Our New Head of School

Kate Murphy Named Next Head of Saint Columba's Nursery School

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Kate Murphy has extensive experience in the field of early childhood education. After graduating from the George Washington University with a B.A. in Political Science and Psychology, she began her career as the Site Manager of Jumpstart at Georgetown University, an AmeriCorps program which promotes preschoolers’ language, literacy, and social skill development. 

Kate then taught Pre-Kindergarten at a DC charter school for five years before becoming an Instructional Specialist with District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). In this role, she was responsible for the coaching and professional development of early childhood educators to ensure all children received high-quality services.  She was then promoted to become the Manager of the ECE Learning Lab, a professional learning program within DCPS that provided visiting educators the opportunity to observe developmentally appropriate, rigorous and joyful instruction and then set goals for implementation in their own classrooms.  

Kate is coming to St. Columba's from The Community Preschool of the Palisades, where she serves as their Executive Director.  In this role, she is responsible for managing all preschool operations and a team of educators in their implementation of play-based programming.  Kate also holds a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction with a Concentration in Early Childhood Education for Diverse Learners from George Mason University.


Dear St. Columba’s Community,

I am absolutely thrilled and honored for the privilege to serve as the next Head of School at Saint Columba's Nursery School. In accepting this position, I know that I will be joining a community of talented and dedicated teachers and staff, engaged and curious young learners and their families, and a committed and supportive Board of Governors and Vestry. Thank you for welcoming me into your wonderful community!



Dear St. Columba’s Community,

It is with joy and excitement that we announce that Kate Murphy has been offered and accepted the position as Head of School at St. Columba’s Nursery School. Kate comes to us with experience successfully leading a nursery school in Washington D.C. and a wealth of educational and professional experiences that make her distinctly qualified to perform the functions required of the Head of School. She has a philosophy of education that is consistent with the core principles of a St. Columba’s Nursery School education and new ideas for leading us based on her particular early childhood content knowledge and experience. Her personal warmth complements her philosophy and will fit in well with the culture of the community.

Kate’s candidacy for the Head of School position was supported overwhelmingly by all constituencies – the Search Committee, Board of Governors, Julia, teachers, staff and parents. I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to the entire Search Committee for their exceptional leadership, countless hours of dedication and tireless efforts on the behalf of the school. Please join us in welcoming Kate to the St. Columba’s community and getting to work to provide a smooth transition for Kate as the new Head of School for the 2020-2021 academic year.


Kay Tatum
Chair, Board of Governors

I join Kay and the Board of Governors in my enthusiastic anticipation of Kate Murphy's leadership of St. Columba's Nursery School. We find ourselves at an extraordinary inflection point in our society; now more than ever we need vibrant, safe, and nourishing schools for our youngest. I am thrilled to support Kate as she leads our Nursery School into the next chapter. I also offer profound thanks to Reid Figel and the members of the Search Committee, to Kay Tatum and the Board of Governors, and to Julia, Kathrin, and the entire School faculty for guiding us through this transition.


Ledlie Laughlin
Rector, St. Columba's Episcopal Church

Dear Members of the St. Columba’s Nursery School Community,  

It is with great enthusiasm that the Search Committee welcomes Kate Murphy as the next Head of School of St. Columba’s Nursery School.  The unanimous choice of the Committee, Kate was selected following a nationwide search and a rigorous review of many highly-qualified applicants.   

Kate rose to the top of this talented candidate pool based on her extensive educational training and her evident passion for the pursuit of excellence in the teaching of young children.  The Committee was highly influenced by the unanimously positive response to Kate from Julia and our current faculty and staff members.  Those who met Kate immediately recognized the value of her expertise in early childhood education, her leadership gifts, and her genuine interest and commitment to carrying forward the educational principles and values that have defined St. Columba’s Nursery School for more than 60 years.  As one member of the faculty wrote, “I would be thrilled for Kate to be our next Head of School. . . .  I feel that I can learn and grow as a teacher from her experience and leadership.”  

In the coming weeks, a Transition Committee will be announced, comprised of various constituents from the St. Columba’s community. This committee will work with parents, teachers, staff, the Board of Governors, and the Vestry to give a warm welcome to Kate, introduce her to our community through a variety of forums, and enable the St. Columba’s community to share with Kate their views about the future of our school.  The transition process will also allow Kate to spend time with Julia and become acquainted with our faculty and administrative leadership.   

The Search Committee extends its deep appreciation to all of you who assisted in the search process by completing surveys, attending meetings, and sharing your perspectives and feedback. We are especially grateful to the Parent Support Committee, and to Lindy Gallagher, who dedicated countless hours providing us with wise, thoughtful counsel and support throughout the search. The Search Committee also extends its thanks to Katherine Stuart and Linda Talton of The Education Group for their expertise, dedication, and enthusiasm in guiding us through this process.   

And, of course, we extend our heartfelt thanks, unending admiration, and bittersweet good wishes to Julia for her superb leadership over the past 14 years. We will miss her friendship, guidance, and dedication to making St. Columba’s Nursery School a wonderful place to inspire children.  Her deep commitment to defining, instituting, and safeguarding the school’s core values – community, kindness, inclusion, and outdoor exploration – as well as her exemplary character and soft-spoken leadership, has made a profound impact on generations of young students.  Through her leadership, St. Columba’s Nursery School has continued to earn its well-deserved reputation for excellence.  We could not have asked more of Julia, nor can we adequately thank her enough for creating such an exceptional educational environment over the past 14 years to pass along to Kate as she leads us into the next chapter of our beloved school.   

The Committee joins many others in our community in expressing our excitement for the years to come under Kate’s leadership. We have confidence that she will prove to be an outstanding Head of School, a dynamic role model for our teachers, and an inspirational guide and friend to our students and their parents. 

Jennifer Danish
Reid M. Figel
Alice Goodman
Katy Harvey
Charlotte Hudson
Tinu Ige
Mark Lay

I'm so looking forward to working with Kate. During her visit, I was impressed by her ease with and excitement for everyone she interacted with - children and grown-ups alike. Her ability to play illustrated her comfort and true passion for children and she answered difficult questions from staff thoughtfully. During our conversations, I appreciated her knowledge of Early Childhood, both in regards to direct practice with young children and in her understanding of how preschools run and operate. I believe she is committed to continuing the legacy of St. Columba's while adding new aspects that will further our mission and work with families.

Welcome Kate!

Kathrin Gilbert
Assistant Head of School and Inclusion Coordinator

Dear St. Columba's,

I am absolutely thrilled with the Search Committee's choice for our new Head of School, Kate Murphy.  I had hoped that they'd find someone with the kind of scope and experience Kate brings to the job and they did!  She has deep classroom experience with children under five; she's been a leader in the training of teachers and early childhood administrators; and she's been a school head!  More importantly, she's warm, funny, and caring.  I wish you could have seen the children flock to her lap in every classroom she visited and the lovely way she joined into the fun we were having on the playground during her visit.  It was really telling of who she is and how she is around children.

Despite the current travails we are all facing, knowing Kate Murphy will be there for you as you begin the new school year fills me with confidence and joy. She and I are making plans to share knowledge and make a smooth transition over the spring and summer.

Julia Berry
Current Head of School

What Parents, Faculty & Staff Had to Say

"As a teacher, I loved how Kate jumped right in on her visit. She joined my class in Music and not only just watched and observed, but she began to play the instruments with the kids which inspired my class to perform their best."

"I was pleased to learn about Kate's strong background in early childhood education. She has been a dedicated early educator for many years."

"Very impressed with her credentials, her manner with children, and her responses to questions asked of her!"

"She was a whole other level of inspiring confidence and leadership. She seems like she would have the respect of the faculty and parent body. She could hit the ground running and not have to learn on the job about how to run a school like St C's."

"I thought Kate was smart, warm and clearly a dynamic leader."

"I loved Kate's interest and desire to not just help us, the teachers, grow professionally and personally, but also for her to learn from us. She showed a real understanding and recognized that we all are on the same team and we must be able to learn from one another to best help the children in our community."

"Immediately upon meeting her, I felt that she would be the best choice for our new director. She handled every situation throughout the day with poise and was patient, interested, engaged and intrigued by the students and the teachers. She is absolutely the right pick for our next head of school. "

"She was fantastic. She seemed honest and real. She has had experience running a school and the knowledge of early childhood to back it up!"


Watch the Zoom chat below with Julia and Kate

Parents, would you like to know more about family involvement at St. Columba’s?


Rich Learning and Active Outdoor Play