History of Saint Ann’s School

Saint Ann’s School was founded in 1965 as St. Ann’s Episcopal School, under the auspices of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church on Clinton Street in Brooklyn Heights. Created amid a time of cultural and political ferment, the School began during a moment when traditional educational systems and structures were being challenged by a new generation of progressive educational reformers.

Among the most consequential decisions of the founders was to create a school serving students in Brooklyn Heights and surrounding neighborhoods whose educational philosophy would set it apart from the regimentation and bureaucracy that stultified education in many other institutions. To achieve this objective, the position of headmaster was offered to Stanley Bosworth, who shaped the School’s founding principles and set it on a trajectory of growth from a starting enrollment of sixty or so students in the church undercroft, to a school of 1,100 students and close to four hundred faculty and staff occupying six buildings in Brooklyn Heights. In 1981, Saint Ann’s School was granted a charter by the Regents of the Education Department of the University of the State of New York, and on May 1, 1982, the School formally disaffiliated from the Church.

The Crescent Athletic Club in 1906, newly completed.

The Crescent Athletic Club in 1906, newly completed.

Several distinctive attributes of our School were clear from the very first year. Saint Ann’s committed itself to a model of non-sectarian education that would rely on individual narrative reports about each student—rich with anecdotes and keen observation of each child’s education journey—rather than formal number or letter grades. This oriented teachers towards celebrating what each student was capable of accomplishing and away from rankings, competition, or comparing one student with another.

The School’s curriculum from its early days was broadly ambitious, ranging across history, English, classical and modern languages, science, and mathematics. The School embraced a vision of the arts—theater, art, music, and recreational arts (as a reimagining of traditional physical education approaches)—as co-curricular, existing amidst and enriching the School’s academic program.

A deliberately informal culture was established alongside the School’s rigorous curriculum and has been maintained even as the turbulent ‘60s and ‘70s gave way to decades sometimes marked more by conservatism and conformity. Teachers and students were often on a first-name basis, and in place of rigid rules and systems of discipline, more creative and individualistic approaches were deployed. The history of the School and the memories of its three thousand graduates and long-serving teachers and staff are replete with stories that illustrate how central an atmosphere of creative chaos was to the Saint Ann’s experience. By the early 1970s, as the School’s first graduates began applying to colleges and universities, Saint Ann’s demonstrated that its students—with no grades on their transcript, no prizes or awards—could gain admission to the nation’s most selective colleges and universities.

As Saint Ann’s grew in size and renown, a preference for being “systematically asystematic” persisted. As the School moved into the current century, these commitments shaped but did not prevent the development of the necessary complexity and expertise outside the classroom to support the work of teaching and learning and manage the affairs of what is now among the largest independent schools in New York City.

Stanley Bosworth’s tenure lasted a remarkable thirty-nine years. In 2004, he was succeeded by Dr. Larry Weiss, who was succeeded in 2010 by Vincent Tompkins. In October 2022, the School announced that Kenyatte Reid would become its fourth Head of School.

There is much to celebrate in the history of our School, and much work to be done as we look toward its future. But each day, the School opens its doors believing that its best days lie ahead.