Monday, August 29, 2011

The First Week

We have completed our first four days of school and, so far, things are going exceedingly well. Opening enrollment was 496, up about ten students from last year. More than likely, we will go over 500 in enrollment during the next two weeks since we usually add a half dozen new students during that period. For a historical perspective, the school had an enrollment of 365 students eight years ago. Then we went into a period of sustained and steady growth, adding approximately 30 students a year for five years, and peaking in enrollment at 514 in the 2008-2009 school year. Then the Great Recession hit, and surprisingly, our enrollment fell by only one student the following year. Last year, however, the effects of the economic downturn were felt more keenly as enrollment declined significantly for the first time in seven years to 486. It is good to be growing again.

As usual on the first day of school, the middle and upper schools started with a convocation in the Pamela Kimbrell Warlick Auditorium. I had three points in my opening remarks. First, I always like to remind the older students how much we care about them. It may sound corny, but they need to hear that the faculty and staff care deeply about them as people and students. We are devoted to their success. Second, I encouraged returning students to be welcoming to newcomers. In a typical year, the middle and upper schools will have as many as 60 new students distributed throughout the seventh through eleventh grades, and it is not always easy to be a newcomer. Finally, I encouraged the students to start strong and fast this year. This is not the time to be slack.

The School also welcomes four new teachers. Toni Zito is teaching upper school science. Jenn Shea is teaching upper school Spanish. Monica Chopra is teaching middle school social studies. Kristy Smith is teaching in the Learning Academy. We are thrilled to have such highly qualified, enthusiastic new colleagues.

Athletic competition has begun, and the Spartans are meeting with early success. Our boys soccer team is 5-1 and off to one of the best starts in recent memory. The girls tennis team defeated Gaston Christian on Tuesday. The girls volleyball team has also started well.

I am handing out Gaston Day stickers and license plates in the carpool lines. I hope everyone will proudly display them. Seeing those stickers and plates all around town and county raises awareness of the school for those not attending GDS and makes those of us already here proud.Go Spartans!

Parents, I encourage you to dine at GDS and experience the new, delicious food service for yourself. Our children are eating healthier and tastier food.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ready, Set, Start School

You can see and feel it. New teachers here for orientation. Old teachers back on campus. Shipments of new books carefully stacked and sorted. The boys soccer team practicing every day. Fresh pine needles around all the shrubs. School really is about to start. The excitement, the activity, and the pace of preparation are accelerating. Tuesday, August 23, is the first day.

What has happened this summer? We have new roofs on both the Pamela Kimbrell Warlick Visual and Performing Arts Center and the Jim Henry Student Activity Center. We have painted all the school fences. Andy Warlick has given a generous gift to the "It's All Good!" Capital Campaign and, as a result, I have a new title and am now the Anderson Davis Warlick Head of School, which makes me proud and happy. FLIK is our new food service, and I have eaten three of their meals--they were delicious. And, as usual, we have been working feverishly in the Admissions Office to recruit new crop of students. I am happy to tell you that we will be 5 or 10 students larger this year than last. Gaston Day is growing.

This morning we had our first full faculty breakfast, which really is the start of school for the teachers. We learned that Wade Glaser sailed in the Caribbean for a month. Beth Allen became certified to be a captain of commercial sailing vessels. Nancy Brewbaker took a cruise to Alaska. Laura Nunley got married! We are back from recreation and adventure to resume our teaching duties. With a flurry of final preparation, we will be ready for next Tuesday. What a joyful day it is when the new students arrive!!

I hope all of you have had a happy, rewarding summer. I hope you are looking forward to the start of school as much as we are. Welcome back!