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New Head of School Announced

Robert C. Hansen has been chosen as 15th Head of The Leelanau School

A nationwide search which produced numerous qualified candidates from all over the country to fill the Head of School position resulted in the Board of Trustees selecting a local, Leelanau County resident and Head of The Pathfinder School in Leelanau County as the most qualified to be their next leader beginning in July, 2018.

Mr. Robert C. Hansen was first a parent of The Pathfinder School, and then a board member, before becoming Head of School in 2012. He leaves after establishing a new strategic vision, expanding their instructional program, strengthening the arts, implementing a counseling program, improving student success, growing enrollment, fundraising and balancing their budget. Prior to his time at Pathfinder, he was the Supervisor of Instructional Services at the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District and Technology and Data Integration Specialist.

Hansen began his career as a scientist after obtaining a Bachelor’s in Chemistry from University of Illinois.  He returned to school to pursue his Master’s Degree in Education from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids realizing that education was his passion. He taught in both Bullock Creek High School in Midland, Michigan and in Northport Public Schools in Leelanau County, Michigan before moving into administrative work.

Hansen sought this position in part because he believes that Leelanau County can become a model for what an ideal education looks like. Hansen says, “I have seen Leelanau School students and alumni in action. Their self-confidence, joy and leadership are apparent. I know the reputation and dedication of The Leelanau School faculty and have deep professional and personal admiration for the administrative staff.”

Carolyn Helmlinger, Board Chair and Co-Chair of the Search Committee, said, “We were fortunate to find an outstanding leader who has experienced and thoroughly understands the culture and mission of The Leelanau School. Rob has classroom experience, financial acumen, and a plan to grow our school through collaborations, curriculum enhancement and program visibility.”

Rob Hansen will follow JD Friley at The Leelanau School, who plans to retire from education at the end of the school year. Coincidentally, Friley also served in a leadership position at The Pathfinder School from 2000-2006. As The Leelanau School’s leader since July 2016, Friley was responsible for the re-accreditation by the Independent Schools Association of Central States (ISACS) and the completion of the first phase of a Strategic Plan, as well as continuing to improve financial stability and enrollment practices at Leelanau. Friley said this about Hansen, “Throughout the process, I have been impressed with Rob’s passion and energy and love of learning. As a strong champion of independent schools, Rob truly exemplifies our mission to ‘ignite our student’s passion for learning.’  It has been exciting to watch him engage with our faculty and students and to consider all that is possible for Leelanau’s future.”

The Board of Trustees made the choice for Hansen from an original slate of 20 candidates from all over the country. The pool was narrowed to four semi-finalists, and two who visited campus, by a specially appointed Search Committee. The Search Committee of 12 individuals met for 16 months and was made up of parents, alumni, faculty and administrators, local business leaders and board members.  Surveys were conducted and all faculty, staff and students were given time to interview each candidate during a recent campus visit by both finalists.

Hansen will continue his post at The Pathfinder School and begin his tenure at The Leelanau School on July 1, 2018.  He leaves Pathfinder with solid enrollment numbers, balanced budgets and strong educational programs.

“Creative Creatures: A Survey of Western Expression” is designed to investigate the many ways that humanity has exercised the practice of creativity in the western world. From creating civilizations to building architectural structures and monuments to writing, theater, and visual art, western peoples have constantly strived to not only exist in the world but to embellish the world around them.


This Caribbean trip will expose our students to the natural beauty of the islands and the historical seaways of colonization and trade. Students will explore living reefs and sea life, indigenous music and art, the amalgamation of multiple cultures. There will be plenty of opportunity to observe and experience the flora and fauna of this tropical paradise. Students will live in glamorous camping accommodations with opportunities to cook as well as occasionally dine out. Students will delight in typical Caribbean cuisine offered in the Tree Lizards Restaurant located on the campground. Upon satisfactory completion of course requirements, students can earn a ½ credit in science and another ½ credit in social sciences.

Instructors: Mr. Blondia, Science and Mr. Ivankovich, Dean of Students

Developing Life Skills in the Classroom LabA college preparatory boarding school is, as its name suggests, a place to prepare students for college. Of course academic success is a major part of that preparedness, but another equally important part is the development of life skills. These are the skills that will allow success in college, and beyond, to happen. The skills that are essential to building, navigating, and living successful and meaningful lives. Taking personal responsibility, learning to manage emotions, developing social awareness, and practicing personal wellness are examples of life skills that are important for all people and that are developed and strengthened at The Leelanau School.

Last week, I was asked by a local resident “what kind of parent sends their child away to boarding school?” I have, as you might guess, answered this question many times and I see it as an opportunity to talk about the Leelanau School as well as broaden others’ perspectives on options for secondary education. My short answer goes like this: Parents will often look at boarding school as an option because they find that they provide a better learning environment for their child or meet the needs of their child better than any of their local options.