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Pacific Ridge students celebrate school, its mission

CARLSBAD — Students, their teachers and administrators from Pacific Ridge School helped celebrate a new phase in the school’s short history during the second annual International Week. The festivities were held April 3 on the campus of the school, located on El Fuerte Street.
The independent school, like La Jolla Country Day School to the south, is a college-preparatory, nonprofit institution for middle and high school students.
The school’s mission is to foster academic and ethical responsibility as well as global engagement, said Jean Nassif, director of admissions for Pacific Ridge School.
The International Week festivities featured food and entertainment from around the world.
“This is a special day, tied into our mission,” Nassif said. “One of the important elements of the mission is that of global engagement.”
Adding to the festive air of the international celebration was the recent approval by the Planning Commission of expansion plans for the school.
“It signals moving from the ground phase to the growth phase, making permanent our presence in Carlsbad,” Dr. Eileen Mullady, head of school, said. Mullady served as the head of school at Horace Mann prior to coming to Pacific Ridge School two years ago. “We’ve just doubled the campus.”
The school has grown at a steady pace since its opening in fall 2007. The next phase of development calls for an expansion of the campus as well as enrollment.
The school opened with 100 students the first year — grades seven through nine — and expanded to include 200 students the second year, when the freshmen became the first sophomore class. Next year the sophomore class will be the first junior class and then eventually become the first graduating class from the school in 2011.
Sophomore Joey Rosi will be part of that graduating class.
“I love it here, you don’t get to do this at any other school,” Joey said, and added that he spent his birthday last year walking on the Great Wall of China during a trip for freshmen.
Classmate Natalie Halabuk also said being part of the new school has been a unique experience. “I love it,” she said. “The small classrooms, and your teachers really want you to succeed, to do better. They are only here for you.”
“There’s a hunger for a new kind of school,” said Scott Bechtler-Levin, the founding board chair of the school. “One which combines the best of traditional educational innovations about how students learn — where students are challenged academically while cultivating their own sense of balance and purpose.”
The school’s founding families, the Bechtler-Levins and the Merrifields, first met in fall 2002, after hearing from many in the community about the limited educational opportunities in the coastal North County area.
The families eventually consulted with Jacqueline Smethhurst, an educational expert, and began reaching out into the community to generate interest. Eventually, volunteers from all over the community came together, donating time and resources, and the school opened in 2007.
For more information on the school, visit