Christopher Schuck has done just about every job there is to do during his long and distinguished career as an educator, everything from scrubbing restrooms and driving a bus to teaching and finally becoming an administrator.
In his 20 years at La Jolla Country Day School, he’s taught English and math to students in second through 12th grades. He’s been co-director of the Country Day Middle School and chaired the school’s English department.
He taught in the Upper School for a dozen years and has been associate head of school. Now, he’s graduated to the head of school.
Schuck succeeds Judith Glickman, who will leave the top spot this summer in the nonprofit college preparatory school with a population of about 1,050 students after five years. After a six-month hiatus overseas, she will join Sage Hill School in Newport Beach as its new head of school in January 2008.
Perhaps the most important thing Schuck brings to his new position is a deep appreciation for the school.
“I’ve been here for 20 years and I have developed a regard, an affection and love for the school and its history,” he said, “as well as for the students and the families who come through.”
Schuck said Country Day has an evolving vision, which calls for helping the student become well rounded while developing their own philosophy on education.
“We want to help them learn through experience,” he said, “so their education is genuine and not laid on. The school emphasizes the wholeness of the student: their intellectual, creative, artistic, athletic, moral and ethical development.”
As head of school, Schuck will be involved with all of the school’s varied committees. His job, among other things, will be to articulate the school’s mission. A big part of that mission will involve ongoing recruitment.
“Articulating the vision of the school means ensuring we have the people and resources in place,” he said. “It means continuing to recruit the best faculty available. My goal is to ensure Country Day stays a place where excellent teachers go when they’ve become good.”
Being a teacher at Country Day is rewarding on a number of levels, Schuck said. A big part of that is the relationships that are possible with students, due to smaller class sizes.
“It gives teachers the opportunity to work within a curricular framework,” he said, “but allows them to bring their own expertise to bear in what and how you teach in the classroom.”
Schuck said Country Day probably has more three-sport athletes than any other school in the county. Unlike a public school where an athlete might be just a football player, that same athlete at Country Day might be a basketball or lacrosse player, as well as running track and field.
That same player might also sing with the school’s choir before the game or at the half, then step back in line with their teammates once game play resumes.
Schuck likened the teachers to missionaries spreading the gospel of education.
“It’s important for them to have a profoundly and deeply etched appreciation for the school’s mission to encourage students to be curious, inventive, analytical and deeply good,” he said. “Those are really the goals we have for our students.”
Schuck is glad to be Head of School at Country Day at this crossroads time. “This is an exciting time for me,” he said. “It’s also an exciting time in the life of the school, because it’s really an opportunity to use the momentum generated by our history to cast ourselves a pretty vital and invigorating future.”
Glickman praised her successor, who was unanimously appointed as her replacement by the school’s board of trustees.
“Chris has always brought intellectual vibrance and a respect for students’ growth and well-being,” she said. “Country Day could not be more well positioned for its future growth than to have a leader such as Chris with his tenure, commitment and vision for the school as a whole.”
Don Ings, president of the school’s board of trustees, also complimented Schuck on his leadership skills.
“His contemplative, imaginative style of leadership has brought about innovations in the curriculum, in faculty enrichment, in student programs and in the core structure of the school’s operations,” he said. “Today, each division at Country Day bears Chris’ imprint.”
Ing said it was also important for the school to elevate one of its own to its top post.
“There is an increasing awareness in academic circles that cultivating a head of school from within is more advantageous than searching for an outside candidate,” he said. “The right internal candidate, with appropriate preparation, positions a school for success.”
A small independent school like Country Day is like a small town. This one is under construction and in the throes of big change. La Jolla Country Day School, which celebrated its 80th anniversary this year, has a library and academic center currently under construction with completion anticipated for the 2007-2008 school year.
This year, the school opened the first phase of a long-term master-planned expansion, a 30,000-square-foot, two-story middle-school complex housing16 general-purpose classrooms, four science labs and classrooms and administrative offices, as well as specially designed spaces for choral, orchestra, dance and computer classes.
Country Day’s campus master plan was laid out by a committee of La Jolla Country Day School board members and parents. It marks the first major expansion of Country Day’s middle school facilities since the school relocated to its present site at 9490 Genesee Ave.