Photo above: BA Headmaster, Stephen Schools, looks to the future.
By Molly Ingram
When you meet Stephen Schools, Headmaster of Beaufort Academy, you realize right away that he is a man with a vision. He has worked this past two years with the Board of Trustees and the parents groups to re-focus the 5 Year Strategic Plan towards big changes.
Unlike many strategic plans, BA’s has yearly benchmarks and evaluations. This allows you to know where you are relative to your ultimate goals at any point in time. And those goals are lofty at BA. Their biggest goal is to move from a student body of approximately 245 students to a much larger body of 300-325 students. That means more teachers and better and bigger facilities, all being accounted for in a new capital campaign about to be announced.
Stephen brings an interesting history to the job of headmaster at BA. He began his career as a math teacher at Porter-Gaud in Charleston. He loves math and technology related topics. He is currently keeping his hand in by teaching 9th grade computer coding.
The classroom experience brings an insightful twist to the various administrative jobs Stephen has held since Porter-Gaud. Education, morals, and character development are the platform on which everything they do at BA is situated. “Our students are known by most of the teachers and administrators, cared for, and are safe to be themselves. Plus, 100% of our graduating seniors are admitted into 4-year colleges.”
The “safe to be themselves” concept is new to this generation of current students. Safety in school has become both a physical issue with the number of school shootings that have taken place recently, but also a personal issue. “If a child doesn’t feel safe, it becomes very hard for them to learn.” Safety has also become a big issue with parents. “Parents want a strong environment for their child that is both enriching and welcoming and above all safe.”
Stephen’s two children, Caroline (9) and Sam (8) who both attend BA were quick to point out the difference in acceptance when they moved here two years ago from Baltimore. Both children agreed that Beaufort Academy was much more welcoming than other schools they had attended. Students and teachers were “friendlier” and “easier to get along with here than where we were before.”
So how do you raise your student population by about 30% over the next couple of years? According to Stephen, it is not an easy task. “It’s certainly going to be a challenge. BA is open to every student in Beaufort County regardless of their income or socio-economic status. We have a very generous and healthy financial aid program and we are more than happy to give it out to students who want to learn and who are willing to work hard. BA is for those students that want to experience the range of extracurricular activities we offer and to those who will benefit from the individual attention they can and will get from teachers.” He continues,”We need parents and students to visit the school, see what we do in person and how we do it. They should talk to current students and teachers. If the child is right for BA, then somehow we will make everything else work out.”
Stephen is up for the challenge of these next couple of years. The capital campaign will add funds to expand the gym, add classrooms, upgrade the dining facilities and re-do the gym. That will hopefully convince parents of students not currently enrolled in BA to go see what all the excitement is about. Those parents with student athletes will find a successful competitive atmosphere where their child will be able to play varsity sports while learning about fine arts, history, English, technological topics and much, much more.
Then there is the BA’s boys’ soccer team who will be trying to make it a three-peat this year if they can win the state championships for a third consecutive time. Whether they win or lose this year, you will find a team that is totally dedicated to their sport and to their studies and most importantly, to their school.
I believe BA is positioned in the right spot to achieve their 5-year plan. If you have students that need a nurturing environment to excel or smaller classrooms where they can ask questions without fear of repercussions or bullying, then Beaufort Academy is a school to consider. Take the time to schedule a visit. If nothing else you will meet some of the great team that makes BA unique in the Beaufort education market. Their mascot is an eagle, similar to Beaufort High School, but that is where the similarities end. These eagles are in a class by themselves.