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New Head of School and Family In the House!

 

While MSA students spend their summer vacationing, relaxing, volunteering, working, or perhaps completing their reading assignments, here on campus, J. Michael Drude, the school’s new Head of School, and his family have arrived from New York. All are settled into their new home on “The Hill.” Mike is joined by his wife June and three children, Macy, Matt, and Lily. June starts work at UVa next week as a Development Associate supporting Associate Directors on their Scholarships Team. Macy will begin her first year of college at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, while Matthew, a rising senior, and Lily, a rising sophomore, are excited to join the MSA community. Mike comes to us from The Harvey School in Katonah, New York with 16 years experience as Assistant Head of School and 5 years as classroom instructor, coach, and administrator. He earned his B.A. in Mathematics from Assumption College and his Masters of Business Administration from Fordham University.

Mike arrived the first week of July, and wasted no time getting to know his administration, faculty, and community members. One of the first items on his “To Do List” was quite literally to see the lay of the land, and the view from the Bell Tower! Never mind the pigeons, heat, narrow stairs and cramped space, anyone who has seen our campus from that vantage point knows it is well worth it! The Bell Tower represents what captivated our new Head of School, “It is the symbol of our school and our logo, so once I found out I could go up into it, I knew it was one of the first things I wanted to do.” Of course, the view did not disappoint. But why stop there, Mike then climbed to the roof of Old Main to be sure he had seen it all. This is how J. Michael Drude’s adventure with Miller School of Albemarle began, appropriately, symbolically, climbing to the top, getting the big picture, and then climbing back down and getting to work.

Mike’s first impression of MSA, like many before him, was of its majestic campus and grand architecture. “Though schools are not about campuses, they are about people. Everyone I met seemed to really have a love for this place, and a dedication that was contagious. I knew I wanted to be a part of it.” What solidified a true desire to be a part of Miller was his meeting with the student panel representing the student body during the interview process. The students asked how the big move would affect their children. This told Mike about the character of our students and made the Drudes want to make their home with us even more.

Mike’s priority, in his first couple months, is to get to know everyone and understand the school’s culture. He plans to accomplish this by meeting with every Miller employee before the end of September. His door is always open and all are welcome to speak to him; still he seems to be everywhere at once! How he is able to be in a meeting, yet available to speak to you in his office two minutes later is nothing short of amazing. He enjoyed participating in the voluntary professional development session for faculty and the team building retreat for his administrative team. As employees, we are not only getting to know our new Head of School, but each other better as well.

When it comes to Miller’s strengths, Mike admires MSA’s ability to meet students where they are, whether athletically, artistically, academically. Mike is impressed with our ability to apply our mission of Minds, Hands and Heart and to allow students to be themselves while focusing on strengths and discovering their passions. Because we all learn differently, he feels it is important we recognize the genius in each individual student and to help them to find their path. “I like to see teachers encourage discussion in the classroom,” Mike states. He goes on to say the key is striking the right balance between traditional teaching styles, such as lecturing, and the teacher being a facilitator, helping kids navigate and process information as opposed to simply delivering.

Additionally, Mr. Drude believes MSA’s history and Samuel Miller’s legacy are also a unique asset to our school. “To a person, everyone I talk with has mentioned Samuel Miller’s story. That resonates with me and with others. Samuel Miller took advantage of opportunities. He came from nothing and still made a great life for himself. Then he gave back to his community. It’s a remarkable story.”

Mike continued, “Anyone who has ever struggled can relate to it. Even if some of our students do not have a full understanding of the meaning of hardship, or disadvantage yet in their young lives, Samuel Miller’s life story and having gone through our program, will be something they will carry with them and draw from when they need it. Education is a process. I think the experience students get here while hearing about our past and what Samuel Miller did for us and others, may not click for them immediately, but when they get out into the world they’re going to be better for it.” Mike understands our past is a valuable asset, but our present and future are golden.

Mike Drude and his family arrived and embraced their new home and place in our community with a sense of adventure, humor, and anticipation that is refreshing in this summer heat. When asked if he had so far seen any Miller ghosts, Mike replied, “Not yet.”  A man open to any possibility, is a man who believes all things are possible.

 

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