Thursday, November 29, 2012

Gaston Day School's Endowment

One of the hallmarks of a financially secure independent school is a sizable endowment. An endowment is really just a savings account in which only a small portion of the annual earnings are spent and the principal is never invaded. Someone once compared an endowment to a hen that lays eggs. As long as the farmer takes care of the chicken, then it will continue to lay eggs that can be eaten for the entire life of the chicken. But if the farmer ever decides to kill and eat the chicken, then no more eggs. In the same way, as long as the endowment is preserved and invested wisely, it will always produce some income for a school. But if the principal is spent entirely--for example, to build a new building--then there are no more investment earnings.
Gaston Day School's endowment currently has almost $2 million in principal. The Community Foundation of Gaston County holds and invests these funds for us. While the amount that we receive each year varies according to the performance of our investments, the school normally receives about 4% annually from its endowment--or about $80,000 each year. These endowment dollars come from eight different funds within our total endowment:
* General Endowment
* Scholarship Endowment
* Lineberger Endowment
* Morrow Scholarship
* Ronnie Digh Endowment
* Julie Rankin Fund
* The Pamela Kimbrell Warlick Center Maintenance Fund
The size and purpose of each of these funds vary. The General Endowment, which subsidizes the general operations of the school, has about $917,000. The Pamela Kimbrell Warlick Center Maintenance Fund is the second largest and holds $665,000. Mr. W. Duke Kimbrell and Mrs. Pamela Kimbrell Warlick established this endowment to help maintain the Pamela Kimbrell Visual and Performing Arts Center. Proceeds from this fund, for example, are paying for a new projector that is being installed almost as I write this blog. The Lineberger Fund is the oldest fund at Gaston Day. The Lineberger Foundation created the first endowment at the school when they established this fund. The David Belk Cannon Foundation has made a pledge of $250,000 to our last capital campaign that will create our newest endowed fund.
Since endowments only spend a portion of their earnings, endowment gifts tend to be large in order to make an impact. Smaller gifts made each year are usually spent in their entirety through the annual fund. The average size of an independent day school endowment in the United States is $7 million. So you can see that Gaston Day School's endowment is well below average. Endowment donors often make gifts through their estates. So Gaston Day's endowment will grow in the future as a result of plans that generous, caring individuals have made through their estates.
From my perspective, Gaston Day School's age makes it more and more timely for endowment gifts. The School's 50th Anniversary is less than five years away. This means that our first graduates are soon turning 60 years old, and they will begin to make plans for retirement and the disposition of their estates. Hopefully, more and more individual will recognize what Gaston Day School has meant to them and, out of gratitude, will include the school in their estate settlement. Making a gift to any endowment--whether here at Gaston Day or at another institution--is a statement of profound affection and concern for the long-term well being of that organization. Endowments are forever. And people who give to them are interested in enduring institutions that will exist into the indefinite future.
I hope more and more of us will begin to think about the importance of growing Gaston Day School's endowment. As we approach GDS' 50th Anniversary, it is apparent that the school has staying power and an important, successful educational mission. Gifts to endowment make certain that Gaston Day will always have a strong financial foundation. Please let me know if you or someone you know would like to know more about our school's endowment.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

New Website Launched

In a time of hashtags and LOL's, Gaston Day has launched an OMG!

I am thrilled to announce that our newly redesigned website is live!

Over a period of time, a GDS web task force was formed and they worked with a local agency, to bring you a change. BIG change. Real change.

Our website is a vital tool to improve school-home communication, share branding and engage many audiences.  It's not only for external marketing, but internal marketing as well.  It adds value and depth to school communications and helps build support.  We wanted it to meet the needs of parents and also distribute meaningful information.  In the landscape of social media, we wanted Gaston Day to tap into that area and become a player that reaches our audience in many different social networking avenues.  Our website needed to be informative, engaging and interactive, and i think we #nailedit.

Gaston Day School.  More than just tardy bells and worn erasers.  More than pop quizzes and homework assignments.  Gaston Day School is about change.  THIS is what change looks like.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Gaston Day: School-Member Associations and Accreditation

Membership in various state, regional and national independent-school associations provides Gaston Day School with important benefits that improve the quality of the education here. Gaston Day School belongs to the North Carolina Association of Independent Schools (NCAIS), the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS) and the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). Schools apply for membership in these associations and are invited to join if they meet association requirements and standards. In general, membership requirements become more strict and demanding as the associations become more geographically comprehensive. Membership in NAIS is a real honor reserved only for the finest independent schools in America.
NCAIS in an association of over 80 schools, with over 3,500 teachers serving approximately 35,000 students. According to the NCAIS Web Site, it "encourages communication among member schools, fosters the traditional freedom of independent schools to practice its philosophy of education, and serves as a liaison with regional and national accrediting agencies, and the National Association of Independent Schools." NCAIS is particularly important to Gaston Day because it provides regular, top-notch conferences as continuing education for teachers and administrators. Gaston Day School's relationship with NCAIS is particularly strong because Executive Director Linda Nelson was Head of Upper and Middle Schools here and Mary Kay Little, Director of Member Services, was our Director of Technology before moving to NCAIS. Mary Kay's husband Gray Little is a current member of the Gaston Day School Board of Trustees. I begin service on the NCAIS Board of Directors this year.
SAIS was founded in 1903 and includes 357 member schools in 11 southeastern states, the Caribbean and Latin America, making it one of the largest regional, independent-school associations in the world. Half of the SAIS schools belong to NAIS. SAIS supports Gaston Day School with conferences, comparative statistics, and publications. Last year, SAIS Executive Director, Dr. Steve Robinson, lead our Gaston Day School Board Retreat.
NAIS was founded in 1962 and includes 1,142 member school that have earned a collective reputation as the finest schools in America. NAIS shares vital statistics and current educational research with member schools, and its staff of experts is available for consultation on a wide variety of relevant topics. Gaston Day School was accepted as a member of NAIS in 2000. When I first arrived at Gaston Day in 2001, Executive Director Pat Bassett advised me on the choice of a consultant to help with our admission program. Pat's help proved crucial in growing Gaston Day School.
In addition to our school associations, Gaston Day School is accredited by SAIS and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). These two entities formed a partnership in 2005 to offer independent schools a process for dual accreditation and to better serve the unique needs of independent schools. Established in 1895, SACS is a non-governmental, voluntary organization that accredits more than 13,000 public and non-public institutions from early childhood through university.
Gaston Day's membership in NCAIS, SAIS, and NAIS is a validation of our standing as a leading independent school. The SAIS-SACS accreditation is further evidence of Gaston Day School's success in fulfilling our mission. If someone asks you if Gaston Day School is fully accredited, the answer is "yes." If they ask you if Gaston Day belongs to any independent-school member associations, the answer is also "yes." We are proud to belong to all of them.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Thanks to the Parents' Association

The Parents Association (PA) plays such an important role in the success of Gaston Day School. Beginning with the Back to School Dinner--once again, a great success this year--and continuing throughout the year with a series of projects and events, Parents' Association volunteers enrich Gaston Day School. Some of the more notable PA projects are the Book Fair, the Fall Festival (which is coming up this fall), and the Graduation Ceremony.
Last spring, the PA staged a fabulous Spring Gala and raised over $20,000 for Gaston Day. PA President Mimi Harmon shared a listed with me of all the things that these funds have helped purchase for Gaston Day School. Here it is:
45 motion chairs from VS America                                                                 $3,606.40
Lower School Reading Material from the Rowland Reading Foundation               $1,080.00
K Log Science Tables (Candyce Owens' Science Class)                                    $1,984.80
K Log Science Tables (Donna Baucom's Science Class)                                    $2,094.85
Sandbox for Playground                                                                                   $405.91    
31 Kindle Fires for Lower School                                                                   $5,983.93
36 Otterbox Covers for Kindle Fires                                                                $1,631.00
2 Table Charging Carts storing and transporting Kind Fires                                $1,308.78
Reading Materials, Grade K-5                                                                            $650.00
Playground Soccer Goals (coming soon!)                                                        $1,500.00
Grand Total                                                                                                 $20,245.67 
These capital purchases mean so much to our teachers and students! Thank you PA for all that you do to help the school and, in particular for the money raised in the Gala for these items.
I also want to thank the PA leadership for all the time and energy they devote to the school. Last year's PA President Monique Prato and now Mimi Harmon have been outstanding leaders, and I am personally grateful to them for their sacrifice and hard work for the school. By virtue of her position as PA President, Mimi Harmon sits on the Gaston Day School Board of Trustees where she represents parents and reports on the work of the PA. Thank you, Mimi.
For any parents interested in becoming more involved in the Parents Association, please attend the regular meetings in the Upper Dining Hall of the Henry Center and express your interest. The first meeting is Friday, September 7, at 8:00 am.   
On another matter related to Gaston Day parents, I am pleased to report that Target sent the school a check for over $500.00 that represents a corporate donation resulting from Gaston Day supporters who use their REDcard to make Target purchases and designate Gaston Day as the recipient of the resulting contributions. Thank you, GDS REDcard users! This is yet another example of the way in which you support Gaston Day School.   

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Gaston Day School Philosophy

The Gaston Day School Philosophy includes our vision, mission, community values and core beliefs. These are the fundamental principles that underline and guide our school. The Board of Trustees is responsible for creating our school philosophy and has made several revisions recently that I want to share. The previous Gaston Day School Philosophy was written in 2001, has served us remarkably well, and continues to provide the core content of the new statement.

Our vision remains the same: To be the finest independent day school in the southeastern United States.

This is a statement of aspiration and intent. Our school has certain areas that are already nationally recognized. For example, Columbia University Press recently named Blutopia, our arts and literary magazine, as one of the best in the nation. So clearly we are capable of realizing our vision. But there is also great room for improvement (and always will be since we embrace the need for continuous improvement.) Achieving our vision will always be challenging with so many outstanding regional schools with whom to compete. We welcome that competition and believe we are headed to the top.

Our mission has been expressed more succinctly, but essentially remains the same: To educate our students and prepare them for academic success and responsible, productive lives.

We are in the education business, and our students should be well prepared for the next level of education. More than that, we need to be teaching them to be good citizens and ethical people: that is what it means to live responsibly. Industry, creativity, and accomplishment characterizes productive living. It is not enough for Gaston Day students to have potential. They must work, create, and lead. They must produce.

Our community values are the same as in the past with the addition of compassion: Integrity, Compassion, Respect for Self and Others, Curiosity and Creativity, Service and Generosity, Responsibility and Self-Discipline, Confidence and Courage, and Excellence.

As a non-sectarian school, these are the values for which we stand. We want our students to exhibit and express these values in their daily lives, and we work hard to instill them. In Lower School, the Responsive Classroom Program teaches these values. In Middle School, the Character Development Program does the same. Gaston Day teachers and administrators are expected to model these values.

Our four core remain the same with some slight modification:

Student Centered: The student is at the center of everything we do; the growth of the student is our foremost consideration.

Teaching Excellence: The faculty will be highly qualified, professional, and care deeply about each student's academic success and personal growth. The school is committed to developing our faculty and academic administrators into leaders in independent school education.

Challenging and Relevant Curriculum: The curriculum will be inspiring, dynamic, and promote academic excellence, critical thinking, creative application, physical development, and personal integrity. Further, it will reflect the best educational theory and practice, entertain innovation, and prepare our middle and upper school students to compete successfully in local, regional, and national competitions.

Safe and Nurturing Community: The school must be a place that keeps students safe physically and emotionally, and one that promotes our community values.

In the Teaching Excellence Core Belief, we thought it important to state that Gaston Day is determined to develop our educators into independent school leaders. The school already has produced the Executive Director of the North Carolina Independent Schools (Linda Nelson) and the Head of St. Timothy's School (Tim Tinnesz), not to mention Greg Rainey, Jennifer Newcombe, and Casey Field who have risen from the teaching ranks to assume leadership roles here. Our intention is always to hire talented people and develop them into educational leaders.

In the Challenging and Relevant Curriculum we added "entertain innovation"to highlight the need for the school to keep pace with best teaching practice as it evolves. We also explicitly mentioned preparing "our middle and upper school student to compete successfully in local, regional and national competitions" because we believe that is one of the best ways for out students to demonstrate excellence and build confidence.

The Gaston Day School Philosophy is our fundamental document and is as close as we come to having a constitution or a catechism. If you want to know what GDS stands for and believes, here it is. We believe it rings true.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Lower-School Favorite Words

Recently, at the Lower-School morning meeting, we asked our students what was "the most important word they had learned this year." Here are some of the amazing results from kindergarten and second grade. Aren't you proud of our budding vocabularies?

Kindergarten (Mrs. Harbin)

Renee Brown: the
Jerome Butler: because
Danny Horgan: snake
Mary Kate Hurst: supercalifragilisticexpialidocious
Arriana Kennedy: wonderful
Madeline Letts: here
Sophie Miller: because
Owen Murphy: because
Faith Palmer: surprise
Max Shedd: integrity
Connor Smith: yellow
Kayley Spitzer: perfect

Kindergarten (Mrs. Frank)

Gabriel Adkins: smoke
Cavan Bannon: expo
Tripp Current: because
Gabryela Dyszelski: operation
Ruby Garcia: stone
Bennett Jewell: because
Ben Nighbor: tribe
Chase Owens: because
Madeleine Singh: stripe
Misha Singh: surprise
Sawyer Smith: grateful
Emma Thomas: awesome

Second Grade (Mrs. Wynkoop)

Sophia Brown: partial sum algorithm
Isa Chapman: underground railroad
Emma Conner: equivalent
Jamie Danis: unsaturated
Jack Dee: oath
Eli Dills: moral
Larkin Efird: segregation
Payne Fulghum: erosion
Cannon Gale: cajole
Jackson Gonzales: incognito
Nalin Gupta: circumstances
Ben Heckle: integrity
Leanne Kelledy: obsolete
Aydan Lawler: gnu
McKenna Lawler: array
Jack Lee-Morrison: parenthesis
Drew Prato: ballpark estimate
Brett Pressley: ennui
Sara Russell: boycott
Isabel Wallwork: discriminating

On a completely unrelated note, I am happy to tell you that enrollment for next year is strong. We are approximately twenty students ahead of where we were at this time last year, and Gaston Day School will probably be the largest it has been since the early 1980s.

Have a great summer!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

What My Executive Coach Has Meant to Me

Last summer I attended the annual North Carolina Association of Independent Schools (NCAIS) Heads Conference at Wrightsville Beach, and Tom Redmond, recently retired head of the Southern Association of Independent Schools (to which Gaston Day also belongs) spoke to us on managing the stresses and strains of being a head of school. Tom emphasized the importance of having good friends, a supportive spouse--so far so good--and then he introduced a concept totally new to me: establishing a relationship with an executive coach. Executive coaches are fairly well known in the corporate world, but for those of you unfamiliar with them like I was, an executive coach is a professional who works with clients to strengthen their executive skills. Executive coaches do not diagnose or prescribe what skills need to be improved. Instead, they let their clients tell them what needs improving, and then the coach uses strategy and tactics to help clients achieve their goals.

Tom Redmond's description of the advantages of working with an executive coach made a big impression on me as I drove home from the conference. When I pulled into the driveway back from NCAIS, I stopped to pick up the mail at our box. The only thing in the mail was the Queens University of Charlotte Alumni Magazine, which we receive because my wife Sarah Park got her M.F.A. in Creative Writing there and I was an assistant history professor and vice president for institutional advancement there before coming to Gaston Day. The magazine cover highlighted the new Masters in Executive Coaching Program in the McColl School of Business at Queens. If this wasn't a sign from above, then it was a remarkable coincidence, and I decided to take the next step and call Queens to find out more about getting an executive coach.

Being the frugal Scotch-Irishman, I figured that getting a student in the Queens program to be my executive coach would be like using barber-school or dental-school student. They might make a mistake and put a gash in my head or drill into my brain, but at the very least it would not cost very much! I called Dr. John Bennett, Director of the Masters Program in Coaching, and asked for help. His response was the same as everything else that I have experienced since: expert, efficient, reliable, and caring. He had me fill out a questionnaire and describe who I was, and then he paired me with Jerry Allen, a student in the program. Suddenly, I had an executive coach.

Jerry Allen is an executive with Novozyme in Raleigh, a company that manufactures enzymes for industrial applications, and he entered the Masters in Executive Coaching Program to improve and broaden his managerial skills. He and I are about the same age, both enjoy the outdoors, and have many things in common--we hit it off immediately. But, from the outset, I quickly discovered that Jerry knew what he was doing and was serious about our commitment. This was not fun and games. Our goals clustered around two main themes: first, trying to maintain physical, emotional and spiritual balance in my job; and, second, becoming more tech savvy and user proficient.

Why the need for either? In the case of maintaining balance, it is because my job really is demanding and, at times, all consuming. Don't get me wrong, I love my job and have a real sense of calling to be head of Gaston Day. I have come to realize if I am going to be the best head of Gaston Day School, I also have to respect my commitment to my family, my health, my community, and my God.

In the case of technology, I recognized the need to keep up with the dizzing pace of change if Gaston Day School is to remain on the cutting edge of education. So much for the grand generalizations, let's get specific: when I started with Jerry I wasn't regularly carrying a cell phone, texting, or reading a Kindle. I was out of shape, skipping church and Rotary meetings too frequently, and calling my wife far too often to cancel family plans--all because I was too busy.

All these were things that I had long since realized were problems, but I had been unable to fix. What did Jerry do? He made me write out my goals on a spread sheet after I told him that list making was an effective strategy for me. He made me establish "accountability partners" for each goal to help me succeed. For example, I recognized that attending Rotary meetings keeps me connected to what was happening in Gastonia outside Gaston Day and that I enjoyed the fellowship, but I was constantly skipping them because I was too busy at school. Jerry asked if the school receptionist would be a good accountability partner to make sure I went to Rotary meetings. The answer was a resounding "yes!" Kathy Connor, school receptionist and secretary, is one of the most determined, reliable, conscientious people I know. After I asked her to help me make it to my Monday Rotary meetings, she was on a mission. She would begin each Friday reminding me that I had a Rotary meeting on Monday. Then first thing Monday morning she would remind me again. Then probably twice more during the morning, with the last reminder having the air of a command that better be obeyed. How often do you think I miss Rotary now? Never.

Jerry made me keep a record in an Excel spreadsheet of accomplishments toward my goals. We had an hour-long coaching session on the phone about once every two weeks. He was sympathetic and encouraging when he needed to be, but he also called me out when I resisted or made excuses. I began to exercise regularly and lost fifteen pounds. People started noticing. I joined a Wednesday morning prayer group at my church and found my devotional life strengthened. I got an iPhone, and my best friends gasped in disbelief. I started texting my daughters away at college--not very often--but, nevertheless, I really was texting them occasionally. My wife got me a Kindle, and I wondered why in the world I hadn't been doing that sooner. To make a long story short, Jerry Allen helped me make important changes that really have made my life better. And, our coaching relationship revealed to me that past failures were the result of relying too much on myself. Jerry showed me that I can make significant changes if I put together the right plan, coach and team. All that stuff about collaboration and teamwork really is true.

When I first told some of my friends that I was using an executive coach, I could tell they were skeptical and viewed it as some sort of admission of weakness. But I am here to tell you that my executive coach really has made me a better head of Gaston Day School. For example, I find myself now having more energy to attend more after school sporting events, which is so important to students and parents. And I am a keener student of educational theory because I have made it one of my goals.You can be a skeptic if you want, but I am a believer. Jerry and I are continuing our relationship with a new set of goals. Many of my old goals are now so ingrained and habitual that I don't even think about them anymore. They are now part of who I am.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Thoughts About Living Ethically in a Pluralistic Society

Recently, Marianna Davis shared with me a Viewpoint, "Living Ethically Without Judging Others," from The Charlotte Observer, Sunday, March 25, 2012, written by Carol Quillen, President of Davidson College. The piece really impressed me and struck me as relevant for a socially, culturally, religiously, and economically diverse school like ours. I hope you enjoy it too. Let me know what you think. I re-print it here in its entirety with The Charlotte Observer's permission.

What does it mean in a pluralistic society, to treat others ethically? This is harder than you think, because in a pluralistic society, people do not agree on what is right and what is wrong. They do not agree on how to dress, eat or pray. They do not agree on how to raise children or how to structure family life, or on who should have sex and when, or on the appropriate roles for men and women.

One solution might be "live and let live." Since everyone is different, let's leave each other alone. You live your way, I'll live mine. I won't judge you, you won't judge me. The implication here is that we have limited obligations to our fellow citizens. See a homeless woman? Walk by without acknowledging or responding to her. Read that children in Charlotte go to bed hungry? Blame their parents. Leaving others alone is often not an ethical thing to do.

You could surround yourself with people like you. This is a choice Americans are increasingly making. As national debates become increasingly polarized, we as individuals live, work, and worship in ever more homogeneous communities. We seek out as neighbors and friends others who vote, think, and pray like us. This is comforting, but when we choose to live like this, we do not learn how to deal with those who are different. Because we are so rarely challenged or offended, we come to expect never to be challenged or offended. We grow intolerant of anything other than what we already believe. This is a huge problem in a pluralistic democracy, where we will inevitably encounter people who do not share our views of right and wrong.

What we need is to find one small piece of common ground that would urge us first to mutual recognition and from that to tolerating our differences. That common ground is respect for human dignity. If we take respect for human dignity as an ethical imperative, then we have a framework that acknowledges our mutual obligations to others who are different and that encourages us to seek points of connection with others without presuming from the get-go that they should be just like us.

To respect the human dignity of other persons, we must be open to points of connection with them. This means we can't start out from litmus tests. We can't say, "Buddhism is too complicated," or "She's a creationist and obviously can't be reasoned with," or "they are immigrants, I won't understand them," or "I don't interact with lesbians." It means we take some responsibility for learning about traditions other than our own, so that we do not use ignorance as a veil for bigotry. And respecting human dignity means we have to nurture the various and sometimes contradictory parts of ourselves that open us to others.

The worst thing that can happen in a pluralistic society is for people to define themselves along a singular axis of identity, whether that axis is race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political affiliation. We are never just one thing, and we need to remember that. The ambiguity and the complexity within us allow us to see others as both human and different.

Living ethically also means that out of a profound respect for human dignity we do not seek, except through non-coercive argument, to suppress some practices and beliefs with which we fundamentally disagree. It means that we seek to create, every day, a community where all persons can believe and, within limits, live, as they see fit.  So I may think that wearing a burqua is wrong, but should allow other women to do it without interfering; I do not always like proselytizing but I defend those who are obligated by their convictions to do it. Each of us is responsible for what we make of our tradition. It is our responsibility to nourish the roots of tolerance within the texts and teachings we inherit.

Perhaps the most important payoff of genuinely respecting human dignity is that it encourages us to be intellectually modest. We must resist the lure of certitude without ever surrendering our commitment, our obligation to seek a good life each in our own way. Of course we will disagree. But if we genuinely respect the awe-inspiring dignity of all human beings, and if we together seek the limits to our freedom that the dignity of others establishes, then we always remember that even our deepest convictions might be wrong. When we remember this, we tread slowly and deliberately, we treat others who are different with respect, and our extraordinary nation can flourish in peace.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Remarks to the Faculty and Staff on Tim Tinnesz's Announcement of His New Headship

First of all, I want to congratulate Tim, express my gratitude for his leadership and our friendship, and my pride that he is going to be the new head of St. Timothy's School (Raleigh). St. Timothy's is one of the finest PreK-8th-Grade Independent Schools in the state, and I encourage you to google it to learn more about Tim's new home. He is going to a distinguished school with a fantastic reputation, and they are so fortunate to have someone of Tim's abilities at the helm. It makes me really proud, and it should make everyone here really proud, to be a launching pad for talented people like Tim who are becoming independent school leaders. Linda Nelson, Tim's predecessor, is providing outstanding leadership as executive director of the North Carolina Association of Independent Schools, and now Tim is assuming a similarly prestigious role. As head of school, my primary responsibility is to educate students, prepare them for success, and instill a desire to make a positive difference in family, community, and world. But Gaston Day School has a secondary responsibility to educate future independent school leaders. We are doing that!

Tim Tinnesz has been a leader in academic excellence and improvement at Gaston Day. The reforms he has overseen have been accomplished in the context of a team of teachers, departments, and administrators. What the Upper and Middle Schools have accomplished under his leadership--from AP pass rates, to national awards, to college acceptances--is remarkable. Again, speaking personally, I am grateful to have had Tim as a friendly, supportive colleague who brought fresh and challenging ideas on how to improve Gaston Day School. He leaves really big shoes to fill. Thanks, Tim!

So let's talk about who will succeed Tim and how that process will unfold. It has already begun with informal conversations that I am having both inside and outside Gaston Day to determine what I want the process to be. I may appoint an internal candidate. It may be as an interim. I may do an outside search. As a rule, I prefer to hire from within. My last two appointments, Tim and Linda, have done nothing to convince me otherwise. But it may or may not be time to look outside. At present, I want several weeks to discuss the situation with people I respect. I am not presently soliciting internal candidates to come forward and express their interest in the position. I may later, but not yet. If I decide to do an outside search, then I will be looking to you for suggested candidates, and many of you will be involved in the selection process. If we do an outside search, it will be next school year.

Finally, let me talk about my attitude toward change. Change is inevitable and invigorating. One of the favorite sayings of Mao Zedong, Communist China's former leader, was "The World is in Revolution. The situation is excellent!" What he meant was that times of change are particularly fluid and open, and they present unusual opportunities for improvement. Now Gaston Day does not need a revolution. It is a strong school, with a great team of educators, and is heading in a good direction. But new leadership will bring new perspectives and opportunities. I am about to say something that may sound like a joke or a double entendre, but it is not. I am being as earnest and honest as I can possibly be. Ready?

We have a great school, full of talented educators. Tim Tinnesz is leaving. The situation is excellent!

Saying that does not diminish what Tim has accomplished and meant to us, or suggest he will be easy to replace or say good bye to. It means none of that. But it does mean this is an exciting time--a time when important decisions must be made--and a time when a new leader must be chosen. You need to know how excited I am to be starting a search for a new upper and middle school head. You need to know how confident I am that we (or mostly I) will ultimately pick someone who in time will achieve the full measure of success that Tim and Linda have. Some people hate change, some people come alive. I like it when the stakes are high! This whole process is very serious, but it is also going to be fun for me, and I hope for you too. The situation really is excellent for both Tim and Gaston Day!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Another Edition of New South Hunt Club

If you were attending Gaston Day in 2006, you may remember the publication of my book, New South Hunt Club. This book tells the story of a group of Gastonia businessmen who purchased more than 2000 acres, including 4 miles of beachfront, on Hilton Head Island and operated a fabled deer hunting club there from 1917 to 1967. Several current Gaston Day students (Bill Henry, Charles Henry and Micaela Smith) had grandfathers who were members of this club: the Hilton Head Agricultural Company. Through my friendship with George F. Henry, III, then Gaston Day School Board Chair, and particularly his parents, Dougie and George Henry, Jr., I was introduced to the history of this club and the Gastonia connection. Recognizing my interest, Dougie Henry gave me a fantastic collection of historic hunt club photographs. More than one hundred images in all.

With these photos as inspiration, I began to research the history of the hunt club. I interviewed surviving hunt club members and sought out published records. The David Belk Cannon Foundation, headquartered here in Gastonia, agreed to underwrite the cost of publication so long as the proceeds from book sales came to Gaston Day School. John F. Blair, Publisher, in Winston-Salem published the book in 2006 and, to my surprise, sales were brisk and the book was favorably reviewed in the South Carolina Magazine of History . In fact, sales were so brisk that the book sold out in just over four months, and Blair was reluctant to do another print run. Ever since, people have regularly asked me where they could find a new copy. Regrettably, my answer has always been that there are no more new copies available, and used copies are expensive and hard to find.

Until now. Last year, my wife Sarah Park and I decided to publish a new edition. Sarah Park, a graphic designer and writer, designed the book and published it using an on-line service. John F. Blair is distributing it. Copies are available on Amazon, locally at Medical Center Pharmacy (Gastonia) or People's Pharmacy (Clover), or from me. If you are interested in learning about this chapter of local history or you have a link to Hilton Head, you may enjoy reading my book.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Back from the North Carolina Independent School Heads Conference

Each year the North Carolina Association of Independent Schools (NCAIS) holds a conference for heads of school at Mid-Pines near Pinehurst and I attend. Best practice in independent school education is the focus, and fellowship with other heads of school is a side benefit. I find that I often learn as much from casual conversations with fellow heads between meetings as I do from the actual presentations. At this point in my tenure at Gaston Day, I have become friends with many other school heads, and the Mid-Pines Heads Conference is a welcomed opportunity to meet, visit, and compare notes.

Pat Bassett, Executive Director of the National Association of Independent Schools, was the keynote speaker this year. Pat is retiring from his position after a long and distinguished career as an independent-school educator. I particularly admire and respect Pat because he provided valuable advice to Gaston Day School on recruiting and enrollment management during my first years here. Pat Bassett is wise, forward thinking, and challenging. I always learn something from his talks.

This year, here are some of the things that stuck with me and that I will be discussing with my colleagues. First, mobile applications are joining web sites as a way for newcomers to find Gaston Day School. Schools are also beginning to post QR barcodes on printed publications so that readers with cameras on their cell phones can easily access web sites.

Pat noted that he was on a panel recently with two Ivy League college presidents and, as part of their program, they discussed the three greatest deficiencies that they see in incoming students. First is a lack of resiliency. According to the the presidents, schools and parents overprotect their children and, as a result, college freshmen are less adaptable, tough and resilient than those in the past. Second, too many students come to college with alcohol problems. High-school drinking is epidemic. Third, students come to college with poor writing skills. On this last point, I think Gaston Day School has every reason to feel good about how well we are preparing our students. Not only the writing awards we win, but the positive feedback we get from our graduates indicate that they are exceptionally well prepared to write in college.

Finally, Pat shared a survey given to a large number of high school students asking them what their parents wanted most for them. The number one answer was happiness. Followed by success. Being a caring and good person came in third. Bassett found these responses troubling. He suggested that an over emphasis on success makes our students anxious to the point of requiring therapy and medication (according to him 30-40% of all college students have to take medication for depression or anxiety while in college). He believes an over emphasis on happiness prevents our students from accepting the necessity and value of struggle and challenge. What do you want most for your children? After listening to Pat Bassett and thinking about his survey, what I want most for my own children and Gaston Day School students is for them to be responsible.

Living a responsible life requires sacrifice and commitment. Living a responsible life requires hard work and hard study. Living a responsible life requires concern for others. Living a responsible life means taking care of your health and cultivating enjoyable pursuits. I think Gaston Day's mission captures this in its last section. Here is our mission in full: "To educate our students, prepare them for success, and instill a desire to make a positive difference in family, community, and the world." The desire to make the world a better place reflects our sense of responsibility toward others.

Gaston County History

Gaston Day is producing a new web site and Martha Jayne Rhyne, Director of Admissions, has asked me to write a brief history of Gaston County so that out-of-town visitors will know more about us. Many of you may not know that my Ph.D is in history, that I was a Queens University of Charlotte College Professor before coming to Gaston Day, and that I am a state and local historian. Here is my first draft for the new web site. Feedback is welcomed.

Scotch-Irish, German and English pioneers settled the area that would become Gaston County in the 1740s, establishing homesteads, claiming old Catawba Indian fields, and clearing new land for farming. Agriculture would remain the primary occupation and source of livelihood until the 20th century.

The American Revolution was particularly brutal and violent in Piedmont North Carolina as neighbors split evenly into patriots and loyalists, with resulting feuding and bloodshed. After the Revolution, settled life resumed. Several important changes occurred around 1800. Farmers began purchasing slaves and producing surplus crops for market. Religious revivals also erupted here and throughout the American South. As a result, Baptists and Methodists grew rapidly and surpassed older Presbyterian and Lutheran churches as the largest denominations.

Gaston County was created in 1846 when its territory was carved out of Lincoln County. Dallas became the first county seat and the center of political life. The original courthouse, the old jail, the Hoffman Hotel (now the Gaston Museum of Art and History), and several other buildings from this era survive in and around the Dallas square today.

Like most of North Carolina, the majority of Gaston County supported the Confederacy during the Civil War. Gaston County soldiers enlisted in large numbers, fought mainly in the Virginia theatre of the war, and sustained high casualties. Union victory brought an end to slavery. Tenant farming and share cropping became new sources of agricultural labor and funding.

The last quarter of the 19th century saw agricultural prosperity return and the textile industry emerge. Powered first by water and then by hydro-electricity, cotton mills would grow throughout the first three-quarters of the 20th century, and Gaston County would become a world center of textile manufacture. Many mill workers migrated from the mountains and Piedmont to work in Gaston County factories. Gastonia replaced Dallas as the new county seat in 1911.

With textile manufacturing as its primary source of wealth, Gaston County became an emblem of New South prosperity before and after World War I. The Great Depression devastated the local economy, which only fully recovered during World War II. While manufacturing boomed in the 1950s, family farms vanished. Few remain today although the Cotton Ginning Days Celebration each October in Dallas recalls our farming heritage.

The 1960s were a time economic expansion and social transformation as desegregation and integration brought full equality to African-Americans. Downtown Gastonia declined and shopping centers and mall proliferated. New residential developments were built farther and farther away from downtown. Gaston Day School was founded in 1967 as a group of local civic leaders founded a non-sectarian, college-preparatory school.

The years since 1990 have been a time of transition for Gaston County as textile manufacturing declined and relocated abroad. Fortunately, Gaston County is connected to and benefits from the Charlotte region’s dynamic economy. Belmont and Mt. Holly on the eastern fringe of Gaston County have become bedroom communities for Charlotte. Gastonia still balances its independent, local identity and growing involvement in the Charlotte metropolis.