MANCHESTER >> Maple Street School has selected its next Head of School, who will be taking over the reins of the K-8 independent school on July 1.
Fanning M. Hearon III, 47, has been named to succeed the outgoing Dr. Fran Bisselle, who after nine years at the helm will be heading to the Hathaway Brown School in Shaker Heights, Ohio, to be the head of school there at the end of the current academic year.
A search committee led by Mark Tashjian, the headmaster of Burr and Burton Academy sifted through more than 90 resumes and applications before choosing Hearon, who impressed the committee and the school's trustees as being the best fit for the post, said Matthew Samuelson, the chairman of the school's board of trustees.
"Fanning was the best because he was the most well-rounded of the candidates," Samuelson said, listing love of children, the learning process, and knowledge of current standards of best practices as aspects they were looking for in their new Head of School. "Across the board, he had the best representation of all those qualities. He fit the 'jack-of-all-trades' a head of school needs to be."
Hearon comes to Maple Street from Vermont Academy, a coed college preparatory boarding and day school covering grades 9-12 in Saxtons River, where he currently serves as the assistant head of school. He arrived there in 2011, first serving as an Academic Dean before being elevated to the assistant head of school position in 2013. The school has an enrollment of 240 students with a faculty of more than 50 teachers. He earned his bachelors degree from Middlebury College in 1990, followed by a masters degree from New York University in 1991.
Originally a Spanish teacher by trade, Hearon said his approach to learning and education was formed through his own struggles to master Spanish and the intricacies of the language. Along the way, he developed a deep appreciation of Hispanic culture, and credits visiting the country with shaping his own philosophy of learning and education, which stresses practice over theory, he said, adding "a lot of that happened outside the classroom."
A self-described former "lost" student, he believes the experience of overcoming that was central to his development as an educator, he wrote in an educational philosophy statement.
"That experience of being 'lost,' no mater how difficult,is the most valuable lesson of all. Students, especially in today's tech age, need to be pushed out of their comfort zone. Be it in class, on the stage, or on the athletic field, students need powerful experiences and inspiring mentors who will challenge them to ponder their own identity and their place on this planet," he wrote.
Maple Street, whose current enrollment is 120 students, was founded in 1998 and was originally located on Route 7A a short distance north of downtown Manchester. It moved to its current campus adjacent to Equinox Village in 2003. Its first head of school was Nancy Callichio, who served until 2007, when Bisselle took over. She announced she would be moving on to Hathaway Brown last October, and
the school quickly organized a search committee to find a successor, said Tashjian, who is also a parent of three students there.
They were looking for someone who was both a thoughtful educator and a person with a wide breath of experience, he said.
"Maple Street's promise is to provide academic excellence and joyful learning, and the search committee was looking for somebody who could embody those characteristics," he said. "We saw someone who has travelled widely and has an appreciation for the power and excitement of education."
Hearon's challenge, like that of any head of school, will be to help guide the school to the next level, he said.
He is arriving at a time when the school has built a strong foundation and grown very far, very quickly, and doesn't have any major problems in need of fixing, said Samuelson, the chairman of the board of trustees.
His first year in charge will involve getting to know the school community and the "lay of the land" before pushing forward to work on a new strategic long term plan, he said.
Hearon said he was looking forward to working again with younger students after being an educator for high school age students. He planned to "do a lot of listening and take a lot of notes," he said.
"I'm going to really try to make sure I get a really good sense of the great and wonderful people who make up this academic community and work with them to form the next strategic plan," he said. "Learning can be fun and that's something in this test-driven, high stakes environment that has been lost, and I feel lucky to have had that experience, and that's a vision I hope to share with the students."