Steamboat Springs Margi Missling Root still remembers those fascinating talks she had 14 years ago with Meg Morse on their morning walks along Routt County Road 33.
It was during those walks that Missling Root first predicted her new co-worker was destined to someday have a hand in leading The Lowell Whiteman School.
“She had insights and wisdom and experiences about being a teacher that were fresh and new to what we were doing here at Whiteman,” Missling Root said Wednesday about Morse, who had just started at the campus after teaching in Connecticut. “I told her, 'You really need to become an administrator.'”
This week, Missling Root, who has taught at the school herself now for 25 years, is just starting to watch Morse lead the rustic campus north of Steamboat Springs.
Morse was named the interim head of school last month immediately after former campus head Chris Taylor retired earlier than expected.
And she's poised to move it forward.
“She's loved. She's respected. And she has 100 percent backing from the faculty and the students and, it appears, the parents,” Missling Root said. “I really believe she will do a great job.”
Morse has moved into the head of school's office as the campus is in a state of transition.
Like other private campuses in Steamboat, Whiteman has seen its enrollment drop drastically in recent years, and it has taken new steps to attract more students.
A new assistant director of admissions has been hired, and alumni are renewing efforts to host events in their new hometowns to tell others about the campus and its uniqueness.
Morse is hopeful the student body will grow next school year.
“Unlike the days when the economy was really strong and people were finding out about you, now it's about going out and telling our story,” Morse said. “We are a different kind of school, and that's what we want to be.”
In the short term, she said, no drastic changes are planned for the campus.
But the curriculum and the students' schedules will be examined and could be changed next school year.
This also will be the last year French classes are taught at the school as the language is being replaced by Mandarin.
The class switch comes as the school continues to recruit more students from China.
Morse has taught English and math classes at Whiteman and has served as its college counselor.
On Wednesday, she left her head of school office in the morning to teach a math class.
“It's not something I necessarily sought at first,” Morse said about the head of school job. “But I like being a part of the big picture. I'm just trying to work really hard and get up to speed. I love this school and what it stands for and all the people who have been involved in it.”
Morse's son is a fourth-grader at Soda Creek Elementary School, and her husband, John, teaches English at Whiteman.
The interim head has been teaching for 22 years.
Earlier this week, she welcomed back many of the students at the campus who just traveled around the globe for the school's Global Immersion Studies program. The seniors traveled to China, the juniors went to Vietnam and Cambodia and the freshmen and sophomores went to India.
The students will reflect on the trips at a public event May 28.
Morse said she will decide this summer whether she will apply to be the school's permanent head of school.
A search process started before Taylor's departure when a consultant from a national search firm was at the campus for three days in March interviewing students and staff to gauge what they want in Taylor's successor.
“This is a school that seems to elicit a lot of passion in people,” Morse said. “People love this school. They tell stories about this school. They go to college and tell their friends about their unique experience here. That's the difficult part. It's hard to believe this is what we say it is.”
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com