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South Valley Riverton Journal

New Summit Academy executive director to lead individualized, innovative learning

May 08, 2023 12:32PM ● By Julie Slama

Molly Hart, who is principal at Albion Middle School in Sandy and serves on the state school board, will become Summit Academy’s new executive director. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

With 20 years of administrative experience plus serving on the Utah State Board of Education, Molly Hart knows a thing or two about education.

When the current Albion Middle School principal learned about the opportunities at Summit Academy, she wanted to embrace it as the charter schools’ new executive director.

“Once I learned about the opportunity and met the people and learned what they want to do and how they want to grow Summit, I wanted to be part of it,” she said. “I have a lot of ideas about education, with different innovations and ways of doing things and I want to try them out. The charter environment is a little bit more agile and, in a lot of ways, that’s why we have charters, is to try things out on a smaller scale. When you’re building something, it takes the community in the truest sense of the word—the teachers, the parents, the students, the administrators to create the vision. I’m not taking a plan over there and plopping it down. I’m going there to build a smaller community where learners can thrive, and parents feel good about the experiences their kids have.”

Hart likes the small learning environment.

“Summit does some things that are unique with the K-8 school, so you don’t have to make a transition in between fifth and sixth grade,” she said about the Draper and Bluffdale schools that serve ages 5 through 14. “The smaller environment in the high school gives students opportunity. They are really wanting to make sure that students’ individual needs are met with personalized learning, and they’re doing some pretty cool stuff with eSports and tech. We want to empower students to be curious about their world, to empower them to learn how to find information and critically separate fact from fiction and learn how to construct a strong argument based on evidence in multiple areas, but also to have experiences from trial-and-error experiments.”

Her appointment begins July 1. She will continue as Albion’s principal in Sandy until then and will continue serving on the Utah State Board of Education.

“Being on the Board, I’m more aware of policies than the average person. I can keep a pulse on where things are going,” she said. 

Through her years in education—starting with being a teacher and administrator in Georgia before being a principal 11 years in Canyons School District, she realizes that she is good at seeing the overall picture and helping create that by working with groups of people, keeping the school children’s best interest at heart—especially now, post pandemic.

“We learned a lot and education is in a different space,” Hart said. “Kids are different, and teachers are different, and parents are different—and it requires a different kind of educational experience for kids. I think we can either dream about five and 10 years ago and those glory days or we can look forward to the next great educational experience. Sometimes you got to break with the past to build something beautiful—and kids deserve that. I love creating teams and meeting the needs of kids. I just love it when it’s a great environment for kids.”

Her first step at Summit will be listening and soaking it in. 

“I am going to listen; I am going to be Summit’s No. 1 learner. I am going to just soak up everything I can from the community meetings from the classrooms, from the extracurriculars from the different campuses, from the students,” Hart said.

She hopes to identify the school community’s strengths and challenges.

“I’m going to work using their strengths to overcome their challenges. I want to make it so the administration and the running of the schools is in the background. That way, the teachers can concentrate on the students in front of them and students can concentrate on learning and experiencing the things the teachers have for them,” Hart said. “I’m not going to impose a vision other than my vision is to help the community develop the best school possible for that community for those students.”

Hart will take her books that currently fill a wall in her office as well as a bright colorful quilt she sewed, which is displayed on another wall. On one square, there is a tiny imperfection, a pucker which doesn’t allow the fabric to lie flat.

“I use it to teach kids telling them because you have a flaw, it doesn’t mean you’re not valuable,” she said. “It actually means that block is different, and we all are as well. There are lessons in humanity there so sometimes when kids are stressed or worried, I try to calm them down and give them something to think about. They, like the quilt, are still beautiful.”

She said that parents universally all want a safe school, a quality education where students come away better than when they arrived. 

“It’s important for students to be productive and contributing citizens in ways that are meaningful to them and their family. The minute I met the people, the administrative team, the Board and saw the commitment to meaningful learning and experiences in a safe environment where there’s a healthy community of support for each other, I knew I wanted to be part of it,” Hart said. “Summit puts students first. They’re open to innovation and they have a vision for the future.” λ