Towson resident Lohr poised for return engagement at St. Paul's School for Girls

Lila Lohr's previous 10-year tenure as head of school at St. Paul's School for Girls made her a natural fit to fill in for the 2012-2013 school year.

The Brooklandville school is currently searching for a permanent replacement for longtime head Monica Gillespie, who stepped down at the end of the last school year.

Lohr, a Baltimore native and Towson resident, has spent the past decade hopping around the country serving short stints as interim head of school at other schools.

She planned to take a year off this year, but when SPSG called, she remembered something she learned on one of her many stops: You can go back.

"I've done this return visit, and (her earlier stint) was a great experience, which was part of why I thought this would make sense here," she said.

"You're different, they're different," she said. "Pay attention to the similarities and the differences."

After she left SPSG in 1995, Lohr spent five years at Princeton Day School in New Jersey, then took a job with a Florida company that opened charter schools. She returned to the area for the 2002-2003 school year as interim head at Friends School, and stayed an additional two years after the board couldn't find a suitable candidate.

After a year off, she returned to Princeton Day School for a one-year interim stint, then held positions at Indian Creek School in Annapolis and Katherine Delmar Burke School in San Francisco. Just before assuming the post at SPSG, Lohr was a teacher and administrator at Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore.

In all of her stops as an interim head of school, Lohr said she found it necessary to respect the traditions and values of each institution, and make students realize their importance.

"You need to make a concerted effort to get to know the kids right away, and make them feel like this is another great year at St. Paul's, not the 'interim year,' " she said.

Her tenure began July 1, and just a day later, she experienced what she described as her "coolest" moment yet. During her first stint at SPSG, Lohr had championed the creation of St. Paul's Plus, a school-run day care center.

"I remember saying to the board, 'My vision is that this will support our graduates, that when our girls want to have careers, we're going to put in place the thing that will be the most important to them,' " Lohr said.

On Lohr's second day back, a former student stopped by her office to say hello. The student, it turned out, was dropping her own daughter off at St. Paul's Plus.

"That is how the circle goes," she said. "That is the coolest part about coming back."

A day later, Lohr was reminded of another accomplishment at SPSG as she spoke via Skype with a group of students in China who will begin living with local families and attending the school this year. During her first tenure, Lohr was part of the then-burgeoning relationship with students in Japan. SPSG's exchange partnerships have grown exponentially since.

"Now, it's part of the fabric of the school," she said.

With faculty and staff working around the school earlier this month, Lohr is anxiously waiting for the students to arrive. Classes begin Aug. 29.

Faculty members who remain from the mid-1990s are looking forward to Lohr's tenure.

"The second we heard we were looking for an interim, people started chatting together — those of us that knew who — were saying 'I hope they'll ask Lila,' " said Edee Waller, upper school dean of students at SPSG. "We were excited. Everybody that did know her felt like it was a home run."

Waller, who introduced Lohr at a school-wide assembly last spring, remembers Lohr as an excellent public speaker who related to the girls in an amusing but thoughtful manner during the school's daily prayer services.

During the introduction speech last spring, Waller told students and staff about a Halloween in which she found Lohr at her desk in a silver glittery wig, and another instance when she dressed up and sang "Cheeseburger in Paradise" for the students.

"The kids don't see her as not approachable," she said. "They see her as fun."

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