Sue Belcher, Head of The Downtown School

Sue Belcher, Head of School

Sue Belcher is leading the creation of a school that will uniquely equip students to ask important questions, generate creative solutions, and act from a sense of agency to implement their ideas – all key skills to attaining goals in education and in life.

Sue combines a deep commitment to Seattle and the Pacific Northwest with teaching and administrative leadership experience in independent, public, and international schools. Originally from the Midwest, she earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics education at University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s in library and information science at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Sue has taught at Brookfield Central High School in Wisconsin, the Friends School of Baltimore, and at the International School of Prague, where she worked with students from around the world. In 2008, she joined Lakeside School, where she was head of the Upper School library department, led Global Service Learning trips to India, and directed Summer School Programs. Since 2015, Sue and Lakeside’s Head of School Bernie Noe have been developing the concepts and framework of The Downtown School based on a new model of schooling called the micro-school, which focuses on affordability, accessibility, and serving a small student population.

Sue’s approach as head of school is as a steward of people and ideas. One of her joys as a leader is to empower others – teachers, students, and families alike – to do their best work. If you are a teacher interested in being part of this exciting project, please email Sue to learn about upcoming openings!


Bernie Noe, Advisory Board Chair

Bernie Noe, Advisory Board Chair

As chair of The Downtown School Advisory Board, Bernie Noe will work with advisory board members to advise Sue Belcher on her leadership at the new school. Bernie Noe is a national leader in independent schools and education. As head of school at Lakeside School, he has a strong record of leadership in independent education, commitment to community service and diversity, and scholarship in history and international studies.

Appointed head of school at Lakeside in 1999, Bernie has overseen a full review of the academic curriculum, launched new programs including Lakeside’s summer school and the Global Online Academy, and overseen significant growth of Lakeside’s efforts in diversity and inclusion, global education, the arts, and athletics. He was a key leader in the Living Our Mission campaign, which raised $105 million for Lakeside School.

In addition to his role as the head of school at Lakeside, Bernie is vice chair of the board of trustees for the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and on the board of directors for the Global Online Academy, a program that he was instrumental in founding.

Prior to joining Lakeside, Bernie was at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C. for seven years, serving as both the Upper School principal and assistant head of school for international education. From 1984 to 1992, he was history department chair and director of summer programs at The Landon School in Bethesda, Maryland. He has also taught and served as history department chair at the American schools in Israel (1980-1982) and Switzerland (1977-1980). Bernie holds a bachelor’s degree cum laude from Boston University, a master’s in international relations from Georgetown University, and an M.Phil. in European history from George Washington University. He and his family are cofounders and directors of the Nicaragua Education Fund, which supports several local schools and a women’s cooperative, Casa de Mujeres, in the mountain village of Villa Nueva.