Private school considers renaming itself to give it more global reach
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Jefferson Community School students Rowan Gallagher, 14, and Rio Golden, 17, are shown at the alternative-learning school in Port Townsend. —Photo by Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson Community School is considering a name change to reflect its goal to recruit students outside of the North Olympic Peninsula.

“The board is contemplating some changes in how we define ourselves,” said board chair Richard Berg in a letter to parents.

“We can use this moment of expansion as an opportunity to look at the school’s mission statement and name, and discuss whether they are a good fit with our current thinking about the school.”

A board meeting to discuss the new strategy will take place at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the school, 280 Quincy St.

The school, located in a historical building known as Good Templars Hall, opened in 2005 as an alternative-education option for grades 6-12 and sponsored annual student expeditions to such places as Vietnam, Mexico, Costa Rica and Thailand.

About 20 students currently attend.

The idea to look outside the local area to recruit students internationally is behind the name change, according to Rita Hemsley, the head of school.

“We are looking to communicate more accurately through our name who we are,” Hemsley said.

“It could be as simple as just putting the word ‘international’ in, but the idea is to reflect who we are in a global way.”

Hemsley said the new name shouldn’t be reducible to an acronym that would be “meaningless to kids in France” and that the word “Jefferson” is not essential.

Hemsley said the name change would be as much about defining how the school feels about itself as presenting it to the outside world.

There is no timeline for the change, but Hemsley said she would like to see it take place as soon as possible.

“As part of the process of recruiting international students and granting visas, I need to fill out a lot of forms that are submitted to the Department of Homeland Security,” she said.

“This is a nine- to 12-month process, and I need to do this quickly in order to accept international students in September.”

The school also is determining its marketing strategy, which will be tied to the new name and require substantial printing costs.

In his letter to parents, Berg said anyone interested in the issue should attend the meeting, which will include opportunities for public comment.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or

Last modified: December 07. 2013 7:02PM
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