By Amy Wenk
There are new faces at Brandon Hall School this school year.
The Sandy Springs private school has a new headmaster, Dr. John Singleton, and, for the first year, is offering girls the opportunity to live on campus.
Brandon Hall School, Atlanta’s only day and boarding school, is tucked away on 27 acres along the Chattahoochee River in the Rivergate subdivision off Spalding Drive. The property once was the summer home of Morris Brandon, an attorney and politician.
Brandon Hall serves grades 5 through 12 and is enrolling about 90 students this fall, Singleton said. About half of the students live on campus.
“There’s such a vibrance this year,” said Jim Langendorfer, chairman of the school board, as he waited in line for food in the school’s dining hall during an Aug. 22 orientation.
You could feel the excitement that day as parents brought their kids to the school, some for the first time. School started Aug. 23.
“What an exciting year,” said Marietta resident Carol Ramsaur, who came to help her daughter Robyn settle in for her first year at Brandon Hall. Robyn, who formerly attended Walton High School, is one of three girls who will board at Brandon Hall this school year.
“I’m anxious, but exited anxious,” said 15-year-old Robyn Ramsaur. “I don’t know what to expect.”
Since the private school was established by Theodore Hecht in 1959, boarding only has been offered for boys.
“This is the start of something new,” Ken Michelsen, dean of students, said to Robyn and her dorm mate, 18-year-old Mary Fluker, during orientation.
The girls reside in the three-bedroom Cottage House, which has been newly decorated with brown leather couches and flower artwork on the walls. The space can accommodate eight girls in grades 7 through 12.
“It’s beautiful,” Fluker said, referring to her new home. Fluker, whose dad works in government in Saudi Arabia and mom lives in Turkey, has gone to schools all across Europe. This is her first year at Brandon Hall.
Yasmine Seyfi, director of women’s services, also is new to Brandon Hall. She lives in the ground-floor apartment of the Cottage House and will supervise the girls each day.
“I could not have asked for a more wonderful young lady to walk in the door,” said Singleton, who took over as headmaster in June after former headmaster Paul Stockhammer, 64 at the time, died of heart failure at the River House, located on the school’s campus.
Now Singleton and his sidekick, Shelby the standard poodle, occupy the headmaster’s office in the ivy-covered Brandon Hall, the circa-1930s administration building that is the focal point of the campus.
“It looks like a Shakespearean theater in here,” Singleton said. “It’s an absolutely beautiful facility.”
Singleton, who hails from Ashville, N.C., has been an educator for 25 years.
He earned bachelors and masters degrees in education from Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina. He has a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Phoenix.
Singleton said began teaching chemistry and physics before becoming a public school administrator. For the past 10 years, he has worked in private schools and helped set up two alternative schools in North Carolina for at-risk youth.
Singleton said he has extensive experience with learning differences. From 2006 to 2009, he served as executive director of Cedars Academy in Delaware, a school for children with Asperger Syndrome. Before coming to Brandon Hall, Singleton was the director of academics for the Stone Mountain School in North Carolina.
Singleton said it was the individualized attention that drew him to Brandon Hall.
“Every child that walks through the door has a personalized education,” Singleton said, noting the student to teacher ratio is 3 to 1. “We want our children to enjoy learning.”
John Boushell, an educator at Brandon Hall for 27 years, said no child falls through the cracks at the school.
“We approach each child,” Boushell said. “We know them … no one is going to get lost.”
Singleton said he thinks new technology will help boost enrollment. This school year, middle school students will use Apple iPads in the classroom.
“The number of apps is really going to help us meet educational needs,” Singleton said. He said one of “neatest” applications teaches kids about astronomy. “It’s almost like having your own telescope in your hands.”
Brandon Hall educators also stress international understanding. Each year, the students vote on a country to emphasize. This year, teachers will intertwine Spanish culture into the curriculum so its “almost woven like a tapestry,” Singleton said.
“We want our children to be in touch with the global world,” Singleton said. Students will journey to Spain on spring break.
Singleton said he hopes to continue to move the school forward.
“We want to be known in the Atlanta community,” he said.