New Park City High School principal announced
In high school when some girls dream of boys and prom dates, Hilary Hays had a different focus.
As a Judge High School Bulldog in 1983 she recalls, "I told my boyfriend at the time I wanted to be principal of Park City High School."
Now that dream has come to fruition. Last week the Park City School Board approved assistant principal of eight years Hillary Hays as Hal Smith’s successor.
Though she left Utah for school her path eventually led back to Park City. She graduated from the University of Denver with a degree in business administration and later earned a masters degree in technology from City University in Washington.
In an interesting twist of fate, an assistant principal position came open at Park City High School just as she earned her administrative certificate, also from City University.
The position was hers for eight years, until last month when former principal Hal Smith retired and she was inspired to apply for job.
Hays said she never considered the job a shoe-in and worked very hard to demonstrate to the hiring committee that she would be the best fit for helping the school continue on its path to success.
"I don’t know which I am more, humbled or excited, but I’m both," Hays said.
School Board President, David Chaplin, who was on the hiring committee said he feels very confident in her ability to do the job.
"She’s always very positive. I’ve not seen her in any frame of mind other than pleasant, willing to chat and eager to work with you. That’s my general impression of her," he said.
Chaplin also praised her professional skills.
"I’ve had the opportunity to work with her a little bit in the last several years and I’ve been quite impressed with her work ethic," he said.
There were also qualities that set her apart from others who applied for the job.
"She brought a number of things that some of the other candidates didn’t and experience is one of those," he said. "She also has a pretty good relationship with most of the educational community and I think that can only get stronger."
Chaplin added that Hays came to her interview with a very specific plan about how to approach her job, something he said is rare. Her plan focused on seeing individual students succeed.
"What that means is she doesn’t see kids as a group necessarily, she sees that a group is made up of individuals with strengths and also qualities that need a little extra work," he said, noting that this helps to figure out what the best route is to getting a student to achieve to the best of his or her abilities.
Hays said it is a priority of hers to see each of the 1,000 students at Park City High School do well.
"It’s my philosophy that every student can achieve and that is possible through collaborative efforts," she said.
Her confidence that every student can succeed comes in part from her experience in special education.
"There were kids who just really weren’t making it in school and their behavior was so outlandish I learned those kids were super bright," she said, adding they made amazing strides in response to high expectations and through access to resources such as technology.
After seeing that, she learned it is possible to meet the needs of every student.
"I don’t want ‘fall through the cracks’ to even be an option here," she said.
When Chaplin was told about this ambition he said, "We ought to make it a sign and put it above the door,"
Other goals Hays has set for the upcoming school year are, "to really bring our school together, to really get excited about the new building…to work with our teachers to focus on student learning at every level."
Hays said accomplishing this will be easier because she works, "with incredible people who have a passion and persistence for excellence in education."
She also has the help of Park City High School students.
"They’re just inspiring," she said. "The kids at Park City High School are special, they’re not like all kids."
She has found them to be well traveled, globally aware, down-to-earth and intelligent.
One thing Hays was particularly impressed by was the senior gift presented to the high school by the class of 2006, which is a game room for the new remodel.
It will include air hockey, foos ball and possibly a pool table.
"I think our seniors just realized how important it is to have a common area to socialize," Hays said.
While she will miss the students who recently graduated, Hays said she is looking forward to working with next year’s students.
Chaplin is excited to watch as she puts things in motion.
"I’m really looking forward to seeing her work with the high school. I think there will be some changes, and I’m very eager to see what those changes will be. And I think there will be a continuation of some very good things already in place," he said.
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