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Owen-Williams reflects on his time at Carlisle School
He is leaving for job in New York
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
By ASHLEY JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer
As Simon Owen-Williams nears the end of his work as head of school at Carlisle, he has reflected on how much the school has changed in his 14 years there.
Owen-Williams will leave Carlisle on July 1 to become head master of the Portledge School in Locust Valley, N.Y.
He started at Carlisle School in 1998 as head of the upper division and became head of school in 2003.
During that time, Owen-Williams, along with faculty and board members, helped bring many programs to the school, he said. The school moved forward due to everyone’s “strong sense of vision,” he added.
In 1999, he helped create the International Baccalaureate diploma program for juniors and seniors at Carlisle. The program was extended to include sixth- through tenth-graders in 2005, and in 2011, it grew to include grades prekindergarten through fifth, he said.
After the last expansion of the International Baccalaureate program, Carlisle became the only independent school in Virginia to have the program in all grades, Owen-Williams said.
The International Baccalaureate program is a curriculum framework that incorporates intercultural awareness and interdisciplinary instruction, he said.
The program has “given us an identity at the state level” and locally, Owen-Williams said. The program develops students’ characters, their understanding of American culture, exposes them to different ideas and forces them to think critically on various issues, he said. All of that prepares students for college, Owen-Williams added.
Also as head of school, he has worked closely with the Harvest Foundation to develop a curriculum map that sets standards and benchmarks for each subject area. The realignment of the curriculum began in 2004 and continually is being refined, he said.
Carlisle School is fully accredited through the Virginia Association of Independent Schools, and in 2009, association representatives visited the school to assess it on 73 standards. Carlisle passed all of the standards, he said.
The outreach of Carlisle School has grown as well during Owen-Williams’ years at its helm. It created campuses in Danville in 2003 and Chatham in 2010, he said.
Due to the economic slowdown, especially in Henry County and Martinsville, it was important to expand the school’s market so Carlisle could grow and maintain a strong base of students, he said.
Also, it is important to open new campuses to give students in other areas the opportunity to have a Carlisle education and connect Martinsville students to other area students as well, he added.
The students at each of the three campuses collaborate throughout the year by going on combined field trips whenever possible, Owen-Williams said.
The teachers from the campuses also come together for training and professional development workshops, he added.
Greater opportunities for international and domestic students became available at Carlisle School around 2008 due to the introduction of residential programs, which make student housing available on campus, Owen-Williams said.
Before that, there was an exchange program in place, but the residential program allowed more students to come to Carlisle because of the easier accessibility to housing, he added.
Looking back on it all, Owen-Williams said Carlisle and the Martinsville area will “always have a special place in my heart.” He added that he is thankful to have served “this wonderful school.”
Owen-Williams and his wife, Candace, raised their two daughters in Martinsville: Gwenith, 17, who will stay in Martinsville until she graduates from Carlisle next year; and Bronwyn, 19, who is a student at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City.
It has been “a privilege and a blessing” to live and work in the Martinsville area, Owen-Williams said. The area is “a terrific place to raise kids.”
After he moves on, Owen-Williams said he is confident that Carlisle will continue to grow and be successful due to its board and faculty.
He also said he hopes that the International Baccalaureate program will continue to be strong and that students will continue to be offered the best education possible.