Hackley is an exceptional school. With a strong and distinct school culture, Hackley places great value on character and on relationships formed on the Hilltop. The faculty is passionate, talented, and dedicated to their students and the school. The campus is beautiful, enrollment strong, and the community is generous in all forms of their support.  

In light of these strengths and numerous others, why does Hackley need a strategic plan?  A Hackley education must constantly evolve to meet and anticipate the demands of a constantly changing world.  Simply put, learning—as individuals and as an institution—should know no boundaries.

Hackley has now admitted and enrolled the first classes of the 2030s. While it is hard to imagine dates so distant, one only has to look at these students as they walk our halls each day to know that their time on the Hilltop will come to an end sooner than we realize. To ensure that we are maximizing learning for current students and those who will follow, Hackley must engage in—and in places lead—important conversations about what it means to educate, to be educated, and to be a school. 

Although teaching and learning have changed immeasurably since Frances Hackley founded the school in 1899, many timeless competencies, areas of knowledge, and experiences are as important today as they were then. Teaching students to communicate clearly, to think deeply, to master difficult subjects and skills, and to work together are—and will remain—hallmarks of a Hackley education, whether taught in the classroom, the studio, or through athletics. We affirm the importance and strength of these programs, while also recognizing and embracing the dynamic context in which today’s students are educated, a context that is markedly different than it was for those who came before them. In a world that is more interconnected, more complex, and evolving more quickly than ever before, students require an education that provides them with tools new and old to thrive, adapt, and make a positive impact in their community and beyond.


“Redefining Excellence: Learning Beyond Boundaries” is Hackley’s contribution to the national conversation on the changing nature and future of education. Our plan contains four major strategic priorities:

  1. Redefine a Liberal Arts Education: articulate and broaden the curriculum in terms of competencies and experiences to meet the needs of tomorrow’s learners and citizens.

  2. Promote the Hilltop as a Learning Hub: increase learning opportunities for students beyond the boundaries of disciplines, classroom, and campus, and serve as an educational leader and incubator to push the boundaries of existing programs.

  3. Build for the Future: promote lifelong professional learning within Hackley’s faculty and assume a leadership role in cultivating the next generation of independent school educators.

  4. Nurture a Culture of Wellness:  establish wellness -- both at the student and institutional levels -- as cornerstones of a healthy learning environment and school community.

Embedded throughout these strategic priorities are signature programs that will shape Hackley’s future. They include (i) developing an approach to K-12 curricula that centers on enduring and emerging competencies, (ii) elevating creative expression in all its forms and improving our performing, visual, and digital arts programs and facilities, (iii) integrating service work and service learning, including developing a sustainable model for Hudson Scholars, (iv) creating culturally immersive opportunities for students domestic and international, (v) integrating the Hackley Forest and surrounding natural ecosystems into our program, (vi) creating a series of culminating “Big Experiences” at important transition points for students, (vii) affirming our national leadership in teaching excellence, and (viii) fostering a culture of individual and institutional wellness. 

“Redefining Excellence” was conceived to provide Hackley students and faculty with the tools, experiences, and learning environment necessary to cultivate the habits of “character, scholarship, and accomplishment” defined in the Portrait of a Graduate. And by virtue of our history and current strengths, Hackley is poised and ready for the educational vision expressed by this plan. Like the school it describes, “Redefining Excellence” will be an active and vibrant conversation, and its implementation will be as dynamic as the ideas it contains. Together, we will create an approach to learning that transcends boundaries, further strengthening a Hackley education and its enduring value in the lives of our students.

Go forth!


BY MICHAEL C. WIRTZ P ’29 ’31