Those who know me know how much I love Ransom Everglades. I started at RE as a student in the late ’80s, returned as a mathematics teacher, worked as Dean of Students, and I now serve as COO and Interim Head of the Upper School. Yet few people know the real history and depth of my connection to this great school. The symbolism in the story I’m about to share leaves me filled with pride.
RE’s archives show that my great-grandfather, David W. Clark, was the “caretaker of the campus” at the Adirondack-Florida School – the Ransom School’s predecessor – working alongside Paul C. Ransom at the turn of the 20th century. Records and artifacts show that “Clark,” as he was referred to in photographs, served with honor and excellence. Mr. Ransom is said to have described him as a “faithful man-of-all work.”
Among the original Bahamian settlers in the Grove, my great-grandfather and great-grandmother, Rebecca, lived on Charles Avenue and helped found Christ Episcopal Church in Coconut Grove in 1901 – a well-known fact advertised on the church’s website to this day. Much less known are details of my great-grandfather’s tenure as a caretaker at RE. He was credited with planting the seedlings that grew into immense Royal Palms from the top of the campus to the bay.
The late historian Arva Moore Parks McCabe and Laura Pincus Sekoff P’20 revealed some of these details in their 2003 coffee table book, Honor & Excellence: A Century of Ransom Everglades School
. Other information can be found in the 1978 history, Ransom-Everglades: Reflections of a School, 1893-1978
. Several photos and hand-written notes in the RE archives offer additional data points. My great-grandfather is long deceased, so I can’t ask him the many questions that I have.
“I know I am honored, more than a century later, to follow in his footsteps ... It is serendipitous to have landed in a similar role: caretaker of this campus, this school, these students.”
COO and Interim Head of the Upper School David E. Clark '86
But I know I am honored, more than a century later, to follow in his footsteps. Of course those were different times. My great-grandfather did not have the opportunities that I was fortunate to have. And yet, it is serendipitous to have landed in a similar role: caretaker of this campus, this school, these students. At this time in my life, it is an indescribable thrill and privilege to have this role and I take it to heart. Indeed, in the year since I returned to RE, my colleagues and I have worked hard to make our school safer, more spirited and focused on the future via our new mission and core values: The RE Way.
As COO, my foremost priority is the safety of our students and security of our campuses, and I’m so pleased at the progress under our new security leadership: Director of Security Rob DePriest ’86. He has helped us be smarter, more intentional and structurally sound when it comes to safety.
We also care about school spirit – I want students to love their school as much as I do. We brought “the cheer” to upper school assemblies, summoning our students by grade to show their Raider Pride. It’s a little thing, but our students love it, and it makes a difference. Our homecoming is now a true homecoming – we invite students, parents, alumni and Raider friends to our campus in October for sports, activities, food and fun. And last spring, we unveiled a new Raider logo after asking students and alumni to choose from a pair of finalists. They jointly picked a cool, silhouetted Raider that represents everyone in our community – and also happens to look great on T-shirts, our fields and our athletics facilities.
Most importantly, my colleagues and I have worked hard to foster joy, happiness and a love of learning in our students. We strive to provide a collaborative and dynamic approach to education that ignites their passions and inspires them to succeed. We want them to do well, and to be well. And we want the same for our faculty. We want our faculty to know they are valued and appreciated for the critical work they do to shape our students into scholars, leaders and thoughtful citizens.
As I’m sure you can tell, I’m loving every minute at Ransom Everglades. I am truly home. My hope is to continue the family tradition at RE as a “faithful man-of-all work” and committed caretaker of our campuses for many, many years to come.