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Paving the Way

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Kelley Schiess became Head of School at Summit Country Day School (The Summit) July 1 of this year, the first woman in that position since the school became a co-educational institution in 1972.

After a 13-year career at Xavier University, Schiess began working at The Summit in 2002, first as Director of Enrollment, Retention and Financial Aid, and most recently as Assistant Head of School for Enrollment Management and Community Engagement.

“I have been blessed to have had many strong women as mentors during my career, in particular Mary Foss Brinkmeyer, former assistant head of school,” said Schiess. “Mary was the first person I met when I started my Summit journey. She served as a teacher, mentor and friend. As I transitioned to The Summit, she taught me about the sacredness of our work here and the importance of loving every child. She taught me about our special culture and the history. She inspired my leadership. Carrying forward the mission and vision of the sisters is an honor and privilege.”

The Summit has a long history, founded in 1890 as Our Lady of Cincinnati by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. It began as an all-girl school, took on its current name in 1927, opened The Summit Boys School in 1941, and began coeducational classes in 1972. Since that time, all heads of school were men.

Schiess succeeds Rich Wilson, Head of School since 2010, and has high praise for him.

“The Summit is in a position of strength because of the leadership and careful stewardship that Rich Wilson and the Board of Trustees have provided,” Schiess said. “Rich has been an exemplary model of a leader of character. He has contributed tremendously to our culture of excellence as a Catholic, independent school thanks to his extraordinary commitment, tireless devotion and tremendous passion for developing a culture of philanthropy.

“The Summit is a special place,” Schiess said. “I was drawn to the mission of educating leaders of character and the focus on educating the whole child. I remember when I was interviewing for the position with long time Head of School, Ed Tyrell. He told me that people do not change The Summit, but The Summit transforms those who experience it.”

“I have seen how The Summit transformed my own children,” she added. “Both [boys] were actively engaged in all five pillars of the school. The Summit’s rigor, faith, opportunities and community prepared them exceptionally well for college and their careers today.” Hoping to build on the school’s traditions, Schiess noted that one priority is strengthening the school’s mission and identity as a Catholic, independent school guided by the Notre Dame hallmarks. Other priorities include a commitment to remaining a diverse, inclusive community, the expansion of community partnerships, the retention and recruitment of top teachers and staff and the school’s financial stability going forward.

“I am eager to partner with the community to build upon our strengths to ensure the tradition of excellence continues,” she said. “It is also a perfect time to introduce bold new thinking and innovation that will prepare future Summit generations to improve the world they will inherit. My focus for our future is student-centered. It is about joy. It is about understanding that the growth in grace and wisdom, social [and] emotional well-being, learning and formation of each child from 18 months through grade 12 is the reason we exist.”

This article appeared in the August 2022 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

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