Colleen Melnyk, president, The Ursuline School

Local heads of school in Westchester, Fairfield and Dutchess counties talk about lessons learned from the pandemic, inspiration, superpowers, what makes them smile and – in one case – the benefits of dogs on campus.

The Ursuline School is an independent, Roman Catholic college preparatory school for girls on a 13-acre campus in New Rochelle. Founded in 1897, the school is part of a network of 15 Ursuline schools around the world.

Melnyk is its new president. After receiving her bachelor’s degree from Fordham University, she worked as a paralegal in New York City before returning to her alma mater to earn both a master’s and doctorate in education. She is the parent of a 25-year-old son as well as a 20-year-old daughter who is a proud alumna of The Ursuline School.

Tell us something surprising about your school.

“Students at The Ursuline School possess an esprit de corps around serviam. The students take great pride in their service to the school and greater community.”

Which aspects of running a school are most appealing to you? 

“I love being the decision-maker in the building who directly and positively impacts students.” 

What superpower do you bring to the school? 

“I am a thoughtful listener and true team player. I have the ability to bring groups of people together and work in consensus towards a common goal.”

What led you to choose education as a career? 

“I never forgot the thrilling experience of teaching a child to tie his shoes and, later, to float and swim in a pool during one summer when I was a teenager. I began to wonder how thrilling it would be to teach children to read. I spent 19 years as a classroom teacher and have been enriched by my experiences working with students and their families.”

Tell us about an encounter that reaffirmed your career choice. 

“I had a conversation with a student recently who told me she wanted to become an educator because ‘the people who work in schools really do change students’ lives.’”

Did you have a favorite teacher who affected your life?

My fourth-grade teacher, Ms. Yarmas, always reminded me to ‘reach forward’ and ‘do more.’ She told me she had great faith in my ability to accomplish any goal I set for myself. To this day, I remind myself to keep moving forward, especially when I encounter setbacks or difficult circumstances.” 

What do you do to recharge in your free time? 

“I love to read and take long walks.”

The Ursuline School at a glance

  • Head of school: Colleen Melnyk 
  • Number of faculty and staff: nearly 132
  • Student enrollment: 800
  • Annual tuition: $19,725 

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