What started out as a plan to retire evolved into the next chapter of Dave Mullen’s life, as he moved to the Eastern Shore to serve the community, staff, and students at Wye River Upper School.
On July 1, Mullen took over as the Interim Head of School at Wye River, a school with a familiar mission and job requirements to where he spent almost 30 of his 41 years in education.
Having served as Head of School at The Nora School in Silver Spring, Md, for 29 years, moving into this position came naturally to Mullen. He aims to serve as the bridge between the founding Head of School, Chrissy Aull, and her long-term successor to be chosen later this year.
“The work that is done here at WRUS is the work I’ve done for most of my career,” Mullen said. “I really enjoy working with teens who have been frustrated in school, and for whom learning does not always come easily.”
The exemplary reputation of WRUS drew him to seeking the position.
“It’s important for me to be working with teachers and colleagues who have a true calling and commitment to improving the lives of kids, and I knew I’d find that at Wye River,” Mullen said.
A graduate of New England Conservatory of Music, Mullen earned a Master’s degree in Education in Administration and Supervision from the University of Maryland in 1991. For the past 29 years, he led The Nora School, a small independent college preparatory high school focusing on students with diverse learning styles. He retired as Head of School on June 30.
“I understand our students’ and families’ challenges because I’ve been doing this work for a long time. My own kids have had their learning struggles at various points,” Mullen said. “I know how challenges in school can impact families’ lives, and now they have even more turbulence to navigate as they work around COVID-19. The interim role is new [to me], and I’m excited to be seeing new ideas, learning, and meeting new people.”
Mullen also added he is “happy to help the school ‘set the table’ for the next leader and the next phase of the school’s growth.”
One of the challenges with which Mullen is grappling is how COVID-19 is affecting students. He has been working with the staff at WRUS in planning for both hybrid and online scenarios next fall.
Mullen also understands that the disease may be a factor for the foreseeable future. For him, that face-to-face interaction is critical to both academic learning and emotional health whether it is in person or virtually.
“Wye River did a terrific job moving online last spring and having classes meet every day, virtually, through the end of the school year. That kind of commitment shows real planning, thoughtfulness and attention to detail,” Mullen said.
Rather than having students constantly on a computer screen, he is enthusiastic about Wye River’s commitment to integrating daily physical education. He also hopes to develop the school’s mindfulness program to assist students, parents, and teachers in coping with the anxiety of today’s world.
Tackling a few elements of the Strategic Plan this year, Mullen will keep Wye River moving in the positive direction that has been the hallmark of the school’s 18-year history.
“I want to support the folks who’ve made a career here, and help them fulfill their hopes and dreams for the school going forward,” Mullen said. “We’ve been living in an age of anxiety for the last 20 years, from Sept. 11 to the great recession to the turmoil of the last several months. These kids have grown up having known nothing different.”
He continued saying “there’s a great need to take care of the people in our small
communities and help them navigate and get through these challenges in healthy and productive ways.”
One person who knew that Mullen could take on this leading role was founding WRUS Head of School Chrissy Aull, who said “with Dave at the helm of WRUS, I can rest well knowing that he is up to the daunting task of readying the school for all the matters Corona related. I don’t think there is any aspect of this challenge that Dave is not ready to address. He will lead the staff and families through this unforeseen situation.”
About Wye River Upper School:
Wye River Upper School is an independent high school serving the strengths and needs of bright students with learning differences. Located in Centreville MD approximately 20 minutes east of the Bay Bridge, WRUS offers daily bus transportation. For more info, contact Nicole Sophocles at 410-758-2922.
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