The first thing you notice when you meet Stuart Hirstein is the look of anticipation in his eyes. After his initial year as head of Saint Edward’s School, he’s looking forward to talking about how the college preparatory school weathered the global pandemic storm and what the future holds.
When Hirstein was unanimously selected for the top position in September 2019, the barrier island school’s campus was bustling with activity. Students and teachers were engaged in learning, the football team was on a winning streak, and the parking lot was packed. By the time he arrived the following June, COVID-19 had dramatically altered the academic and athletic landscape.
“Everything had shut down,” says Hirstein, who had remained in touch with his predecessor, Mike Mersky; Wendy Porter, chair of the search committee; and the school’s leadership team, headed by Jack MacMullan and Beth Zamerski. For weeks prior to his official start date, he had also been engaged in planning meetings, so he knew what was going on.
“I can’t say enough about the outstanding work everyone on the team did. Even though things were changing daily, with a spike in the number of cases in July, we decided to open school Aug. 20, hoping to make it to September, then October. It’s like that saying, ‘You eat an elephant one bite at a time.’”