Founded in 1971, Hill Top Preparatory School of Bryn Mawr is an independent, coeducational day school for approximately 82 students in grades 5-12 who have complex performance-based learning differences.
Hill Top provides an individually tailored academic program that capitalizes on and uses students’ strengths to navigate academic challenges. The dedicated and highly professional faculty develop an understanding and sensitivity to each student’s needs creating a safe and nurturing environment. Hill Top builds a quality of self in each student that includes self-recognition, self-advocacy, self-reliance, and self-confidence. The School hones students’ capacity to connect and to build relationships with others, ensuring they are well-prepared to make and take their place in the world.
For a position to begin in July 2022, the school’s leadership is seeking a forward-thinking educational leader who believes deeply in the transformative power of education, provides a visionary pathway to innovation, builds teams and works collaboratively to create a culture of possibility, supports and empowers talented faculty, and brings passion to Hill Top’s mission to lead the school through its next phase of growth.
Application Deadline: September 2, 2021
HILLTOP PREPARTORY SCHOOL IN BRIEF
Hill Top Preparatory School provides life-changing experiences for bright and creative students who struggle to achieve academic and social success due to performance-based learning differences including ADHD, high functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders, specific learning disabilities, or anxiety. Through strong family-school collaboration Hill Top prepares students for future success in college, work, and life as independent adults.
At Hill Top Preparatory School, diversity is an important part of who we are. Our school community embraces diversity in terms of ability (including learning differences), race, ethnicity, nationality, economic background, gender, sexual orientation, and religious affiliation. We believe that diverse identities and perspectives enrich our community, making Hill Top a vibrant place for academic and social development. Our aim is to celebrate our differences, nurture our common ground, and create a school climate that is safe, respectful, and welcoming for all. We aspire to prepare our students with the life skills and experience to be thoughtful, compassionate citizens who contribute to our communities and our global society.
Accreditation, Memberships, and Affiliations
National Association of Independent Schools
Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools
Middle States Association Commission
Enrollment and Financial Aid
Hill Top has an enrollment of 82 students. Tuition for the 2020-2021 school year is $49,930 for Day School Students and $61,230 for Boarding Students. Approximately 15% of students receive financial aid and is based solely on financial need. Nearly 50% of students receive school district funding.
ELEMENTS OF THE SCHOOL PROGRAM
The Academic Program
Success at Hill Top Prep depends on that pivotal moment when students recognize that they have the ability to successfully move forward in spite of their learning disabilities. With an average class size of six to eight, a mentoring program, phasing system and counseling support program, Hill Top Prep students are able to manage a rigorous college preparatory program and plan for the future. Through open dialogue, trust and confidence are established, enabling students to develop and apply self-advocacy skills to both classroom and social situations. These skills and the utilization of the many supportive aspects of our program allow our students to manage rigorous academic requirements with success.
The Middle School team consists of grades five through eight and focuses on preparing students for the rigors of the Upper School. Each year, students take courses in each of the core content areas (English, Math, Science, and Social Studies). Additionally, students are required to participate in Physical Education (three times per week) and group counseling (two times per week) each year. Skill development courses are also part of the middle school curriculum and focus on exposing students to or improving the student’s skills in the following areas: computer skills, library skills, the visual arts, the performing arts, health, and technical education.
Ninth Grade Academy
The Ninth Grade Academy is a transition year specifically designed to support students in academically preparing for the expectations of the Upper School, while also building their social and leadership skills. In ninth grade, students will take Introduction to Literature, Freshman Seminar, Math, Biology I, Eastern World Cultures, Physical Education, Health and Art Foundations. On a monthly basis, students will work with our Transition Coordinator during Freshman Seminar to begin thinking about life after Hill Top and will also be invited and encouraged to attend college visits and/or meet with representatives. In addition, all students participate in group counseling (Group) and will have a designated ninth grade mentor.
The Upper School team consists of grades ten through twelve and focuses on preparing students for graduation, college and beyond. Students in grades 10 and 11 must take courses in each of the core content areas (English, Math, Science, and Social Studies). Additionally, students are required to participate in Physical Education (three times per week) and group counseling (two times per week) each year. Electives are also part of the Upper School curriculum and include courses in the following areas: technology, visual arts, performing arts, history, mathematics and more.
Hill Top Prep’s mentoring program is designed to provide academic support to students so that they can maximize their ability to achieve. During daily forty-minute sessions, mentors focus on helping students with academic issues, organizational skills, study habits, and goal setting. Hill Top’s dedicated faculty members mentor up to five students per year. Mentors work closely with each student’s group counselor to monitor their progress and communicate both concerns and achievements to the student’s parents. As a result, each mentor becomes both advocate and liaison, participating in all meetings regarding the students whom they mentor. Student advocacy is developed early in the program with students attending and leading all mentor-parent conferences. Through this exceptional program, students, mentors, parents, and faculty gain valuable insight into each student’s challenges, progress, and success.
Opportunities to learn outside of the classroom and nurture friendships happen for students when they choose to take part in school trips that include community service trips, ski trips, camping trips, spirit week and international trips.
Employability and Transition
Since its inception, Hill Top has been preparing students who learn differently to succeed in their post-secondary academic endeavors. In response to alumni and parent feedback it was evident that many students desired and required more instruction in the soft skills that employers seek in the workforce today. The Employability and Transition Program is a three-elective course of study that prepares students for the transition to college, work, and independent living. Classroom work includes career exploration, study and organizational skills, and research papers. Outside of the classroom, students participate in internships designed to give them work experience. Throughout the program students focus on developing critical skills such as communication, work ethic, teamwork, initiative, problem solving skills, and empathy.
Horizons is Hill Top’s post graduate program designed for students who have graduated high school but are not prepared for the next step in life. Horizons provides personal programing for each participant geared toward meeting individual needs and goals. Students are exposed to training that promote skill-building in areas including, independent living skills, college exploration, vocational interests, work skills, career exploration, and social and emotional development. Through daily case management, consistent emotional support, and an individualized Program Plan which participants help create, students leave the program equipped with the skills necessary to flourish for their next step in life.
Hill Top Prep recognizes the positive and profound impact that a strong hands-on arts program can have on students. The study of the arts helps students to think and work across traditional disciplines. Through support and encouragement, students work in various media, gaining the confidence to explore and take risks, while focusing on the process of discovery. The arts program at Hill Top Prep is a venue where students truly shine.
The Arts Department at Hill Top Prep is comprised of an inspired group of professionals who desire to ignite the creative spirit in students, providing them with an enormous scope of resources and experience from which to draw. Working both independently and collaboratively, students experience success through artistic self-expression, new-found confidence and problem-solving skills, an appreciation of the individuality of others, and an ability to think more expansively.
All art courses meet for forty minutes each day. Field trips, professional demonstrations, and service learning are integral to the program. To celebrate and honor the students’ artistic achievements, their work is exhibited regularly throughout the school, is published in school publications, and is displayed at community events.
Getting involved and having fun is the primary objective of the activities program at Hill Top Prep. Built into the daily schedule, students choose two activities each semester that meet twice a week for forty minutes. Activities enable students to expand in areas that most interest them and their like-minded peers while providing an ideal opportunity for social interaction and growth.
Ideas for activities come from students and faculty. Some students have started their own activities and are supervised by faculty, while other activities are faculty sponsored. Activities range from Chess to Tae Kwon Do.
Hill Top also offers students the opportunity to be involved in the community by participating in after school competitive co-ed sports at the Varsity and Junior Varsity level.
ABOUT THE SCHOOL
In the late 1960’s, the Greater Philadelphia area saw an increase in private schools designed for elementary aged children with learning differences. Unfortunately, the same opportunities were not available for adolescents. Programs for teens tended to be one dimensional, oriented only toward vocational training, or were designed to mix students of different exceptionalities. In the public sector, these children were treated as marginal “products” – barely worth the cost of educating.
Elissa L. Fisher, Ed.M., saw great potential in these children and was determined to meet their needs appropriately. As a result, she set out to design an educational environment in which adolescents with learning disabilities could thrive.
Mrs. Fisher understood that such an undertaking would require significant financial backing in order to be successful. Unfortunately, tuition alone would not support such an extraordinary endeavor and acceptance of state subsidized funds presented a danger of permanently stigmatizing students with labels that would impede their success. As a result, she shared her vision with friends, relatives, colleagues, board members, and foundations who pooled their financial resources to fund this important need.
This support helped Mrs. Fisher realize her goal on September 12, 1971 when the The Hill Top Preparatory School opened. That day, a faculty of six met four students. Since then, Hill Top Preparatory School held classes in several locations.
Hill Top continues to be successful because of its committed faculty and staff, as well as its dedicated supporters who realize that such a program which meets the complex academic, social, emotional, and physical needs of students with learning differences requires appropriate resources.
Thomas Needham joined Hill Top as Headmaster in 2006. Under his leadership, Hill Top has remained on the cutting edge of providing innovative approaches for students with learning differences to gain the self-confidence and academic skills necessary to succeed in college and afterwards. Each year, the School looks forward to continued growth and takes pride in the fact that Hill Top remains a superior school where students with learning differences thrive and believe in their abilities to reach their dreams.
As it celebrates its 50th anniversary, Hill Top Preparatory School is poised to take its agile, student-centered approach to the next level. The next Head of School will have the opportunity to collaborate with the Board of Trustees in the development of a new strategic vision to guide key decisions about program and facilities.
The Head of School will join a remarkable institution with an impressive record of providing life-changing experiences for bright and creative students with learning differences. This is an exceptional career opportunity for a forward-thinking educational leader who will eagerly seize the challenge of guiding Hill Top to new levels of excellence and innovation.
Among the specific opportunities and challenges awaiting the next Head of School are the following:
Hill Top’s faculty is passionate, creative, and eager to introduce thoughtful innovations that support the school’s commitment to academic excellence and student growth. The next Head of School should be an active and entrepreneurial leader who will embrace new curricular initiatives, advocate for high academic standards, and encourage a growth mindset among the faculty. Maintaining the quality of the faculty through excellent recruitment, appropriate professional development, and inspirational leadership should be high priorities for the new Head of School.
Hill Top will benefit from a more robust institutional advancement program with increased focus on annual giving, capital projects for facility renovation, and further growth of the endowment. There is ample opportunity to establish strategic partnerships with mission aligned educational, cultural, and corporate entities with a focus on sharing resources, expanding student experiences, and generating creative new revenue streams. The Head of School will be the “Face of Hill Top” to the community and will instill a vibrant and inspiring culture of philanthropy across the school.
Hill Top has a compelling, emotional, and inspiring mission and vision that is not well known. The Head of School will have the opportunity to develop a unifying brand strategy that communicates Hill Top’s distinctive research-based program and the impact it has on the well-being of students and their families.
The Head of School will need to determine an enrollment strategy for the years ahead, including decisions about ideal school size and the recruitment of mission-appropriate students.
WHO SHOULD APPLY: Qualifications and Experiences:
This is a unique opportunity for an educational leader with a demonstrated growth mindset to shape and implement a vision for the Hill Top community. For this critical role, the Hill Top leadership seeks a Head of School with excellent communication skills, a high emotional quotient, and the ability to articulate the vision, mission, values, and ideas of the school in an inspiring, thoughtful, and consensus-building manner to all constituencies. The ideal candidate will also offer most or all of the following:
Solid academic credentials, including an advanced degree.
Substantial experience in classroom teaching and educational leadership, ideally including experience in an independent school. Experience and/or training in learning differences is desirable, though not required.
Demonstrated track-record of identifying, attracting, and developing top talent.
Exceptional communication and listening skills.
Experience fundraising with major donors.
A sincere and demonstrated commitment to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Excellent management skills, including the ability to multitask without micromanaging.
Proficiency in the use of technology for educational and administrative purposes.
Demonstrated ability and willingness to guide and support admissions, marketing/communications, and advancement efforts.
Leadership Style and Personal Qualities:
A visionary, innovative, flexible, and entrepreneurial thinker.
A leader who values community, embraces individuality, and celebrates diversity – espousing a personal and educational philosophy consistent with Hill Top’s mission and values.
An optimistic, positive, empathic leader whose style alleviates fears and inspires confidence in students and their families.
A relational leader who is both inwardly and outwardly focused, eager to forge connections within and beyond the school community.
A confident, thoughtful, secure, and fair leader who is willing to tackle difficult issues and tough conversations when necessary.
A team builder.
ANTICIPATED SEARCH CALENDAR
Application Deadline September 2, 2021
Semifinalist Interviews September 18-19, 2021
Finalist Visits Week of October 4, 2021
Appointment November 2021
Starting Date July 2022
APPLICATION REQUIREMENT AND SEARCH PROCESS
Wickenden Associates, an affiliate of DRG Talent Advisory Group, is conducting this search on behalf of Hill Top Preparatory School. To discuss this opportunity in more detail, potential candidates may contact either of the lead consultants:
DRG Principal & Wickenden Associates Founder
Candidates should submit as soon as possible and no later than Thursday, September 2, 2021, an application package including the following:
A cover letter indicating why they are particularly interested in and qualified for the position.
A current résumé.
A statement of educational philosophy.
The names, email addresses, and telephone numbers of three references. (References should be submitted as a separate document, not as part of the résumé or cover letter. We will obtain permission from candidates before contacting references.)
Optional: Other supporting material (e.g. articles, speeches, or other writing samples) that would be useful to the Search Committee.
After an initial review of applicants in early September, selected candidates will be invited to interview with the search committee on September 18 and 19. Finalist candidates will be invited to Hill Top Preparatory School shortly thereafter for a more comprehensive series of interviews with representatives of the school’s constituencies. An appointment is anticipated by early November.
This position description is based upon material provided by Hill Top Preparatory School, an equal opportunity employer.
About Hill Top Preparatory School
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