As I was preparing for this year, my second as Head of Middle School at Wardlaw+Hartridge, I wanted to have an overarching theme for our division in approaching our daily work. After much reflection, I settled on the themes of Joy, Community, and Connection. With that in mind, I spent the summer doing research, collaborating with colleagues, and reading and listening to books on happiness, climate activism, adolescent development, and the power of regret. With a clear focus and renewed energy, I spent the summer revamping the advisory curriculum at each grade level, planning community service events, and setting up the launch of a House system in the Middle School. To support that new initiative, Mr. Nicholls, our Health and PE teacher, suggested the book “Strength from Our Roots” to help me with some school history.
What is a House system? Traditionally, Houses are groups of students who are “sorted” into a smaller community within a school. The Wardlaw+Hartridge Middle School House system incorporates our school’s historical character in three Houses: Leal, Scribner, and Hayward. From the book “Strength from Our Roots,” I learned that before it was The Hartridge School, in the early 1880s, Miss Julia Scribner, along with a friend, Miss Newton, started the Misses Scribner and Newton’s School for young ladies. In 1903, it became The Hartridge School after name changes and changes in Heads of School. Similarly, before Wardlaw Country Day School existed there was Mr. Leal’s School, founded in 1882. In 1911, Mr. Charles Wardlaw joined the school and subsequently purchased the interest in the school, renaming it the Wardlaw Country Day School. Finally, the third root of our historical tree is Misses Hayward’s English and French School, founded in 1869, which soon became The Vail-Deane School in 1886. In 1976, The Hartridge School and the Wardlaw Country Day schools merged, and in 1991, The Vail-Deane School became part of Wardlaw-Hartridge.
Our House system is new, it is a cultural shift, it is forward-looking, and simultaneously, we are carrying on the history of our school. We are building new traditions and engaging with our community by honoring our past, designing our present, and creating a new future. Houses include students in grades six, seven, and eight who work together as they live our mission of a familial sense of community through friendly competition, collaboration, and displays of respect, responsibility, and community spirit.
Our Middle School students are taking ownership and creating a legacy, so when they are alumni of Wardlaw+Hartridge, they can also say they are members of Leal or Scribner or Hayward House, giving a quiet nod to our roots, our foundation, and our history. This year we are not only embracing but also creating joy, community, and connection, and we are all excited to build traditions and create history for the next chapter, the next bloom of the Wardlaw+Hartridge story. We are “Three Houses, One Family.”