Senior Leadership Team
The Senior Leadership team meets monthly in an advisory capacity to the Head of School. Representing a cross-section of the school's faculty and staff, the following are members of the team.
Nancy Berlier is Communications Director for The Summit Country Day School. She oversees public relations, the school website, Weekly Announcements, administrative announcements, the online school calendar and social media. She is the editor of The Summit magazine and Annual Report, which are published three times a year. After an introduction to The Summit as a consultant, she began working here in 2011. She is an award-winning editor and writer, having served as an editor at The Cincinnati Enquirer and Cincinnati Post. She is past president of the Queen City Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, former member of the Archdiocese Communications Commission and a member of the Salesian Guild planning committee. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Southern Illinois University – Carbondale. Contact her via email or call (513) 871-4700 ext. 291.
Greg Dennis is the Athletic Director. He has oversight of 22 teams and nearly 100 coaches at The Summit. He oversees operations of Flannery Gym, Williams Field, Thurner Field and The Summit's Athletic Complex. Since joining The Summit in 2004, eight of his teams have won state championships and students have placed No. 1 in individual state contests six times. Every year, The Summit has graduated student-athletes who have been guaranteed spots on Division I, II and III college teams. He had 18 years in education prior to The Summit, serving as athletic director and basketball coach at Girard College in Philadelphia for 10 years, teaching physical education and coaching basketball at three private Philadelphia high schools. He was named Coach of the Year four times by the Bicentennial Athletic Conference with only one losing season in 18 years of coaching basketball. He has a bachelor's degree in communication and education from Winston-Salem State University, N.C. Contact him via email or call (513) 871-4700 ext. 252.
Michele Duda is the Development Director. She is responsible for day-to-day operations of the Development Office, including the Annual Fund for Excellence, alumni relations, volunteer management and gift stewardship. Ms. Duda has been with The Summit since 2007. She was formerly program coordinator of Medical University of South Carolina and senior educational services assistant at the University of Kentucky. She has a bachelor’s degree from Midway College. Contact her via email or call (513) 871-4700 ext. 243.
Maureen Ferrell is College Counseling Director. As a member of the Upper School faculty, she is responsible for administering all aspects of the college search and admission process, as well as the day-to-day operations of the College Counseling Department. Ms. Ferrell came to The Summit in 2010 with 35 years of educational experience, including 10 years as director of guidance and counseling at Walnut Hills High School and 20 years as a college counselor. CareerQuest gave her their "Counselor of the Year" award in 2009. She was one of 25 counselors asked to serve on the University of Chicago's inaugural Advisory Board and one of 15 counselors asked to serve on Hanover University's inaugural Advisory Board. She is a member of the Princeton Review Advisory Board and Xavier University's Regional Advisory Board. She participated in the Fitzwilliams and Prairie Home Conference and has presented at the national and regional College Boards and National Association of Colleges. Ms. Ferrell has been a guest at National Association for College Admission Counseling and College Board forums as well as radio talk shows. She has been a consultant for local college fairs. She is a member of the Association of College Counselors in Independent Schools, National Association of Independent Schools, National Association for College Admission Counseling, Overseas Association for College Admission Counseling and College Board. She was trained as a personal counselor. She has a master's degree of education in school counseling from the University of Cincinnati (UC), a bachelor's degree in education from UC, a bachelor's degree in home economics from UC and has additional coursework at Loyola University. Contact her via email or call (513) 871-4700 ext. 226.
Maria Hill is the Human Resources Director. She provides guidance, innovation and leadership in directing, planning and managing all areas of the Human Resources Department. She is responsible for employee recruitment, on-boarding, staff compensation and benefits, organizational development, collaborative policy development and interpretation, evaluation system and employment record retention. Ms. Hill came to The Summit from Great American Insurance Group where she had been HR business partner/corporate recruiter since 2011. In that capacity, she recruited new talent, partnered with senior leaders to improve retention, served as point of contact for benefits and policies and coached managers and leaders on best practices and succession planning. Prior to that, she had served in recruiting, staffing and office management roles in Cincinnati businesses since 2004. She is pursuing a Master of Science in Executive Leadership and Organizational Change from Northern Kentucky University and has a Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration and Sociology from Miami University. Contact her via email or call (513) 871-4700 ext. 277.
Jim Jackson is the Chief Philanthropy Executive. He oversees efforts for all advancement, development and philanthropic programs at The Summit. He joined The Summit in 2012 after seven years as director of advancement at the Athenaeum of Ohio and 12 years at Xavier University where he was director of development and executive director of principal gifts and stewardship. He has bachelor's degrees in history and English from Xavier University. He serves on the boards of Magnified Giving, Our Lady of Light, Greater Cincinnati Performing Arts Society and Holy Spirit Center. He is a member of AFP (Association of Fund Raising Professionals), the National Association of Independent Schools, GCPGC (Greater Cincinnati Planned Giving Council), CASE (Council for the Advancement and Support of Education) and OAIS/NAIS (Ohio Association of Independent Schools). Contact him via email or call (513) 871-4700 ext. 242.
Mike Johnson is the Middle School Director. He returned to The Summit in 2011 after serving three years as principal of Our Lady of Grace Catholic School. Prior to that, he was a teacher at The Summit for nine years. He was senior religion teacher, coordinator of Upper School Community Service Program, faculty council moderator, Upper School curriculum coordinator, Student Leadership Team advisor, coordinator of crisis management and catechetical leader. He also served for seven years as director of formation, school counselor and pastoral administrator at St. Catharine Church. He has a bachelor's degree in theology from the University of St. Thomas, a master's degree in pastoral counseling and moral theology from the Athenaeum of Ohio and a master's degree in educational leadership from the University of Cincinnati. Contact him via email or call (513) 871-4700 ext. 250.
Bernadette Lottman is the Business Operations Director. Ms. Lottman joined The Summit in 2010 as controller. Prior to joining The Summit, she worked in public accounting and has held various financial roles in construction and service firms. She has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Dayton and is a certified public accountant. Contact her via email or call (513) 871-4700 ext. 301.
Kirstin Pesola McEachern Ph.D. is Curriculum and Instruction Director and Diversity & Inclusion Director at The Summit. As Curriculum and Instruction Director, she oversees development of curriculum across grade levels K-12 and across all subject areas. Dr. McEachern assists in the planning, leadership and execution of periodic curriculum reviews, and she ensures all teachers are following best instructional practice. As Director and Diversity & Inclusion Director, she works with educational directors to plan faculty professional development to execute D&I principles in the classroom, and she works with the D&I committees in the Middle and Upper School to support their work. She came to The Summit in 2015 with 19 prior years in education. She has served as assistant principal of academics, a middle and upper school English teacher, middle school writing lab director and school newspaper moderator. She was an adjunct professor of English and education courses at Boston College, Loyola Marymount University and Marian Court College. She chaired two accreditation committees for the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and Western Association of Schools and Colleges and managed the revision of scope and sequence for a K-12 school. She facilitated workshops for New Teacher Academy and was a researcher for the program evaluation and research branch of the Los Angeles Unified School District. She worked collaboratively on mixed-methods, a longitudinal research project to examine the connection between teacher preparation and retention, which resulted in two co-authored publications in Teachers College Record and Journal of Education. She has a bachelor's degree in English, summa cum laude, from Loyola Marymount University; a master's of teaching degree in English, summa cum laude, University of New Hampshire; and Ph.D, in curriculum and instruction from Boston College. She is a member of the American Association of University Women, American Educational Research Association, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and Pi Lambda Theta, the National Honor Society of Educators. Contact her via email or call (513) 871-4700 ext. 216.
Holly Northern is the Technology Director. She oversees the work of the Technology Department in support of the widespread use of technology across campus. She also oversees the management of our Portal, which provides an important avenue of communication among students and their parents with faculty and staff. Mrs. Northern has a bachelor's degree in English from Xavier University and multiple technology certifications. She has served in various technology roles, from support to management at St. Xavier High School, Productivity Point International and Clinton Memorial Hospital, prior to starting at The Summit in 2000. As Summit's network administrator, Mrs. Northern managed the infrastructure and technical operations for the school. She assisted in managing the technology aspects of construction and renovation projects and also assisted annually in the technological aspects of the school's annual online auction. She has been involved with Interalliance of Greater Cincinnati, The Women in Technology conference and mentored students in broadcast communications, as well as serving as moderator for the Upper School Ski Club. She and her husband, Jason, have given their children Austin '14 and Jordyn '17 the advantage of a Summit education. Contact her via email or call 871-4700 ext. 465.
Kelley Schiess is Assistant Head of School for Enrollment Management and Special Projects in the Office of Admission. In this role, she assists in administration of The Summit by working with senior leadership teams, the Board of Trustees and the Summit Parents Association. She has oversight for Extended Day Programs and special projects. Mrs. Schiess has been responsible for admission, scholarship, financial aid and retention efforts at The Summit since 2002. She launched the Early Childhood Education Symposium – a free, community-based early childhood educational parenting program hosted annually in the fall – and an international student recruitment program. She was instrumental in expanding the Montessori Program to offer an academic program for 2-year-olds. She administers The Summit's scholarship and financial aid program. Prior to joining The Summit in 1988, Mrs. Schiess served in various roles in the Admissions Office at Xavier University, ending her tenure there as director for freshman recruitment. She has a master's degree in college student personnel administration in higher education and bachelor's degree in journalism from Ball State University. She and her husband, Adrian Schiess, who retired from XU as executive director for student academic support services, sent both of their sons to The Summit. Matthew '12 is pursuing a business degree at Xavier University and Patrick '14 is studying business at Clemson University. Contact her via email or call (513) 871-4700 ext. 207.
Kathy Scott is Montessori Director. She began teaching in Summit's Montessori in 1999. In 2016-17, she took leadership of The Summit's well-established Montessori pre-school program which started in 1963. The program is one of a few in Greater Cincinnati applying the Montessori philosophy to children as young as two. Mrs. Scott designed the Early Enrichment Program for 3- and 4-year-olds, which provides in-depth exploration of topics such as geography, anatomy and biomes. In 2007, she also became the coordinator of Summer Exploration, initiating Montessori summer classes for ages three to six, creating a day camp program for ages three to eight, broadening the curriculum in educational and enrichment summer classes and maintaining a wide variety of sports camps for age three to 18. In 2009, she took over administration of Before Care, Extended Day and After School Specials, improving enrichment opportunities after school and beginning Homework Start. She has been a leader in developing professional development opportunities for faculty and has facilitated the Ohio Praxis Entry Year program for many years. She has a Master of Education in Early Childhood with Montessori three-to-six certification through Xavier University and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Webster University in St. Louis. She and her husband, Kevin, sent their children, Gabe '12 and Brianna '11, to The Summit. Contact her via email or call (513) 871-4700 ext. 235.
Kendra Thornton Ed.D. is Lower School Director. Having served as the Guidance Counselor for students in kindergarten through grade four since 2009, in the 2016-17 school year, she took over direction of a school where innovative programs such as Conceptual Math, Five Star Reading and Character Education have made The Summit distinctive in the region. Dr. Thornton received a doctorate in education from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., with a specialization in Mind, Brain and Teaching. This specialization builds upon basic and applied research from the fields of cognitive science, psychology, neurology, neuroscience and education. She received her master's degree in Community Counseling from Xavier University and bachelor's degree in Political Science/Pre-Law from the University of Cincinnati. In addition to serving as a Summit's Lower School guidance counselor, Dr. Thornton taught weekly lessons on Character Education and Social Skills in the classrooms. She created accommodation plans and facilitates systemic support for students with learning differences. She has been a regular presenter on professional development topics at Lower School faculty meetings. She is licensed by the state of Ohio as a professional clinical counselor. She has been published in the Ohio School Counselor Association's professional journal, OSCA Advocate, and she has been a frequent presenter at The Summit's annual Early Childhood Education Symposium. Since 2006, she has served on the Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Team. Dr. Thornton was also a practicum supervisor for Xavier University's Community Counseling Program. Contact her via email or call (513) 871-4700 ext. 246.
John Thornburg is the Upper School Director. He has oversight over an experienced and well-educated faculty who prepare students in grades nine through 12 for the academic, spiritual and life challenges they will face at college and beyond. In addition to the rigorous academic curriculum, the Upper School program includes the unique-in-Cincinnati Science Research Institute, our signature Character Education program and opportunities for students to to shine in the arts, music and drama. Mr. Thornburg came to The Summit in 2015-16 after 29 years in education. He brings with him a passion to facilitate student growth in all facets of their lives. A student’s spiritual formation, coupled with an excellent educational program, is of utmost importance and guides his leadership. He firmly believes students reach their full potential when their education is combined with a faith-based system.
Mr. Thornburg understands the importance of a life-changing, quality education. His past experience includes 20 years in the classroom as a biology teacher. During that time he not only led curriculum development, but conducted educational research, earning two masters’ degrees. His first area of research was in the development of critical thinking skills in science students. In this study he challenged students to understand how our faith is a compelling area to partner with science. The other area of study was in pedagogy that promotes a positive learning relationship between a teacher and a student. He interviewed and studied the dynamic of relational teaching at an all-boys boarding school. He has presented at several educational conferences on this topic and was published in Thymos: Journal of Boyhood Studies. Mr. Thornburg has also participated in research with the International Boys’ School Coalition (IBSC). He led research on the development of student relationships in a blended learning environment. In this study he “flipped” his biology classroom and required students to learn online outside the class day. The expectation was they would be prepared for further investigation and discussion when in the classroom. His findings were published under the auspices of the IBSC. He presented his research at an international conference.
Mr. Thornburg has a strong background in educational leadership, serving as Academic Dean and Vice President of an all-boys boarding school. In these roles he led a school-wide professional development initiative to develop a relational school model. He formed a partnership with Dr. Michael Reichert (co-author of Reaching Boys, Teaching Boys and I Can Learn from You: Boys as Relational Learners), Executive Director of The Center for the Study of Boys’ and Girls’ Lives. A new model of professional development was formed to support teachers in their growth as relational instructors. Along with his teaching experience, he served as a head cross country and track coach for more than 20 years. He views athletics as a key component in maintaining student health and providing the balance for the demands of being a successful student.
He has a bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, a master's degree in teaching from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and a master's in educational leadership from Marian University. He received the Roy F. Farrand Teaching in Excellence Award in 1992 and Honorary Alumnus Award from St. John's Northwestern Military Academy in 2003. Contact him via email or call (513) 871-4700 ext. 229.