A Bit of Webb School History
Brian Fisher talks about The Webb Schools.
The Webb Schools began as a boys' school in 1922, during which time its only girl students were faculty children. Nearby Collegiate School provided excellent education for girls, but after it closed in 1980, the Webb School welcomed its first class of girls under the banner of the Vivian Webb School, headed by Alice Longley, an accomplished educator, widow of Webb's former head, Steven Longley.
Susan Nelson became the head of Vivan Webb School in 1989 and was named head of the Webb schools in 1990. Now one of the longest tenured school heads in the country, Ms. Nelson provided leadership for the plan that is Webb today: the “coordinate structure” - a program that brings together the environments, opportunities, and structures that are healthiest for boys and girls.
Webb's director of admissions, Leo Marshall, explains, "Under this particular structure The Webb Schools has thrived. Today, it is one of a select group of boarding schools that is fully enrolled and has enjoyed over the past five years unprecedented increases in applications and an enviable low attrition rate.”
From opening day, Webb provides its students with a co-educational campus and social environment. Students learn to work together, respect differences, negotiate and compromise.
9th and 10th grade girls and boys are given the space and support to grow safely. Boys and girls learn to respect differences; they work from their own perspectives and come together in negotiation and compromise on community matters. Occasionally, a younger Webb student- with advanced standing in a particular subject area- will find himself/herself in co-educational classes with older students; older Webb students know to extend a supportive hand.
As noted, each gender operates under its own student leadership structures though all four grades. Boys and girls each have their own honor committees and advisee programs. Webb's single gender chapel programs provide a safe venue for intra-gender dialog and parallel governance, allowing for greater leadership opportunities.
Each gender benefits from a safe environment from which to develop ideas and give voice to its perspectives. The faculty advisors of the Associated Student Body assist as needed.
What it Means
Alumni love the program; they consistently cite it as the best part of the school.
Webb works with boys and girls based on the understanding that each gender benefits from the best approaches to developmental places. Parallel opportunities and structures provide the boys and girls safe space and opportunities to learn, and to gain academic and social confidence. A Webb education fosters a strong belief in the abilities of young women. Twenty percent of Webb's female graduates attend women's colleges. Webb girls graduate with an awareness of their potential as women and with an appreciation for the benefits of a single gender environment.
The Webb School and Vivian Webb students grow and share a respect for differences as they learn alongside each other during early adolescence. Webb students come to understand how to embrace and honor the different ways that young men and women approach ideas and work through the world.
Webb boys and girls have separate graduation ceremonies. As with the single gender chapel programs, Webb boys and girls have their own space and rituals. Webb boys and girls attend the others' ceremony, showing support and understanding of their common bonds but also having the freedom to be themselves.
The ceremonies focus on young men and women at the culmination of the life-changing Webb experience. They are solemn but celebratory events through which the Webb community recognizes the accomplishments of their graduating young men and women.
Students and faculty speak in words of women to women; men to men; both together to the larger community. It is the ability to recognize, to understand, and to work from these perspectives that Webb graduates take into their life's endeavors.