New principal’s guiding principle is four-letter word



Nobody turns down love. That’s why Fieldston Ethical Culture Upper School’s new principal Laura Danforth says she leads with it. 

“We don’t talk about love enough, especially in New York City,” Ms. Danforth said. “I lead through relationships. I really feel if you have strong relationships and you work with students and faculty and they know you care about them and respect them, you bring that love out in them.” 

Ms. Danforth assumed the principal position on July 2, formally leading about 600 high school students and 125 faculty members. She most recently worked as associate head of school at Miss Porter’s School, a girl’s boarding school in Farmington, Conn., and has held administrative and counseling leadership roles at other preparatory high schools, including Suffield Academy and Ethel Walker School. Leading Fieldston Upper School appealed to her because she was looking for something “bigger, more urban, and just different.”

She said she intends to focus on getting acclimated during her first year. Fieldston just undertook a year-long evaluation of the school, which highlights the strengths it wishes to support and weaknesses it hopes to improve. Ms. Danforth said she and the faculty will focus on ethics education, ensuring the writing curriculum is as strong as possible, studying the best daily school schedule and revisiting the school’s commitment to progressive learning.

“We need to be very loyal to our progressive roots. We need to look at every program, every department, every area where we have student programming and make sure that we stay progressive as our founder Felix Adler sought,” she said.

Mostly, Ms. Danforth says she wants to spend the year, “looking, listening and conversing.” She has met with all faculty members for one-on-one half hour meetings. She crafted the faculty meeting agendas using surveys, which measured what topics staff wanted to discuss most. 

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