin was recently promoted to permanent Head of Lower School.

Gabrielle Solymosy, Staff Writer

An assortment of giraffes of all sizes lines the wall of Tom McLaughlin’s office. The smallest giraffe sits on the shelf while the largest stands on the ground. Some giraffes have vivid colors, and others look like real-life giraffes on a much smaller scale. Lower School students like to come and see all of the giraffes that were gifts McLaughlin, the Head of Lower School, has received from former students.

McLaughlin moved from San Antonio to Houston in July to be the Head of Lower School. With almost 30 years of teaching and administrative experience, McLaughlin has accumulated both giraffes and knowledge from his experiences in schools around the nation.

“I have built a toolbox over time of things that I see that really impress me about the students or teachers or the cultures of schools that I carry with me,” McLaughlin said. “The more I see, the more I build a collection in my mind of things that would make for a great school because I’ve seen other people try things.”

Christine Curran, the former Head of Lower School, was involved in the selection of McLaughlin as the Interim Head of Lower School. Curran, who is now Associate Headmaster, and Headmaster Mark Desjardins selected candidates that displayed passion for educating, a mindset of selfless service and experience as an educator.

“Mr. McLaughlin is passionate about creating school as a place of inquiry, wonder and belonging,” Curran said. “The role of a divisional leader is to support the faculty, students and parents, which requires many skills and qualities, including giving credit to others. I can honestly say, in working closely with McLaughlin, that the character trait of selfless service is in his DNA.”   

Initially hired as Interim Head of Lower School at the beginning of the school year, McLaughlin was appointed the permanent Head of Lower School in November. As Head of Lower School, McLaughlin wants to focus on equipping students as they advance through their 13-year educational journey.

“Given our K-12 setting, we want to ensure that our Lower School students go on to Middle and Upper School with a really strong foundation of success,” McLaughlin said.

Previously, McLaughlin worked with high school students, but he noted he enjoys working with Lower School students.

“The Lower School world is so different, but I feel like my experience with older students is really helpful because I have a great sense from experience of what young children need to do as they advance through school in a K-12 setting,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin wants to promote enthusiasm for learning in the Lower School. He excites the students about learning by visiting classrooms and talking to the students about what they do in class.

“What we want to give them is a sense of the joy of learning because, if they have that, then they’re going to be willing to tackle hard tasks as their education continues,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin’s parents ignited his passion for education. His mother educated students with hearing and speech disorders, and his father was a college professor. As a student at Bishop Lynch High School, Benedictine College, and Boston College, McLaughlin grew to respect the work of his teachers and decided to pursue a career in education: “When I first started, I didn’t know if it was career path, but now I can’t imagine doing anything else.”