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The Perennial

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Assistant Head Haley Hemm Departs After 4 Years

Hemm spends lunch with members of the Class of 2024. (Billy Lloyd)

After serving Upper Campus for four years, Assistant Head of Upper Campus Haley Hemm will leave Pinewood at the end of this school year. Hemm plans to join the nonprofit Scott Center for Social Entrepreneurship at the Hillbrook School. The responsibilities of Hemm and the current Director of Student Life Kyle Riches will be reassigned to the new Dean of Students position, held by History Department Head Jennifer Bates, while Riches will become the Associate Head of School.

Because Hemm’s initial role at Pinewood focused on managing online learning protocols and the transition back to in-person classes during the COVID-19 outbreaks, her duties have evolved as the pandemic receded to include many other aspects of student support. Her new roles line up with the work a typical Dean of Students would do at other schools, so President of School Scott Riches created the position to continue to efficiently shape a positive community.

“It was time now that we were out of COVID to reorganize and get into a pretty traditional role that other independent schools have,” Riches said. “It was an opportunity to realign Kyle Riches’ role and Hemm’s role together and make it primarily student centered.”

Hemm currently runs the advisory program, academic counseling, disciplinary action and external learning partnerships at Upper Campus. She also supervises the Ocean Ambassadors Club and Students for Sustainable Change, a team that improves campus culture by examining school policy with the administration to improve the culture on campus. Because SSC is a self-sufficient group, the members will continue to work together to improve the school in Hemm’s absence using the skills she taught them.

“Ms. Hemm has taught me a lot about resilience,” sophomore SSC member Dhruv Gupta said. “She taught me how to keep trying different things even when it’s tricky”

Hemm’s passions have always been in this sort of social work, despite her beginning with COVID-19 guidance. While she was finishing her degree at Stanford Graduate School of Education, Hemm was a Digital Ambassador for her professors, helping them translate their curriculums into digital format, when her partner Sam Jezak was teaching his first year at Pinewood. He heard about the opening for the Assistant Head and informed Hemm about the position. She was hired and began working at Pinewood in May 2020, informing the teachers on how to run classes during hybrid learning and organizing social events to keep the community connected.

“As soon as there were events, I was at every one and helping to organize,” Hemm said. “I was trying to find ways to have the community connected while six feet apart.”

Her efforts in promoting and embodying WISCR values helped Pinewood keep spirits up after the isolation quarantine. Partly due to her guidance, Upper Campus returned to in-person learning in October of 2020 and did not experience a COVID-19 case until March 2022.

“She played a really critical part in helping us navigate COVID so smoothly, as part of her responsibilities was to focus on the safety and wellbeing of the students,” Riches said. “So I’m especially grateful for that, and I don’t think we could have done it without her.”

Though her assistance during the pandemic was incredibly vital, Hemm is excited to focus on promoting equity through immersive learning at Hillbrook School. There, she will work as the community engagement and program lead to design experiential classes for their Reach Beyond initiative where students can travel both within their community and around the world. She will also cultivate partnerships with local and international organizations that the students can work with, a job which captures her interest in social justice.

“The real impact of a person in a community is how it’s felt by the community and how it lasts after that person leaves,” Hemm said. “My goal is always to leave a place better than I found it and to leave it with systems in place so that they continue to do the work that they think is valuable.”

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