By John Burton
After two decades at Ranney School, headmaster announces his retirement
TINTON FALLS – The last nearly 20 years have brought a lot of changes, Dr. Lawrence S. Sykoff observed this week as he sat down to talk about his time as head of school at the Ranney School.
While there have been changes in technology, education and in the actual facility, there have also been personal changes.
“I think anyone who’s been in a position for 20 years changes with the school,” Sykoff said. “I think I really learned to value the people I met along way. I think all of that changes you.”
Sykoff is looking toward his latest change, as he prepares to step down as the school’s head at the end of the 2012-13 school year.
When Sykoff arrived at Ranney back in 1993, he remembered the facility had 12 Apple computers. “And we really thought we were cool,” he said, showing a smile over that quaint remembrance. The school now has more than 500 computers on campus and has established a laptop-to-laptop program for students to communicate with each other.
There have been other, more significant changes in the past 20 years, Sykoff said. During his tenure the student population doubled to its current total of approximately 820 in the school’s pre-K-12 grade and the facility has grown by 150,000 square feet on the campus’s 61 acres off Hope Road.
A major factor at the school has been the rise of the Internet, which Sykoff said, has had a significant impact on education and how the school provides that education. Twenty years ago, he said, students studying about Europe would go to the encyclopedias or other volumes and look up the entries.
“Now,” he said, “students would use Skype and talk to people in Europe.
“I think because of technology, students have more access to information at an earlier age,” he said. “We have a parent body that places an emphasis on 21st-century thinking.”
Over the years the school, which was established in 1960, has continued to formulate and execute continuing three- and five-year plans to ensure it progresses and advances. Sykoff said he is a strong advocate for what he called “deliberate strategic planning,” a subject on which he has written books and given talks to professional groups.
“The key is being great by choice,” he extolled.
There have been numerous times that Sykoff has seen students begin at Ranney at age 3 and continue until 12th-grade graduation. When they arrive they get teddy bears and when they leave many continue their relationship with the headmaster and have a lifelong friendship.
When they arrive, he said, “They call me the ‘teddy bear man.’ And when they graduate they call me Uncle Larry.”
Over the years, students have remained in contact with him inviting him to college, law and medical school graduations and weddings. He recently attended the commencement ceremony at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis for two former students.
Thinking back, he said he “will never forget that look in students’ eyes when I hand them their diplomas. They just sparkle.”
As for his future, Sykoff, who is 64, said that it would be “maybe not retiring but rewiring.” He will continue to be part of the school community beyond June 2013, in a limited, advisory capacity and will be “helping with the transition of leadership.”
He also plans to continue his work with various charitable organizations he has been working with over the years.
“My charity work has always been very important to me,” he said.
For the school’s future, he expects there will be more of what the school, which is still relatively young, has begun to see, as former students send their children and continue to establish that legacy.
That legacy is one of “scholarship plus character,” he stressed.
“Good students and good people,” Sykoff said. “That’s the legacy.”