The Wellington School has a new head of school who hopes to bolster student connections and opportunities amid record enrollment growth.
On July 1, Jeff Terwin took over as head of school, a position akin to superintendent at public schools.
Terwin, 49, who lives in Columbus' Victorian Village neighborhood, spent the past seven years as head of Wellington's Upper School, overseeing its operations and management.
Now, he'll lead the college-preparatory initiatives for the prekindergarten through 12th-grade school at 3650 Reed Road, Upper Arlington.
Terwin said in his first months as head of school, he's focused on familiarizing himself with Wellington's Lower and Middle schools, while working to help the faculty implement the "Three C's."
"The first one is connections," Terwin said.
"That's that 'One Wellington' piece. We're all in one campus."
Through the first initiative, Wellington staff members want Lower School and Middle School students to receive mentorship in leadership, work ethic and behavior from Upper School students, while the older students are reminded they "give voice and guidance" to younger students, Terwin said.
"I think it is a really unique gift that we can utilize and leverage for the students," he said. "That elevates both those groups of schools.
"I think it's good for learning, it's good for connecting and it's good for feeling like your voice matters, which is a really core principle for us."
A second priority for Terwin this year is called "Columbus."
"We think for our students to have the most meaningful learning experience it's to get beyond our walls," he said. "That may mean getting students out and connected to industry and professionals in Columbus, actually leaving campus and connecting with organizations, but also inviting people to visit classes and connect with students.
"It's being really deliberate in that outreach because I think that allows students to have a really authentic understanding of what work looks like."
The last focus of the three-pronged campaign is "community," which Terwin said is focused on student leadership and community within the school, as well as building "a really strong character program."
"That's where we pull in a lot of that diversity-inclusion work, as well," he said. "We've got a diverse community. So making sure everybody feels seen and heard is critical."
According to Wellington's website, the school's students represent 67 countries of origin; Terwin said they come from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds.
This year, the school has a record number of students, with a total enrollment of 696 as of Sept. 12. That's up from 657 last year, according to Yvonne Johnson, Wellington's assistant director of strategic communications.
A closer look at the numbers, according to information provided by Johnson, shows 18% of Wellington's students come from Upper Arlington; 12% come from Dublin, 9% come from throughout Columbus; and 8% come from the Columbus neighborhood of Clintonville.
Some of the influx, Terwin said, has come after the closing of Powell-based Village Academy in July.
But he noted Wellington has worked to keep the students that enroll early in the school, while promoting its brand of entrepreneurial learning, "deep-dive" exploration of issues and classroom subjects, student autonomy and diverse opportunities.
"We want to keep attrition low," Terwin said. "We want to have high retention. We want families to know they're getting a great education here, that there's great value in them investing in the school.
"I hope it's the approach we take and how we're working to help students develop really relevant authentic skills and mindsets for success beyond this."
Wellington board chairman Ted Manley said Terwin "is exactly the right person to take (Wellington) to the next level" in its long-term quest to provide "an innovative education."
"Jeff has added to the forward-thinking vision of Wellington in many ways," Manley said. "He has designed groundbreaking curriculum allowing students to dive deeply into areas of personal interest through independent science and humanities research."
As Wellington continues to grow, Terwin said, the school's leaders are eyeing space to ensure there's enough room to provide the types of programming students need to succeed in life.
He said expansion near Wellington's Lower and Middle school spaces is likely, but no plans have been formalized or announced.
In the meantime, he said, faculty and staff are building on the foundations they think have historically led to student success, with renewed focus on entrepreneurialism and global learning.
One area of focus is student engagement, which encourages students to find projects and areas of study they love, but that also challenge them to learn.
"We're proud of our students, we're proud of the colleges they get into, but it's more about the longer-term outcomes," Terwin said. "College is not the finish line. It's really the start of their next journey. So we talk about success at 30 and what are those approaches."
Terwin also highlighted a new program for the 2019-20 school year called the Wellington International Student Experience.
WISE begins in 10th grade, when students are presented with various research projects involving countries from around the world.
They select which projects and countries they're interested in, and begin to learn more about those cultures and related issues, as well as fundamentals of international travel.
In late May, juniors will be placed in groups of about 10 students and joined by two faculty members, they'll set out for seven- to 11-day trips to the countries they've been studying to further research topics and projects.
"What's driving it is this idea that gaining a global understanding is really critical to student success, for them to build an understanding of what's going on in the world to help build their empathy and resilience," Tewrin said.
"We're going to have 10 students in Ghana learning about the history of slave trade and the interaction with American history," he added. "We're going to have a group in Ecuador that's doing community service there. I'm taking a group to Curacao to do coral reef research and set up a research site."
In developing WISE, Terwin said, Wellington leaders adjusted operational budgets so students could take the trips without tuition being raised.
"We know global travel is really expensive," Tewin said. "We've a really diverse student population here in all different ways that you could define diversity, including socioeconomic.
"So if we're saying that's a really important aspect for our graduates, then we need to make sure that everyone can do it."
Terwin said global learning also works toward Wellkington's goal of individualizing student experiences so their passions can drive their work.
"The whole idea is, when students can really own a project, we see their engagement go through the roof," he said. "They are loving it, but they're also taking on challenges to solve that next problem or to ask that next question."