As the Jefferson Community School continues to hash out a viable new model for its next school year, it has already settled on one significant transition.Rita Hemsley is retiring as head of the …
As the Jefferson Community School continues to hash out a viable new model for its next school year, it has already settled on one significant transition.
Rita Hemsley is retiring as head of the school, a position she has held since 2013, at the end of this school year. In turn, Craig Frick is stepping up from serving as assistant head of the school to assume the role of head.
“We are very lucky to have someone so well-qualified and so familiar with our program to step in as the new head of our school,” said Nat Jacob, JCS board president.
JCS is an independent secondary school founded in Port Townsend in 2005. Frick came to the school in 2014, after returning to his native Sequim in 2012 and subsequently serving as a schoolteacher and football coach elsewhere.
Frick currently teaches U.S. history, economics and public policy. He also has led some of the school’s international expeditions, guiding student groups, whose numbers ranged from six to 35, to locales as varied as Vietnam, Cuba and Costa Rica.
“I’m excited for the future, and for the possibilities at this school,” said Frick, who lives in Sequim with his wife, Celene. “As a teacher, I embrace the ideal of student-centered instruction. I’ve been excited to watch student after student take responsibility for their own learning and mature into leaders both in and out of the classroom.”
Frick and Jacob reiterated that JCS remains focused on individualized learning, with an experiential and expeditionary learning program.
“It will be my goal, as head of the school, to continue this ideal and build upon the strength of programming that sets JCS and its students apart, offering a real choice in quality education in the community,” Frick said.
As The Leader has previously reported, JCS is currently revamping its curriculum to reflect a significant decline in student enrollment.
The private school’s enrollment in its accredited program for grades 7-12 currently stands at 17 students, far fewer than the model of 33-37 students outlined by Jacob.
He described JCS’s declining enrollment as similar to those of local public schools, such as Port Townsend and Chimacum high schools.
JCS has put its 7,200-square-foot commercial property, located at 280 Quincy St., on the market.
The proposal came after JCS board treasurer Charley Kanieski estimated the sale of the building would provide $500,000 in equity. He said that proceeds from the sale of the historic building, which was built in 1870, would go toward a new educational model for JCS.
“The equity we’ve built up in the building will help finance the school’s future,” Jacob said. “In the meantime, it’s simply too big for the number of students we expect for the next few years.”
Jacob explained that JCS intends to expand its reach, not only by establishing bus service to Sequim, but also by partnering with the online curriculum provider eCampus.
“Students will have access to more than 120 accredited high school level courses and still receive the benefit of the structure, support and guidance of a JCS classroom and teacher,” Jacob said.
Jacob noted JCS has also expanded its financial aid program to 20 percent of its current students, “well beyond that offered by other Washington state independent schools,” and added the school “continues to explore new avenues for increasing access to exceptional low- to middle-income applicants.”