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Appleby comes out of retirement to lead Grace Academy

September 15, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - After more than 30 years in Pennsylvania's Greencastle-Antrim School District, Jack Appleby has brought new ideas and a lot of energy to Grace Academy in Hagerstown.

Appleby, 57, is now headmaster of the private Christian school, replacing Lynn Wakefield, who resigned earlier this year.

Grace Academy enrolls about 355 students in prekindergarten through 12th grade.

Appleby retired last year as high school principal and director of secondary education for the Greencastle-Antrim School District after 34 years. He served one of those years as superintendent.

But after less than one year of retirement, and even with an active consulting business and blacksmithing hobby, Appleby said he was bored and wanted to return to education.

He spends only three days each week at Grace Academy, largely because of the leadership team he has put in place there. That team includes high school Principal Brian Kelley and Instructional Specialist Nikki Bowers, who said Appleby has brought new ideas and energy to the school.

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Appleby's selection as headmaster also marks the first time an educator was selected for the position. He said that typically a minister is chosen.

"By bringing me in, I'm building a team that can deal with spiritual aspects and educational aspects," Appleby said.

He said his goal is to graduate students with a strong sense of faith, who are able to "hold their own" and be leaders. In order to do that, Appleby said he's "retooling the factory" at Grace Academy, creating an emphasis on more purposeful teaching.

Appleby said Grace Academy is small enough that teachers can give students more individual attention.

Bowers said the student-teacher ratio at the school is about 17-to-1.

By changing some scheduling at the school, Appleby said he created more freedom within the semester, and students will be doing internships. There also is a new service program for Grace Academy juniors and lessons on career development for older students.

Kelley said a new emphasis on technology, fueled by the addition of two sets of laptop computers, has been infused into the school's curriculum.

Students are using the new laptops for many subjects, including writing. Bowers said a computer program is used to give students immediate feedback on their written assignments.

Appleby also has assigned a book to the entire school, including staff. They are reading, "Handoff: The Only Way to Win the Race of Life" by Jeff Myers. The book uses the image of passing a baton in racing as a metaphor for passing the baton to the next generation -- the students.

Appleby said that at the end of the school year, each teacher will hand a yellow baton to a student or a group as a symbol that the baton is being passed.

"It's about what we are passing on," he said.

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