Mary Sciarrillo RN is the founding Head of School at Trinity Hall, the only all-girl independent school in Monmouth County, NJ. Trinity Hall opened in 2013 to educate and empower young women in the Catholic tradition through an innovative college preparatory program grounded by four core values of leadership, respect, perseverance, and faith. The goal of an all-girl education is to prepare girls to become influential contributors and leaders in the world. There is robust global conversation around gender equality and having women play a fuller role in society from boardrooms to government and closing the gender pay gap. Sciarrillo exemplifies the benefit of having a nurse serving on a nonprofit board addressing social drivers of health such an education. We interviewed Sciarrillo to discuss her trajectory and how her nursing background has influenced her leadership during COVID19. As a result of shelter in place policies, all US students have had to adjust to online learning platform. Many schools are anticipating that they will not be in session for the remainder of the school year. In addition to adjusting to this new way of learning, students are also dealing with emotional issues such as increased anxiety and depression as a result of social isolation and uncertainty about the future.
Sciarrillo began her career as a critical care nurse. She graduated from St. Vincent Hospital and obtained her BA in Health Education from Jersey City State University. She progressed through the hospital ranks as a Clinical Nurse Educator and ultimately an Assistant Director of Nursing at a community hospital in Newark, NJ. While raising her family, Sciarrillo became a school nurse and worked in the New Jersey Public School system. Sciarrillo joined Oak Knoll as dean of students and then principal of the Upper School in NJ before being recruited to be Head of School at Trinity Hall. “I never left nursing behind. Because of my critical care background, I have always been able to triage effectively during crisis situations. Health and wellness are always the focus in all my work in education,” said Sciarrillo.
Sciarrillo reports that because of her health focus, Trinity Hall was in a good position to address the demands of COVID19. We were one of the first schools to be terminally cleaned, and our students are always educated on proper handwashing and basic infection control measures such as coughing into their arm with a tight seal. We make new hygiene signs each year normally”, said Sciarrillo. Students at Trinity Hall are always encouraged to stay home when ill and teachers work with students as needed. Through technology, students missing school due to prolonged illnesses have been able to participate in class via computer. Trinity Hall has used many online platforms such as Schoology, Zoom, Google, and the Owl to bring the classroom to students at home.
To maintain a sense of community and address student, family and staff mental health during social isolation, Trinity Hall has continued the grade-level and whole school Town Hall using Zoom. Students have also been instructed to come to Zoom classes dressed and sitting upright in a chair. “I always wear my pearls. I feel it is important for the students to maintain some level of discipline and normalcy in their routines to cope during this time”, said Sciarrillo. Our counselors are also available for 1:1 for students needing support. Sciarrillo is hopeful for the future and school leadership has not made a final decision about the end of the school year. “I have lots of contingency plans ready to go but think there is so many unknowns that it is difficult to commit to a final decision too far in advance. I encourage everyone to think 2 weeks out. And right now, that means for students, staff and families to enjoy spring break and unplug. This is a marathon not a sprint and everyone needs the rest”, said Sciarrillo.