Bisgaard joins innovative educational startup Whittle School and Studios

Under the Radar

During an all-school assembly, Head of School Dennis Bisgaard announced that he would be leaving KO after 12 laudable and praiseworthy years of service. Mr. Bisgaard was offered a new job as the head of a global educational start-up called Whittle School and Studios, and he wants to see what that opportunity has in store.

Prior to joining the KO community in 2006, Mr. Bisgaard worked at the Shady Hill School in Cambridge, Mass. from 2000-2006 where he served as the Associate Director and Acting Head.

Preceding this appointment, Mr. Bisgaard was a teacher, coach, advisor, and administrator at Vejlefjord Højere Skole in Vejle, Denmark, the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, Maryland and the Collegiate School in New York City.

In addition to having a significant background in independent school leadership, Mr. Bisgaard also holds many degrees that have provided a stronger understanding in each of the jobs that he has had.

He holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Physical Education from Odense Universitet in Denmark and a Candidates Magisterial degree (which is the equivalent of a Ph.D.) in American and British literature. He has also received a Master’s of Arts degree in Educational Administration in Private School Leadership at the Klingenstein Center of Teachers College, Columbia University. Furthermore, he studied African and Caribbean literature at Temple University and holds a year-long graduate fellowship from the institution.  He also worked at the Harvard Principal Center in Cambridge, Mass.

Mr. Bisgaard is not only the Head of School for KO, but he is also a Board Member and Educational Leader. Over the past 25 years, he has assisted on multiple local, regional, and national boards and as an advisor for independent schools. He currently works on the following boards: National Association of Independent Schools, the Student Achievement Through Opportunity board, WALKS Foundation, SPHERE Consortium, Founders League, Men Make a Difference, Men Against Domestic Violence at Interval House, and MiddleOak.

His newest venture, a worldwide network of independent pre-K-12 schools will accommodate children from the ages of three to 18 and commence in the fall of 2019 when it welcomes students to its first two campuses in Washington D.C. and Shenzhen, China. Each consecutive year, the organization will add more so that there will be a total of 36 campuses in 15 countries throughout the world.

American media, educational leader, chairman, and CEO of Whittle School and Studios, Christopher Whittle, assembled a group of thoughtful innovators, architects, designers, educators, and leaders who all shared the same goal of launching, according to organization’s website: “the world’s first truly global school.” The goal of the school is to “graduate students with the skills, knowledge, and character to succeed in the Innovation Age.”

The school consists of a critical configuration of tenuous programs and mindful exploration of current learning practices. The school will not only support students to attain further knowledge that they cannot gain in the classroom, but also form pragmatic relationships with partners and professors from all over the world.

An outstanding team, educated by original associates and an international intellectual planning board, generated a model for the school that consolidated ten essential innovations that established an advanced principle for excellent education.

The Global Advisory Board consisted of 10 members from eight different countries who provided advice and information to the school on all the fields (architeture, education, technology, medicine, and athletics) that they were educated on. The members were: Co-chairs Benno Schmidt and Jean Liu, Clarissa Farr, Dan Vasella, Dr. Kwame Appiah, Pheroza Godrej, Renzo Piano, Dr. Robert Birgeneau, Yang Yang, and Hareb Al Darmaki.

The Educational Advisory Board was composed of Chair Tom Vander Ark, Dr. Todd Rose, Dr. Pavel Luksha, Dr. Melina Uncapher, and Cindy Mi. They presented specific aspects of educational operations and expertise on educational design.

The first innovation was personalized learning. This novelty strengthens relationships among students, educators, and parents by conforming learning to intensify a student’s social, emotional, physical and academic growth. Personalized learning also increases student autonomy, buy-in, and leadership by educating themselves in the way that works best for them. This helps the students have a voice in what does and doesn’t work in terms of what they are learning.

The second innovation was “holistic advisory,” which means that students will be advised to observe different scenarios and situations that they will face in their lives as a whole, and not just a collection of parts. With this type of counseling, all aspects of a students’ life are intimately connected in an equitable manner that gives adolescents a chance to grow and transform academically. Additionally, it qualifies them for a profitable and successful progression as they grow up and navigate the world.

Along with directing students in a distinct way, the school also recognizes that students are the future and should receive the leadership necessary to solve solve local and global issues.  As a result, the institute pushes students to allow themselves to make mistakes and reflect on things that have and have not worked for them, encouraging students to practice retrospection and self-reflection.

Aside from permitting students to make mistakes, the institute fosters access to involvement both inside and outside the classroom.  Students are allowed to participate in internships outside of school and work on independent projects. This program sparks learning experiences that stimulate understanding and teamwork by addressing challenges that leaders face today.

Whittle School also allows students to learn abroad, enabling them to discover other cultures and countries from their very own perspective instead of from a textbook
Students are allowed to immerse themselves in the culture and appreciate cultures that they typically would not see everyday.

The final innovation is the fact that Whittle School and Studios is a global school.
This emphasizes the idea of different connections that the students can make with one another, even if they are not on the same campus.  As a global school, Whittle will empower students to find their own personal potential with the help of people from all over the world.  They will be able to find human connections and share a passion for learning with others that they might not always be able to find, accelerating the revolution of learning.

Mr. Bisgaard said that he will miss everything and everyone at KO, but he is looking forward to creating something from scratch. “I think that there is just something about starting from the get-go that is enjoyable,” he said. “There aren’t set traditions, or beliefs, or customs, everything is new to everyone and it’s interesting to see what we can create.”
Junior Ben Poulios said that he knows that Mr. Bisgaard will thrive in D.C. “I know that he is going to be very successful with his new job!” Ben said.

Sophomore Esha Kataria agreed with Ben. “Mr. Bisgaard was an engaging, supportive, thoughtful Head of School who took pride in the community and all that it had to offer,” she said.

Monica Bisgaard, Mr. Bisgaard’s wife, who has been a part of KO for as long as he has, said that she will miss the sense of community that KO offers. “We will certainly miss this place…to the heart, I will miss being a part of this really special community of teachers, parents, students and all of the schools that we are associated with,” Mrs. Bisgaard said.
Nonetheless, she is really looking forward to what opportunities lie in Washington D.C. “I look forward to what lies ahead, what journeys we will take, how we will be influencing the lives of children in a new way,” Mrs. Bisgaard said.