The St. Johns Singers and the Grade 3-5 Choruses opened the program with beautiful renditions of The Star-Spangled Banner, America the Beautiful, and the St. Johns Hymn. The Grade 4/5 Chorus then sang We're the Future, a song with special meaning on a special day.
The Invocation and Prayer of Dedication was offered by The Rev. Lila Byrd Brown, an alumna and member of the school's Board of Trustees. Headmaster Greg Foster then highlighted the school's growth over the years and stated that the "school’s mission enjoins us to pursue academic and scholastic excellence, and we go for it." He also noted "For more than a half century St. Johns Country Day School has served the Clay County and Greater Jacksonville community by strengthening its citizenship and its pool of professional skills. We at St. Johns think that we are a community treasure."
Mrs. Michele Agee, President of the school's Board of Trustees highlighted the involvement of local businesses in the building of this wonderful new facility. She also officially announced the dedication of the new Upper School building in honor of former headmaster Stephen F. Russey. Mr. Russey then stepped forward and expressed his appreciation for this honor.
All eyes then turned to the front of the bulding as Mr. Russey, Mr. Foster and Mrs. Agee officially cut the ribbon to open the new building. They were joined in the ribbon-cutting by Mike Patterson, president of the Upper School Student Council, Anthony Teixeira, president of the Middle School Student Council, and Paige Lyerly, vice presidet of the Lower School Student Government, as well as representatives of the Clay County Chamber of Commerce.
Comments by Headmaster Greg Foster at the dedication of the Stephen F. Russey Upper School building on November 15, 2010:
What a pleasure to welcome so many friends and neighbors to help us celebrate the opening of our new Upper School. We are so proud to have you here for a day that changes the life of St. Johns. It is the fruit of our Campus Master Plan, created in 2007 under the leadership of then-Board of Trustees President Dr. Bob Cowie, current Board of Trustees President Michele Agee (a civil engineer), and school architect Steve McCullar.
For more than a half century St. Johns Country Day School has served the Clay County and Greater Jacksonville community by strengthening its citizenship and its pool of professional skills. We at St. Johns think that we are a community treasure.
The school’s mission enjoins us to pursue academic and scholastic excellence, and we go for it.
• Our graduates have the highest SAT and ACT scores of any school in northeast Florida.
• An 85% pass rate on AP exams, far above the national average of about 55%.
• The average St. Johns grad leaves with two successful AP exams accomplished.
• One hundred percent are admitted to college, but more important, they succeed once there. They consistently return the winter following graduation to visit us, flashing pride and confidence not just that they are in college, but that they are thriving there. Very many report higher grades than they earned in high school.
• And here is our larger public purpose: at the conclusion of their formal schooling a large portion of St. Johns alumni return to this community to pursue careers, adding to the literacy, high-level can-do spirit, and overall strength of our professional work force.
• And in addition to competence and skill, they bring optimism, good cheer, and good
hearts to their work.
To do this well, St. Johns has been on the move. In the past five years:
• We have improved instruction, through technology, up-to-date understanding of brain function, and guidance.
• The new Standards of Conduct have helped young people gain clarity in making healthy and wise decisions, and in building trust.
• We have seen school spirit crest with
o improved athletics facilities
o addition of football and cheerleading
o four state titles in boys and girls soccer
o the expansion of instrumental music
All of which was abundantly visible in last week’s homecoming activities.
• Eight years ago the school opened a new library-learning center and classrooms, and the Performing Arts Center where we hold our own performances and host the activities of many other local performance and worship groups.
• In 2006 we undertook deliberations about the future that produced the Campus Master Plan.
Our new Upper School, the product of that planning, replaces one built in the 1950’s. The scene of lots of good learning and living, it was much beloved. Although it was also small, cramped, and decaying, the Old Upper School will surely live on in fond memories.
We designed the new building to reflect the tradition of the old: the presence of red brick, the orientation facing the Quad, where we gather every morning to celebrate the Flag and to share school news, aim to keep faith with the school’s origins. Continuity is important to us.
This project offered our school an opportunity to move forward, and we approached it that way. We know much more today about how people learn, and about how to educate for human performance. This building reflects that. Each classroom has sufficient room to accommodate hands-on, modern approaches to teaching that engage the youthful brain better than simply sitting in rows. Each is equipped with Smart Board technology. The science spaces combine lab facilities with traditional “blackboard and theory” ones. The students are thrilled by the large lockers!
The building includes a spacious suite for one of our most heartfelt functions, College Counseling. Mr. Rod Cox works full-time, with his assistant, to host representatives of dozens of colleges and universities that visit St. Johns each year to recruit our juniors and seniors. He counsels every family and presents each senior’s candidacy to college admission committees thoughtfully and thoroughly. This is the place where it happens.
Our new facility has come to us in the traditional St. Johns spirit. Throughout its history St. Johns has expanded and improved the campus through the generosity of its friends and families. Never ostentatious, always modest, always in appropriate taste, the school has depended on its families, past and present, to pitch in, and they have always come through. In the 1950’s supportive parents helped the Founder, Dr. Heinrich, to get the school started. Over the years they cautiously but reliably gave the funds to make St. Johns a reality.
Today our parents and friends continue to support St. Johns Country Day School —cautiously, but reliably—to prepare for the future.
Our assignment has been to make certain that the legacy that fell to our generation—through no effort of our own! -- that so enriches the futures of our children, will be here for their children as well. We believe in good stewardship, and good citizenship, and we will always look to the best American ideals to guide us.
The new Stephen F. Russey Upper School Building, named for my predecessor and St. Johns’ Fourth Headmaster, assures that St. Johns will offer its blessings--its excellent schooling, and its gift to the Clay County and Greater Jacksonville area-- far into the future.
We are honored that you are here as we dedicate ourselves to that future.
Comments of Former Headmaster Stephen F. Russey:
I am deeply honored and humbled to be with you today for the dedication of this new Upper School building. Over the past ten years the St. Johns campus has been transformed to provide some of the best facilities of any school in the state, and the campus reflects the vision of trustees, faculty and many other dedicated supporters of the school.
Today, however, should not be thought of as an end to this project, but a new beginning ... a time for everyone at St. Johns to make a new commitment to the spirit of excellence, upon which this school was founded. These facilities provide the tools and the environment for learning, and I challenge every member of the St. Johns community to make sure that they are used to the fullest ... that academic excellence and the traditional caring spirit of the St. Johns family always exist within these walls.