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.