Meet Our New Head Of School

Head of School Elect Tom Main

Get To Know Head of School Elect Tom Main

January 2018 Letter To Ridgefield Academy

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

September 2017 Letter To Ridgefield Academy

Dear Ridgefield Academy Community,

I am both humbled and excited to be joining Ridgefield Academy as Head of School in July of 2018. I want to thank the RA Board of Trustees for their thoughtful and diligent succession process and for the trust they have shown in me.

Head of School Jim Heus has been a good friend for many years, and I have seen the great work he has done at RA during a long and successful tenure. The chance to follow Jim, build on his success, and lead this wonderful school, represents both opportunities and challenges that energize me.

I know RA to be an educational community composed of capable students, committed and skilled teachers, involved and caring parents, and a Board that stewards the school with great care and commitment. I look forward to working with the school community in this new role and contributing to the continued growth and development of a school that Jim, and so many others, have poured their heart and souls into for years.

I am no stranger to RA or to Ridgefield. I have served as a member of the RA Board of Trustees for the past eight years. In this capacity, I have seen the dedicated work of so many trustees, administrators, and parents. I am familiar with the strong program development and thoughtful teaching practices that faculty has generated. I have watched the school tackle challenges, and have been consistently impressed by the careful, thoughtful, student-centered, and deliberate approach each person brings to the table when working on behalf of RA.

Additionally, I have seen several RA graduates join King each year. I have observed what confident, interesting, well-educated, and capable young men and women they are. What is most striking about RA graduates is that they truly know themselves well, and they have the courage to be genuine. I know the school to possess a depth, a character, and a culture that has the right priorities.

Ridgefield is a town that has always felt like a second home to me, with family members living in various locations around town since 1992. My father and sister are current residents, two nephews graduated from Ridgefield HS, and a niece attended RA for a few years. While my three children (Caroline, a Colgate University graduate, Ryan, a rising senior at Bates College, and Kaelin, a rising sophomore at King) will not benefit from an RA experience, they know Ridgefield well.

I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to getting to know the School community even better, and from this new perspective. I believe that effective school leadership is grounded in strong, honest relationships with community members, and a deep knowledge of the culture, systems, protocols, programs, strengths, and challenges of the School. While I believe that my history gives me a running start, I have been in educational leadership long enough to know that it’s just a start. I look forward to getting to know all of you and learning about your experiences and perspectives of RA.

Sincerely,

Tom B. Main
Head of School Elect

Learn About Tom Main's Experience

We invite you to learn more about Head of School Elect Tom Main's education and experience below. In addition to his many pursuits in education, Tom is also an avid reader, sports fan, and father of three.

EDUCATION

Wesleyan University, M.A.L.S., 1994, Humanities
Bates College, B. A., 1983, English
South Kent School, 1979

EXPERIENCE

Head of School, King School, Stamford, CT, 2002-Present
Accomplishments include:
  • Established and developed all-school programs in diversity, global education, sustainability, and service learning
  • Full restructuring of Development, Marketing, Admission, Athletics and College Counseling offices
  • Significant improvement in faculty/staff compensation - benchmarked against similar schools
  • Significant improvement in college acceptances - as ranked by Barron’s
  • Development of a comprehensive, criteria based, annual faculty evaluation system
  • Annual Fund growth from 675K to a current goal of 2.4MM
  • Endowment growth from 3MM to 28.5MM
  • Capital Fundraising of approximately 25MM
  • Selected Capital Building Projects completed include: 30,000 sf Middle School, 22,000 sf Performing Arts Center, full renovation of 60,000 sf Upper School, significant renovation of a 45,000 sf Lower School, Turf Field Facility, playground, parking lots, and a complete surface water management system
  • Completed a comprehensive re-branding initiative
Cincinnati Country Day School, Cincinnati, OH, 1996-2002
Head of Upper School, (1996-2002), (co-ed, grades 9-12, 290 students)
Assistant to the Head of School, (2001-2002) assigned special projects with a focus on compensation, marketing, admissions, and retention
Teacher of English, 1 section per year, 1996-2002
College Counselor (3 years)
Varsity Lacrosse Coach (2 years)

Rye Country Day School, Rye, NY, 1990-1996
Interim Principal, Upper School, (1995-1996), (co-ed, grades 9-12, 330 students)
Dean of Boys, (1990 - 1995) Responsible for social and academic counseling for boys in grades 9-12
Teacher of English & Life Skills, 10th Grade Class Advisor, 1990-1996
Interim Director of Athletics and Phys. Ed., (1993-94)
Head Coach of Varsity Football, 1994

King Low Heywood Thomas, Stamford, CT, 1983-1990
Teacher of 7th & 8th grade English, & Student Advisor, 1983-1990
Director of Athletics, (1985-1990) (boys, grades 6-12)
Head Coach of Varsity Football, 1983-89, Wrestling, 1986-90, & Lacrosse, 1984-89

ADDITIONAL EXPERIENCE & INFORMATION

  • President – Connecticut Association of Independent School (CAIS) Board of Directors, 2013-2016
  • President – Fairchester Heads Association, 2009-2010
  • Trustee – Ridgefield Academy, 2009-2017
  • Member – CAIS Board of Directors, 2007-2010, 2016-2017
  • President – Fairchester Athletic Association Executive Committee, 2005-2008
  • Member – Country Day School Headmasters Association, 2010-present
  • Chair and Assistant Chair – various CAIS & NEASC school accreditation visiting teams, 2003-present (Moses Brown, Dexter Southfield, Gann Academy, Chase Collegiate, BB&N, Berkshire Country Day, Yeshiva Academy, CT Friends School…)
  • Bates College Varsity Football, 1979-1981, Asst. Coach, 1982
  • Bates College Varsity Lacrosse, 1980-1983, Captain, 1983

Announcement Of New Head Of School

Dear Ridgefield Academy Family,

After 19 years of exceptional leadership, Jim Heus has decided, together with the Board of Trustees, that the 2017-2018 school year will be his final one at Ridgefield Academy. Jim is committed to Ridgefield Academy through the 2017-2018 academic year, and is looking forward to accomplishing as much as possible in his final year.

On behalf of the Board, I would like to express our deepest, heartfelt appreciation to Jim for his tenure and accomplishments in building Ridgefield Academy into what it is today: one of the area’s most respected and largest PreK thru grade 8 independent schools, with over 500 students across 4 campuses.

Jim joined the Ridgefield Academy community as its first official Head of School in 1999. He immediately oversaw the school's relocation from Wilton, CT to its current campus on West Mountain Road and has never looked back. Two years later, he led the school through its first accreditation.

Guided by Jim’s vision and through focused capital planning and investing, Ridgefield Academy has meaningfully expanded its footprint and its impact on a generation of children. Jim oversaw the creation of the Ridgefield campus preschool in 2004, the expansion of our Westport Campus in 2005, the purchase of the School’s facilities in 2005, the renovation of the Annex for the newly formed Middle and Upper School in 2006, the construction of the Bridge in 2011, the opening of our Bedford Campus, and the creation of The Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning in 2015.

Of course, a school is more than bricks and mortar. Throughout this expansion, Jim nourished and grew Ridgefield Academy’s true foundation: an environment where advanced learning was coupled with character development, empowering children to become thoughtful, independent, and confident learners. The growth and development of our children is his lasting legacy.

The Board of Trustees began to execute a succession plan for Jim this past spring. Early in our planning process, Tom Main, current Head of School at King School, a K-12 independent school in Stamford, announced he would be leaving King at the end of the 2017-18 year. Tom is well known to the Board as he has served as a Trustee at Ridgefield Academy for the past eight years.

When Tom expressed his interest in being considered as a candidate for the Ridgefield Academy Head of School position, the Board hired Educational Directions Inc. (EDI), a national leader in school strategic planning, to help us with a thoughtful, objective approach to the succession planning process.

Through interviews with the School’s staff, administration, and Trustees, EDI and the Board worked together to assess the strategic priorities that would best position Ridgefield Academy to thrive in the ever-evolving world of independent schools. It became clear to the Board that Tom possessed the key necessary qualities and attributes to lead the school and preserve the core culture and mission of Ridgefield Academy. As a next step, the Board formed an ad hoc subcommittee to continue work on the succession plan.

The committee included former and current (inclusive of newly appointed) Trustees representing parents of both current students and graduates across Ridgefield Academy’s grade levels. With the help of EDI, the committee simultaneously reviewed other potential candidates that EDI had confidentially curated for the committee’s review, and went through a thorough due diligence process on Tom.

As the process unfolded, it became clear that Tom was an exceptional candidate and he emerged as our top choice for the next Head of School at Ridgefield Academy. We are pleased to announce that Tom has accepted the position and will join the Ridgefield Academy family as its new Head of School effective July 1, 2018. This will allow for a smooth leadership transition in summer 2018.

Tom has an accomplished history as an educator, administrator, and leader. He began his career at King in 1983 as a middle school teacher and Athletic Director, followed by 6 years teaching at Rye Country Day School, where he also served as Dean and Interim Division Head. After serving as Upper School Head at Cincinnati Country Day School from 1996-2002, he returned to King as Head of School. The King School was transformed under Tom’s 16 years of leadership, and we are very excited about the level of experience and skills Tom will bring to Ridgefield Academy. His intimate knowledge of our school, coupled with his fresh perspective, makes him an ideal match for RA’s needs.

Words are inadequate to express Ridgefield Academy's gratitude to Jim for his contribution to the betterment of our school, his dedication, and his many years of service. On behalf of the entire community, we would like to express our deepest gratitude to Jim. His contributions to the school are profound and will be lasting.

Looking forward to the upcoming school year, Jim and the Board are enthusiastic about the many program enhancements that are in store for students, faculty, and parents.

It is an exciting time for Ridgefield Academy, and we look forward to celebrating Jim’s accomplishments and introducing Tom to the Ridgefield Academy community in the coming year.


Eric Heaton
Board of Trustees

Head Of School Transition Committee

As Board President Eric Heaton mentioned in his August 29th letter, trustees began to execute a succession plan for the School in the spring which culminated in the announcement of Tom Main as the incoming Head of School beginning in July of 2018. In what has been a very productive month, there has been great forward momentum beginning the transition of leadership: Tom has met with the school's senior administrative team, Ridgefield campus faculty and staff, and spent time on the Redding Landmark Preschool campus as he endeavors to know our community even better. As a part of the process to use the entire year to help with the leadership transition, a team has been formed to help with many aspects, particularly:

  1. Facilitating opportunities to better get to know Tom Main prior to his arrival this summer;
  2. Gathering input from across the community to create an integration plan that will help guide Tom upon arrival; and
  3. Helping plan celebration(s) honoring Jim Heus' tenure and accomplishments at Ridgefield Academy.

A representative group of parents, faculty, and staff from Ridgefield Academy and Landmark Preschool have volunteered to serve on the transition team and they include:

Co-chair, Rachel Sondheimer (Trustee, Parent, Redding & Ridgefield Campuses)
Co-chair, Dave Suter (Administration, Parent)
Samantha Heller (Faculty, Parent, Redding & Ridgefield Campuses)
Adele Dominicus (Faculty, Past Parent)
Ashley Greene (Faculty, Parent, Bedford & Ridgefield Campuses)
Paul Desiano (Staff, Parent)
Sophie Stenbeck (Parent, Landmark)
Lynne Geaney (Trustee, Parent)
Jessica Brooks (RAPA President, Faculty, Parent, Westport, Redding, Bedford Campuses)
Lynne Geaney (Trustee, Parent)

We invite you to share your thoughts with our transition committee here.

Head Of School Transition Process Overview

September 2017

  • Announce Head of School Elect to the community
  • September 13 Tom Main visits campus
  • Form Head of School Transition Committee

October 2017

  • October 11 and 13: Tom Main visits campus to meet with parents/faculty/staff

November 2017

  • November 8, 16, 29: Tom Main meets with RA faculty/staff in small groups

2018

  • January - June: Additional visits TBD
  • July 1: Tom Main begins as Head of School