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Head of School

State of the School


September 2018

Dear Alumnae, Parents, and Friends,
                                                                                                                                               
Miss Hall's School Head of School Julia Heaton
With summer coming to an end in the beautiful Berkshires, and the school year officially underway, I write to share updates and insight into a number of exciting initiatives at Miss Hall’s. There is much to report, and, first, some great news. We opened the year with 219 students from 16 states and 20 countries. We also welcomed 74 new students, among them 47 freshwomen, from places around the globe, including Texas, West Virginia, Finland, Kenya, Serbia, Somalia, and Tibet. We are just beginning to get to know these talented and interesting girls and their families, and we look forward to sharing the year ahead with them.
 
As in past years, an all-school theme will shape our learning and working together during the coming year. Chosen by the student-led Theme Committee with input from the MHS community, this year’s theme is “Failure and Resilience,” something to which I am sure we can all relate. Throughout the course of the school year, we will explore this topic as a community and in small groups as we look to provide context to what it means to fail, why it is important to learn from our mistakes, and how we move forward from failure. The 2017-18 theme of “Advocacy” resonated greatly with students, and I am excited to see how this year’s theme takes shape.
 
As many of you know, in July of 2016, the School approved a new Strategic Design to guide our evolution as an institution. This document, developed with the input of students, faculty, and staff, and approved by the Board of Trustees, provides the vision, priorities, and goals for all of us to strive toward together. You should have received a newly re-printed copy of the Strategic Design this summer, but in the event you did not, please visit here to learn more about this guiding document.
 
In short, it asks that we, as an institution, focus on four strategic priorities—innovative programs; an inclusive community; a commitment to engagement, service, and leadership; and a culture of adaptability, collaboration, and excellence. I am pleased to report to you that in just two short years we have made incredible progress in all of these areas. The ways in which the faculty and staff have embraced these concepts have been incredibly inspiring, and I am proud of all we have accomplished. None of this would be possible without the incredible support of alumnae, families, and friends of Miss Hall’s School. I feel fortunate each day for the generosity of spirit that infuses this community and helps us in our work to continuously reimagine girl-centered education.
 
• Innovative Programs
Of course, the crux of our mission revolves around the students. They are our reason for being. As part of our goal to deliver to them a transformative academic program, faculty have been exploring more ways to introduce project-based learning into our classrooms, developing additional cross-curricular and interdisciplinary learning opportunities for students, and, in some cases, examining pathways for re-shaping the MHS academic program. To this end, after our end-of-year closing meetings in June, thirty faculty members participated in a three-day workshop on project-based learning, facilitated by the Buck Institute for Education. That so many would choose to devote this added time to their school year for yet more work, speaks volumes about their commitment to this goal. The MHS faculty are dedicated to providing students with a relevant and meaningful education that prepares them for their next steps in life. They are also committed to making it possible for students to pursue passions that truly energize their learning. This lies at the heart of student-centered learning.

Here's what innovative programs look like at MHS:
Zooarchaeology, Linguistics, and A Look Into The World of Anthropology
A Celebration of Color; Student Project Explores Landmark Work
Haiti: An Island of Contrasts
Miss Hall's School Lisa AlbertiMuch of this reimagining of girl-centered education began under the direction of former Dean of Academics and Faculty Elizabeth Cleary, who left Miss Hall’s in June to become the Head of School— and the first female Head—at the Miami Valley School in Ohio. Though bittersweet, Elizabeth’s departure saw us welcome home Lisa Alberti ’73 (right) as the School’s new Dean of Academics and Faculty. Lisa joined the MHS Leadership Team on July 1, bringing more than forty years of classroom and administrative experience to the School. Previously the Associate Head of School at Trevor Day School in Manhattan, Lisa most recently worked with Trevor faculty to guide curriculum development, advance inquiry-based learning and teaching, and support academic excellence, collaboration, and student-centered learning. Lisa has dug into her work here at her alma mater, and faculty are eager to partner with her to advance innovation in the curriculum.
 
Also of note, we welcome Chris Ouellette as the new Director of the Melissa A. Leonhardt ’76 Academic Skills Center. Chris succeeds Vaunie Graulty, who retired in June after thirty-seven years at Miss Hall’s. Chris comes to us from the nearby Darrow School, where he had most recently served as Acting Director of the Academic Mentorship Program and as a Learning Specialist. Please visit the MHS website to learn more about the talented faculty and staff who have joined the School and to explore the 2018-19 MHS Course Catalog, which provides a great deal of detail on our exceptional academic program.
 
• Inclusive Community
As part of our goal to be an inclusive boarding and day school, we are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion on the Miss Hall’s campus. This commitment has included professional training, and I am proud to report that all MHS faculty and staff participated in January in daylong workshops centered on topics in this arena. Subsequent professional development opportunities provided further guidance, and a number of other MHS adults attended conferences and workshops on diversity and related subjects during the year. Additionally, several affinity groups have formed on campus, providing students, faculty, and staff with the time and space to honor their identities and engage in meaningful conversations about issues of importance to all of our students. This remarkable progress, which will continue in the year ahead, has been shepherded by our co-Coordinators of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), Kim Boland ’94 and Akilah Edgerton ’00, who, as leaders of our DEI Steering Committee, will continue to develop, share, vet, and activate a schoolwide DEI Action Plan.
 
In order to achieve our goal of ensuring a joyful and connected student experience for all Miss Hall’s students, the MHS Student Life Team is making strides to strengthen our already-amazing advisor program. As many of you know, advisors play a crucial role as members of each student’s personal team and in ensuring that the School continues to cultivate happy, connected, and empowered students. Already this year, advisors have participated in a daylong training in deep listening, facilitated by the Stanley King Institute, and are exploring ways to further enhance this important aspect of life at Miss Hall’s. Additionally, we are pleased to announce that Akilah Edgerton ’00—a former day student herself—will serve this year as the Day Student Advisor, no doubt excelling in this role. We appreciate all of the work the advisors do to contribute to the strength of our community.
 
• Commitment to Engagement, Service, and Leadership
Miss Hall's School Horizons Internship ProgramA core tenet of the Miss Hall’s mission is encouraging students to contribute boldly and creatively to the common good. One of the more visible ways in which we do that is through Horizons, which enters its 24th year. This flagship program continues to be a major draw for our students. For many, it is the hallmark of their Miss Hall’s experience. In recent years, the program has expanded to include on-campus and remote internships, with students interning with organizations around the Berkshires. This year, a new Horizons initiative—Starting Up @ MHS—will pair students with mentors, providing an opportunity for Miss Hall’s students to write a business plan, develop prototypes, present innovations, and iterate, laying the groundwork for starting their own ventures. Of course, MHS students and adults engage, serve, and lead in many ways throughout the year, at school, in the local community, and in their own communities as well. There will no doubt be many examples to highlight during the year ahead.
 
The School also remains committed to sharing and expanding our expertise as leaders in girl-centered education. In recent months, MHS faculty and staff have hosted workshops, presented at conferences, and joined regional boards, lending their expertise on topics ranging from technology and innovation
in the classroom to managing the care and maintenance of an historic campus and buildings.Read more about out faculty's professional development.
 
In June, Phoebe Goodhue Milliken ’37 English Department Chair Rebecca Cook-Dubin and alumnae MaryCatherine Balcom ’17 and Shanti Nelson ’18 presented “Project G.I.R.L. (Gumption in Real Life): Experiences from a Girl-centered, Project-based Classroom,” at the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools Global Forum on Girls’ Education II, in Washington, D.C. Their presentation focused on the student-led project that records audio narratives on topics of particular interest to teenage girls. The presentation was so well received that conversations on girls’ voices and digital media will be led by students and faculty this year in Boston, Florida, and New York. Please contact Alumnae Relations for further information.
 
• Culture of Adaptability, Collaboration, and Excellence
Miss Hall's School STEAM BuildingIn line with our goal of being a flexible and sustainable organization, we continue to examine the best uses of all of the School’s assets, including our beautiful campus. We have invested significantly—and wisely—in new buildings and in renovating older buildings on campus, and all of these investments have been made with an eye toward ensuring we have the proper spaces to provide our students with an optimal educational experience and to support our growing student body. As you know, this included the 2016 opening of a new residence hall and Linn Hall (right), our interdisciplinary academic building; but this work has also meant revisiting and updating our Master Plan to determine the highest and best uses of all of our facilities. To that end, a task force is looking this year at our off-campus properties and our on-campus spaces, seeking ways to create more flexible faculty housing options.
 
Ongoing campus improvements include the renovation this summer of the Schoolhouse Wing’s first-floor hallway. This work, overseen by our Facilities Team, brings a brighter, more modern feel that matches the recently renovated first-floor classrooms. Another major project underway is the construction of an NCAA-compliant soccer and lacrosse field to provide optimal conditions for our athletes and visiting teams. This improvement will also allow MHS to host postseason games or tournaments. Construction began in May and is planned to conclude with a dedication in May 2019. MHS teams will begin using the field for the spring lacrosse season.
 
Sustainability also remains high on our priority list as an institution. You may recall that last year, thanks to generous support from a student’s family, we added a solar installation to the campus. A smaller project this year sees the introduction of composting to the MHS campus through a project partially supported by the Class of 2018. Our Facilities Team undertook renovations this summer to the dining room and kitchen access to make this possible, and our community is now happily composting. Conservation and environmental action continue to be important topics to our students, so the year ahead will include further exploration of ways to improve the sustainability of our campus.
 
As Head of School, I am grateful for all of these efforts and of the work done every day to move Miss Hall’s closer to our Strategic Vision. This progress has not been the result of efforts by any one person, department, or team; it has truly been a community-wide effort, involving each and every member of this wonderful school. 
 
Four years ago, my family and I eagerly joined these dedicated, insightful, and forward-thinking students and educators. As I begin my fifth year at Miss Hall’s, I am ever more proud to be part of the MHS community and to work each day to realize our collective vision for future generations of Miss Hall’s students.
 
Sincerely,
 
Julia Heaton, Head of School
 
P.S. Miss Hall’s cannot do any of this important student-centered work without your support! Please consider making a contribution today to the Annual Fund for MHS, and, if you like the progress we are making, feel free to direct your donation to a specific area of importance at the School. Thank you in advance for being as generous as you can with your gift.
 
Miss Hall's School All-School Photo
492 Holmes Road Pittsfield, MA 01201
Phone: (413) 443-6401

About us

Located in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts, Miss Hall's School is a private, college preparatory, boarding and day high school for girls in grades 9-12.
Copyright © 2018 Miss Hall’s School