By Katie Fallon

While the role of headmaster may be shifting at the Galloway School, its non-traditional educational strategies have varied little over the last 38 years.

Galloway is still successfully administering its progressive curriculum to a population that now numbers around 730 students.

But on April 21, the school will be hosting a retirement party for headmaster Dr. Linda Martinson, who has been at the helm of Galloway for 12 years and associated with the school for 28. She said her decision was motivated by both her family and the demands of the job. Martinson’s daughter, who is in the fourth grade at Galloway, played a large part in the decision.

“I have this 11-year-old sidekick now,” Martinson said. “I don’t really have a summer with this job.”

Martinson’s last day will be June 29 and new headmaster Tom Brereton will take over on July 1. The transition is both commemorated and celebrated by the Galloway community.

“We celebrate the growth–especially financial, physical and operational–Dr. Martinson’s tenure has brought to our school,” said Galloway’s board chairman Steve Morgan. “And we’re looking forward to the fresh growth Tom’s leadership will bring to our community in the days to come.”

Although her retirement is looming on the horizon, Martinson is still very much involved in the lives of her students. As she walks the halls of Galloway, she clearly enjoys a rapport with the youngsters. Whether wishing one student an early Happy Birthday, asking another about their latest tennis match or yet another about where they decided to attend college, Martinson said she will miss the day-to-day interactions she now enjoys.

“I’ll miss knowing so many people of so many ages,” she said.

While she is retiring, Martinson will not disappear from the Galloway campus. Both her daughter and nephew attend the school and she said she is looking forward to devoting more time to her daughter’s studies and extracurricular activities. Martinson’s daughter, who was adopted from Kazakhstan, also plays soccer at the school.

As she can devote more time to her daughter’s activities at Galloway, Martinson will be able to appreciate the schools progressive curriculum from a new angle. At the school where the student to teacher ratio is 10 to 1, Martinson said the curriculum is not run of the mill.

“We’re distinctive because we’re of the same tradition as Montessori schools and university lab schools,” Martinson said. “The difference between traditional and progressive education is in traditional, the teacher is the expert and delivers the information to the student. In a more progressive education, the idea is the students are constructing their own knowledge and the teacher is the facilitator. It’s much more interactive and much more experiential.”

Stacey Sapp, who works in the school’s development office, said the school also creates an environment of high expectations and low anxiety. Students do not start taking finals until eighth grade and grades are not given until ninth grade.

Students at Galloway are clearly drawn to the alternative learning environment and are subsequently succeeding in their secondary educational endeavors.

Senior Brandon Millholland’s family is from the Atlanta area, but just recently returned after spending four years living in England. The 18-year old will soon go back to England for college to attend Cambridge University.

Millholland said even though he has only spent one school year at Galloway, he knew he would like the environment even before he arrived.

“I heard about [Galloway] and it seemed like a nice place,” Millholland said.

The Galloway faculty is just as proud of the school and its students as Martinson. Middle Learning choral director Dr. Diane Woodard, for example, proudly brags about the seventh and eight grade chorus’ March performance at Carnegie Hall in New York City as if the students were her own children.

The chorus, which includes 116 students, won a national, middle learning competition to be included in a performance at Carnegie with a total of more than 300 students. Joined by the Ridgeview Charter School band, the Galloway chorus also won a second competition to be named the featured chorus of the event.

“It was great fun,” Woodard said. “We had a great time.”

The Galloway School, which is located within Chastain Park, opened its doors in 1969 after founders Elliott and Kitty Galloway leased the school property from Fulton County. The school was finally able to buy the property in 1993 and in 2004, Galloway opened a building addition that houses facilities for all grades as well as a state-of-the-art auditorium built by the same firm that designed Spivey Hall at Clayton State University.

“We were able to add space without increasing enrollment,” Martinson said. “The nice thing about the new building is that it pulls together all the [grade] levels.”

Just a few weeks ago, the school also completed a two-year capital campaign to raise $4 million for developing a 12-acre property that will house new athletic facilities. The two-year campaign will culminate on May 12 when Galloway celebrates the opening of new soccer fields and track facilities at 2400 Defoors Ferry Rd.