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MICDS students don wedding gowns for graduation-Kera Bussey-Sims with diploma

"I like the tradition and love the puffiness of my gown. But I do somehow miss I don't get to wear a gown and mortar board," said senior Kera Bussey-Sims, who graduated from Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School on Sunday, May 18, 2014. Bussey-Sims is flanked by head of school Lisa Lyle and alum Terry Pflager, who handed out diplomas. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

Lisa Lyle, who sought to create a culture of diversity at the traditionally elite Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School, announced at a board of trustees meeting Tuesday that she will retire as head of school in June 2019.

“As my husband, David, and I look ahead, we have decided that June 2019 will be the right time, both professionally and personally, to end my tenure at MICDS," Lyle said in a statement. “My husband, who is an MICDS Spanish teacher, is looking forward to retiring, and at that point, we will have fulfilled the strategic goals the Board set out for me.”

Lyle, 58, became head of school in 2007 and is the first woman to hold that position. 

Lyle led a $90 million capital campaign that funded six construction projects at the school, including a new sports stadium, aquatic center and science, technology, engineering and math building. The school's endowment doubled to more than $115 million during her tenure, Lyle said.

Tuition ranges from $19,950 for junior kindergarten to $27,300 for high school, and it regularly sends students to top universities.

At the same time, 23 percent of students receive need-based financial aid, more than 34 percent of MICDS students identify as students of color, and students come from 65 ZIP codes. The school has never been this diverse, according to Lyle.

Lyle spearheaded programs such as Courageous Conversations, a speaker series for parents to talk openly about race and equity; and arranged for staff training about recognizing bias and teaching with cultural competence. MICDS embeds diversity and inclusion into its lessons and hosts diversity initiatives such as a mentor program and summer institute for black students, a diversity director, a diversity council and a lecture series featuring black speakers.

Lyle has also steered the school during high-profile controversies, including in September when she took a hard hand in disciplining four students who were found to have exchanged racist and profane Snapchat messages.

“For a long time, independent schools have been schools of privilege and the drive to create meritocracy is one that’s a moral imperative as well,” Lyle said in a 2013 interview with the State Historical Society of Missouri. “I think the argument to be made for families that represent the more traditional experience in our school of a more homogeneous privileged community in the western suburbs of St. Louis is to remind them … and they know this well … that the world their children will enter and compete in will be a global community and in order to learn to work across cultural difference, you have to practice and it’s not always easy.”

The trustees will conduct a national search for Lyle's successor.