When Rhone opened it's offices in Stamford, CT, we knew we'd rub shoulders with some great people in the community. But we were yet to know how great. Enter Duncan Edwards and our neighbors at The Waterside School. Drawing principally from Stamford's most economically challenged communities, the Waterside School seeks to provide its students a rigorous classroom experience blending the important lessons of the classroom with the requisite lessons of character and the lasting lessons of the heart. We caught up with executive director Duncan Edwards to hear all about how the Waterside School got its start, it's plans for the future, and how you can support.
First off, what is the Waterside School and who can attend?
Waterside School is a co-educational PK-5th Grade independent school serving children and families regardless of limitations in income or circumstance.
What is the mission of the Waterside School?
Waterside School is a co-educational PK-5th Grade independent school serving children and families regardless of limitations in income or circumstance. The School attracts and inspires students of academic promise and families deeply invested in their children’s success.
The School works to instill in its students a belief in their own worth, to cultivate in each a commitment to academic excellence, and to ensure the fullest development of every child’s character. Through a rigorous program of study and experience, the School empowers its students with the knowledge, skills and virtues required to enable them to excel as students, to gain access to superior academic opportunities, and to go forward to become the leaders of tomorrow.
How did you first get involved with the Waterside School?
The founder, Chip Kruger, brought me to Waterside in 2003. Was not 100% sure what I was getting into other than that the purpose was pure. The financial challenge – an independent school w every child on scholarship – was daunting but it was impossible not to try. In truth, the initial plan was probably to work hard, do some good, fail nobly and then move on but with these children, these families and their courage, it was impossible to accept failing. The first decade was brutally hard but the second decade and the School’s success have provided the reward.
What is it like starting a school essentially from the ground up? What hurdles did you face?
Not easy. Needed to build everything – program, culture, spirit, standards and, in time, a bldg.. Not like raising a fund – it does not happen easily or quickly – it takes years, not months. Luckily, we found people to do the real work as stubborn as they were good.
How many students are able to attend each year?
Since 2011, the enrollment range has been 150.
How has the school grown and changed since its inception in 2001?
Conceived and founded by Konrad "Chip" Kruger, the former Co-Head of Greenwich Capital, the Waterside School opened its doors on September 10, 2001 with a Kindergarten and First Grade, five teachers, twenty-seven students and modest means but an ambition anything but. The School, drawing principally from Stamford's most economically challenged communities, seeks to provide its children a rigorous classroom experience blending the important lessons of the classroom with the requisite lessons of character and the lasting lessons of the heart. Waterside School was purposefully designed to offer an alternative to the region's standardized public school experience and to provide a direct path for admission to the area's more traditional and most competitive independent schools. Simply, the School aims to provide better lives for its students and families and to plant meaningful seeds of promise and hope in their communities.
Waterside was reinvented in 2004 with the recruitment of new leadership, Jody Visage, the rebuilding of the teaching faculty and a renewed and heightened commitment from each of the School's constituencies. The School now spans grades PK-5 and serves over one hundred fifty students with one hundred thirty families from thirty-one different countries.
September 12, 2001 - Waterside School opened in a rented facility with 27 students in Kindergarten and 1st Grade.
September of 2004 - The School was reinvented with new leadership, Jody Visage, the rebuilding of the teaching faculty and a renewed and heightened commitment from each of the School's constituencies.
July 2006 – The School’s first set of graduates celebrated
June 2008 – Fully accredited by CAIS (Connecticut Association of Independent Schools) (and reaccredited 2018)
April 2010 – Ground broken for the School’s new home in Stamford’s South End
September 2011 – New facility at 770 Pacific Street christened with grades PK – 5
Access to education plays such an important role in life success. How have you seen the impact of education on the lives of the students the Waterside School you have taught and mentored?
Every day, every child. For our children, doors of opportunity unlocked; for our families, real reason for hope; and, in each success, reminder of all that matters and measures. So many stories – the first in his family to go to college, now at Google; ours off to Stanford, Duke, Columbia, Dartmouth, NYU et al; and all realizing that the dreams we have for our own belong to them as well. America at its very best.
If there is one thing about Waterside School and its students people should know, what would that be?
Very simply that the gap in the country’s current educational system is not one of achievement, it is one of opportunity. If a child can be provided a proper chance; be blessed with opportunity; be held to standard, anything is possible. The success of the School’s students should be viewed as both celebratory and cautionary. Celebratory for obvious reasons; cautionary as to all that would have been wasted and lost without these children finding their paths. There are thousands and thousands more who could find similar success if provided the opportunity – we must find a way to provide just that.
If people are looking to get involved with the Waterside School (teaching, donations, etc.) how would they go about doing so?
For information on all of the above, please go to the School’s website: www.watersideschool.org
If you would like to donate to the Waterside School, click here.
If you are interested in teaching at the Waterside School, please contact Head of School Jamel Keels firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are interested in volunteering at the Waterside School, please contact Jessica Chang email@example.com