Strategic Plan Implementation Making Progress on Multiple Fronts


The Strategic Plan Implementation Group has made tangible progress against key objectives in Redefining Excellence: Learning Beyond Boundaries. Group members have been charged with specific short-term and long-term goals in the broad areas outlined in the strategic plan, specifically:

  • Redefining a Liberal Arts Education

  • Promoting the Hilltop as a Learning Hub

  • Building for the Future

  • Nurturing a Culture of Wellness

While the strategic plan was only adopted by the Board of Trustees in September, significant work has been done in moving towards the positive programmatic changes that will shape the school for the years to come. The full committee met several times and individual working groups have been formed to help capture a range of creative and thoughtful solutions in line with the school mission and the Portrait of a Graduate. Here is a quick overview of progress made in various elements of the plan.


Redefining a Liberal Arts Education

Under the leadership of Assistant Head for Academic Affairs Steve Bileca, Hackley’s K-12 competencies are nearing completion. In competency-based education models, students begin acquiring the skills that comprise competencies at the earliest ages, continually refining them as they advance in the curriculum, and aiming towards fuller mastery as they move closer to graduation. The final set will include eight competencies such as Written, Spoken, and Creative Expression; Inquiry, Literacy, and Research; and Quantitative and Digital Fluency. Each competency will be further defined by a set of four to six skills which, taken collectively, will bring Hackley’s Portrait of a Graduate to life in the classroom and guide future curriculum design. The competencies were developed with input from K-12 faculty and Academic Committee during the 2018-19 school year and will be finalized in the coming weeks.

New Upper School multi-disciplinary and independent curricular options for students have been created and will be available for 2019-20 school year, including Independent Research in English and History; Food and Power: The Science and Politics of What We Eat; and Collaborative Storytelling and Role Play Gaming.


Promoting the Hilltop as a Learning Hub

Emily Washington has expanded her initial iGrant and started broader education of the Hackley faculty on the fundamentals of incorporating Service Learning pedagogy into the curriculum. To date, Emily has presented to all three divisions, led a daylong Service Learning overview with the Modern Language department, and established new relationships with community partners in Westchester. Service learning programs to date include our 8th grade Spanish students working with WestHab Housing Development to address technological needs of the Spanish-speaking resident Seniors. On April 18th, the AP Spanish students will be carrying out a children’s literacy program with visitors to DaySpring Community Center as the direct service component of their year-long Service Learning project on the effects of poverty on education. The Post-AP Spanish students will also be hosting two separate Academic Enrichment Nights at Hackley for the children of Abbott House’s Transitional Resource Center.

Identification and development of a series of culminating “Big Experiences” aligned with important Hackley transition points is also taking shape. Marrying her work with Senior Projects and her input on a strategic planning working group, Keshena Richardson formed a committee to research this concept and engage in professional development, all with the goal to further define this initiative.

 As previously reported, a Creator in Residence program is being actively discussed amongst the visual arts, performing arts, and computer science department heads and faculty. While each department has different needs and objectives, specific programmatic enhancements are taking shape that will elevate the arts in the Hackley community and inspire greater creativity and engagement.


Build for the Future

“Affirming Hackley as a national leader in teaching excellence” is an important goal of Redefining Excellence, and we are making important strides here as well. Examples of successes include hosting the NYSAIS Roleplaying, Games, and Simulations in the Humanities Classroom conference May 2nd and a presentation on service learning by David Sykes and Emily Washington at the Private School Public Purpose conference in early March. Hackley is also actively engaged in conversations with local area universities about professional development and research opportunities that may lead to broad range of new ideas, while providing professional development for our faculty.

 Because diversity, equity, and inclusion are core to our community and central to Redefining Excellence, Hackley is actively expanding its reach to diversify the faculty with perspectives and backgrounds under-represented in our classrooms. To this end, Hackley will be hosting a webinar on April 22 that has been promoted to independent school educators nationally, titled “At the Intersection of Policy and Practice: Hiring and Retaining Faculty of Color.” Efforts such as this help promote the school and our commitment to diversifying the faculty.


Nurture a Culture of Wellness

Renee Pabst, Chair of Health Education, is leading the charge in updating and strengthening the school’s approach to health and wellness. With her help, Chris Arnold reworked the peer advisory system to engage more robustly the 9th and 11th grades. In addition, Roni Kanter launched the Healthy Breakfast Service Learning Project this past fall with 3rd graders. The program included an exploration of why a healthy breakfast is so important, a sharing of ideas on good nutritional choices, tips on reading product ingredient lists, and an exercise in which students considered factors such as the price, nutritional value, and number of servings contained in a package in selection decisions. The program was capped off by participation in the school-wide food drive before Thanksgiving to benefit the Community Food Pantry of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown. The Lower School focused on donating healthy breakfast items.

As we approach the end of the 2018-19 school year and celebrate all that has been accomplished, the committee is looking to 2019-20 to establish new goals and benchmarks. In the months to come, several faculty groups will participate in formal professional development programs while others will use the summer to refine thinking, evolve ideas and generate new creative ways to bring the plan to life in meaningful and impactful ways. These efforts, which will ensure continued implementation progress over the summer and into next school year, include:

  •     Curriculum development

  •     Faculty professional development

  •     Research centers

  •     Multidisciplinary course work,

  •     Faculty networks

  •     Elevating the arts, Creator in Residence

  •     Service Learning teaching and education

  •     Hudson Scholars and social engagement

  •     Global education, global and domestic travel experiences

  •     The “Big Experience”

  •     Wellness best practices in teaching and learning

 The vision supporting Redefining Excellence continues to inspire and energize our faculty, and we look forward to reporting ongoing developments in the months to come.

Waits May