January 2018 Letter To RA Community

Dear Ridgefield Academy Families,

Happy New Year! I hope all of you found the holidays refreshing. I certainly did, and I am excited to get to campus on July 1 and get to work!

As you may know, leadership transitions in good schools are long, intentional, and well organized. Such is the case here. RA has assembled a transition committee, and that group has been coordinating opportunities and suggesting activities that help me get to know the community, as well as afford members of the community a chance to get to know me. To date, I have had opportunities to:
 
  • Meet individually with members of the senior administration.
  • Meet individually with a number of the trustees.
  • Meet separately with the faculty of each campus.
  • Visit and tour each campus.
  • Meet with three additional faculty groups for a Q & A.
  • Meet with parents available for two drop in “meet and greets,” one evening and one morning event.

These meetings and conversations have reaffirmed, clarified, even magnified for me so much of what I thought I knew about the school. There is a deep and genuine feeling of community and shared commitment in every constituency. There is a sincere appreciation for the culture of the school, a culture that serves as the foundation for healthy, genuine learning experiences. The academic program is strong, with a serious commitment to the fundamentals, as well as a willingness to be creative and forward thinking. The relationships between students and teachers are meaningful and trusting, and they support student engagement at a high level. It is clear that RA is committed to ongoing curriculum design and engaging teaching practices – both focused on producing authentic learning experiences. Parents appreciate the opportunities that RA provides for their children, and they are ready and willing to step in and support the school in myriad ways. I knew all of this, but hearing anecdote after anecdote, hearing stories that detail how the school positively impacted child after child, how teachers step in to make sure each child is finding his or her way, this has brought me closer to the heart of the school, which is so important for effective leadership. I believe that at the most fundamental level, great schools must be deeply committed to each child’s experience, each and every day. The more time I spend with the RA community, the more I sense that as a central priority of the school. That’s awesome.

As many of you know, I have been in PK-12 schools for my entire career, and I was specifically interested in moving to a PK-8 school. It’s not that I have any concerns about Upper Schools, in fact I love them. I see, even more clearly now, the tremendous opportunities for academic development, creativity, genuine leadership, intellectual maturation, and the growth of positive social confidence that can be so strong and present in a PK-8 model. When done well, these opportunities prepare students not only to choose an Upper School well, but also be highly successful at that school. I know from sitting on the other side of the desk for years, RA graduates are valued candidates at strong day and boarding schools, and they are well-equipped to be highly successful at independent or local public schools. I am convinced their experience in a strong PK-8 school, here at RA, provides much of this foundation.

Finally, I want to thank everyone that has taken time out of their schedules to meet with me. We are all busy, and everyone has been so generous with their time! I would like to thank Board President Eric Heaton for his steady support, as well as the entire Transition Committee, co-chaired by David Suter and Rachel Sondheimer. Finally, I would like to thank Jim Heus for his support. Jim is doing all he can to make this transition smooth and seamless, which will benefit us all!

Thanks again.

Sincerely,

Thomas B. Main
Head of School Elect

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