Redefining Academic Success
At the beginning of the 2019-20 school year, I learned I was in the running to become the founding principal of a groundbreaking project – a chance to truly reimagine education, with the resources to match the vision.
On a fall Friday afternoon the organizers of the school wanted me to take part in a video interview early the next morning. I did them one better, driving five and a half hours late into the night to meet them in-person the morning of the scheduled meeting.
As Sheryl Sandberg once said, “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.”
More than three years later, I still feel like I’m on a rocket ship. And the mission is as inspirational and aspirational as ever.
Ask yourself, as I have, what would a school and an education system look like if you pictured an ideal student as an adult and worked backwards? What would that student be doing at age 10, in 5th grade? How about age 4? In PreK? What subjects would the student learn? How would the student learn those subjects?
Those are the questions we set out to answer when building The Greater Dayton School. We convened a distinguished group of teachers and educators to develop a school concept focused on developing the whole child. During strategic planning, we were not beholden to state testing or the layers upon layers of regulation and reform that many schools and districts are forced to operate under. Rather, we were free to develop the ideal school, where children could learn and grow to their full potential.
The Greater Dayton School is nothing less than an educational revolution. We are Ohio’s first private PreK-8th grade school, exclusively for students from under-resourced backgrounds. This is a place where student-first and student-centered is not empty rhetoric, it is what we live by, and we are dedicating the time and resources to back up that promise.
We’ve created a learning environment where kids can dream big and work hard. We offer more than the resources and support programs of a high-end private or public school with the cultural focus of serving kids impacted by poverty and income inequality.
Ohio spends $12,500 annually per student, and we are nearly tripling that figure, providing a $30,000 scholarship for every child! Over the 10 years students spend at The Greater Dayton School, we will have invested $300,000 per kid! Our students learn a world-class curriculum in a state-of-the-art setting. Class sizes are capped at 20; our teachers are top-notch, providing tailored instruction to each and every student; and we provide on-site wraparound services so kids can visit the dentist, doctor and optometrist during breaks in the school day.
All of this – and more – encompasses the vision for The Greater Dayton School.
Countless hours of work have made GDS a reality. Crazy, ambitious, impossible-goal-setting work. If you share our vision, passion and commitment, we hope you stay connected with us.
Adam J. Stich (A.J.) is the founding principal of The Greater Dayton School. Prior to starting in this role, he spent nearly seven years as a principal in Chicago Public Schools, where he drove strong outcomes for students and teachers. Under A.J.’s leadership, Rufus M. Hitch Elementary achieved the district’s highest school quality rating for five consecutive years (2014-19).
A.J.’s educational career began in college when he took a tutoring job during a summer trip to Seoul, Korea. Since then, his experiences as a teacher and administrator have spanned across several countries and states. He’s a Teach for America alum and also taught at KIPP Charlotte – a start-up charter school – before earning a master’s degree in school leadership from Harvard. While serving as principal, he was awarded a Fellowship with Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Business. He also served as a member of the Chicago Public Schools principal hiring assessment committee for four years. In his final year with Chicago Public Schools, he was awarded Independent School Status, a highly regarded program for top-performing principals to receive school-level curriculum and metric autonomy. In 2022 The Dayton Business Journal recognized A.J. as a Forty Under 40 recipient, an award honoring the region’s best and brightest young professionals.
Ultimately, A.J. is motivated by the opportunity to impact kids and change the trajectory of their academic careers. He believes his leadership should be grounded in decency, humility, and high standards, and he strives to achieve this when serving his students, school and community.
AJ and his wife Kendra (also a TFA alum) have three kids and a rescue dog. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with family, running, reading, and cheering on the Green Bay Packers.