An Unquenchable Passion for Learning: Mount Madonna School Announces a New Head of School

The Mount Madonna School (MMS) trustees and board of directors are pleased to announce that Ann Goewert, Ph.D., will be the institution’s next head of school. Goewert will succeed retiring Head of School Mary Supriya McDonald on July 1, 2020.

“Ann is a passionate educator with extensive experience and leadership in K-12 education as well as higher education,” said Sarada Diffenbaugh, Ph.D., president of the MMS board of directors, and a former, longtime MMS principal. “Ann’s selection has the unanimous support of our trustees. She brings to MMS her love of community, respect for cultural traditions, commitment to learning and a vibrant vision for our future. She is truly excited to join our school and share her successes in collaborative leadership, a track record of innovation, a belief that learning should be authentic and meaningful; and to tap into the passion and interests of students and educators.”

“While on campus I saw that learning at Mount Madonna is joyful, and the student body is articulate, curious, and confident,” commented Goewert. “Mount Madonna students take pride knowing that each student has a purpose and plays an integral role in the school community. Learners at Mount Madonna are not passive; they are drivers of change in the local community, as well as at a broader level.”

Goewert is currently the principal at South Peninsula Hebrew Day School (SPHDS), and previously served as head of Meira Academy, an all-girls college preparatory high school, both in Silicon Valley. Throughout her career she has taught math and science, led California Association of Independent School (CAIS) accreditation efforts, increased enrollment, designed curriculum, and built community and donor partnerships.

She is enrolled in the Harvard University School Leadership and Administration Program, and has earned a certificate of completion from the Principal’s Center at Harvard University. She earned a Ph.D. in earth sciences from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, master’s degree in ecology, evolution and organismal biology from Iowa State University, and bachelor’s in biology from St. Louis University. On March 1, Goewert was honored by SPHDS in recognition of her deep commitment to her students and overall contributions to excellence in education.

 In June 2019, Diffenbaugh announced McDonald’s retirement to the school community.

“On behalf of the trustees and board, I want to express our deep gratitude to Supriya for her years of inspirational leadership, hallmarked by brilliant educational initiatives, caring and ethical problem solving, sustainable financial oversight and unstoppable hard work and grit,” said Diffenbaugh. “She leaves a legacy of exemplary guidance and insight that will motivate the next generation of leadership to continue the outstanding quality and compassionate nature of an MMS education.”

McDonald recently expressed strong support for Goewert’s selection, and said it will ease her own retirement transition to leave the school in such capable hands.

“I am truly delighted to welcome Ann to MMS,” said McDonald, “and look forward to working with her and others to ensure a smooth transition of leadership.”

McDonald began her career in 1977 as an elementary school teacher in Washington state. She joined the MMS faculty in 1987, and since 1998 has worked in the school’s administration. From 2007-2015, McDonald served as a co-head of school, and for the past five year has guided the organization as head of school.

Among the schools milestones during McDonald’s 33 years of working with MMS are four full terms of accreditation with CAIS and WASC; numerous awards and recognitions for the school’s creative writing, science, social studies and performing arts programs; league, division and state athletic championships; scholastic team awards for athletic teams, and an expanded middle and high school sport offerings. Other significant achievements include successful capital campaigns for a new middle-high campus (opened in 2004) and a 10,000-square-foot gymnasium, opened in 2018; expanded annual fundraising, and initiated an endowment fund to raise teacher salaries, add student scholarships and sustain the school into the future.

“As head of school, I enjoy the dynamic relationship building between teachers, students, staff and parents as we work together to create a stimulating and secure learning community,” said McDonald. “Mount Madonna School values reflect the importance of creating a trusting environment to practice honesty, respect and empathy, which supports the natural unfolding of the learning process. Students develop confidence in themselves as learners, take responsibility for their choices and make their own discoveries. The keys to motivated learning are keeping flexible and open thinking alive, learning to ask the right questions at the right time, and caring for one another.”

With Mount Madonna’s year-long head of school search process now concluded, Diffenbaugh said the board of directors envision a positive, efficient progression of leadership, supported by the board, faculty, staff and the full school community. McDonald and the school administration will work closely with Goewert to broaden her understanding of MMS and plan for the 2020-2021 school year.

“I am committed to safeguarding the legacy of excellence with which Mount Madonna was founded, shared Goewert. “I am committed to developing new opportunities to strengthen its academic program, enhance the student experience, and increase enrollment, diversity and equity on campus.

“I am drawn to MMS because it instills an unquenchable passion for learning,” she continued. “The school fosters curiosity in students, challenges them to dig deep and question ideas, and encourages intellectual risk-taking. The mission of great schools demand more than academic excellence; great schools are committed to developing compassionate individuals who strive to improve their communities and the world.”


Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communications,

Nestled among the redwoods on 375 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a community of learners dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believe a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.