Woodstock Day School Welcomes New Head of School

The Woodstock Day School is excited to welcome progressive educator David Penberg, PhD as our new Head of School.

David Penberg’s new position as the Head of Woodstock Day School represents a kind of homecoming. “My love affair with the Catskills began when I was a student at Bard,” he says. After graduating in 1977, he taught English as a Second Language in Bogota, Colombia, beginning a remarkable journey that has taken him to schools in Mexico City, Hoboken, New York City, Barcelona, and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

While he’s been an urban educator most of his thirty-four year career, David says he’s kept a deep connection to the pastoral aspect of New York State, running Environmental Science Academies with Bank Street College at Bard (1989-97) and spending most weekends in a renovated 1867 hay barn in the Delaware River Valley. He is thrilled to put down roots at Woodstock Day School, and to begin the process of growing WDS into a beacon of environmental and artistic education in the region. He sees the school’s beautiful, over 40-acre campus evolving into an ecological and cultural lab for creativity and environmental stewardship for children from Nursery School to 12th grade – a vision keeping with the school’s 45-year focus on end-to-end learning.

“The Hudson Valley is culturally, historically and artistically a bouquet of summer wild flowers,” he says. “Besides all the shades of green, there’s a palpable ethos at the Day School of making people feel at home, where they can be themselves, where their individuality is honored, and education is genuinely personalized. There’s a very high emotional IQ at WDS and therefore, creativity. I want to preserve and grow that. It’s an extraordinary life opportunity.”

David has extensive experience coming into established organizations and building on what already exists. He says, “When you come in as a new head, it’s so important to respect what’s there, to find out, take the time to understand the underpinnings of what keeps a community together, it’s history and historians, while at the same time seeing where there might be fissures or openings or needs. But always with great sensitivity. I am a practitioner of mindful leadership, which means helping slow down time for others. I see myself as a guardian of time to think and be more reflective and of a culture that supports learning by not rushing into it.”

With faculty and students, David plans to raise the WDS profile as progenitor and leader in progressive education for the Hudson Valley. One idea afloat is to convene a selection of community learning partners from local independent public schools and community based organizations for a one-day summit on collaborating more effectively. The other is to leverage the literary and media arts programs into launching WDS Radio, a public radio program specializing in radio journalism for middle and high school students.

Of late, David says he’s rediscovered Happy and Artie Traum and Music from Big Pink. He is feeling very much at home.

Find out more about David and read his essays here.