New Garden Friends School seeks to be an inclusive, innovative educational community guided by Quaker beliefs and committed to honoring and developing each person's gifts.
The Early Years
Like so many cities in the 1960s, Greensboro saw its share of racial turmoil. A few years after the sit-ins at Woolworth’s, Bruce Stewart was instrumental in integrating Greensboro’s Page High School, where he was teaching at the time. Bruce had graduated from Guilford College, an institution imbued with Quaker values. He later joined the College’s faculty. Through their experiences in Quaker education, Bruce and fellow Guilford administrator, Jim Newlin, strongly believed that a Friends school could make a profound difference in young lives, and that Greensboro could and would support such a school. In 1971, Bruce and Jim founded New Garden Friends School, believing that educating children from differing backgrounds together in a positive, affirming, and safe environment would be an important step toward battling the fear and hatred of racism.
With the support of Persimmon Grove AME Church, New Garden Friends School opened in the church’s new basement with 60 students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Under the early leadership of Bob Welsh, the school held fast to the Quaker tenet that there is that of God in everyone, while honoring and challenging each child to excel at his or her highest level.
The fledging school made several moves in the next two decades, utilizing the facilities of Greensboro College, the Boys’ Club, Temple Emanuel, and teaching in temporary modular classrooms situated on Guilford College land. Grade levels offered also fluctuated as the school expanded to ninth grade, then twelfth, before revising to K-8. In 1987, A Child’s Garden preschool was added. In 1990, NGFS moved to the Braxton Craven School, but returned to the woods of Guilford College less than a year later.
A Time of Growth
In 1991, Marty Goldstein and David Tomlin became co-heads of school and presented the Board with a ten-year plan for enrollment growth and permanent buildings on the Guilford College land. Marty came to the school in 1978 as a parent, volunteering in classrooms and on field trips, and serving in the parent association and on the Board of Directors. David had interned at New Garden as a Guilford College student in 1983, becoming a full-time teacher in 1985.
A mere two years later, enrollment had increased nearly 80% and New Garden Friends School was dedicating its first permanent building. Spurred by a three-to-one matching grant from the Bryan Family Foundation, the community raised over $175,000 for construction. Honoring Helen and Clarence Parker and Betsy and John Young for their spiritual and financial support of the campaign and the school, the Parker-Young Building opened in 1993. It provided 4,200 square feet of permanent space for the now 118 students, including a home for kindergarten through second grade and an art studio.
In 1995, the second permanent building was completed. Then Guilford College president Bill Rogers spoke to a gathering about the growing connection between the college and the school as the building was christened Guilford Hall. Adding another 4,200 square feet of permanent space, it initially housed third through eighth grade.
Enrollment had now grown to 159 students, well beyond the projected estimates of 1991. The ten-year building campaign remained on schedule, and a temporary 6,000 square foot modular building was added to the campus. Six classrooms provided space for Spanish, music, Extended Care/Summer Program, and three rooms for Middle School.
In the late 1990’s, the Board of Trustees devised ongoing strategic plans for future growth. They also helped develop a new mission statement for the school, approved in November 1998: New Garden Friends School seeks to be an inclusive, innovative educational community guided by Quaker beliefs and committed to honoring and developing each person’s gifts. The Board created two additional statements. One speaks to the Quaker beliefs of the school — equality, peace, simplicity, social justice, and continuing revelation and seeking truth. The other defines our educational purposes — developmental appropriateness, multiple intelligences, character development, and cooperative learning.
After four years of planning, fundraising, and eventual construction, the third permanent building was completed in December 2002. Named for New Garden Friends School founders Jim Newlin and Bruce Stewart, the Newlin-Stewart Building added an impressive 17,500 square feet of space and an abundance of opportunities and possibilities.
This facility houses six classrooms, Extended Care/Summer Program, administrative offices, a student activity center, and the Stewart-Hall Media Center. The student activity center is used for physical education classes, drama and music productions, community events, and is also made available for area groups to lease for their own events.
At the beginning of the new millennium, one component of the Board’s strategic plan was to expand into an Upper School. The plan was accelerated when, in the spring of 2004, school leaders were approached by the head of Ridgefield Academy and asked if there was interest in purchasing the buildings, 14.5 acres of land, and the school’s equipment. The Board acted quickly on this proposal, announcing in November of 2004 the creation of the NGFS Upper School. In August 2005, the Upper School opened with 48 ninth through twelfth grade students, offering a complete educational journey for students from preschool through high school graduation.
In 2005, NGFS embarked on an ambitious campaign to enhance the school facilities through the building of a LEED-certified Arts and Athletics Center on the Page-Frederkisen Upper School Campus. The Board launched the “Where Dreams Take Flight” campaign, raising over $3,000,000 for the building and other improvements. Designed as a community center for the entire school family, the facility is home to drama, art, music, and dance, as well as daily PE classes and athletic competitions. The 18,500 square foot facility was completed in January 2012 and was the centerpiece for the reunion and 40th Anniversary Celebration in March of that year.
In addition to the new building, the Campaign also allowed the school to acquire the adjacent thirteen acres for future expansion and programming. Along with the new building on the Page-Frederiksen Campus, technology upgrades were implemented throughout the school to include three new computer labs and Smart Boards in most classrooms. Each teacher received an iPad to expand their teaching capacity as well as training for its use as a classroom tool. iPad carts are available for students in grades K-6 and students in grades 7-12 have a 1:1 Chromebook program which allows students the most current technology tools for education in today’s ever changing world.
In 2012, after 22 years at the helm of the school and even more as a member of the NGFS family, David Tomlin announced his retirement at the end of the 2012-13 school year. For the first time in more than two decades, the school would be seeking a new leader. A Board-appointed search committee, comprising Board members, faculty, and parents, worked through the summer and fall, interviewing, evaluating, and recommending potential candidates for the leadership role. In late October, with great enthusiasm the Board of Trustees announced the appointment of Dr. Ari Betof as the Head of School beginning July 2013.
Most recently, longtime parent of the school and former Director of Admissions and Enrollment, Kim Freedman was appointed Head of School in December 2016.