Meet Our Head of School


Welcome to the Ethical Culture Fieldston School. Whether you visit us online or in person, I hope you will discover the essence of who we are - a progressive learning community that aspires to educate the mind and the heart in ways that transform individuals and the world.

If you do so, I am sure that you will be as inspired as I am by this institution - its mission, values, quality, and, above all, its students and faculty.

Since our founding in 1878 we have approached learning through doing, providing broad and deep hands-on experiences in and outside the classroom for students of all walks of life. In accordance with the principles of our founder, Dr. Felix Adler, we are committed to experiential pedagogy (what he called "the creative method") in tandem with ethical education from the earliest years of schooling. We strive to bring out the best in all our students so that they can bring out the best in those around them.

Dr. Adler envisioned ECFS as a school for "good citizenship." He said: "We wish to send out men and women who will glory in their citizenship and be an honor to the city and the nation. We wish to make our students servants of humanity." Such a commitment entails empowering our students and developing in them a can-do spirit. In 1998 a senior, Matt Spigelman, wrote an essay for an English course in which he argued in most compelling terms that AP (Advanced Placement) classes were in conflict with our values. Based on his essay, the faculty and administration engaged in a yearlong process of inquiry and discussion that resulted in the abolition of AP courses - a decision that has placed us at the vanguard of progressive schools. Because we take students seriously, they know they can make profound changes in the school and beyond. 

Speaking at Founder's Day, Sam Braverman, a 2011 graduate, summed up the biggest lesson he learned during his years at ECFS with two words "Be profound." Indeed we are as idealistic as we are rigorous, but we take playing seriously. We have fun. We enjoy exploring, and we celebrate our adventures together. Perhaps this is why generations have come to love ECFS. In 1891 a journalist reporting on his visit to the school wrote: "Eureka! I found it at last! A school where children actually like to go." His words ring true today. 

The bonds that our alumni establish with each other and with the school are evidence of the enduring power of our education. The admirable successes of our graduates in a wide range of fields - from the arts to the sciences, from business to public service—and their contributions to society attest to the promise of ECFS realized, embodied. 

We embrace our roots as we branch out. We are enhancing progressive education to meet the demands of the twenty-first century - through technology, multicultural and critical perspectives, interdisciplinary opportunities, and meaningful engagement with the world. As a community of hope, we look to the future with optimism as we continue to educate younger generations with the progressive excellence that is our passion and our reason for being.

Damian J. Fernandez, Ph.D.
Head of School