Serving the Whole Student

From the very start we were determined to look at education differently – that includes our definition of success. So while the federal government, state government, school districts and individual schools focus on test scores and other measures of academic achievement, we focused instead on the only metric that matters: what kinds of people our school produces.

Our school will start with preschoolers. But our strategy started by envisioning our alums as 27-year-olds. At that age, we have a pretty good indication of what kind of people they’re going to be long-term. (In fact, brain science tells us the frontal lobe isn’t fully developed until the age of 27.)

And at that age we’ll conduct the final round of data-collecting in a longitudinal study that will track our students progress. So, what do we hope our 27-year-olds will be? Our goal is that at least 80 percent of them are …

  • Successful by their own definition
  • Physically and mentally healthy
  • Living lives of character and integrity
  • Financially independent
  • Established in a career

Once we determined the finish line, we set out creating research-based milemarkers – starting with 4-year-olds – that will ultimately create the intended outcomes and ultimately pull families out of generational poverty.

GDS’s Core Values:

  • Student-first, student-centered
  • Dream big; work hard
  • Ownership by everyone
  • Do the right thing

Building the Model

We recruited a group of nationally-recognized educators that would serve as our advisory board and help develop our long-term strategic plan, educational model, staff profiles, curriculum and admissions standards.

That plan has included…

  • More than three years and more than 10,000 hours of work
  • A national search for a founding principal, during which we interviewed more than 175 candidates from a pool of thousands
  • A year and a half of site selection and design work with one of the country’s top urban school architects

Who We’ll Serve

The Greater Dayton School will serve a cross-section of these poverty-impacted students in Montgomery County. Too many families in our community toil in poverty while wanting something better for their kids. Single moms. Working poor. Parents who struggle to adequately advocate for their children, or provide them with the full breadth of resources necessary to set them up for adult success.

This includes…

  • Students whose parents want – but can’t afford – a transformational whole-child educational experience for them.
  • Students whose families have been impacted by generational, not situational, poverty.
  • Students whose families are committed to supporting their development.
  • Students whose families are seeking a racially-diverse educational environment.
  • Students with special needs.

The Jigsaw Strategy

We knew we wanted the school to be 100-percent focused on 100 percent of the child. We also realized that “what’s best for kids” can mean a variety of things. What’s best academically? Socially? Emotionally? Physically? All, we decided, were equally important. On this point, we weren’t going to settle. So we began working on a whole-child approach to education we dubbed The Jigsaw Strategy.

Instead of setting our budget and decided what we could afford to provide our students – like nearly every school does – we reversed engineered our budget.

What do poverty-impacted and underserved kids need to reach the audacious adult goals we’ve set for them?

Academic interventions? For sure. Extended-day and extended-year programming? Ideally. Low student-to-teach ratios? You bet. Nutrition and fitness? Counseling? Healthcare? Vision? Dental? Family services to help stabilize the home environment? Alumni services to make sure they get to and through the right high schools and colleges for them?

To all that – and more – the answer was yes.

By the time we factored in all of these wraparound services across various iterations of a pro forma, we figured we’d have to spend $30,000 per student per year – about three times the average cost of educating a student in Ohio.

So that’s exactly what we pledge to do.

By the numbers …

  • Grades: PreK-8
  • Enrollment: 400, with the capability to grow to 600
  • Annual budget: $8-$10 million
  • Campus cost: $25 million


  • Fall 2022: Open with grades PreK-3
  • 2028: First graduating class
  • 2041: First alums reach age 27