There is magic occurring on a hillside off of Stanwich Road. On any given day, except for Sundays, there is a beehive of activity as workers construct a new Greenwich Country Day School Upper School. That is not the magic, however, even though what they are building is beautiful. The magic is what will happen within its walls and on its fields.
For 93 years this magic has flourished on Old Church Road. It is the intangible spirit of the school that has encouraged, nurtured and celebrated academic and athletic excellence for generations of students. It is expressed best in its mission statement, which states that the school aims to enable students “to discover and to develop what is finest in themselves—to achieve the highest standards in their studies, in their play, and in their character.”
With the announcement of the new GCDS Upper School, after it purchased Stanwich School, there was initial concern about what might happen to its well-earned reputation. When the school year starts next fall, GCDS will be the largest independent school in Connecticut. Will it be able to replicate 93 years of magic, now as a K-12 school?
The answer is, yes. It is almost unheard of to take an accredited high school, wipe it clean (figuratively), and create an all new high school and curriculum. And yet, that is what Headmaster of GCDS Adam Rohdie and his team are doing.
With change comes uncertainty. When the announcement was made that Stanwich School would merge with GCDS, there was much uncertainly. It was clear from the beginning they would need to make bold and impressive decisions to address the uncertainty, and they have.
Their first major announcement was that Dr. Christopher Winters, former Headmaster of Greenwich High School, would be the Head of the new GCDS Upper School. He knows GCDS and he knows Greenwich. We can think of no more perfect Head. This was followed by Rick Columbo being named Assistant Head. He has been part of the magic on Old Church Road for 20 years and will be bringing his experience to Stanwich Road.
Early on in the process there was some concern that the new GCDS Upper School would not have the ability to compete athletically because it would not have the facilities and fields. This was quickly alleviated when the Board of Trustee’s made the bold decision to invest immediately in the new athletic program. Yes, they will have a 12-man football program. Then they announced that Tim Helstein would be the new Director of Athletics after many years at GCDS; he will bring a little more of that magic to Stanwich Road.
There is no doubt that Rohdie, Dr. Winters and their team are assembling an incredible staff for the new Upper School, and they are strengthening the Middle and Lower Schools as well. You can read about it on their website www.GCDS.net. They are also creating a new approach to the overall academic learning process. It is that rare opportunity to rebuild a high school from the ground up – literally. They have created a signature learning experience that is meant to allow the students to make sense of why they are learning what they are learning. Each has grade-level themes that build seamlessly on the previous year.
By the time students begin the college counseling process they will be able to understand their ambitions, strength and challenges and use that to create a much more informed and, hopefully, less stressful college selection process.
Since 1927 GCDS has been sprinkling magic on its students from nursery school to ninth grade. Next year for the first time, that magic will be sprinkled on a new campus and on the first group of Greenwich Country Day high school students. We wish them the best of luck.