from the Board of Trustees and Dr. Richard Marotta
To the Garden School Family,
As President of the Board of Trustees, I am writing to inform you that after nearly three decades of devoted and caring leadership, Dr. Richard Marotta, our Headmaster, has decided to retire at the end of next academic year: June 2020 (I’m sharing below Richard’s letter to the Board).
It is hard to imagine Garden without Dr. Marotta. For most of us, the two are inseparable; in many ways, they always will be. Richard’s contributions to Garden are present in every aspect, and every corner, of our school and its culture. In an era when education was becoming de-personalized and systematized, regressing to scores and “teaching to the test,” Richard has steadfastly sustained Garden’s commitment to independence, and the notion that education was not defined by memorization but rather by inquiry and curiosity. Where others moved to a one-way injection of information and repetition, Garden, under Richard, doubled-down on learning as a collaborative experience between teacher and pupil. And one that extended well beyond the classroom, with trips across the region and around the globe, offering Garden’s young minds hands on exposure to other cultures and ways of life, and in the process growing not only our children’s minds, but their confidence, agency, and awareness of themselves as citizens of the world and citizens of Garden. For indeed what is truly special about Garden and Richard is that he knows each and every child. Each of our children is unique and special, with their own unique qualities and abilities; to know how to motivate and educate them, one first has to know them. At Garden, Richard and the faculty and administration he leads, know each and every child. At Garden, no child gets lost.
Richard’s leadership has enabled Garden to maintain these core values while still growing and improving under his leadership. During his tenure, Garden has grown from a school that largely served the neighborhood to one that now welcomes students from across our city (and Long Island) and around the globe. You would be hard-pressed to find another K-12 school, public or private, more diverse and more integrated, than Garden. Further, he expanded and enhanced Garden’s pre-K programming, after-school enrichment, out of classroom learning (through the aforementioned travel programs), STEM curriculum, and even an enriched summer school. A member of the faculty who consistently taught a senior seminar, Richard collaboratively engaged the faculty in curriculum development and professional development. He maintained a commitment to athletics and the development of a culture of sportsmanship and teamwork that transcended the playing field and functional inclusion. And perhaps as the greatest measure of the purpose of the enterprise he has led, each year graduated 100% of the student body, who continue on at many of the country’s finest institutions of higher learning.
Thus it is with gratitude for his service that the Board of Trustees now embarks on the path to identify a suitable successor to Dr. Marotta. In doing so, the Board has established a Search Committee which is now in the process of interviewing executive search consultants that have experience in independent school searches. The Search Committee will include two parent trustees (Barbara Caraballo and Patricia Saxby) and two alumni (Emily Bienstock Belmonte ’04 and myself); as the process moves forward to the interview stage, the committee may be expanded beyond the board to include representation from the faculty, alumni, student and parent communities.
Garden’s future is bright. It is because of the commitment of all of you and all of us to come together as a community, and cultivate success in every child. And all that we have achieved could not have been possible without the indefatigable and devoted leadership of Richard Marotta. Over the coming year as his retirement approaches, we will have many opportunities to celebrate him and prepare appropriately. For now, I ask that you join me in thanking Richard for all that he has done and achieved for Garden, for us and for our children.
Michael Rakosi ’64
President of the Board of Trustees
Dear Michael and Members of the Garden School Family,
Over the past almost thirty years, I have written numerous letters to you and to the parent body of Garden School. Of all of those letters, this is the most difficult to write. I want to let you know that I will be retiring as Headmaster of Garden School on June 30, 2020, at the end of the next school year.
I make this announcement with a mixture of sadness and joy: sad because for almost three decades Garden School has been my home: joyful, because I know that it is time for me to ‘take it easy’ for a while and pass on the challenge and the pleasure of being Head of School to someone else. The years I have spent as Head of our school have been the most satisfying of my educational career. I have worked with so many wonderful students, parents, teachers, trustees and administrators. In many ways, it has been much more than a job; it was my calling.
When I first came to Garden on July 1, 1991, I thought that it was an interesting place, and that I would l stay for a few years and then move on to another school. Well, a mere 29 years later, I am moving on but not to another school. There was something about Garden that held me, not letting me leave as I had originally thought. Here was a mission that was close to my heart and my professional commitment: to offer independent school education to students in a borough where there were only two independent schools. This became my mission: to provide our students with the best possible education, both academic and environmental, that I could possibly do. I hadn’t gone to schools like Garden and to me there was something here that I had never experienced in schools: a blend of high level academic rigor and a warm and caring family atmosphere. As a student and an educator, I had never experienced this before. And I was determined to support that educational mission with everything I had.
The Board has embarked upon a search for Garden’s next Head of School. They have set up the process in line with the way other independent schools have done and will conclude it in a timely manner sometime next year. I will give the Board all of my support, advice and guidance throughout this process, which I have experienced in my role as a NYSAIS Head of School. Throughout the next school year, my goal will be the same as always: do everything possible to make the Garden School experience the best that it can be.
My son graduated from Garden School in 1996 and had a wonderful experience and has found success in his professional life; now my two granddaughters attend Garden and they, too are having an amazing experience at our school. My family, my commitment and my heart will always be with Garden.
Richard Marotta, Ph.D.