After founding the Coral Bay School, merging with the Pine Peace School, and establishing what is now known as the Gifft Hill School — which sits on an eight-acre campus and boasts an enrollment of more than 150 students — it’s no doubt that Scott
Crawford and Sabrina Boebert have left their mark on St. John.
The couple have decided that it’s time to move on to other things and start a family, and will be moving to the states this summer, leaving GHS in the hands of Ben Biddle, who is in his first year as head of the school.
Boebert first arrived on St. John in 1996, when she took a teaching job at the Pine Peace School, and Crawford would soon follow.
“I was in Puerto Rico at the time, and I came over here for a weekend and just fell in love with the island,” said Crawford. “We ended up teaching fourth, fifth and sixth grade students, and those are the kids who were getting ready to face the question of where to go next.”
Home School vs. Private School
Public school on St. John ends after the ninth grade, and, at the time, private high school was not available on the island.
“We left and went back to the states for two years to get our masters degrees,” said Crawford. “While we were there, we were approached by parents on St. John about coming back to start a school. This was good for us, because we wanted to find a way to come back to the island.”
The couple opted to open a school rather than provide home schooling services, according to Boebert.
“There was a question of whether to do home schooling or open a real school,” she said. “We wanted to do something that would affect the island as a whole. There are not many times in life that a niche happens to be open.”
The Coral Bay School opened in fall of 2000 with 13 students in grades seven, eight and nine.
“We had grown to 16 students by the end of the year, and things kind of took off from there,” said Crawford.
The Coral Bay School added a grade with each passing year, and soon activity at the school was flourishing, explained Crawford.
“It was a fast-paced time in the school’s history,” he said. “Within a couple months we got our accreditation, our first class graduated, we purchased the eight acres and we began talks that led to the merger of the Pine Peace School and the Coral Bay School. It was a crazy time with lots of things happening.”
The Gifft Hill School now offers pre-school through 12th grade, and Crawford and Boebert are looking forward to moving on to the next phase of their lives, the couple explained.
“This is the type of job that takes 150 percent of your life,” said Boebert. “You do it because you love it. I feel that the school is established and going in a good direction.”
School in Good Hands
When the couple stepped down from their positions as co-administrators last year, they weren’t yet certain that they would be leaving island, Craw-ford explained.
“We weren’t sure that we’d be moving on,” he said. “We wanted to be there for the transition, giving us time to step back and make the right decision for us and the school.”
Handing the reins over to Biddle allowed the couple to focus on their own life without worrying about the school, explained Crawford.
“Stepping back put us in the position to think about what we need to do without worrying about the school succeeding,” he said. “We can step away and know it will be fine, because it’s in good hands.”
The couple recently put their East End home on the market, and is looking at property in western North Carolina, according to Crawford.
“We figured if we’re going to leave the ocean, we’ll need the mountains,” he said. “We need a place with a lot of natural beauty.”
Hard to Say Goodbye
There are several small colleges in western North Carolina, which will allow Boebert to pursue different interests, including higher education, she explained.
While Crawford plans to take a break from education, he is not yet sure what path he will follow.
“Education is in my blood, so the break will probably be temporary,” he said. “I’m open to options right now. I may take the time to build a house, which is a very creative, satisfying pursuit for me.”
The hardest part of leaving St. John will be saying goodbye to the kids, explained the couple.
“It’s very bittersweet,” said Boebert. “It will be hardest to walk away from the kids. You feel as though they’re a piece of you.”
The couple will continue to enjoy the success of the school’s graduates, explained Crawford.
“After this year, there will be 40 graduates out there, and we get so much excitement from watching what these kids go on and do,” he said. “This is a place that’s made a difference, and we feel good about that.”
The couple is leaving the school in capable hands, they explained.
“It really is a seamless transition,” said Crawford. “Knowing that good things will continue to happen makes it easier — because we know that our involvement doesn’t matter as much — but it also makes it harder because we won’t be here to see it.”
Crawford and Boebert will be missed at the school, according to Biddle.
“Scott and Sabrina have done a tremendous service to this island in the way of educating kids,” he said. “I have never observed two people work harder than they have. They are loved by the students at this school, they are loved by the faculty, and they will be very much missed.”
Members of the GHS staff will likely be chosen to fill the couple’s positions. Boebert is the head of business operations, and Crawford is the head of the upper school.
“The faculty is so capable,” said Boebert. “The teachers are more important than anyone sitting behind these desks. They are the driving force.”
Boebert extended thanks to the many people who support the school.
“Thank you to everyone — past and present board members, the amazing benefactors and other supporters,” she said. “The school exists because the island wanted it to exist. We are truly thankful.”