Cushman School looks back — and looks ahead

Laura Cushman established her school in 1924.
Laura Cushman established her school in 1924.

The Cushman School begins the 2014-2015 school year celebrating its 90th anniversary. During the last nine decades, Cushman has earned its reputation as a leader in education, yet it has remained an organization significantly rooted in tradition and social responsibility while instilling good character in its students.

“We are constantly evolving our curriculum to stay relevant in the competitive marketplace that our children will face,” says Arvi Balseiro, head of the school. “With dynamic technologies, increasing globalization and future careers we cannot even anticipate, we must teach students how to adapt, think creatively and solve complex problems, thus fostering the entrepreneurial mindset needed for the future.”

While preparing for tomorrow, however, The Cushman School also spends much time focusing on “old school” virtues in its students and appreciating its impressive historical roots.

Named for Dr. Laura Cushman, its founder and principal for more than 50 years, The Cushman School is Miami-Dade’s oldest continuously operating independent school. Established in 1924, with only three heads to date, its rich heritage has remained intact. Cushman continues to uphold the same objectives stated by Laura Cushman: “A school seeks to develop the child mentally, physically and in character growth. To do this, the child must be placed in happy surroundings, be properly adjusted to his or her work, and have wholesome participation in living experiences.”

This belief has allowed Cushman to graduate generations of children who make a difference in our communities and beyond.

The school’s first class of just 12 students met on the porch of Cushman’s home. She had moved to Miami from Iowa in the early 1900s as an accomplished teacher. Just two years after being founded, the school moved into the Mediterranean-style building on Biscayne Boulevard that remains its campus today. Now, Cushman consists of a charming mix of renovated and new buildings spread across a landscaped campus in a historic pocket of international Miami.

The non-denominational, not-for-profit school has grown to offer a challenging academic environment for a diverse ethnic and socioeconomic population of about 500 students from preschool through eighth grade.

Despite the school’s evolution, Dr. Cushman’s vision of equipping her students with the virtues of courtesy, industry and responsibility are still obvious. Students begin the day with a flag ceremony and a handshake with their teachers; and each day culminates with announcements and lowering of the flag. Elaborate assemblies and musical performances celebrate the seasons and complement the work completed in the classrooms.

Many service learning projects engage students in outreach work that ensures character development as well as community and global awareness. Recently, Cushman donated some of its unused laptops to the College Mixte Lamariniere in Haiti. The Tech Team wiped the hard drives on these older laptops and set up free configuration and software to help the Haitian school. Through this collaboration, Balseiro and the Directeur General of College Mixte Lamariniere, plan to connect their students remotely in the future.

Dr. Cushman also believed that with encouragement and direction every student possesses the ability to achieve success in school and in life. That belief continues today, and Dr. Cushman’s compelling philosophy hangs on our Board room wall as a constant reminder to all involved in making business decisions on behalf of the school.

Baseiro became the third head of Cushman in July 2012. She had been mentored by Joan Lutton, who was Cushman’s successor and head of the school for 32 years.

With great passion and enthusiasm, Balseiro continues The Cushman School’s pursuit of excellence while presiding over an astonishingly diverse student body, representing 40 countries. She brings tremendous vision for growing the school to meet the needs of a global technology-focused marketplace. The new Innovation Center will open in 2014 to provide apprenticeship-styled learning to Cushman students, as well as the surrounding community.

There is no doubt that The Cushman School will continue to educate, guide and mentor individuals into the next century while always remaining rooted in its heritage, philosophy and a culture of camaraderie and warmth.

Michelle Fotiadis is the director of communications for The Cushman School.