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Meet Dr. Mary Stefanus, Hardy Middle School Principal

"I had one of those 'Oprah moments' when the universe kind of speaks to you."

Dr. Mary Stefanus came out of retirement, moved across the country and dove right into her new role as the principal at Georgetown's . The 32-year veteran educator, most recently of the St. Louis school system, had her first day of school in the D.C. Public Schools system Monday and told Patch in an interview that she feels "very lucky" to be leading Hardy.

She decided to come out of retirement after she received a passionate email from a colleague last fall "about how she loved her new job, that DCPS was doing some great things and they were looking for leaders."

Though she was interviewed for several principal positions, coming to Hardy resonated with her. "I kind of fell in love with the place the night I interviewed. I had one of those 'Oprah moments' when the universe kind of speaks to you," she said.

A principal selection team composed of current parents, teachers, support staff, students, feeder school parents, community members along with DCPS officials and Chancellor Kaya Henderson .

Along with her dog, Stefanus arrived at her new home in Dupont Circle on July 2 and began work July 5.

She comes to Hardy after a tumultuous 2010/2011 school year. Monday, students went back to school under new leadership for the third time in 12 months.

In the first half of the 2010/2011 year took on the role of principal at Hardy Middle School while continuing to serve in that role at Hyde-Addison Elementary. from that position. In January and was .

Stefanus said has worked closely with Shea since here selection to be brought up to speed.

She has also had conversations with Nerenberg, who has "been extremely helpful."

She has not, however, had any opportunity to speak with Pope, she said.

"I think the sentiment is from everyone that we want to move forward," said Stefanus.

To that point, she said she has three main goals for the school:

  1. To maintain the strong focus on music and art that Hardy is renown for;
  2. To really try to further develop [Hardy] into a comprehensive middle school and expand [its] offerings;
  3. To develop the District Initiative of literacy and math, starting this year and beyond.

These goals in many way address the issues of the previous school year.

The focus on music and art has been a draw for students from throughout the District, but last year that students did not have enough class time for the arts.

Much of the consternation surrounded scheduling.

"Our program here at Hardy is very prescriptive and at the same time it’s customized. So that’s a tall order," said Stefanus.

The school has a new master schedule this year, created by Assistant Principal Loren Brody and by Shea, who is now an instructional superintendent for the system.

But arts is important to Hardy and its new principal.

"I’m used to being in a building or in a District that has a strong music program. So it really suits me well."

Beyond Hardy, Stefanus said she was excited about being in D.C., where she is only two miles from work and can take the bus if she wants to and enjoy the diversity that comes from being in the nation's capital. 

"One of the advantages I think of Washington, D.C. is it is so diverse...and that’s such a positive for kids."

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