Laura Danforth, head of school, The Masters School

Local heads of school in Westchester, Fairfield and Dutchess counties talk about lessons learned from the pandemic, inspiration, superpowers, what makes them smile and – in one case – the benefits of dogs on campus.

Founded as an all-girls school in 1877, The Masters School is a coeducational, private school on a 96-acre campus in Dobbs Ferry, with boarding and day school programs for middle and high school. 

Laura Danforth has served as head of school for six years. Having earned an M.A. in counseling psychology from Lesley University and a B.A. in psychology and anthropology from Colby-Sawyer College, she held various administrative, leadership roles at Ethical Culture Fieldston School, Miss Porter’s School, Suffield Academy, Ethel Walker School and St. Paul’s School. She and her wife have three grown children and two granddaughters. 

Tell us something surprising about your school. 

“As an independent day school and a boarding school, we are fortunate to have students on our campus from 26 different countries and 10 states. In the world that our students will be shaping, having meaningful, relational experiences with a wide variety of perspectives and cultures is essential. In light of our emphasis on a global perspective in much of our curriculum, having representatives from all over the world brings depth and integrity to our program. Our campus is a hub of activity seven days a week, and the interaction among our students — whether it’s in the classroom, in the dorms, on the athletic fields or on the stage — reinforces our school’s strong sense of community.

How did your school cope during the pandemic? 

“Our students, faculty, administrators and parents summoned their collective might to weather the challenges of a most unconventional year. We have emerged stronger and filled with a renewed sense of purpose. We were able to bring our students safely back to campus in October, while also accommodating those students who were unable to return with a robust virtual learning option. 

“In addition to the many health protocols in place, weekly Covid-19 testing for our entire community ensured that we maintained a safe learning environment. Our 96-acre campus provided wonderful opportunities for us to safely explore new and innovative ways of teaching, learning, performing and engaging our community. Our teachers inspired, challenged and developed new ways to teach. We held fast to our mission. We pivoted, repeatedly and, in so doing, developed greater resilience, better communication, more resolve.”

Which aspects of running a school are most appealing to you? 

“I have the good fortune to live on The Masters School campus, which allows me to be present in the lives of our students at all times. I have lived on boarding school campuses for nearly my entire academic career. It’s often during these ‘off hours,’ when I’m taking an early evening walk on the track, that students approach me and ask me to join them in their discussions or activities. I love walking around campus and seeing students enjoy each other’s company. As the head of school, I take pride in our close-knit community that is caring, compassionate and replete with high intellectual standards.” 

The Masters School at a glance

  • Head of school: Laura Danforth 
  • Faculty/student ratio: 1:8
  • Student enrollment: 674
  • Annual tuition: $51,500

For more, visit 

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