After 25 years at the helm of The Rumson Country Day School (RCDS), it’s headmaster, Chad Small, Ed.D., has announced that he will retire at the end of the 2013-14 school year.
Small, in a released statement, summed up what he sees as the mainstay of the competitive 450-student school rolled into a legacy if his own he’d like to leave: “At RCDS, we provide rigorous academics with a hug, and this helps children to fulfill the promise of their own potential,” he said.
Under what parents and students have described as Small’s confident and compassionate leadership, the school has remained true to its mission to provide what they describe as a humane, loving and caring institution of learning.
“I originally thought that I would teach for a couple of years and then go to law school,” Small said in a released statement. Instead he chose an academic route that led him to RCDS.
During his quarter-century tenure there as headmaster, the school’s student body has more than doubled, from 200 to more than 430 students today. As the school’s sixth headmaster, Small has seen thousands of students pass successfully through the RCDS halls, many having been at RCDS since age 3.
RCDS students, he said, are extremely well prepared to handle the emotional and academic rigors of high school life. “Aside from strong academics, creating an environment where boys and girls are encouraged to become well-rounded, confident and kind is the cornerstone of what we do here at RCDS,” said Small.
To ask Small which programs are dearest to his heart is to hear that he is probably most proud of what is called the School Within a School initiative. It is a specialized program to assist students with learning differences.
In addition, RCDS Horizons — a national program with an affiliate begun at RCDS in 1996 that provides a summer school experience for children of limited economic means — is also a source of pride for Small. And creating a new pre-school program and a new and improved student-centered schedule are things he also cites as hallmarks of his career.
There are other technological programs and buildings and grounds that have been called highlights of Small’s RCDS career. Regarding school facilities, much of the school buildings and grounds have been renovated, including significant athletic field renovations.
But, there’s been more than brick and mortar and capital improvements to Small’s career. “As we look back on his career, much can be said about the construction of new buildings, athletic field renovations, increased enrollment and numerous capital improvements,” said Shawn Reynolds, president of the RCDS Board of Trustees.
“However, it is the deep commitment to his staff and RCDS families that will serve as his greatest legacy,”
“He has been a great asset to our school, a true advocate for children and faithful advocate for growth and educational quality,” said Francis “Skip” Branin, Jr., past president of the RCDS Board of Trustees who, in 1999, accompanied Small to Washington, D.C. to receive national recognition as a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. RCDS was one of eight independent schools to be chosen that year.
“He has a pure heart as an educator,” Branin said.
Small can be found every morning, without fail, at the front door of The Rumson Country Day School, personally meeting and greeting each student.
“Chad has an amazing ability to remember every student who attended RCDS. He also closely follows our graduates’ progress through high school, college, and career - taking special pride in the alumni who return to The Rumson Country Day School with children of their own,” remarked Suzy Post, a past RCDS Board member and former RCDS Director of Admissions who had worked with Dr. Small since 1989.
Small reflected on his time at RCDS since his appointment in July 1989 and on his decision to begin a new chapter with his wife, Susan. “I am so honored to have served the RCDS community for the past 25 years. I have met many wonderful people who have enriched my life, and I have raised my family here. I have enjoyed a long, successful career in education, and my time at RCDS has given me a tremendous fulfillment.”
Chad Small’s Biography:
Small was born in Tarrytown, NY, and grew up in nearby Edgemont. After graduating from the Millbrook School, he received his bachelor’s degree from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1976, a master’s degree in education from the University of Virginia in 1979 and earned his doctorate in 2001 from Seton Hall University.
Small’s first job in education was right out of college. He taught first, second and third grade in a two-room schoolhouse in Brownton, West Virginia, deep in the heart or hollers of Appalachia.
The next year, he and his new wife Susan moved to Virginia where he served as principal for one year at Schuyler Elementary School in Schuyler, VA.
The area was made famous by the iconic 70s TV show The Waltons and in 1992, Schuyler Elementary officially became part of the Walton’s Mountain Museum.
In fact, Small was an extra on A Walton’s Thanksgiving television special: “If you blink, you’ll miss my TV appearance. It was that quick,” he joked.
During that time, he also taught fifth and sixth grade at Forest Elementary School in Forest, VA.
About that period in his life, Small reminisced: “There was a lot of good fishing in the creeks, and it was beautiful country; but it was also an eye-opening experience because the school had no gym, no specials, no extras and sometimes the kids had no shoes. I learned early on the value of building a balanced education.”
But Small was a man on the move, and soon after became the head of the Lower School at St. Francis School, a K-8 independent school in Louisville, Kentucky and later became headmaster of St. Richard’s School in Indianapolis, Indiana. During his four years there, St. Richard’s added three new grades; raised five million dollars in capital funds and doubled the size of its campus.
In 1989, he learned of the opening at The Rumson Country Day School and never looked back.
Patch will sit down with Small for a full-scale interview before he retires.