Welcome from Head of School Jill Muti
In a challenging world, the way we choose to live out our values is more important now than ever. At Ashley Hall, we refer to these as our Hallmarks: To be purposeful, collaborative, discerning, compassionate, intelligent, worldly, and creative. These qualities guide all that we do as a community and are part of a cultural competency that is needed to build strong female leaders who will lay a foundation for a better future. It is truly inspiring to discover that this approach to education all started in 1909 with Mary Vardrine McBee, who realized her dream of a premier southeastern girls’ school through sheer determination and will.
A strong, courageous woman, Miss McBee had the tenacity to create a place for the cultivation of future leaders and the vision that those leaders should be women. She did not wait for time and others to smooth the way; she was the catalyst for the change she wanted to manifest in her world. Over the course of a long career, her every effort was directed toward improving the lives of others. First and foremost were the lives of the students in her charge, but beyond that, she took a genuine interest in the lives of her fellow Charlestonians. From its first years, Ashley Hall has assumed a prominent place in the life of this city, and Miss McBee’s example of civic engagement continues today to inspire the vivacious and inquisitive girls who attend our exceptional School.
Ashley Hall has been blessed with visionary leadership since its inception, and now more than a century later, we are also envisioning the next 100 years. Every day, our girls are encouraged and empowered to become the next generation of leaders, and it is one of the greatest honors of my life to be a part of this remarkable undertaking launched by Miss McBee and to follow in the footsteps of my extraordinary predecessors at Ashley Hall.
Head of School
Jill Swisher Muti holds a wealth of experience in education administration and leadership, fine arts education, and teaching. Appointed the Head of School of Ashley Hall in 2004, Mrs. Muti has championed independent school education with a distinct identity and a very clear mission. Under her visionary leadership, the School has become a nationally recognized institution for excellence in single gender education. She has spearheaded efforts to best position Ashley Hall for its second century, including the revitalization of the School’s classical curriculum and execution of a comprehensive master plan encompassing programmatic advances, new and re-purposed facilities, community engagement, and global immersion.
Creation of The Learning Spiral
During her tenure as Head of School, Mrs. Muti oversaw the creation of the Ashley Hall Learning Spiral, a curricular achievement unsurpassed in the School’s history. This comprehensive approach to education presents a consistent pattern of recursive and incremental learning from pre-primary students to seniors and serves the intellectual, emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of each student in every phase of development. Moreover, by enriching Ashley Hall’s faculty through professional development, encouraging creative thinking about education and teaching, and fostering throughout the campus a communal sense of commitment to each and every child, she has built community through shared experience. An Intermediate Program building dedicated to the growth of fifth and sixth grade girls, a Dining Commons constructed around a campus-wide food philosophy of health and wellness, and a comprehensive Student Life Center all testify to Mrs. Muti’s dedication to the well-being of the whole student and her emphasis on an all-encompassing educational experience.
Connecting to Community
Mrs. Muti recognizes that today’s young women cannot realize their full potential without being actively engaged with the life of their communities—both locally and globally. Consequently, she has worked to establish partnerships with many Charleston organizations to encourage student service projects and to make Ashley Hall’s programmatic resources available to an ever-broader constituency. Now in its third year at Ashley Hall, Horizons is a nationally recognized, tuition-free program that provides students in under-resourced communities with a summer of academics and enrichment. Ashley Hall is the first school in South Carolina to implement the program. Similarly, a partnership with Meeting Street Academy supports a scholarship program and brings students to campus for enrichment.
Innovating a Historic Campus
She has directed the physical transformation of Ashley Hall’s campus over the last seventeen years, a renaissance that is evidence of a more profound cultural transformation that has elevated the School to the place of prominence it holds today—locally, regionally, and nationally. From a new Science-Library Center that encourages collaborative, experiential programs to buildings dedicated to global studies, humanities, and languages, 21st century learning spaces buttress an interdisciplinary curriculum that connects humanities and the arts to STEM with innovative programming. She has fostered global awareness and immersion not only by welcoming international students to campus but also by greatly expanding opportunities for study abroad in ways that deeply connect students and faculty to new cultures, languages, and experiences.
Shaping a Global Perspective
In 1996, Mrs. Muti and her husband, Lorenzo, founded Spoleto Study Abroad, a non-profit organization that provides arts and humanities studies in Spoleto, Italy for secondary students and faculty from around the globe. The purpose of Spoleto Study Abroad is to enrich professional development opportunities for faculty and administrators through exposure to the historical, architectural, and cultural riches of the arts and humanities in Italy and to develop programmatic opportunities for students in the arts and humanities that are interdisciplinary in nature. Spoleto Study Abroad has worked closely with over seventy schools throughout the years and now has a permanent campus for its Signature Schools, of which Ashley Hall is one.
Recognition and Service
During her career, Mrs. Muti has received a number of distinguished awards and honors, including the Council for Basic Education National Fellowship for Independent Study in the Humanities in 1992 and 1996 and The Helton Excellence Award of Ravenscroft School in 1993. In 2019, she was recognized by the Southern Association of Independent Schools with its Distinguished Service Award.
Continuing to elevate Ashley Hall’s stature on the national level, Mrs. Muti serves on the Board of Trustees of the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools, the national advocate for girls’ education and leadership. She is also an active board member of the Headmistresses Association of the East and serves as a council member of the Heads Network, which is dedicated to advancing girls and women’s leadership in independent schools across the nation.
Originally from the Chicago area, Mrs. Muti is a graduate of the Interlochen Arts Academy and earned her bachelor’s degree with a double major in music and English literature from Depauw University. She then continued her studies at the Wiener Hochschule für Musik in Vienna, Austria. Mrs. Muti also holds a Master of Arts in Musicology from Duke University.
Prior to joining Ashley Hall, Mrs. Muti was Assistant Head of School at Ravenscroft School in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she also served as Director and Chair of the Fine Arts Center Department. Throughout her career she has taught instrumental and choral music to lower, middle, and upper school divisions and has performed throughout Europe and the United States. At ease both in recital and as an orchestral musician, she has been a member of the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle in Durham, North Carolina since 1988 and has performed regularly with the North Carolina Symphony, the Opera Company of North Carolina, the North Carolina Theater Company, and the Chamber Arts Society of Raleigh. She has been active as a festival and master-class clinician and adjudicator.
Ashley Hall Career Highlights
• Renovated all of Ashley Hall’s facilities and expanded the urban, historic campus to 10 acres that maintain the integrity of Charleston’s historic preservation ethos while transforming these unique buildings into 21st century learning spaces.
• Added 95,000 square feet of teaching space: LEED Certified Library/Science Center, Dining Commons, Lower School addition, International House for Global Studies, Humanities Building, Intermediate Program Building for grades 5-6, Student Life Center, Refurbished gymnasium, and athletic fields located on the secondary campus.
• Tripled the School’s endowment and led three capital campaigns.
• Created educational partnerships with Charleston area non-profit institutions, including the College of Charleston, Medical University of South Carolina, South Carolina Aquarium, Gibbes Museum, Water Mission, Ronald McDonald House, and many others.
• Led the initiative for Ashley Hall to become the first school in South Carolina to partner with Horizons, a nationally recognized, tuition-free program that provides elementary students in under-resourced communities with a summer of academics and enrichment. Embracing diversity, advancing equity, and promoting inclusion are the guiding principles of Horizons at Ashley Hall.
• Implemented the Reggio Emilia approach in the Early Childhood Center to emphasize the ways children’s innate curiosity becomes the engine of their learning and helps them to become more confident, more independent, and more capable of championing their own education.
• Established a schoolwide focus on whole-child development, with a comprehensive health and wellness program and specialized learning environments for early adolescents: the Intermediate Program for 5th and 6th graders and the Nautilus Program for 7th and 8th graders.
• Engineered the Ashley Hall Learning Spiral, a curricular achievement providing a consistent pattern of recursive and incremental learning across the School, from pre-primary students to seniors. Embedded interdisciplinary partnerships, including STEAM initiatives and enhanced offerings in the arts and humanities, in all divisions. Developed a Lower School writing program, unified the Upper School math and science departments, and integrated technology throughout the School.
• Implemented a global studies program and an International Program for boarding students to cultivate knowledge, skills, and perspective to address shared global challenges that this generation will inherit. Fostered a student leadership program emphasizing responsibility and real-world experiences, including a Junior Internship experience and a Senior Projects initiative linked to community action.
• Led the redesign of Ashley Hall’s professional development program collaboratively with faculty to create an environment of continuous intellectual pursuit and academic growth.