Ms. Jean, Assistant Head of School for Community and Inclusion

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Ms. Cyndy Jean, Middle School Director, will be filling the new role of Assistant Head of School for Community and Inclusion. With most of Hackley’s students having been supported by Ms. Jean’s leadership in Middle School, the community was enthused to hear that she had been promoted to a new position as an Assistant Head of School.

Assistant Head of School for Community and Inclusion is an entirely new position on the Hilltop. While the goals and guidelines of this position are not yet planned, Ms Jean explained that in the next 3-5 years she and Mr. Michael Wirtz, Head of School, will use the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion plan to bring shape to this position. Ms. Jean explained that “I see that my job is about connections. I want to spend a lot of time with students K-12, I want to spend a lot of time in the classrooms, I want to have conversations with teachers and with families, and continue to build community conversations and events as they relate to inclusion and belonging.”

Mr. Wirtz stated what he envisions for this position, “Creating this position elevates the importance of DEI and service work within the school, ensuring that we continue to live into the school’s mission to help students ‘[learn] from the varying perspectives and backgrounds in our community and the world’.”

Ms. Jean said that more shape will be brought to her position after Dr. Derek Gay completes his climate assessment this year. “We will have a better sense of what the experiences of our students, families, and faculty are like at Hackley,” she said, “and use that as a way to prioritize whatever work needs to be done.”

Ms. Jean’s past fourteen years at Hackley will shape her ability to be effective in this role. “I feel like my entire career has prepared me for this moment. I started teaching in the lower school and I was an assistant teacher, and had to learn a lot of skills when it came to responding to feedback, learning, and listening; and I feel that really prepared me for other jobs in the school.”

She said that her current position as Director of the Middle School involves a lot of listening and trying to find solutions. Her work as a dean and director forced her to have a lot of tough conversations surrounding discipline, and challenges within the school. “I’m not afraid of those tough conversations, and I’m not afraid of conflict. I think an important skill to have in this job is helping people come together when they don’t see eye to eye.” She also said that her love for Hackley has inspired her to want to see the school grow.

“I look forward to getting to know Hackley in a different light…this job allows me to see Hackley from a 360 approach.” As Ms. Jean has spent the past several years working in the Middle School, she looks forward to connecting with her Lower School and Upper School colleagues as well.

There is no doubt that Ms. Jean’s new position will hold some challenges. For example, the position is not explicitly defined. “If I do something or institute something in this position that doesn’t meet the expectations of different groups that could be very hard, as long as everyone stays open-minded we could have a very successful year.”
Although being a member of the community for the past fourteen years will be a major benefit, she hopes she can look past the Hackley that she knows and see the school through ‘fresh eyes’ by listening to the stories of students, faculty, families, and the Hackley community.

As Ms. Jean will be a leader in executing this DEI plan..She is looking to work with the academic leaders to create meaningful conversations regarding curriculum. A major aspect of the DEI plans is ‘diversifying the curriculum’, which could have multiple meanings. She said that after following academic training and conversations with the community, there will be a better sense of where Hackley falls and what changes need to be made. In terms of hiring new faculty members, she said, “we are thinking about the kinds of questions we ask when we interview, thinking about the experiences prospective candidates have, who candidates are meeting with, what they get to see about the school.” She said that Hackley is working to make sure new faculty are being supported and mentored.

With these new DEI plans, many wonder how students will be incorporated. “Students are going to be at the top of the list.” Ms. Jean wants to create an environment in her office where students feel comfortable to speak informally and help her understand their experience.

While Ms. Jean’s new position is not completely structured yet, she gave some insight into what she thinks her day-to-day life will look like in her new position. “I think I will start off my day sitting down with kids and going into classes, I hope teachers will feel comfortable inviting me to do guest teaching, and I think a lot of my day will be planning events, speakers, faculty meetings, and training, as well I think part of my job will be connecting with other professionals who do this work to make sure I am staying up to date with all the best practices and making sure I have all the best resources to do this job well.” Her partnership with Mr. Wirtz will be critical to make effective changes within the community. “He cares so deeply about this work, and to be successful the Head of School needs to be a part of the conversation.”

Mr. Wirtz explained why Ms. Jean was the perfect fit for this role, “Ms. Jean enters this new role with a deep understanding of – and appreciation for – the Hackley community and its culture and values. This understanding of Hackley, combined with her training as a DEI practitioner, made her the perfect choice.”

There is no doubt that with Ms. Jean’s leadership, important and effective change will be brought to the Hackley community. In a time where community and inclusion have never been more important, her leadership will be crucial.