Despite accepting the resignation of headmaster Ben Biddle over the holiday break, Gifft Hill School officials are looking ahead to an exciting year.
Biddle, who resigned on December 29, 2009, was with the school for seven years and took over as head of the upper school about three years ago. While declining to comment on the specifics of Biddle’s departure from the St. John private school, the parting seems amicable on both sides.
“The future of Gifft Hill School is very bright,” said Biddle. “It is one fantastic place. I am confident the institution will benefit from new leadership as it ventures upon its next phase of growth and improvement.”
“I have been with the school for seven years — a good stretch,” Biddle said. “During that time, I have been thankful each day for the opportunity to work with such a wonderful and dedicated group of people, who will now continue to bring the school to new heights. I depart with deep gratitude toward the staff, parents and board members who have made for such an incredible experience for me and my family.”
The school is forming a headmaster search committee and will begin to look for a replacement for Biddle soon, according to GHS Foundation Board chairperson Miles Stair.
“We’re forming a search committee and initiating an executive search for a new headmaster which will be advertised both locally and in the states,” said Stair. “The board is focused on making the best choice for the future of the school.”
In the meantime, former dean of students Ed Deusser is the interim headmaster, Stair added.
“Ed is a retired educator from Massachusetts who has many years of experience,” said Stair. “We have the right person to see us through the transition.”
When students returned from the holiday break, they had all of their questions about Biddle’s departure answered, Stair explained.
“We had a meeting with students in the upper school and faculty explained what is happening and the process we’ll be going through,” he said. “We answered all of the students’ questions. They know this is a transition and understand what is happening.”
GHS also recently wrapped up its matching fund campaign Seeds to Success, which garnered more than $400,000 for the school, according to development director Beth Jones.
“We raised $426,000 which enabled us to qualify for the matching funds,” said Jones. “These funds will truly help us sow the seeds of success for GHS. We are required to raise just over half of our $2 million budget this year due to the tremendous amount of financial assistance we offer and this money will go a long way to helping us meet that goal.”
“There is no way to adequately thank our wonderful benefactors for their gifts of time, energy and money,” said Jones. “They are true philanthropists who value education and love St. John and we are so fortunate to have their support.”
The campaign also helped spread the word about GHS and the work the school does, added Stair.
“We had the students, faculty, parents and board members telling the story of Gifft Hill and we were able to bring in 261 supporters,” said Stair. “The matching fund campaign was a huge success and it really will make a marked difference.”
The matching fund campaign’s success also came in almost record time, Jones explained.
“It was a success — it really was,” said Jones. “We had 261 donors in a little over five weeks, which is a record for our school. One hundred percent of the students gave and an overwhelming majority of the faculty. We also had tremendous support from the community.”
School officials are also excited about the upcoming completion of their new athletic field.
“We’re planning a fun day opening ceremony when we’ll introduce the field to the community,” said Stair. “That should be announced soon. It’s the first new addition to St. John sports facilities in many years.”
When complete, the turf field will include covered seating for 110 people, Stair added.
“The field really is world-class,” he said. “It will have covered seating for more than 100 people in the bleachers and the field itself was constructed to the best standards of the industry today for artificial surfaces.”
A group of high school students at the school is still fund raising for their upcoming China trip, and GHS middle school students are planning a class trip to Costa Rica, explained Jones.
“The travel program is one of the most important parts of the school,” Jones. “The kids are really fortunate that they have people who are willing literally to take them half-way around the world.”
All in all, GHS officials are excited about the year ahead.
“Our future is so bright we have to wear shades,” said Stair.