The RCDS community began the new school year with a special Entrance Dedication Ceremony on Friday morning, September 6, 2013, to honor the school’s Headmaster Chad Small (Rumson) who will conclude his remarkable 25-year term at the end of the 2013-2014 academic year. The student-centered event served as the perfect way to kick off Dr. Small’s final year as Head of The Rumson Country Day School.
The ceremony was particularly fitting as Headmaster Small can be found each morning - without fail - at the front entrance of The Rumson Country Day School, personally meeting and greeting every student. His warm welcome has become an RCDS tradition, starting every student’s day off in a positive way. Later in the supremely busy – and often highly unpredictable - day of an independent school head, you can find Dr. Small all over campus, in classrooms, attending performances and at athletic events, but one thing remains certain, he will always be in front of RCDS from 7:30 a.m. – 8:00 a.m. “This is my favorite time of day. I enjoy welcoming the children every morning, shaking hands and offering a kind word. It makes my day,” said Dr. Small. Indeed, connecting with the children in this manner is something that the students also enjoy. At the ceremony, Student Council President Paul Thomas ’14 read the touching plaque inscription to the audience, beginning with a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.: “ ‘There is no friend like an old friend who has shared our morning days, no greeting like his welcome, no homage like his praise.’ The students of The Rumson Country Day School dedicate this entrance to our Headmaster Dr. Chad B. Small who welcomed us to school every morning for 25 years from 1989 to 2014.”
The student assembly began with words of encouragement from Headmaster Small about completing the first week of school, but the community had a surprise in store for their Headmaster. RCDS Board President Shawn Reynolds took the podium and invited all of the children to a special celebration for Headmaster Small that will last all year. He praised Dr. Small for his dedication and commitment to the students over the years: “How truly special and remarkable it is to have a Headmaster greet you at the beginning of each day. These are special memories that I hope all of you have. Not every school has a Headmaster with a heart as big as Mr. Small's, and you are very lucky indeed!”
After Mr. Reynolds remarks, Paul Thomas '14 addressed the audience: "Today is a special day for Mr. Small and it is also a special day for all of us as students. Following the assembly today, Mrs. Carmody and Mr. Lamb will dismiss all of us to re-enter the school through Mr. Small's doorway. This will be the first time that we can congratulate Mr. Small and see the special plaque that will hang on the wall of the school from this day forward."
After the remarks, Dr. Small thanked everyone, including Mr. Joseph Torcivia, past president of the RCDS Board of Trustees and past parent (Catherine ’04, Emily ’06, Joseph Jr. ’02) and Mr. Benedict Torcivia, past member of the RCDS Board and past parent (Benedict III ’97, Brian ’99, Christopher ’99, Leigh Ann ’04) who graciously donated funds for the ceremony through the Torcivia Family Foundation. After attending the ceremony, Joseph Torcivia remarked, "I am extremely grateful to Chad for all that he has done for RCDS. He is an outstanding role model who has shaped the school into what it is today. As a parent of three RCDS “lifer” students, I appreciated Chad’s well-grounded perspective on educating children in an increasingly complex world. His focus was always to continue the tradition of challenging academics in a caring, family environment. His relaxed, approachable leadership, energetic personality gave him the ability to attract and retain talented faculty. Chad’s commitment and passion has inspired all of us, and our community will be forever indebted to him.”
About standing at the school's entrance and personally greeting the students each morning, Dr. Small shared to the students, "I feel that it was the best use of my time, getting to see all of you each morning."
After the children sang the Rumson School Song, they processed out of Blake Gymnasium, class-by-class, youngest to oldest, onto the sidewalk on Bellevue Avenue and through Dr. Small’s Door. Thanks to the RCDS maintenance staff, the new plaque had been mounted while the students were at the assembly. “It was wonderful to see the children’s reactions to the new plaque because it had not been there when they arrived at school this morning,” remarked Jessica Goski, Director of Institutional Advancement.
The children enjoyed cupcakes and received two-sided key chains with the RCDS Gator on one side and “Later Gator” on the other, a deliberate nod to the wooden boat with the same name that Dr. Small is making in the RCDS wood shop. He plans on taking the boat with him to Cape Cod next year. The moving ceremony was planned and coordinated by a celebration committee of past and current parents with special help from Parent Council and parent volunteers. "This is the beginning of a full year of celebrating a quarter century under the leadership of Chad Small. Today's ceremony kicks off a year of events celebrating his significant contributions to the school. It is with heavy hearts that we say farewell to our beloved Headmaster," remarked Siran Sahakian, member of the RCDS Board of Trustees and co-chair of the celebration committee and Beth Martino, member of the RCDS Board of Trustees and co-chair of the celebration committee.
"Dr. Small will be missed by all. As a current parent and alumna, I am grateful for the legacy he leaves RCDS, a legacy of inspiring young minds to excel in a close-knit family environment where the tenants of kindness, responsibility, respect and honesty are paramount. RCDS has definitely been positively impacted by Dr. Small's leadership and we are sad to see him go," added Parent Council President Jen Steiner Crowell '88.
The Rumson Country Day School has grown from a school of 285 to one of 432 students, with a superior course of study, an outstanding athletic program and numerous extra-curricular programs. As the school’s sixth Headmaster, Dr. Small has seen generations of students pass successfully through the RCDS doorway, with many having been at RCDS since age three.
When you look back over the years to see what Chad Small’s leadership has brought to RCDS, the list is long. But if you ask him which programs are dearest to his heart, he quickly answers School Within a School (a specialized program to assist students with learning differences), RCDS Horizons (a national program with an affiliate begun at RCDS in 1996 that provides a summer school experience for children of limited economic means), creating a new Pre-school program and a new and improved student-centered schedule. Take note that only the initiatives directly impacting students come to his mind. However, a closer look at some of The Rumson Country Day School’s other accomplishments under Chad’s term of service yields an impressive record. The school expanded its arts and world language programs, and built a strong technology program including the hallmark 1:1 Student iPad program. As a school specializing in educating children from ages three to fourteen, each grade level was treated individually as media and technology was integrated into the curriculum. “We wanted to make sure that the new technology would, above all, enhance the classroom environment and not take precedence over the invaluable relationship between teacher and student,” explained Dr. Small.
Other significant improvements during his term of service include: increased student diversity and financial aid, and a vast increase in endowment from one hundred thousand dollars to eight million dollars. Regarding school facilities, much of the school buildings and grounds have been renovated including significant athletic field renovations. Perhaps Dr. Small’s most visible and striking accomplishments are the construction of William I. Riker Academic Center (affectionately known as Riker Hall) with new spaces for visual arts, technology and the sciences including state-of-the-art science laboratories, a Mac lab and stunning library. At its center, the Skirkanich Commons has become the heart of the school; it is a very comfortable space for people to gather, relax and socialize and provides an open area where students can learn and perform in small groups.
Aside from the brick and mortar and capital improvements, Dr. Small has left his mark on the school’s unique culture and environment, a judicious blend of scholarship, character and kindness that epitomizes an RCDS education. This is his true legacy at RCDS that may well outlast the physical landscape; rather, it will be in the nature and spirit of our school. His warmth and civility, respect for tradition, loyalty, creative energy, and genuine caring for all members of the RCDS community – these are the personal qualities that will carry his memory forward to future generations.
The faces and facilities may change, but the school’s original essence remains the same. Chad Small describes it best: “Our students are well prepared to handle the emotional and academic rigors of high school life because we provide rigorous academics with a hug, and this helps children to fulfill the promise of their own potential. Aside from strong academics, we are creating an environment where boys and girls are encouraged to become well-rounded, confident, and kind and that is the cornerstone of what we do here at RCDS.”