Who We Are
|52 Great Hills Road|
Short Hills, NJ 07078
|Send email to Far Brook School|
Far Brook School is an independent, coeducational day school located in Short Hills, New Jersey. Our school is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Elementary Schools (MSCES) and by the New Jersey Association of Independent Schools (NJAIS). Far Brook is a member of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), the New Jersey Association of Independent Schools (NJAIS), the Educational Records Bureau (ERB), and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).
Education is the unfolding and perfecting of the human spirit. - C. Hanford Henderson
In the summer of 1947, a group of parents came together to create an independent school based on the idea of developing judgment and wisdom. They were searching for democratic education: the education of the individual according to his unique ability. By the spring of 1948 they raised enough money to buy a lovely, wooded campus in Short Hills, with a winding brook and its buildings (some of which still stand). Far Brook School for Nursery through Ninth Grade* was born.
Far Brook School evolved from the Buxton Country Day School, which was established as a nursery through high school in 1928 by Ellen Geer Sangster. Buxton was one of the first progressive schools in New Jersey and the intellectual and spiritual forebear of Far Brook. Buxton and the education it offered were grounded in a child’s active, hands-on involvement in his or her education. In 1947 Mrs. Sangster decided to move Buxton’s Senior School to Williamstown, Massachusetts, to an estate she had inherited from her father.
Winifred Moore, who had been Director of Buxton’s Lower School, was selected to be the first Director of Far Brook School, serving from 1948 until her retirement in 1973. Under Mrs. Moore, much of what defines Far Brook as the school it is today came into being. Her contributions range from the mundane – she had the buildings painted red – to the truly sublime – she wrote The Roots of Excellence, an eloquent statement of the Far Brook philosophy of education, which is still frequently quoted and is available to parents in the library.
Mrs. Moore’s vision of education was rooted in ideas as disparate as those of John Dewey, Lewis Mumford, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Albert Einstein, and Albert Schweitzer. She believed that children should never be talked down to, that they should always be exposed to excellence, and that they become what they do and what they cherish. The Far Brook traditions instituted during Mrs. Moore’s directorship reflect her deep respect for the power of metaphor. The Thanksgiving Processional and and the performance of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater commemorate ceremonies of common human experience, of rejoicing in the bounty of the harvest and the rebirth that spring brings. “To become worthy tradition,” Mrs. Moore wrote, “our plays and our pageants have to recreate something universal, great subject matter. This is what educates children. We are united in something greater than ourselves, symbolic of all experience.” Under Mrs. Moore, the presentation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream alternating with The Tempest by the graduating class was instituted, as was much of the curriculum.
After Mrs. Moore’s retirement, the School was headed by several interim and short-term directors. During this period, Far Brook experienced difficulties. The School’s budget was in the red, and enrollment declined.
In 1979 Mary Wearn Wiener, who had taught at Far Brook since 1966, was appointed Director by the Board of Trustees, whose members had recognized her leadership qualities, commitment to and passion for Far Brook School. During her tenure, the School experienced a renaissance. Far Brook grew to over 200 students. Faculty salaries were improved, and faculty pensions were instituted. Far Brook gained a reputation for innovative curriculum, dynamic teaching, and an unusually creative and caring learning environment. Mrs. Wiener’s emphasis was always on making sure that Far Brook remained true to its unique and inspiring mission. Working with the Board of Trustees, Mrs. Wiener developed a long-range plan for the School that included building an endowment and improving the campus facilities.
During this period, several buildings were constructed including the Ruth and Max Segal Family Library; the Middle School (which bears her name); computer and science labs; and the Administration building. The Laurie Arts Center and the Junior High building were renovated. A new playground was built by parents, faculty, and friends. Moore Hall was enlarged and improved in 2003. At the time of Mrs. Wiener’s retirement as Head of Far Brook School in 2006, the endowment had grown to over $3,600,000.
In 2006, Murray E. Lopdell-Lawrence became the next Head of School. During his tenure, Mr. Lopdell-Lawrence worked with the Board of Trustees to establish a Strategic Plan for the School and expanded professional development for the faculty. Technology was significantly upgraded and a new website was created. A new After-School Program was implemented to support the needs of working parents, the Old Library was renovated in 2007, and the Segal Family Library collection was culled and enhanced. The School’s Wetlands habitat was restored, forming a wonderful outdoor classroom for all grades.
On July 1, 2010, Far Brook welcomed Amy M. Ziebarth as Far Brook’s new Head of School. Ms. Ziebarth’s background in independent education and executive leadership brings a distinctive perspective to this School of uncommon quality as it continues in its evolution. Her mission is to understand and retain the essence and core of our remarkable School and to nurture and strengthen it, in order to pass it on to the future generations who will continue the work of ensuring quality in Education.
Far Brook today continues to nurture each child’s curiosity and creativity and maintains our emphasis on community, on nature, and on the exposure it provides young people to great literary and artistic works.
– Adapted and updated from alumni parent Linda George’sBrief History, printed in Far Brook’s 50th Anniversary Program.
* Far Brook’s last Ninth Grade was the Class of 1982.
In the 2014-2015 school year, there are 243 students enrolled at Far Brook School, coming from 41 communities within a 30-mile radius of the school and representing a variety of economic, racial, and religious backgrounds. This ensures the intellectual diversity and artistic creativity so valued by the school community.
Our purpose is to create a supportive and caring community that cherishes love of learning, creativity, and individuality, and that provides teachers and students with both support and freedom to take risks in order to reach their full potential.
— from The Far Brook School Statement of Purpose
Far Brook is located on nine acres in Short Hills, New Jersey, approximately 20 miles west of New York City. The inviting, semi-wooded campus encompasses playing fields, playgrounds, and a wetland habitat. Red clapboard, light-filled buildings house classrooms which open directly to the outdoors, enabling the students to experience the natural world in all seasons and weather.
Far Brook School is a New Jersey non-profit corporation administered by a Board of Trustees consisting of 18 members. Trustees are elected for three-year terms on a rotating basis.
The Board focuses on three areas critical to the success of any independent school:
- It selects, supports, and evaluates the Head of School, to whom it delegates authority to manage the School.
- It develops broad institutional policies that guide the Head of School in running the School and fulfilling the mission of the School.
- It is accountable for the financial well-being of the School.
In the conduct of its official business, the Board acts only as a whole: individual trustees, including the Board President, have no authority to act unless specifically authorized to do so by the Board acting as a whole. Each Board member must consider all decisions from the perspective of the best interest of the School and vote as a Board member and not as parents or alumni.
The Board is comprised of standing and ad hoc committees and meets approximately every six weeks.
The Head of School is the sole employee of the School hired directly by the Board, with the responsibility to implement the School’s vision and mission. The Board leaves to the Head of School the operational decisions of the School and recognizes that the final authority for daily operations or court of appeal rests with the Head of School.
The Head of School oversees the School’s operations and the administration of Far Brook employees. Specific areas of responsibility include: finance, curriculum, general policy, alumni, school personnel, development, public relations, school counseling, admissions, and discipline. While the Head of School may delegate specific areas of responsibility, in the final analysis, the Head of School is accountable for carrying out established policy. The Head of School is an ex-officio member of the Board of Trustees.
The Annual Meeting of the Corporation is held in May, and all parents are invited to attend. Reports are given by the Head of School, the Treasurer, the Development Committee Chair, and the President of the Board. The election of members to the Board of Trustees takes place at the Annual Meeting. An art exhibit precedes the meeting.
Far Brook School Board of Trustees 2015-2016
Tony Stovall – Vice Chair
Robert Kelly – Treasurer
Michelle Swittenberg – Secretary
Amy Ziebarth – Head of School