By Meredith Pruden
A commitment to lifelong learning is one of Mt. Vernon Presbyterian School’s principal tenets, and there is perhaps no one who better exemplifies that philosophy than the Sandy Springs school’s vigilant leader Jeff Jackson.
Jackson is a vocal advocate of the importance of attending conferences to bring the most current educational theories home to MVP and has personally earned a masters degree and a doctorate. It seems Jackson truly is a lifelong learner – he also is presently enrolled in an MBA program as well.
Jackson said he encourages MVP teachers to be students.
“Keep learning. Live it,” Jackson said. “How many teachers say they’ve got 30 years experience but what they’ve really got is one year repeated 30 times? We’ve all had teachers like that, but we’ve also had the ones who are energetic and creative – the ones who inspire you and you remember.”
As head of school, Jackson has not only led the students, parents and faculty of MVP in the educational process but also led the school’s capital campaign, which ultimately resulted in a $41 million expansion despite doubts from some financial experts. Jackson arrived at MVP in 2002 – at the behest of the executive director of Georgia schools who Jackson knew from graduate school – fresh off of another multi million-dollar high school expansion in South Georgia.
“We were just too stupid to know we couldn’t do it,” Jackson said. “We just decided we were going to go as far as we could. If we had hit a roadblock we couldn’t overcome, then we would have known we gave it all we had and it wasn’t to be. One by one the roadblocks just kept crumbling in front of us, so we kept going, and phase one is now complete.”
The recently opened MVP expansion—named The Glenn Campus for long-time Sandy Springs residents Tom and Lou Glenn who offered the land, 510 Mt. Vernon Highway NE, at a reduced rate—houses the new seventh through 12th grade Middle and Upper Schools including a gymnasium, specialized performing and visual arts areas, social spaces and athletic fields nestled on a 30-acre parcel with plenty of green space for outdoor instruction or student free time.
“There is a lot of green space,” Jackson said. “You can come here on a Sunday afternoon and pull back to the fields and you’ll see folks with their strollers and their kids running around. How could that be any nicer? It’s just a community asset, and this community wrapped its arms around us.”
The Glenn Campus – which is a mere 150 yards from the original campus now housing pre-kindergarten through sixth grades where Jackson’s own son attends classes – is a state-of-the-art building with wireless Internet throughout and Smart [computer] Screens that work in concert with students’ laptops.
At roughly 90 percent recycled materials, the eco-friendly buildings on The Glenn Campus also are LEED certified (an environmentally friendly rating). Among other things, buildings are equipped with a geo-thermal heating and air conditioning system and European-styled bathrooms facilities that save water at each flush.
Although the recently opened Glenn Campus is the result of many peoples’ hard work and endurance, upon closer inspection it is not the building that truly stands out at MVP. Through Jackson’s guidance, and personal endurance as well, MVP faculty, parents and students are carving the path to a 21st century school.
“Kids who graduate from our school will probably change careers – not jobs but careers – three to five times in their lives,” Jackson said. “Probably a couple of those careers haven’t even been invented yet. The problems those kids are going to encounter we don’t even know are problematic given the rate and pace of change. At the end of the day we’re asking the question, ‘How do you build a school for the 21st century?’ If we start asking that now, we’re going to be much further along than others.”
So far, Jackson’s philosophy seems to be working.
“Like the people of Sandy Springs, the people at this school want to do things the right way,” Jackson said. “When we build our buildings, when we build our programs, when we teach our children we, do it the right way. We put our dollars, our passion and our time commitment behind that.”