After a daunting first day, Doug Evans served as the head of the board of Grace Church School, working to separate the school from the church at first but eventually to help build the High School. In 2006, it became evident that Grace needed a place for the middle schoolers to go after graduation. There were fewer seats available in the ninth grade at the surrounding schools for our eighth graders. A crucial responsibility of a middle school is not only to properly equip their students for high school but also to help them reach their desired school. Mr. Evans and Mr. Davison, Head of School, saw an increasing number of students lacking options for their upcoming future; many were stuck with the choice of a public school or boarding school that they didn’t want to attend. Mr. Evans shared an additional need for the high school, “We recognized if [students were left with no desired option], it would really affect Junior Kindergarten admissions. What parent would want to start out at a school where their children would end up finishing at a place they did not want to go to?”
As the plan for extending Grace was set in motion, the execution was easier than expected. While it did take five years to build and to raise funds for the high school, Mr. Evans and Mr. Davison found the perfect location. An NYU adult education program became available as they decided to consolidate their locations. While great connections were able to help Mr. Evans find a nearby building that already had classrooms, they were unable to prevent the inevitable; Mr. Evans tells us, “Of course, as Grace Church School, we couldn’t do anything without doing it the Grace way. While [the building] was also made to be a school, we gutted the whole thing and rebuilt it into the beautiful school that it is now.” Time and hard work clearly paid off as he and I both agree Grace is one of the most spacious, beautiful schools in Manhattan.
Unfortunately, the start of the High School also meant it was time for Mr. Evans to step down from his position on the board. He has still been able to reflect on the community created on Cooper Square. He believes the High School keeps the values of tradition through its roots – with 25% of the student body coming from the middle school – while eager ninth-graders from other schools lighten up the community. He and his colleagues agree over the importance of vertical integration – continuity between Grace’s old school and new school.
While Mr. Evans and Mr. Davison were destined to have a great relationship evolve through their collaborated leadership, the tragic events of Mr. Evans’ first day as board chair accelerated their bond. He was quickly thrown to the test as his first day marked September 11th, 2001. Mr. Evans and Mr. Davison managed the chaos amongst the Grace community, but its members immediately showed their strength as they helped one another through this tragedy. Mr. Evans said, “The annual fund is a program where we try to raise money each year to supplement the money from tuition. The annual fund that was given by parents from the end of 2001 was the largest amount of money we ever saw. Everyone rallied together.”
In 2018, Mr. Evans rejoined our community. Since Mr. Davison has shared many wonderful dinners with the Evans’ from anywhere from a ski spot to Mr. Evans’ home in Maine, Mr. Davison encouraged him to become our new culinary arts teacher. With his hands-on style of teaching, the high schoolers have not only been able to learn to cook anything from meatballs to the perfect salad dressing, but they have also been able to have a relationship with a former administrator. Mr. Evans shares his gratitude to be apart of the Grace community again: “I missed it. It was also five years that I was out of it. When I was board chair, I was in the school four days a week for meetings, and I spoke to Mr. Davison at least twice a day. It’s a good feeling to be back.” While we never thought of Mr. Evans having left the Grace community, we sure are thankful for his return in the building, especially as he demonstrated the “cat’s claw” to prevent his students from cutting off the ends of their fingers.