Riverdale Country School

Riverdale Country School is a co-educational, independent, college-preparatory day school in New York City serving pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade. It is located on two campuses covering more than 27.5 acres (111,000 m2) in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, New York, United States. Started as a school for boys, Riverdale Country School became fully coeducational in 1972. It currently serves 1,140 students.

Riverdale Country School
5250 Fieldston Road (Hill Campus)
1 Spaulding Lane (River Campus)

New York

United States
Coordinates40°53′59″N 73°54′03″W / 40.89968°N 73.900863°W / 40.89968; -73.900863
TypePrivate, Day, College-prep
MottoMind, Character, Community
FounderFrank S. Hackett
Head of schoolKari Ostrem
GradesPreK–5 at the River Campus
6–12 at the Hill Campus
CampusSuburban, 27.5 acres (111,289 m2)
Color(s)Maroon   and Grey  
Athletics conferenceIvy Prep
AccreditationNew York State Association of Independent Schools
NewspaperThe Riverdale Review
YearbookThe Riverdalian

History edit

Hackett Hall on the Hill Campus of Riverdale Country School

Founded in 1907 by Frank Sutliff Hackett and his first wife, Francis Dean (Allen) Hackett, Riverdale Country School is one of the oldest country day schools in the United States. Originally known as the Riverdale School for Boys, it began with 12 students and four teachers and promised scholarly, intimate teaching amid abundant recreational space.[1] Describing his school as "an American experiment in education," Hackett later told The New York Times: "We have tried to transform schools from mere nurseries of the brain into a means of nourishing the whole boy—mind, body, and spirit."[2]

An early advocate of outdoor experiences for young people, Hackett started a summer camp known as Camp Riverdale at Long Lake in the Adirondacks to provide summer recreation for his students.[3] By 1920, Hackett had acquired three acres on Fieldston Road for the school and built a classroom building and dormitory. The 100-room dormitory, designed by McKim, Mead, and White,[4] later became known as Hackett Hall. In 1924, he started the Neighborhood School for boys and girls from grades one to three, and in 1933, the Riverdale Girls School. By World War II, the school attracted both day students and boarders; one student in six or seven came from another country.[5]

Hackett dreamed of expanding the school into an "American World School" and acquired a new site in Riverdale.[6] In 1948, Dwight Eisenhower, then president of Columbia University, spoke at a dedication ceremony at the site.[7] Hackett died before his dream was realized, and the property was sold. In 1972, the Boys and Girls Schools were combined.[2] In 1985, the Middle and Upper Schools were consolidated on the Hill Campus and the Lower School moved to the River Campus. Hackett was an organizer of the Guild of Independent Schools of New York City, and an organizer and president of the Adirondack Mountain Club.[8]

President John F. Kennedy attended the school from 1927 to 1930 when his family lived in Riverdale. During the 1960 presidential campaign, Kennedy made an appearance in the Bronx. "I said up the street that I was a former resident of the Bronx," he said. "Nobody believes that, but it is true. No other candidate for the presidency can make that statement."[9]

In the media edit

Past decades have seen media coverage of Riverdale's racist rhetoric in the 1960s and heavy ideological slant around 2020.

In 2018, Riverdale was in the news[10] for cancelling an Israel-Palestine seminar,[11] purportedly forcing out a teacher who had taught at the school for over 25 years, even though parents stated that he welcomed debate.[12] In a Huffington Post article, titled "How An Elite New York City Prep School Created A Safe Space For Angry Zionists," board members Tal Keinan, Dan Rosen, Seth Berger, and David Westin were reported to have used their status as donors and board members to organize meetings with the Headmaster and pressure him to fire another teacher.[13] The article notes,

"By HuffPost’s calculations, the parents who received the May 30 email had donated upward of $500,000 to Riverdale in the 2016–17 fiscal year alone. (The 2017–18 report has not yet been released.) Because the school lists only funding ranges for donations in its annual report, it is possible the total is far greater. Specifically, an individual or couple is listed as having given anywhere between $10,000 and $24,999, $25,000 to $49,999, over $50,000 and so on — meaning one year’s worth of their donations could easily have surpassed seven figures."[13]

In 2022, media reported that Richard Blumenthal, a senator from Connecticut, had helped establish Riverdale Country School's “Slave Day” when he was president of the student council in 1962. The students performed menial tasks to fund a scholarship for “an especially deserving” foreign student to attend Riverdale. The name of the initiative was soon changed to "Freedom Work Day," and the money given to the NAACP.[14]

Riverdale also attracted attention in 2021, for allegedly teaching students to monitor each other in order to determine if they were practicing "allyship" sufficiently, which meant that those rejecting woke ideology would be reported to school administrators.[15] The practice, introduced as a replacement for the Pledge of Allegiance, caused Bion Bartning to withdraw his children from the school, protesting "a kind of religion taking hold in American education that forces people into categories according to their race."[16] Groups of parents had been protesting the school's practice of "leftist indoctrination" in 2019.[17]

Campuses edit

Mow Hall on the Hill Campus of Riverdale Country School
The Upper Learning Building, completed in 2016, on the River Campus of Riverdale Country School

Covering 19.5 acres (79,000 m2), the Hill Campus is located on Fieldston Road, overlooking Van Cortlandt Park. It is home to the Middle School (6th to 8th) and the Upper School (9th to 12th).

The River Campus (Pre-K to 5th) sits on 8 acres (32,000 m2) along the Hudson River. The buildings on the River Campus are the Early Learning Building (Pre-K through second grade classrooms and the gymnasium), the Senior Building (classrooms for drawing, painting, and sculpture), the Admissions/Junior building (includes the Lower School head's office, the Learning Commons, and Admissions, and the Upper Learning Building. The land for the River Campus was given to Riverdale by the family of George Walbridge Perkins.[18]

Academics edit

In addition to college-preparatory courses in math, science, and humanities, Riverdale offers "maker" programs that combine science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics, as well as courses in robotics and coding. Latin, Greek, French, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese also are offered. Interdisciplinary courses in the Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools encourage students to draw connections across disciplines. Integrated Liberal Studies is required of seniors and concentrates on virtue, the self, social justice, and the environment. Independent projects are also considered.

Riverdale is chartered by the New York State Board of Regents and is accredited by the New York State Association of Independent Schools.[19]

Athletics edit

Riverdale's Girls' Varsity Crew Team

As of 2017, Riverdale has a total of 31 varsity interscholastic sports teams, many of which also have junior varsity counterparts except for Cross Country, Crew, Golf, Track and Field, Squash and Swimming. In the Spring of 2013, crew was introduced as a varsity sport for boys and girls, while wrestling was officially cut from the list of sports.[20]

Awards edit

In 2014, Riverdale was awarded the National Athletic Trainers' Association Safe School Award[21] and was declared a National Youth Sports Health & Safety Institute "Best Practices Partner." In 2016, Riverdale was awarded the New York Athletic Training Association's Joseph Abraham Award, which is an award given annually to high schools that provide outstanding athletic injury care to their student athletes.[22]

Student life edit

Jones Lawn on the Hill Campus

Arts and activities edit

Upper School students produce one musical and one play each year in the Jeslo Harris theatre.[23] Riverdale students may participate in the jazz and concert bands, orchestra, chamber music ensembles, chorus, dance team, and the a cappella singing groups, the Rivertones and Testostertones. More than 40 student-led clubs, organizations, and service-learning partnerships are offered.

Student publications edit

The Riverdale Review is Riverdale's student-run paper.[24] Impressions has published the visual art and creative writing of students in the Upper School for almost 30 years.[25] Crossroads is Riverdale’s Middle School Literary and Art Magazine.[26] The Falcon Times is the newsletter of the Middle School.[27] Riverdale's faculty and student body also maintain an online non-fiction literary magazine called The Riverdale Reader.[28]

Notable alumni edit

See List of Riverdale Country School alumni

Notable staff edit

Nathan M. Pusey, president of Harvard University, (1953–1971) taught at Riverdale Country School[29] as did Victor L. Butterfield, president of Wesleyan University (1943–1967).[30]

Associations edit

Riverdale is a member of the Ivy Preparatory School League and the New York State Association of Independent Schools.[31]

Riverdale Country School, The Fieldston School, and Horace Mann School together are known as the "Hill Schools," as all three are located within two miles (3 km) of each other in the neighborhood of Riverdale on a hilly area above Van Cortlandt Park.

References edit

  1. ^ "Hackett Park Highlights : NYC Parks".
  2. ^ a b Hanley, Robert. "New Headmaster to Take Over At Riverdale as It Turns Coed", The New York Times, February 3, 1972. Accessed May 8, 2017. "The exclusive school in the Bronx is becoming fully coeducational after 37 years of maintaining separate campuses for boys and girls."
  3. ^ "Camp Riverdale records - Camp Riverdale".
  4. ^ "Riverdale Country School, Hackett Hall - Projects - Beyer Blinder Belle". November 10, 2016.
  5. ^ Quickened Spirit: A Biography of Frank S. Hackett," by Allen Hackett; the Riverdale Country School, 1957
  6. ^ "Riverdale's World School Plans," by Murray Illson; The New York Times, April 27, 1947
  7. ^ "Eisenhower Calls Schools Peace Key: Says At Riverdale Dedication Education Can Defeat Men Seeking Personal Power," The New York Times, October 17, 1948
  8. ^ Dr. Frank Hackett obituary, The New York Times, February 7, 1952
  9. ^ "New York Today: J.F.K. in the Bronx". New York Times. November 20, 2013.
  10. ^ "Bronx teachers lose jobs for sharing anti-Israel views with students". July 7, 2018. Retrieved October 9, 2023.
  11. ^ "Riverdale alumni express outrage after elite NYC school cancels Israeli-Palestinian conflict class following parent pressure". Mondoweiss. July 17, 2018. Retrieved October 9, 2023.
  12. ^ "Riverdale Teacher Quits As Israel Fight Deepens". The Forward. July 16, 2018. Retrieved October 9, 2023.
  13. ^ a b "How An Elite New York City Prep School Created A Safe Space For Angry Zionists". HuffPost. August 21, 2018. Retrieved October 9, 2023.
  14. ^ Morris, Kyle (October 20, 2022). "Senate Dem part of high school group that held 'Slave Day,' used racial slur repeatedly in college writing". Fox News.
  15. ^ Dreher, Rod. "Racist Riverdale". The American Conservative. Retrieved October 1, 2023.
  16. ^ Pavia, Will (April 28, 2021). "Woke wars at New York's elite schools (fees $50,000)". The Times. Archived from the original on May 4, 2021. Retrieved February 13, 2023.
  17. ^ Silverman, Robert (February 28, 2019). "How An Elite New York City Prep School Created A Safe Space For Angry Zionists". The Huffington Post.
  18. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on March 22, 2016. Retrieved November 9, 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  19. ^ "Riverdale Country School". February 6, 2005. Archived from the original on February 6, 2005. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
  20. ^ "Riverdale Country School: Upper School Teams". www.riverdale.edu. Retrieved July 15, 2017.
  21. ^ "Safe Sports Award Recipients". NATA. Retrieved July 16, 2017. [dead link]
  22. ^ "NYSATA – JOSEPH ABRAHAM AWARD". gonysata2.org. Retrieved July 16, 2017. [dead link]
  23. ^ "Playbill for The Pajama Game". Retrieved October 1, 2023.
  24. ^ Riverdale Country School ~ Riverdale Review
  25. ^ Riverdale Country School ~ Impressions
  26. ^ Riverdale Country School ~ Crossroads
  27. ^ Riverdale Country School ~ Falcon Times
  28. ^ "The Riverdale Reader". Retrieved July 16, 2017.
  29. ^ "Nathan Pusey, Harvard President Through Growth and Turmoil Alike, Dies at 94". The New York Times. November 15, 2001. Retrieved November 1, 2016.
  30. ^ "Victor L. Butterfield, Office of the President - Wesleyan University". wesleyan.edu. Retrieved November 1, 2016.
  31. ^ "New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS): Riverdale Country School". nysais.org. Retrieved November 1, 2016.

External links edit