The Ethical Culture Fieldston School offers a world-class progressive education in Pre-K–12th Grade at two historic campuses in Manhattan and the Bronx. The core of our educational program is the study and practice of ethics, which prepares and compels us to take care of our world, ourselves, and each other.
At ECFS, we don’t teach students what to think, what to question, or what to explore — but how to think, how to question, and how to explore. Our tenets of progressive education focus on the whole child, ensuring that education is responsive, relevant, experiential, and playful, among other traits. Click here to read more about the core tenets that guide every aspect of our curriculum.
With an enduring commitment to excellence, equity, and inclusion, we inspire a diverse and joyful community of passionate learners, critical thinkers, and ethical individuals who aim to make the world more humane and just.
The Ethical Culture Fieldston School was founded by the humanitarian leader Felix Adler in 1878 to ensure that all children would have access to a quality education. Then known as the Workingman's School, it emphasized moral education, psychological development, and integration of the creative and manual arts with academics — key components of what we now know as progressive education.
In 1895, the Workingman’s School became the Ethical Culture School and its management passed to the governing board of the Ethical Culture Society. In 1899, the School established a secondary school.
In 1904, the Ethical Culture School constructed a new building at 33 Central Park West, which currently houses the Ethical Culture division, one of our two lower schools. By the mid-1920s, the School had outgrown its quarters and sought to expand its vision for both primary and secondary education. In 1928, the School opened a beautiful wooded campus in the Bronx. A second lower school, Fieldston Lower, followed on the Bronx campus in 1932.
In 1995, the New York Society for Ethical Culture voted to set up the School as its own legal entity with a self-governing board of trustees.
In 2007, we opened Fieldston Middle, also on the Bronx campus.
Our current Head of School, Jessica Bagby, began her tenure in the summer of 2016. Click here to read a welcome note from Jessica.
Felix Adler’s educational vision is as important today as it was when the Ethical Culture Fieldston School was founded in 1878. To continue to realize that vision, we embrace the following ideals:
Ethical learning The exploration of what it means to be an ethical and responsible member of society forms the core of our curriculum and our school community. We value inclusion as well as economic and racial diversity. We honor all of our students for their unique contributions, cultural backgrounds, and beliefs. As we consider service to be critical to the development of character, we incorporate community service into our students' school experiences from the earliest grades.
Academic excellence Our School achieves academic excellence by challenging students to reach their highest potential in body, mind, and spirit through the humanities, the sciences, the arts, and physical education. Students become active learners and engage in vital discourse in an atmosphere of intellectual discipline and creativity fostered by a community of dedicated teachers.
Progressive education Through a curriculum rooted in our tenets of progressive education, students become independent thinkers as they learn that asking their own questions and seeking their own answers are key to the deepest kind of understanding. Cooperative, student-centered, discussion-based learning and the freedom to make mistakes are part of our students’ everyday lives.
ECFS is a community in partnership — we aspire to transparency and collaboration in all that we do. The Administrative Council is a group that leads the conversation about our priorities and helps guide the steps we take as a school.
Jessica L. Bagby, Head of School Jon Alschuler, Interim Principal, Fieldston Middle Erin Bernstein, Director of Finance/Chief Financial Officer Lauren Coulston, Director of Communications Rob Cousins, Principal, Ethical Culture Jeannie Crowley, Director of Technology Liz Fernández, Assistant Head of School for Ethical Education & Social Impact Charles Guerrero ’89, Director of Enrollment Management Tony Marro, Interim Principal, Fieldston Upper Russell Marsh, Director of Community and Inclusion Joe McCauley, Principal, Fieldston Lower Gus Ornstein ’94, Director of Athletics Sarah Wendt, Chief Philanthropy Officer Kyle Wilkie-Glass, Associate Head of School
Our Trustees play a shared role in leading the School, focusing on governance while the Head of School oversees management. Their primary responsibilities are to set policy, monitor the functions of the School, and collaborate with the Head of School to steward the financial health of the School, ensuring that the necessary resources are in place to further our mission and achieve strategic priorities.
Among the Trustees are alumni, parents, faculty, leaders of the New York Society for Ethical Culture, and Honorary Trustees who act in the undivided interest of the School to carry out our mission with integrity, diversity, equity, and inclusion, both today and into the future.
Jessica L. Bagby, Ex-officio Susan Sarnoff Bram ’81 Margot Bridger Eunu Chun Anand Desai Akin Dorsett ’88 Andrew Holm ’01, Treasurer Tal Kaissar Nick Kaplan ’88 Jesse Klausz Rob Lewin Vivian Lin Meghan Mackay, Vice-Chair Seth Meisel Dhari Noel Kathleen O’Connell Stan Parker Jon Roure Jonathan M. Rozoff Bree Sheahan Liz Singer, Society President Kimberly Smith Spacek ’91, Board Chair Emily Tisch Sussman ’00 Krishna Veeraraghavan, Vice-Chair Rielly Vlassis Josh Vlasto ’00 Stephanie Wagner Jeff Walker, Secretary
Caryn Seidman Becker Laura Jacobs Blankfein ’71 Charles Debrovner Samuel C. Florman ’42 Nina P. Freedman ’73 James A. Gara ’72 Ken Glassman G. Angela Flemister Henry ’75 Anne Klaeysen Marti Meyerson Sara E. Nathan ’71 Robert A. Pruzan ’81 Paul Schnell ’72 Tracy Chutorian Semler ’82 S. Donald Sussman Judith Dreitzer Wallach ’49