Big Man on Campus
Ridgefield Academy head of school, Jim Heus, says good-bye
Since 1999, Jim Heus has been at the 42-acre, preK-8 Ridgefield Academy, where he finishes his tenure as head of school in June.
What was the state of the school when you joined?
The main campus was in Wilton at the former Gilbert & Bennett school. The campus was cramped. Many classes were taught in trailers.
What is the status of RA and related schools now?
I am proud to say that Ridgefield Academy stands tall among all our benchmark schools. We recently opened our fourth preschool, in Bedford, New York. Our graduates go on to attend local independent day schools, boarding schools, or their local public schools—and do very well!
What is your proudest accomplishment?
I am most proud of the culture of this school, where it is cool to be smart, where students and teachers enjoy a true partnership, where public speaking is taught, practiced, and celebrated, where students demonstrate their full engagement by challenging bad behavior long before a teacher becomes involved, where innovation challenges us never to be too comfortable, and where service learning is lived, not just discussed.
How has the perception of private school changed?
When we arrived in 1999, the town’s reaction was “Why are you here? We have one of the most celebrated school systems in Connecticut!” I don’t disagree. In fact, we became a better school as we were challenged by Ridgefield Public Schools. We were, and remain to this day, a fine alternative to public education for those families who desire a more personal and focused education for their child.
Is there a message you have for the Ridgefield community?
While we are tucked away on the west side of town, we invite families to visit us and see we are not a secluded and disengaged “private” school, but rather a diverse and exciting school community engaged in many activities beyond our campus. We enjoy educating families from over a dozen different towns. And we feature an interscholastic athletic program for grades six to eight, a full range of activities in the fine and performing arts, as well outstanding opportunities in technology and the media arts.
How can you improve on the view from campus?
I won’t even try. The view in unparalleled and symbolically underscores that this is a school with limitless possibilities.