Head of School
Dr. Mary Frances "Fran" Bisselle assumed the role as Hathaway Brown's 14th Head of School in 2016. She holds a B.A. in History from Boston College, an M.A. in Liberal Studies with a concentration in History from Wesleyan University, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies with a concentration in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment from the University of Vermont.
Prior to joining HB, she served for nine years as the Head of School at Maple Street School, a K - 8 independent school in Vermont. In addition, she has held positions as a classroom teacher, dean of students, coach, dorm parent, educational consultant, and teaching fellow. She was a member of the faculty and administration at The Taft School in Connecticut, and she developed, redesigned, and taught the curriculum for the Master of Arts in Teaching at the University of Vermont.
Fran also shared her expertise with Camp Dudley, a 130-year-old YMCA overnight camp for boys in the Adirondacks. In 2006, she spearheaded the project to establish the all-girls Camp Dudley at Kiniya, raising $12 million for the cause and procuring the camp's bucolic grounds on the shores of Lake Champlain.
A graduate of the prestigious Klingenstein Head Fellowship program at Columbia Teacher's College, Fran also has served on several high-profile boards of trustees, including Trustee and Treasurer for the National Association of Independent Schools, Vice President of ERB board, Commission Member of New England Association of Schools and Colleges, President of the Cleveland Council of Independent Schools, and the Ohio Independent School Association. Fran is also a part of the Headmaster Association, Country Day Head’s Association, and Headmistresses of the East. She serves as a member of the faculty for programs such as NAIS’ Aspiring Heads program, Head’s Network Female Leadership Conferences, and Carney Sandoe’s female leader conference as Fran believes strongly in women’s leadership issues. Fran was a lifer at Merion Mercy Academy, a K-12 school for girls located near Philadelphia. An avid athlete, she was a Division I college field hockey player, and she's a marathon runner who also plays ice hockey, tennis, and golf.
One of 15 siblings with 11 sisters and two daughters of her own, Fran knows and understands girls. Her daughter Lucille is a graduate of the University of Vermont and is now a teacher and daughter Agnes attends Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Fran and her life partner, Dr. David Vincent, the lead chiropractor of University Hospital’s Connor Integrative Health Center, live in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood.
Promoting a sense of belonging and safety among all in our community is foundational to Hathaway Brown and is one of the school’s core values. This is a place where leaning into uncomfortable conversations is encouraged. It is a place where we gain insights from textbooks and from each other. It is a place where we learn not for school, but for life.
This is an important moment in our country’s history. Lives have been and continue to be affected by fear, isolation, economic uncertainty, poverty, sickness, and death due to COVID-19. These issues have been exacerbated by the outcomes of the events in Minnesota and across the U.S., accentuating very real tensions and frustrations held by many here in Cleveland and beyond.
We are committed to supporting everyone in our community through our words, actions, compassion, support, and kindness. We will, as we always do, continue to develop more ways to educate ourselves and our students about what is happening in our society and how we all can be agents of positive change.
While we were unable to reconvene in person after spring break, it was nonetheless quite an eventful week for Hathaway Brown. Our #HBatHome remote learning program has launched and connections among community members have abounded.
I have been incredibly impressed by the creativity and flexibility our entire school community has displayed under these circumstances. The transition to remote learning has been handled by our faculty, students, and families with poise and grace, but we know it has not always been easy.
As we have for the last several years, Hathaway Brown is proud to mark the month of March, Women’s History Month, with a wide array of events and initiatives that honor the strength, accomplishments, and potential of girls and women in our community and across the globe. Faculty and students in all school divisions will offer coursework and projects that highlight the many great strides women have made in every arena throughout history, even as we’re inspired to reach ever loftier heights today.