An Agenda For Excellence

Recently, in the town of Palm Beach, a group of citizens was selected to make a presentation to the Town Council Committee on Standards and Ordinances about banning the use of plastic bags at the local Publix. It’s an issue that’s been raised in other areas of the country, and there are already some incentives in several communities for shoppers to bring their own reusable canvas bags. The members of this nominated group presenting, however, were not professional activists. They were eighth and ninth graders at Palm Beach Day Academy.

This summer, Palm Beach Day Academy—an independent day school with a curriculum for Preprimary through Ninth grade—announced the appointment of Dr. Edwin Gordon as its new Head of School. Gordon has been in Palm Beach for most of the year, getting to know the community. “I began July 1, officially,” he says. “Although from the moment I accepted the position in November of last year, I was coming down monthly. It was one of the best decisions that the school and I made.” Now that the academic year is in full swing, I ask how it’s going. “We’re in a strong position as a school. No crises that we’re trying to manage, and I deal with the best students because these kids have the work ethic of their parents. From my youngest to my oldest, I am convinced these are some of the hardest working students I’ve ever seen.”

That’s a strong statement from Gordon, whose career as an educator is impressive. Previously, he directed the Executive Education Program at the University of Pennsylvania and served as a board member of the National Association of Independent Schools. Right before PBDA, he served as the Head of Lower School  at Riverdale Country School in New York.

“The kids at Palm Beach Day Academy are happy,” he enthuses. “They find learning to be joyful.” As a New Yorker who’s new to Palm Beach, Gordon is especially impressed by the community, where local clubs and recreational centers help form long-lasting friendships. “All of these clubs not only serve as a place to have lunch or do business, but they also serve as a place for families to come together and socialize. The kids get to know each other and find they have a lot in common. At school, we don’t have to introduce people to each other.”

Still, Gordon has plans to advance PBDA, and he feels fortunate to work with a board that supports his vision. The Agenda for the Future: Strategic Priorities for 2016–2019, he calls it. First, he wants to ensure that the school’s academic programs are both rigorous and relevant. “Especially,” he notes, “in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math.” He also wants to develop the faculty and improve the school’s facilities. Right now, in fact, the school is in the midst of a major project. “A 16,000 square-foot education center will be going up soon.” And then, there is Gordon’s commitment to partnership opportunities with organizations outside of PBDA. “Working together through service and programs,” he explains. “Collaborating with faculty, doing more across campuses, more interdisciplinary work. We always need to look at ways to improve what we do.”

At Palm Beach Day Academy, the mission of the school emphasizes developing the mind, body, and character of the students. “All three are very important,” voices Gordon. And that ethos gels well with his Agenda for the Future. “It’s not just about preparing boys and girls for the next grade or high school,” he stresses. “It’s about preparing them for life and a love of learning.”