WSL Announces New School Director
WSL’s Board of Trustees and College of Teachers are pleased to announce that Don Grace will succeed Robert Schiappacasse as the Waldorf School of Lexington’s next School Director, effective July 15. Mr. Grace has an impressive background in independent school leadership, and we look forward to introducing him to the WSL community in the coming months—at informal gatherings that will be announced for the last two weeks of July, and formally in September when we begin the new school year.
“I have been delighted to visit the Waldorf School of Lexington over the last few weeks,” said Mr. Grace. “I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to observe students, talk with Board members, and meet faculty and staff. The energy and vitality in WSL’s classrooms was readily apparent, as was the engagement and commitment of everyone I met. I feel very fortunate to have found such a distinctive, thriving community in which to continue my life’s work stewarding innovative independent schools.”
— Don Grace
Don Grace received a B.A. in American history from Harvard College, followed by an M.A.T. in secondary social studies from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Mr. Grace went on to earn a Certificate of Advanced Study in school administration from Fairfield University and did graduate work in early childhood education at Wheelock College.
Mr. Grace began his career in the classroom. He taught high school social studies for a number of years, eventually arriving at St. Luke’s School in Connecticut, where he was asked to step in as Assistant Headmaster. From this turning point, Mr. Grace found his calling in school leadership.
Search Committee Chair and WSL parent Russ Ayan observed, “True to its founding spirit of collaborative decision-making, WSL involved many individuals and constituencies in the search process, and we received universally positive feedback about Don. He clearly conveyed a lifelong passion for education, a genuinely collaborative approach to leadership, and an easy ability to connect with others. We are confident that Don will quickly become a valued member of the WSL community.”
Board Chair Paulo Milko added, “Don’s depth and breadth of experience impressed us tremendously. He showed us that he can listen, draw on the expertise of others, inspire and direct change, and guide schools as they evolve and grow. Above all, Don truly has an educator’s mindset, with students and families at the heart of his commitment.”
Mr. Grace has led a number of schools, and at each one he has made a lasting contribution. At The McLean School of Maryland, he established the foundation to expand the school from K–9 to K–12. He also initiated a citywide seminar series on learning with national speakers, both advancing the school’s reputation and serving a wide community of parents. As Head of School and then President at Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall, Mr. Grace established a structure that yielded two separate substantial lead gifts for major campus renovations.
At the Touchstone Community School in Grafton, Mr. Grace created a pilot project on parent-teacher listening with T. Berry Brazelton’s Touchpoints Center that transformed home-school communication. As Interim Head of Blue School (founded by members of the Blue Man Group and their spouses), he helped the school move into its new, ongoing home in the South Street Seaport neighborhood of New York City.
Most recently, Mr. Grace has served as Head of School at Thacher Montessori in Milton. During his tenure there, he partnered with faculty and the board to move the school through a pivotal accreditation process, which included a deep evaluation of the school’s pedagogical framework and also enhanced the school’s relationship with the adjacent Wakefield Charitable Trust, an environmental education site for area students.
“I have enjoyed a career heading innovative and progressive schools,” remarked Mr. Grace, “all of which worked with the whole child, not the surface of children. Much like the Waldorf School of Lexington, these schools had some common elements, among them interdisciplinary studies, project-based learning, a focus on the natural world, strong arts programs, and of course, inspired and engaging teachers. I greatly look forward to learning more about the Waldorf pedagogy and what distinguishes this clearly very special school. It will also be a delight to get to know faculty, staff, parents, and students in the coming year.”
College Chair Jeanette Voss noted the wholehearted endorsement Mr. Grace received from the faculty on the Search Committee. “Don quickly impressed us with his unassuming warmth, his credentials as an educator, and his abundant energy and curiosity. We feel his broad background in a variety of pedagogies, coupled with his proven ability to learn and lead with high impact, will serve the school well.”
As we welcome Mr. Grace, we want to thank outgoing School Director Robert Schiappacasse for his tireless and devoted service over the past seven years. A long-time student of Waldorf principles and philosophy, Mr. Schiappacasse joined our school at a watershed moment, helping WSL transition after forty years to a new model of leadership. We have been grateful for Mr. Schiappacasse’s patient, calm guidance, his ability to examine all sides of an issue with equanimity, and his deep understanding of Waldorf education.
We would also like to thank the incredible efforts of the Search Committee, led by parents Russ Ayan and Shannon Marks, and supported by numerous members of the school’s faculty, staff, and parent body. The search process they conducted was rigorous, thorough, and inclusive—an exemplar of the WSL community’s commitment to the highest standards of quality and collaboration.
We look forward to welcoming Mr. Grace and his wife, Catherine O’Neill Grace, and to the excitement and promise of a new chapter as we enter the Waldorf School of Lexington’s 48th year.
Paulo Milko, President, Board of Trustees
Jeanette Voss, Chair, College of Teachers