“Marjo’s extensive experience as an independent school leader serves her well when leading a strategic planning process or tackling a complex problem. There is no one I’d want on my team more.“
Marjo Talbott has been a leader in American independent education for more than four decades. She has been blessed with an incredible array of mentors and has always tried to pay this gift forward. She is excited to work in partnership with SSL’s inspiring professionals. She believes deeply in the importance of institutional integrity, clarity of Mission, coherent governance, and building diverse teams with common purposes. To her work at SSL, Marjo brings her deep expertise in enrollment management, strategic planning, leadership transition, and the creation of new programs. She has learned how to navigate such wide-ranging crises as a devastating fire on campus and investigations into past faculty misconduct. Marjo understands the importance of always sustaining the essence of a school’s community while moving forward to address evolving challenges. She loves to find opportunities to coach and mentor other school leaders.
Marjo began her career in admissions at the The Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, NY. She gained national exposure in 1979 upon moving to the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) where, after a year, she became the Director of Boarding Schools (an NAIS affiliate) and the Director of Admissions Services. She ran workshops and co-authored publications (such as The Marketing Handbook and The Crisis Management Handbook) that served as resources for an entire generation of educators.
After earning her master’s in education from Harvard University in the mid-1980s, Marjo became Assistant Head at Buckingham Browne & Nichols School (Cambridge, MA), where she also taught history, co-directed college counseling, and worked on strategic enrollment and development initiatives. In 1993, Maret School (Washington DC) named Marjo its Head of School; she retired from that position after 29 years in June of 2023.
Under Marjo’s leadership, Maret’s enrollment grew by 30%; the financial aid budget increased from 9% to 25 % of tuition income; capital improvements touched over 90% of Maret’s 7-acre urban campus—increasing the useable interior space by 50%; and the endowment soared from $250,000 to over $40,000,000 (with an additional $10M held as reserves). Enrollment of students of color rose from 13% to 52%, while the number of faculty of color rose to 40%. The school also embarked on three strategic plans tied closely to its Mission. In 2008, the Board approved a financial sustainability process that made it possible for Maret to offer its outstanding education at a tuition cost that is between 10%-20% below its local competitors.
Inspired by the school’s strategic goals, Marjo helped to spearhead a number of nationally renowned programs including:
- Horizons of Greater Washington (a tuition-free academic and enrichment program which serves over 400 public school students each summer);
- The Malone Schools Online Network (MSON), (which extends online courses to academically motivated students and includes more than 25 schools across the country); and
- The Center for Institutional Research at Independent Schools (CIRIS), (which provides resources and support for institutional research practitioners)
Marjo has served on numerous school boards including Norwood School in Bethesda, MD; Green Acres School in Rockville, MD; and Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, CT. She has been the president of various membership associations: Heads and Principals Association; The 1911 Group; Heads Collegiate Forum; and the Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington (AISGW). For a number of these institutions, she played an influential role in successful Executive Director searches.
“Marjo Talbott is an inspirational school leader and brilliant strategic thinker. I worked with her closely for more than a dozen years while I served on the Maret School Board of Trustees. What impresses me most about Marjo is how she can look around the next corner and seize an opportunity or prepare for a challenge before anyone else. Her extensive experience as an independent school leader serves her well when leading a strategic planning process or tackling a complex problem. She’s gracious, generous, and fun to have in the trenches. There is no one I’d want on my team more than Marjo Talbott.”Ian Cameron
Maret Board President, 2018 – 2022
“Marjo Talbott was the Founding Head of School who brought Horizons to the DC area. What started as a small program serving 15 kindergarten students in 2000 at Maret has grown to serve 422 K-8 students in Summer 2023. Marjo is a visionary leader with a long history of making deep and meaningful community impact and in 2021 was recognized by Horizons National with the Andrew Clarkson Award in honor of the longevity of her commitment, embodiment of the Horizons mission, and work that impacted the entire Horizons network across the 76 Horizons sites in 20 states.”Mike Di Marco
Executive Director, Horizons Greater Washington
“Marjo Talbott is a CEO. Not just a good one. A great one. A Fortune 500 CEO. When people talk about CEOs, you often hear the word “vision.” But what kind of vision? In my opinion, a great CEO is a leader who can both see the Big Picture and solve problems at a granular level. And for 29 years, we have seen Marjo’s vision in action. Marjo is both macro and micro.
The metrics of the macro are well known to all: Multiplying our endowment from well under a million to 40 million. Promoting inclusivity and diversity by similar multiples. So, on the macro metrics, Marjo gets 5 out of 5 stars.
But if you ask me, it’s the micro where Marjo truly excels. Here’s the thing I admire most about Marjo: she never, ever, EVER gives up on a kid. When she encounters a kid who has fallen behind, who is up against more than they can handle, who has made some mistakes and then made them again and again and again… Marjo never loses faith. She sees the goodness that others might not.”Stewart W. Bainum, Jr.
Chairman, Choice Hotels International, Inc.
“Having observed for over two decades Marjo Talbott’s talent, confidence, commitment to excellence, and willingness to take the reins in any given situation, I can state with conviction that she is truly a leader among leaders. Among her many contributions to the Malone School network, Marjo shaped an exciting but difficult idea into an innovative business model that became the highly respected Malone Schools Online Network (MSON) and then volunteered as its inaugural Executive Director, all while still fully dedicated to her headship at Maret School. Marjo will always be trusted to be reliably committed – and intelligent in her approach – to any project before her.”Cathie Wlaschin
Executive Director, Malone School Family Foundation