Longtime Hampton School Board member to leave post at years end

Sunday, July 14, 2019 | 12:01 AM

On a long list of achievements, Hampton School Board member Mary Alice Hennessey is proudest of an event she started before joining the board.

Hennessey, 62, who is leaving the board voluntarily after 12 years when her term expires in December, co-founded the Talbot Tailgate as a member of the Hampton High School PTO. As a board member, she was on a committee that updated the Talbot mascot logo and found the costume the mascot wears.

Held for 16 years, the annual homecoming event consists of food, music, games and a mascot contest.

“Many people probably do not remember, but she and Dr. Jeff Finch, the principal at the time, came up with the idea of the Talbot Tailgate,” said Dr. Marguerite Imbarlina, the current principal.

Hennessey has been a champion of the Lifetime Learning Academy, which offers community education classes.

She chairs the students affairs agenda, which connects the board with the high school student council, approves field trips and supports academic competitions.

“She has a true heart for Hampton,” Assistant Superintendent Dr. Rebecca Cunningham said.

Hennessey is proud of the work the board has done over the years to hire talented administrators, and is pleased with how communications between the district and the school community have flourished.

A great frustration, she said, is when parents go directly to the board with complaints without giving administrators a chance to deal with a problem.

She said simple conversations at the school level most of the time can solve problems or correct misinformation.

“With the age of social media, it is amazing how much misinformation is out there,” Hennessey said. “People get upset over things that are not correct.”

She suggests her successor bring an open mind.

“The school board works best when first and foremost in our minds is, ‘What is best for the students?’”, Hennessey said. “Dr. Harry Sarver, former principal of Hampton Middle School and former board member, always asked that question and the current board still operates with that in mind.

“It is very important to remember that your main role is to oversee the policies, procedures and financial health of the school district, not to micromanage the school district. The school board is in charge of hiring the superintendent, and that person is responsible for the day-to-day management of the district.”

Superintendent Michael Loughead has worked with Hennessey for the past three years and said he will miss her kind and thoughtful approach.

“She cares deeply about the school district and has been instrumental in the district’s success over the years,” Loughead said. “She has worked tirelessly to create positive and open communications within the school community.

“Mrs. Hennessey is passionate about supporting and recognizing students in the arts, academics and athletics.”

Athletic director Bill Cardone said Hennessey will be sorely missed and he will still call her for advice.

Hennessey, who is married and has two children, plans on traveling more, working on her garden and reading things other than school board material.

“I have had a wonderful experience being on the board, but it is time for new faces who bring new energy and ideas,” Hennessey said.