He’s only been here two years, but Dave Davies has found a lot to like about the Albany community.
Davies, a Pennsylvania native who is headmaster at Deerfield Windsor School, arrived here from Dallas, TX, in 2009. He noted he does not miss the traffic congestion and other urban hassles of Texas’ second largest city.
In spite of its much-smaller size, Albany has a lot of “real assets,” Davies said, among them the Albany Symphony Orchestra, the Albany Chorale, the Flint Riverquarium, Theatre Albany, and Chehaw. Albany, like other cities, has its problems, he acknowledged, but “there is so much good going on in this area, and we need to trumpet that.”
For Davies and his family, “There is a realness here that takes us back to our roots” in their small-town upbringings.
Davies expressed excitement about the approach of the new school year at DWS. The school, he said, is one year into a comprehensive strategic plan and is about to complete a renovation of athletic facilities, some classrooms, and band practice areas. This is also the first year with a dedicated college counseling office, which is expected to increase student exposure and access to educational opportunities beyond high school.
In three years, DWS will observe its 50th anniversary, and as part of the preparation for that has just started an alumni association.
As might well be expected of someone in his position, Davies is an avid proponent of school choice. “I see them as being complementary to each other,” he said. The benefit of size, he added, is key to the success of independent schools. Also, according to Davies, independent schools have “a narrower mission” than public schools and aren’t required to do many things that public schools must.
Another benefit is “selective admission.” Deerfield Windsor doesn’t have to keep a student, said Davies, who doesn’t meet the academic and character standards set by the school.
There is no tenure offered for instructors (which should keep teachers from becoming complacent in their efforts) and students aren’t required to undergo proficiency testing to move to new academic levels.
“If our students can’t get into a college or can’t stay after they get there, we’ll be out of business,” Davies said.
Davies also realizes that “race relations are important to this community moving forward.” Currently there are 100 students of color enrolled at DWS, he said, which is about 12 percent of the total enrollment. A mix of economic backgrounds among the students is made possible by tuition grants, which will amount to about $500,000 this year.
The tuition grants are derived from a Georgia law passed in 2008 that allows individuals and corporations to receive a state income tax credit (and federal income tax deduction) for re-directing tax payments to the Georgia GOAL Scholarship Program. (GOAL stands for Greater Opportunities for Access to Learning). GOAL uses the contributions – which can be designated for a specific school – to provide private school scholarships to eligible students enrolling in Pre-K4 or kindergarten or who are transferring from a Georgia public school.
Service is one of the three foundations of Deerfield Windsor’s mission statement, said Davies. The school encourages students to give back to the community through efforts like the annual coat drive for the needy, gifts to St. Jude Children’s Hospital, and support projects for the military and their families.
Deerfield Windsor’s annual operating budget this year is expected to exceed $8,000,000.
Regarding school choice, Davies said he thinks that most people would agree that “free enterprise and competition are part of what makes this country great.”