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VMS head of school announces retirement

Mike Imperi will officially retire on June 30

Mike Imperi
Courtesy photo

Vail Mountain School Head of School Mike Imperi will retire at the end of the academic year on June 30. Since his arrival at VMS in the fall of 2012, Imperi has navigated challenging economic times, partnered with the VMS and local community, and built a framework of dedicated and engaged faculty and staff.

With a dedication to scholarly thinking, a fresh approach, and abundant optimism, Imperi ushered in a time of unprecedented financial stability for VMS, helping to raise money for the endowment, VMS Fund, tuition assistance, and capital projects on campus, all while making sure the essence of VMS remains unchanged.

Imperi embodies the VMS mission: “Develop Character, Seek Knowledge, Build Community,” and made it the heartbeat of the school.



Imperi’s accomplishments are varied and many. He oversaw the expansion of faculty and staff positions, including hiring a student psychological support counselor, expanded the Student Support Services department and increased world language teacher positions. He added both the upper and middle school dean of students positions and created the school resource officer and school nurse roles at VMS. He enhanced the VMS student experience by expanding the outdoor education program, increased global travel opportunities, and expanded the Intraterm program so that every student in kindergarten through 12th grade became able to participate. He ushered in a new block schedule and expanded the full-time athlete program at VMS. Under his leadership, technology was upgraded and integrated into the classroom and throughout the curriculum.

On the facilities side, he oversaw the creation of a MakerSpace, a fitness room and a greenhouse. He redesigned the library and was responsible for the resurfacing of the Bob Bandoni Alumni Athletic Field. In addition to these facility additions, Imperi added environmental sustainability practices throughout the VMS campus.



“Mike has been visionary for VMS, in that he values and understands the importance of what experiencing the outside world can do for adolescent development,” said outdoor education coordinator Liana Sidelli in a news release. “Mike has made great strides in unlocking the ‘beyond the walls’ learning opportunities for our students across all grades, through the expansions of orientation trips, Intraterm experiences and international tours.”

“Mike brought fresh ideas to Student Support Services — he has struck a perfect balance of listening to faculty and providing the means to grow the two departments in which I work,” said Kelly Enright, student support services and faculty liaison for technology. “VMS is a school where teachers can put down roots and stay for their careers, and there is a culture of autonomy and trust between leadership and faculty. I can do my job, and I am supported. Mike’s door is always open. It makes you feel like you are part of the process,”

Long-time teacher and current science department chair Ross Sappenfield credits Imperi’s marketing philosophy in growing the school to what it is today.



“By suffusing the school’s presence and unique offerings into the greater Vail community, we are seeing an increased number of families considering a VMS education for their children,” Sappenfield said. “This interest in the school has allowed for expansion in various areas of curricular programming and technology upgrades across many disciplines. With this expansion of interest, Mike also moved the needle in broadening the demographic of students who attend VMS.”

Access to a variety of tuition assistance programs for all students is also a hallmark of Imperi’s leadership. Imperi worked to ensure each student who wants to attend VMS is able to do so. In Imperi’s tenure, access to financial aid has grown by almost 50%, ensuring access to a VMS education is available to more families in the Vail Valley. He was also influential in securing donations for the Taft Conlin Scholarship Fund, which selects a student based on their contributions to the community in service and academic excellence, and provides for a VMS education.

Maggie Pavlik, upper school division director, summed up Imperi’s leadership this way: “Mike is a leader who carefully balances focus and those things you have to let go of. A lesson I learned from Mike is that you have to carefully consider your priorities, focus on what matters most, and move ahead with confidence and clarity on those initiatives. Mike always sees problems and situations with a glass half-full point of view. He presents the optimistic side of a situation. I always appreciate Mike asking the difficult questions and his ability to listen to and consider solutions and possibilities.”

When Imperi was asked what guided his leadership throughout his career, he responded with a quote from Lao Tzu, 6th Century Chinese philosopher and the founder of Taoism, “When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.’”


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