Catching Up With Mike Kinnealey

Catching Up With Mike Kinnealey

After more than a decade heading up Govs Admission Team, Mike Kinnealey takes on a new leadership role as Assistant Head of School, also returning to his roots in the classroom and coaching. Kinnealey shares his reflections in a candid interview about his new responsibilities and the road ahead.

GOVS:
Tell us about your new role as Assistant Head of School.

KINNEALEY:
Last year, Dr. Quimby was still cautious about establishing an aggressive travel schedule as he was aware that any plans might be canceled due to the pandemic. So, while the work on the Academy’s accreditation with The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) or leading Govs internal COVID Task Force was new to me, I could usually walk down to Peter’s office to ask his opinion. With a return to a school year that resembles 2019 normality, and the exciting opportunity to fully appreciate the Bass Challenge, (a matching gift challenge established by Robert M. '67 and Anne T. Bass GP'26 to support our With True Courage capital campaign goal), Peter is on the road more this year, and I have more meetings and strategic projects to plan and run. 

What has really changed for me this year is my work with Academic Dean Karen Gold as we took on the portfolio of dean of faculty work. That brought new challenges of setting the distribution of weekend coverages for faculty (less fun) and thinking strategically about the purpose and structure of employee meetings and the execution of the faculty evaluation and professional growth plan (more fun). I have truly enjoyed the chance to listen and reflect on the work done by our faculty, and encouraging colleagues to share ideas has been a central element of our employee meetings.

GOVS:
Can you tell us a little about the work that goes into creating the next Strategic Plan for the Academy? Is there a particular goal within the new plan that you are especially excited about?

KINNEALEY:
To start, it is important to know that COVID impacted the normal order of our institutional work on strategic planning, and while that initially was a concern, we have focused on the opportunity it offers. It’s common to close a comprehensive fundraising campaign while completing the work of a new strategic plan and use that work on mission and goals to inform a school’s NEASC accreditation process. We began that strategic plan work in 2018 and 2019, but COVID hit, and we focused our work on the two goals Peter often articulated: Provide an excellent educational experience for our students and a safe and healthy environment for all members of the Govs family. 

So, as we moved through last year, we focused on our NEASC accreditation, as required, before returning to strategic plan work. Given that the NEASC process involves the entire adult community at Govs, we asked each group, organized around a NEASC standard, to focus on how the reflective and aspirational work done in producing those standard documents could inform the upcoming Strategic Plan. In large part, because we have done some of that internal work, we are now able to think about the Strategic Plan both in terms of the reimagined goal of our campaign and as a data-driven chance for differentiation. Our Strategic Plan will be a chance for the Govs family to consider who we are in an authentic, exciting way and how our Plan will help us be both the best version (appreciating and affirming strengths while addressing and mitigating lesser strengths) of Govs and an exceptional, distinct leader among the boarding and day schools in the region.

GOVS:
With your new role, you are able to return to the classroom and the field. How does it feel to be back in the classroom? You are also coaching girls varsity soccer alongside head coach Amy Block—how are you enjoying that new role?

KINNEALEY:
I am loving it! I’ve spent most of my professional life as a teacher and a coach across three seasons, though my time at Govs curtailed some of that due to the expectations of my former role as Director of Admission. I have benefited significantly from the generosity and talent of my colleagues here. There is nothing new or surprising about Govs faculty being generous, but I offer it in response here because my enjoyment might have included more anxiety without it. Gary Satow is a highly effective and professional teacher of AP US Government and Politics, and his willingness to talk through his sense of the class and how to blend the expectations of this AP course with a desire to make it a meaningful and impactful educational experience for Govs students made my work easier. Amy Block is a talented, knowledgeable, and competitive soccer coach, and I have enjoyed learning from her blend of intentionality and care in my return to ISL soccer. 

At a personal level, in past years, I would have reached this point in the fall having been on campus for only five to ten days since the opening of school due to my admission office travel schedule. I knew all of the names of students from signing acceptance letters, but I reached mid-fall not able to match most faces to those names. I have enjoyed being fully on campus, able to teach and coach, but, just as importantly, able to get to lunch or weekend activities consistently.

GOVS:
You were the face of the school’s Admission Office for more than a decade; how does it feel to step away from that?

KINNEALEY:
I enjoyed my 13 years in Admission. I was fortunate to have wonderful professionals on the Admission Team. I enjoyed thinking about who we were as a school and how we would use the fact that we had earned the right to be a selective school to become a better school through our communication and admission decisions. I loved interviewing—it was a chance to hear a new story and learn something new several times a day. I admit the decision days in admission and financial aid were often difficult, but the product of those days brought out the central priorities we had discussed with the faculty in our “who is not here” and “pitch practice” work, and that was very rewarding. Our new Dean of Enrollment Sarah Powers is a consummate professional and a powerful leader in the admission world, so I am very comfortable stepping away. Just as I had a responsibility to represent Govs, Sarah and her team are already doing that, and in my new role, I appreciate and benefit from that reality.