Collaborative Leadership: The Pioneer Way

Dear Hill-Murray Community,

Most of us can think back to our grade school, middle, or high school years and think of at least one adult in our school experience who positively impacted our lives. Someone who did something, said something, intervened or otherwise took action that made a difference for us – something that mattered in a positive way. I think of those people as the guardian angels God puts in schools to protect and love young people as they mature and grow. In the Lasallian tradition, St. John Baptist de LaSalle very clearly challenged teachers to think of themselves as guardian angels. He understood the significant role that teachers and administrators play in the lives of young people. I want to highlight and honor Kelley Barbato, our Middle School Principal, as one of those “guardian angels” who has served young people in Catholic schools for over 30 years, 27 of which have been at Hill-Murray.

After a long and dedicated career, Kelley has decided to retire at the end of this school year. We congratulate Kelley and are excited for her as she embarks on her next chapter. It might surprise you to learn that Kelley actually started her professional career as a nurse. What’s not surprising is that Kelley has always had a special place in her heart for students who are hurting, who need extra love and care, and could use a pat on the back. She doesn’t draw attention to herself, she is typically behind the scenes making sure that people in the community are cared for and supported.

Over the years, Kelley has provided leadership in many different ways. She started as a PE/Health teacher, fairly quickly moved into the Dean of Students position, and became Assistant Principal before becoming Middle School Principal. Her commitment to Hill-Murray over the years has been unwavering. She attended Catholic schools K-12, and it’s clear that she loves Catholic education, truly a vocational call to work in a faith community. We will celebrate and honor Kelley this spring as we wish her the very best in her retirement. Please join me in congratulating and thanking Kelley for her dedication and commitment to Hill-Murray. She is not one for fanfare and accolades, but I hope she knows how much she is loved and valued. 

As we contemplate what Kelley’s retirement means for our leadership structure, we know that Go Boldly provides us with a vision for leadership that will support and guide us into the future. Collaborative leadership is one of the five pillars and arguably the most important because relying on one person to carry the load is unrealistic. As a Catholic school, we know that shared leadership and communal life are part of our core values. In that spirit, we are creating a model for our academic leadership team that allows leaders to shine as they support the community in our commitment to excellence.  

Going forward, our team will consist of the following leaders: 

Kelly Harrington, serving as 6-12 Principal. Kelly has a proven track record of success leading at both the Middle School and High School levels and will provide a holistic view of the 6-12 student experience, ensuring that students’ needs are being met at every level. Kelly is committed to excellence and understands what it means to support a positive learning environment where students can be successful. 

Aaron Benner, serving as the Assistant Principal. Aaron’s superpower is building relationships with our students, which is the heart of everything we do at Hill-Murray. He will continue to work with students, overseeing student discipline and student life, and will remain a key leader on our team.

Aran Glancy, serving as Director of Innovation and Learning. Aran brings a mind for innovation and transformational teaching and learning that will help bring Hill-Murray to the next level. Dr. Glancy is creative, collaborative, and a forward-thinking leader. His influence and leadership will support the curriculum, instruction, and professional development for faculty. 

Sue Skinner, serving as Vice President for Mission. Dr. Skinner will guide this collaborative leadership model for our future. She will lead the team above, and our school’s mission which includes our academics and student life. She has a wealth of experience as an academic leader. She understands how our Catholic identity and commitment to our Benedictine and Lasallian charisms play such an important role in who we are as a Hill-Murray school community.

Brent Johnson, serving as Vice President of Operations and The Nicholas Center. Brent will continue to oversee the overall campus facilities and operations and The Nicholas Center. Brent is one of the unsung heroes of Hill-Murray. If he is not shoveling our front sidewalk or directing traffic at 7:30 a.m., he’s meeting with a family to discuss how Hill-Murray can best support the student’s learning needs. Under Brent’s leadership, The Nicholas Center was recognized as the top program in the state last spring and continues to be a differentiator for Hill-Murray and the heart of our school.

Chris Zupfer, serving as the Vice President for Advancement & Executive Director of the HM Foundation. Chris will continue to oversee all admissions, development, marketing and communications moving forward, and is in the process of planning for the next and largest Comprehensive Campaign for HM’s future. Chris has a love for Hill-Murray that you can’t help but notice, appreciate and be drawn to.  He’s a true believer and works tirelessly to ensure that Hill-Murray will succeed both now and into the future.

As President, I want you to know that I continue to be committed to continuing the strong tradition of excellence at Hill-Murray. A phrase has been going through my mind over the past few months, the Pioneer Way… What is the Pioneer Way?

It’s a path that goes boldly into the future, guided by our values and illuminated by the light of Christ. It’s a path that meets the needs of the students God has entrusted to our care and provides them with the skills, mindsets, and values that enables them to become the kind of leaders our world needs.

I’m going to keep thinking about the Pioneer Way, and I invite you to do the same. Stay tuned.