By John Burton
RUMSON – Whitney C. Slade immediately felt Rumson Country Day School would be a “natural fit” for him when he first stepped on campus.
Slade, who has been named head of school, beginning next fall, recalls when he and his wife Ellen first saw RCDS a few months ago, he knew he would like being there. “In terms of the energy, the faculty, the tradition, it is everything I would want it to be.”
The 54-year-old has been selected by the board of trustees to be the seventh head of school in Rumson County Day’s 87-year history, after long-serving Head of School Chad B. Small retires.
When Slade visited the school’s 35 Bellevue Ave. campus, and met the members of the school community, he knew he was among those who also embraced what he has held dear during his career.
“The thing that attracted me to Rumson was there is a nice blend of tradition and a willingness on their part to enter into what I would consider the whole 21st century skills movement,” he said. He saw an acceptance of technology and innovative educational philosophy that will allow students to excel as the move beyond the campus.
“I felt it was important to find a school that would be a good match, that would be receptive to that,” he said
Rumson Country Day School, “has a strong history of that.”
Slade, who is originally from Marblehead, Mass., is the head of St. Michael’s Country Day School, Newport, R.I., where he has overseen the preK-8 school since 1998.
The age group from 4 to 14 is exciting for educators, seeing students grow during their most formative years and helping shape the people they will become, Slade said. It is the educational environment in which he prefers to work.
“There are a lot of things you can do with the kids creatively, a lot of cool things can happen,” maybe more so than in high school, which can be held captive to the college admission process, he said.
“It’s a great time for innovations” in education, where students and teacher can be the most receptive, he said.
“The other piece that was clear to me is character development,” he said.
The world this generation will be entering is a complex one, with the impact of more and more technology and information overload. “I think kids need to be steered more than they ever had in navigating through the complexities that are out there,” he said. They will need “a strong moral compass.
“There is clearly an emphasis on that in the school,” Slade said.
Slade earned his undergraduate degree from Tufts University and his Master’s in Education from Harvard. He started his career teaching history to middle- and high-school students before moving into administration.
The school’s search for a new head of school started last December with Slade eventually being selected from 50 candidates from around the country.
Small will be retiring at the conclusion of the school year after serving the RCDS community for 25 years.