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Office of Student Life Introduces New Form Deans

Kelly Slonaker

The Office of Student Life is pleased to announce the appointment of Director of International Travel and Spanish teacher Julio Omaña P ’19, ’20 and Spanish teacher Meredith Berry-Toon to the newly created roles of Form Deans. The two join Assistant Head of School for Student Life Peter LaVigne P ʼ14, ʼ16, ʼ17, ʼ20, ʼ23 and Director of Community Life Elyse “EJ” Soifersmith in the Office of Student Life and begin their new positions in the 2021-22 school year.

The Form Deans will take the place of the Dean of Students role, formerly filled by Jake Dellorco, who has assumed the position of Director of Strategic Enrollment Management in the Office of Admission. In this new format, Peter, Julio, and Meredith will each be responsible for one full Form: Meredith will be the Dean of the Third Form, Peter of Fourth Form, Julio of Fifth Form, and the three will share responsibilities for the Sixth Form.

As Form Deans, Julio and Meredith will be responsible for the overall welfare of the students in their Forms and will serve as the key leaders for those students’ personal success. They will be charged with serving as a resource for the students in their Forms and connecting with them in positive ways to create a sense of accessibility, care, and support; working with the Form Councils to promote a program of class spirit and identity, including overseeing major Form activities (such as retreats and adventures), running Form meetings and organizing social gatherings outside the class day; reviewing the files of new students prior to the opening faculty meeting, assisting as needed in the orientation of new faculty, and establishing plans and goals for the year; acting as the primary contact between the school and individual parents/guardians of students as necessary; working with other Canterbury faculty, including those in the Academic Office, Student Activities, Counseling, and the Health Center to create an environment that is safe, welcoming and caring, and inspires students to pursue their best selves; staying current on best practices around adolescent issues and development and planning related educational programs as needed; and engaging in their own diversity, equity, and inclusion education and practices and illustrating commitment to DEI in their daily work. 

Along with Peter LaVigne, Julio and Meredith will also be responsible for the overall tone, morale, and efficient functioning of the school community and determining ways to enhance the student experience. As such, they will attend Discipline Committee hearings; investigate school rule violations; meet regularly with Peter and with advisors and Dorm Heads; and participate in committee work that supports the mission of the school, including Dorm Head Committee, Guidance Advisory Board, and Calendar Committee. “Meredith and Julio bring great energy and experience to the Student Life Team,” said Peter. “They are wonderful educators and care deeply about their students. I am so excited to welcome them to our office and look forward to the impact they will make on our Student Life programming.

Julio shared his enthusiasm for the new role and why he wanted to become more involved with Student Life: “I am most looking forward to working with students and families at a deeper level and to getting to know them even better. I am also looking forward to working with the incredible faculty on the Student Life team—I have been in conversations and meetings where I have seen and heard firsthand how much they care about, and how hard they work for, our community.”  

Meredith explained why she was interested in taking on this role and what she hopes to achieve over the next year. “I wanted to take on this role because it’s all about the students—getting to know them not only in the classroom but also as learning, growing, young adults through our interactions in dorm life and athletics—and this role was another avenue to continue to forge those connections.” She continued, “I hope that over the next year Julio and I can work together to enhance the culture of the school that the Office of Student Life has already fostered, which promotes a culture of inclusion, curiosity, love of Canterbury, desire to be involved, and genuine care and consideration for their peers.”