History of Sheridan
The Sheridan Story
When Mrs. Cook retired in 1952, she sold her school to Rhoda (Mrs. Wesley R.) Koster, teacher in the kindergarten who became the Headmistress and changed the name to Sheridan School for its location within sight of Sheridan Circle. Mrs. Koster continued to operate the School in Mrs. Cook’s house on Massachusetts Avenue, N.W. with many of the same teachers and growing number of second-generation students. During the 12 years she served as Headmistress, Mrs. Koster also remained one of the kindergarten teachers, but by 1960 she found it increasingly difficult to manage the School by herself. She turned to group of parents for help, and in April of 1961 the School was incorporated as non-profit organization with Board of Trustees. Eight months later new building and fire codes required the Trustees to make decision about Sheridan’s future: stay in the old building and make costly renovations or move.
Sheridan School opened in the fall of 1962 in temporary quarters at .Temple Sinai, at 3100 Military Road, N.W., while plans continued and money could be raised for new, permanent building. host of familiar teachers had moved with the School, and they helped to clear items out of the building every Friday afternoon to prepare for the Temple’s Sunday School. Despite the difficulties of sharing rented facility with another organization, the School moved ahead with its planned program of expansion by adding 5th grade in 1962-63 and 6th grade the following year. Meanwhile, the search for permanent home continued.
While number of other schools had moved out of the city, the Board of Trustees considered it vital that Sheridan remain in the District. They met almost weekly during that winter and visited countless properties throughout Northwest Washington before finding and purchasing from Sheridan parent and Board Member Katherine Gunion in May of 1963, the School’s current site at 4400 36th Street, N.W. Construction started on the new school building in November of that year, and was completed in time for a delayed opening, in late October, of the 1964-65 academic year with Admiral Parke Brady, Chairman of the Board, serving as Headmaster. The following year, John Archibald took over as Headmaster, and as Sheridan settled into its new campus, the School continued to grow, adding 7th and 8th grades by 1966, and increasing enrollment to more than 200 students.
In 1967 Solon J. Candage became Sheridan’s fifth Headmaster, position he held for 20 years. Four years after his arrival, an outdoor program of weekend camping and backpacking trips for 6th, 7th and 8th graders had become so popular that the private campground the School had been allowed to use was no longer adequate. Mr. Candage was instrumental in helping the School acquire its own 130 acre wilderness tract, bordering the Shenandoah National Park near Luray, Virginia, in 1971. The Solon J. Candage Outdoor Education Center, known simply as the Sheridan Mountain Campus, is an outdoor residential facility that promotes learning, cooperation, responsibility and environmental awareness. While it continues to be an integral part of the Sheridan curriculum by supplementing city campus classroom studies through hands-on activities and adventure challenges, the Mountain Campus is also used by over 35 other independent schools in the Washington, D.C. area to enhance students’ self-awareness and promote overall class cohesion.
Eventually it became clear that the Sheridan city campus program would need additional space in order to meet the needs of Sheridan’s students and staff. Improvements and additions to the building during 19779-1980, eliminated pre-school class, enlarged and reconfigured existing classroom and office space, including redesigned and relocated front entrance, two new first floor offices and new science and music rooms.
In 1987, Hugh C. Riddleberger became Headmaster, position he held for 10 years. The following year the Board of Trustees initiated long-range plan, examining program and facility needs. In 1991 the Board appointed group of parents, faculty and alumni parents to special committee to evaluate various expansion and remodeling options available to Sheridan. In September of that year the Board unanimously accepted the committee’s recommended model for capital improvements. Construction on an expansion to the physical plant began in November of 1992, adding a new gymnasium and locker rooms science room and lab, art studio, music room and administrative offices. During the summer of 1994, major renovations to the Upper school classrooms and other spaces were completed; in the fall of that year, the School moved into its newly expanded facility. The following spring, the Board of Trustees adopted strategic plan and mission statement.
Randall Plummer began his tenure as the School’s seventh Head of School in 1997, and, even though the previous strategic plan was only two years old, the Board of Trustees immediately went to work on new strategic plan, formally adopted May 27, 1999, with the concrete goals and clear priorities to support his vision. As part of this process, the Board conducted an external survey to determine areas of concern and strength. Building on the School’s rich, 70-year history, Sheridan School “provides nurturing and challenging environment for children characterized by intellectual risk-taking,- inquiry, independence and creativity where true understanding—not mere mastery of fact—is the goal; responsive, mirthful and enlightening resource for parents in raising children; supportive, thoughtful and inspiring professional culture for faculty; and wellspring of ideas on teaching and learning for the greater Washington community.” This vision continued to guide the School as it welcomed it’s eighth Head of School, Jessica Donovan, in July 2015.
- Early in the 20th century, in the heart of Embassy Row near Dupont Circle, was Miss Tomlin’s School—a small, co-ed primary school named for its owner.
- In 1927, Mrs. Frank Cummings Cook, a kindergarten teacher at Miss Tomlin’s School, purchased the property just north of Sheridan Circle, gave it her name and opened the doors of her new home at 2344 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W. to eighteen students of primary school age which eventually grew to over 100 children.
- In 1952, Mrs. Cook sold her school to Rhoda (Mrs. Wesley R.) Koster, a teacher in the kindergarten, who became the Headmistress and changed the name to Sheridan School for its location within sight of Sheridan Circle.
- In April of 1961, the School was incorporated as a non-profit organization.
- In the fall of 1962, Sheridan School opened in temporary quarters at Temple Sinai at 3100 Military Road, N.W. while plans continued and money could be raised for a new, permanent building. Meanwhile the school continued to grow by adding a 5th grade in 1962-63 and a 6th grade the following year.
- In May of 1963, the School’s current site was purchased at 4400 36th Street, N.W. from Sheridan parent and Board member Katherine Gunion, and construction on the new building began.
- In October of 1964, the new building was completed with Admiral Parke Brady, Chairman of the Board, serving as Headmaster.
- In 1965, John Archibald took over as Headmaster. As Sheridan settled into its new campus, the School continued to grow, adding 7th and 8th grades by 1966 and increasing enrollment to more than 200 students.
- In 1967, Solon J. Candage became Sheridan’s fifth Headmaster, a position he held for 20 years.
- In 1971, the School acquired a 130-acre wilderness tract which borders the Shenandoah National Park near Luray, Virginia. The Solon J. Candage Outdoor Education Center, known simply as the Sheridan Mountain Campus, was formed.
- In 1987, Hugh C. Riddleberger became the School’s sixth Headmaster, a position he held for 10 years.
- In 1997, C. Randall Plummer began his tenure as the School’s seventh Head of School, a position he held for 17 years.
- In 2013, Adele Paynter became the Acting Head of School.
- In July 2015, Jessica Donovan became Sheridan’s eighth Head of School.