Gradually enrollment increased as the 70’s drew to a close and many of IDS’s best loved traditions were established during this period. The Auction was instituted to benefit the Scholarship Fund in 1975. It proved an immediate success, raising approximately $25,000 by offering the innovative items still available today. The first Grandparent's Day was held in 1975 and the Science Fair became an annual event in 1977. All-day Kindergarten was first offered in 1979, the same year the first Summer Camp opened.
Students, under the direction of science teacher Helge Birk, cleared the Nature Trail in 1974 and built bridges along the school's back property to learn about regional flora and fauna. Sometimes the rural nature of the neighborhood imposed itself on IDS. On one occasion a bull got loose from a nearby pasture and charged into the playground filled with lower school children. Kids scrambled onto the monkey bars while Mr. Blackmer enlisted the aid of a student with farm experience who successfully held onto the bull until its owner came to claim it. Both received Certificate of Merit awards!
Walter Ebmeyer became headmaster in 1985
and oversaw the school's growth during the next ten years. A preschool was added in 1988 and increasing enrollment required most grades to be split into two homerooms. The campus facilities began to feel the strain. One modular building was brought in to accommodate the nursery school and another one housed music classes.
In the fall of 1990 the new Science & Arts Center (SAC)
provided two new classrooms, two art rooms, and two science classrooms and laboratories. IDS's enrollment reached an all-time high of 243 children in 1993. During Mr. Ebmeyer's tenure it became a tradition for each grade to perform a play or musical during the course of the school year. The After-School Program was instituted in 1985 and a full-time custodian was hired. Mr. Ebmeyer is probably best remembered by students, however, for his family pets. Buster, the errant Beagle, and Otto and Rosie, the lunch-grabbing Golden Retrievers, became beloved members of the IDS community.
In 1995, when Robert R. Coombs, Jr., became headmaster, he was struck by the contrast between the simplicity of the edifice and the powerful energy and character of the student body and faculty. He was impressed by the positive value placed on relationships within the school, the commitment of the faculty, and the basic, yet demanding curriculum. He set the goal of improving the financial stability of the school and its physical plant, and bringing faculty salaries more in line with its dynamic educational offerings. Mr. Coombs reorganized the administration to include full-time positions for directors of admission and development. An addition to the front of the school was completed in the fall of 1996, which provided IDS with a more attractive facade and several new administrative offices.
In 2001, as The Independent Day School celebrated its fortieth year, Robert Fricker joined the IDS community as the seventh Headmaster. In September of that year, the Early Childhood Wing was completed for opening day, greatly expanding the school’s square footage and offering spacious classrooms for Beginners through third grade. Bob Fricker emphasized the nurturing aspects of the IDS community and brought the Responsive Classroom program to the Lower School. Responsive Classroom provides a practical approach to creating a “safe, challenging, and joyful classroom” environment and enabling optimal student learning.
The academic year that began in September 2005 saw the addition of the Galluzzo Performing Arts Center, generously donated by parents Frank and Donna Galluzzo. The impressive building provided the school with a modern and elegant space for grade level plays and community gatherings, including Wednesday’s All-School Meetings. The lower level of the Center was finished with two band rooms, instrumental practice rooms, and a dance studio. The new Galluzzo Center made possible the establishment of The Middlesex Academy for the Performing Arts (MAPA), which opened its doors in 2005 for classes in dance, music, and theater to children beyond IDS from the neighboring communities. Programs are offered for all age groups after school, in the summer, and during school vacations.
In July, 2007, Dr. John Barrengos began as the school’s eighth Headmaster. Dr. Barrengos brought teaching, administrative, and private sector experience to IDS, which combined well to help IDS during his six-year tenure. During Barrengos’ service, teachers designed a multidisciplinary capstone 8th grade seminar and student assessment practices were strengthened. Barrengos began the Design Thinking curricula and helped to launch student-led programs, including a student government, a student newspaper, and the 50th Anniversary alumni research project.
In addition to stewarding the school’s 50th anniversary, Barrengos strengthened the fiscal condition of school during the national and local economic contraction. Prioritizing resources for teaching and financial aid permitted the school to sustain enrollment, extensively renovate school buildings, refinance the school’s debt, and substantially exceed budget targets which increased the school’s deferred maintenance and strategic reserves.
Dr. B was followed by the school’s first female head in 2013, Jessi Christiansen. Born in Germany, Ms. Christiansen moved to the United States when she was 13. Ms. Christiansen’s goal at IDS included promoting global citizenship and building and maintaining relationships within the strong IDS community.
In the summer of 2016, Marijke Kehrhahn, a former president of the Board of Trustees and former parent, assumed the position of Head of School. Marijke has been an educator for over 35, with experience teaching pre-school, elementary and middle school students as well as at the undergraduate and graduate level. Over the past ten years, Marijke has served as the Director of Teacher Education at the University of Connecticut and as Associate Dean of the Neag School of Education at UCONN, leading faculty and staff in the development and execution of nationally recognized programs in teacher education and collaborative development and implementation of the Neag School's strategic plan.
IDS has remained fundamentally the same for more than fifty years. The school is living up to its mission "to inspire a community of independent thinkers who are resilient and confident to take risks." Former headmasters, teachers, parents, students, and trustees comment that IDS "feels" the same today as it always has. The teachers are still dedicated and caring. There are still children in classrooms and in the halls thinking, laughing, exploring, and enjoying their education. The Independent Day School, one of the finest private pre-school, elementary school and middle school in Middlesex County, continues to be a delightful place to come to each day.