Michael C. Wirtz, head of school, Hackley 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.

Hackley School is an independent, nonsectarian, college-preparatory day and boarding school in Tarrytown for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Founded in 1899 as a school for boys, Hackley became coeducational in 1970.

Michael Wirtz became Hackley’s 12th head of school in 2016 after serving as assistant head of school and dean of faculty at St. Mark’s School in Southborough, Massachusetts. He earned a B.S. in chemistry from Ohio University, followed by an Ed.M. in policy, planning and administration from Boston University. Prior to shifting to a career in education, he served as a research chemist for a large pharmaceutical company. He is the father of two children, ages 8 and 10.

Tell us something surprising about your school.

“Most people think of Hackley as a day school, but we have a small, yet impactful five-day boarding program. I think these students have the best of both worlds, enjoying a unique community throughout the week and spending weekends at home with their families.”

How did your school cope during the pandemic? 

“Overall, Hackley managed well and kept our students in school five days per week throughout the year. We were able to make ample use of the outdoor space on our 285-acre campus — something we intend to do more of moving forward.”

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

“I absolutely have the best job on campus. Each day has such variety, presenting fresh opportunities to positively impact the school community.”

What superpower do you bring to the school?

“I am known for my love of bow ties and ‘dad jokes’ — a powerful combination of fashion and humor.”

What led you to choose education as a career?  

“I had great teachers growing up, people whom I greatly admired. They had a significant impact on me and I wanted to do the same for others.”

Can you give us an example of how they influenced your career choice?

“I had several amazing teachers, but one of the most memorable was Mr. Goebel, who was my eighth-grade science teacher. Not only was he an effective teacher, but he also got to know his students as individuals and he demonstrated that he cared for each of us. I went on to do a senior project with him where he effectively set up a teaching practicum for me in the last six weeks of my high school career. That experience informed my desire to teach.”

Tell us about an encounter at school that put a smile on your face.

“It is difficult to pick just one, but I enjoy being around our students and getting to know them. I most cherish the day-to-day interactions that build over time and help me develop relationships with them.”

What do you do to recharge in your free time?

“I love to play golf and spend time with my family…ideally at the same time.”

Hackley School at a glance

  • Head of school: Michael C. Wirtz
  • Number of faculty and staff: 205
  • Student enrollment: 840
  • Annual tuition: $42,640 to $49,975

For more, visit hackleyschool.org.

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