Familiar Faces, Unfamiliar Stories: Margo Kennington

Katya Tolunsky and Emily Sun

“She’s the glue in this office,” Associate Director of Middle and Upper Division Admissions Robin Ingram said of Margo Kennington, the school’s Admissions Office Manager.

Every student at the school has gone through the application process, and every student who has had an interview or called the school with questions has exchanged hellos with Kennington.

Kennington has worked at the school since 2001. Before her employment in the admissions office, Kennington worked for U-Haul, and then at an alarm company for over 10 years. She studied mathematics in college. “I always thought I’d either be a pediatrician or a teacher,” Kennington said, “but life happens, I had my kids, so I didn’t go the medical school or teacher route.”

When the alarm company started to downsize, she needed to find another job. Since she just had her second child, Michael Miller ‘15, Kennington decided it would be best for her to go into the school system as she had originally planned. This way she would have a flexible schedule and be able to raise her son as she worked, she said.

Kennington became a lunch aide at The David A. Stein Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy (MS-HS 141) and settled into a daily routine of working with and getting to know the kids, she said. “Even though it wasn’t teaching, [the job] was still in education, so I felt comfortable.” Kennington learned of the admission office manager position at the school from one of her MS-HS 141 coworkers, applied and got the job, Kennington said.

Behind her desk in Spence Cottage, Kennington manages several aspects of the admissions process. She answers questions for prospective families, processes applications into the school’s Ravenna application platform, and greets visitors to the school, she said. During the admission season from September to February, Kennington is always very busy. “[She is] friendly nonstop to incoming families,” Ingram said.

Kennington said that she enjoys guiding people through the application process, which can be overwhelming.“There are some families that don’t [know about applying to independent schools], so I find it satisfying [that] I’m there to be knowledgeable about how they can get through this process,” Kennington said.

Her son began kindergarten at the school in 2002. Kennington’s experience with her son applying and being admitted to the school gave her first-hand experience on how to navigate the system. “[This information] helped to inform families and make them comfortable and make them feel welcomed,” she said.

Kennington’s favorite part of admissions is meeting different families and learning what they have to offer to HM, she said. Although she does not conduct interviews, she has met interesting families through the years and is even on a first-name basis with some of them. “It’s like a friendship almost develops, even if they don’t get in,” she said.

Kennington also helps Ingram with the Student Ambassador Program, where Upper Division students lead tours for prospective families and speak at open houses. Student Ambassador Leader Amiya Mehrotra (12) said that whenever she goes into Spence Cottage to give a tour, Kennington is always there to match families with the Student Ambassadors.

“[Kennington] basically helps the program run,” Student Ambassador Leader Diana Shaari (12) said.“I think that having her present is very comforting for a lot of families and ambassadors when they begin touring families.”

“The hardest part of being an Admissions Office Manager is how it is busy, busy, busy, every day all day,” Kennington said. The months between September and January are a whirlwind of activity as she needs to keep up with all the prospective families, she said. Once the decisions are sent out to families in February, Kennington helps coordinate visiting days for the accepted students. Afterwards, she finishes the admissions process on the school’s side. The office “is a little less busy,” she said.

Additionally, Kennington answers phone calls, updates address profiles for current families, and takes care of Spence Cottage and everyone working in it. “I maintain the supply for the office, whether it be of stationary or coffee,” she said.

An aspect of the job which Kennington treasures is the close connection she shares with other faculty members in the admissions office. “We really work together like a family, not just coworkers,” she said. “We can laugh and socialize, and we’re pretty close here. We know each other pretty well.”

Kennington’s presence is much appreciated in the office. Ingram and Viviana Carrillo, Administrative Assistant for Nursery and Kindergarten Admissions, both said Kennington has a great sense of humor. Ingram has known her for over 18 years. ”She’s an unbelievably hard worker, and she’s just always patient,” she said.

Carrillo has worked with her for almost two years, and “Mrs. Kennington, is a team player, dedicated, respectful and always willing to help others,” Carrillo said. “She’s a trusted colleague and a good friend,” Head of Admissions Jason Caldwell said.

After working at the school for nearly two decades, Kennington has seen many changes to the admissions office. At the beginning of her time here, she used a typewriter to type up contracts and mailed acceptance letters out by hand. Now, the process takes place on an online database or by email. One thing that has remained constant is Kennington’s dedication to her job. “She’s one of the last people to leave the office,” said Caldwell.

“I started in admissions and I’m still here; hopefully I’ll retire here as well,” Kennington said.