Christina Broderick: Head of School, Marymount
On a beautiful fall day, after the lazy days of summer had passed and schools were back in session, I made my way to the Marymount campus situated above the city. The winding roads of Santa Barbara’s Riviera community, the views of the ocean and the Channel Islands in the far distance, was a precursor to the picturesque setting of the Marymount campus. Passing the stone-gated entry to the Middle School, I parked my car and was greeted by a friendly student who guided me to the office of Christina Broderick, Head of School. She greeted me at the door of her office: a large space, part office, part conference room, combined with a friendly area of living space. Although we sat together at one end of the conference table in deference to my computer, I felt as though I were in the living room of a home, rather than a learning institute.
“What attracted me was this school’s innate culture of kindness,” Broderick begins. The 2019-20 school year is her second year as Head of School. “I felt it everywhere, felt at home instantly, and knew I wanted to be on this beautiful campus.” Her office certainly reflects that ambiance in its comfortable accessibility. What also inspired her was Marymount’s history, which began in the 1800s in Europe. Marymount in California was founded in Santa Barbara in 1938 and was a part of an original consortium of schools and colleges.
The story of Santa Barbara’s Marymount, like that of many of the other schools in the original consortium, is one of evolution and change. Today, Marymount is a thriving independent co-educational day school taking in students from age four through 14. “Originally founded as a Catholic all girls’ high school, our school was purchased in 1972 by a group of parents, governed by a Board of Trustees, and evolved into the independent day school that it is today,” notes Broderick. “Our founding core values at Marymount include honor, respect, and trust.”
In 2007, in partnership with the UCSB Religious Studies Department, Marymount developed its signature world religions curricular program: Kaleidoscope, an introduction to the diverse world history of moral and ethical teachings.
Marymount School boasts a balanced yet vigorous academic program with small classes of 18 to 24 students. The school’s emphasis on the building blocks established during the early years and their importance in the later years is the concept upon which Marymount’s innovative Social and Emotional Learning curriculum is based. “The SEL curriculum during these pivotal years has proven to be just as important as the academic curriculum,” observes Broderick. “We’re proud of this signature program instituted this year by Dr. Mario Bucio, Director of Counseling and Student Wellness, as an integral part of our program.”
A California girl, raised on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, Broderick is the oldest of three children. “My mom was active in the Early Childhood Education program at my elementary school and I remember her involvement in providing parent education about social and emotional issues in kids. She adds, “Both my parents were a huge influence in my educational life.” Education was a priority in the family home: after high school Broderick attended Mount St. Mary’s College and graduated with a degree in Psychology and a minor in Women’s Leadership Studies.
Throughout her high school and college years, music and theater were a vital part of her experience and she continued to participate in the arts whenever possible. Broderick’s love of musical theater performance drew her to New York City and she was accepted to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. “As much as I loved it there, I knew I wanted to use my love for music and theater to work with children. Wanting to help people was equally as compelling, and becoming a teacher allowed me to combine what I was most passionate about in life.”
Returning to California, Broderick began a decade of teaching high school and eventually sought out the opportunity to work with middle school students. In the early 2000s she served for five years in her first leadership position as the Director of Visual and Performing Arts at Turning Point School in Culver City. After earning a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction, with educational leadership having become her interest and passion, Broderick, her husband and two children, relocated to Dallas, Texas where she served as a middle school administrator in a Pre-K through 12 school.
Broderick’s involvement with the National Association of Independent Schools began in Texas. Mentored by fellow Head of School, Ann Klotz, also a former Director of Visual and Performing Arts, she was selected to participate in the NAIS Fellowship for Aspiring Heads in 2010. “Ann encouraged me, as a woman with a strong educational background in the creative arts, to consider a position as a Head of School,” she remembers. “Shortly thereafter, I was hired to serve as Head of School for Notre Dame de Sion School, a Pre-K through 12th grade school in Kansas City, Missouri.
The desire to be closer to her family, and the fact that their son was approaching high school, the Broderick family contemplated returning to California. A national firm managed Marymount’s search for a new Head of School. Seems it turned out to be the perfect match.
At Marymount, serving others is a priority. The Middle School’s advisory and service-learning programs emphasize social awareness and the importance of giving back. Every year a social service agency is chosen by the Middle School – Storyteller Children’s Center was last year’s choice. “The middle schoolers work together for the benefit of their chosen agency through the lens of kindness with the understanding that serving others is not only service to the community, but to themselves … what we call ‘our culture of kindness,’” maintains Broderick. “Seeing ourselves as part of the global community, being responsible for ourselves and others and respecting the environment that surrounds and sustains us is part of our mission.”
Broderick continues to lead Marymount with these values as her compass and guide. As one of 20 international heads of schools to participate in Columbia University Fellowship for Heads of School, she is deeply committed to the long-term sustainability of Marymount.
Leaving the campus in the late afternoon, I had the same feeling that Marymount’s Head of School described on her first visit: a warm, welcoming atmosphere, a spirit on the campus that instantly communicated a place for children to grow and develop into their best selves in an innovative, forward looking atmosphere. Sadly, I’m not of school age myself but my granddaughter, Sabrina, is there in my place, learning and growing.