When Nishant Mehta joined The Children’s School, he and his wife Neeti brought with them the same compassion, courage, and joy that defines our community. As our head of school over the past seven years, Nishant’s legacy can be seen, heard, felt, and experienced everywhere on our campus and within our community. Under his leadership, we have become a school that is as bold and brave as the learners we serve and as well known locally and nationally for our courage to innovate as our authenticity and commitment to our core.
As we wrap our hands, minds, and hearts around the fullness of Nishant’s legacy, we know describing his impact tells the story of our entire community and that it starts first and foremost with the children.
Nishant’s belief that TCS should be accessible to as many students and families as possible with whom our mission resonates has resulted in a quadrupling of the number of students receiving financial aid.
We received our largest gift for curriculum and programming in our school’s history from The Goizueta Foundation in 2017. The foundation’s gift not only strengthened our financial aid program, but accelerated several school-wide expansions, such as our STEAM program, and facilitated strong curriculum integrations with community partners.
During Nishant’s tenure, brave learners stepped into a new building, renovated classrooms, and refreshed outdoor spaces to play, learn, explore, engage, imagine, have hard fun, discover their voice, and more. These beautiful new spaces, including three playgrounds and an amphitheater, express our school’s commitment to childhood, our focus on authenticity and inclusion, and our courage to innovate. It was all made possible through the completion of a record-setting capital campaign in 2018.
Along the way, the decision to expand the school to seventh and eighth grades opened up our gates to amplify childhood for middle school-aged children across Atlanta. Students entered our Middle Grades program to build upon their academic foundation, learn to collaborate, and develop their social-emotional skills.
Middle Grades students took project-based learning to the next level with immersive project-based learning units and a capstone, place-based learning trip to Puerto Rico in the eighth grade. In 2019, TCS graduated its first class of eighth graders. These 12 innovative, purpose-driven leaders know the value of their voice and are currently thriving in an exceptional and diverse group of high schools — boarding, public and private.
Of course, we can’t reflect on Nishant’s tenure without celebrating how The Children’s School’s community became known as the Wolf Pack. Nishant established the Wolf Pack (and young pup, Scout!) as our school mascot in 2016: “For the strength of the pack is the wolf / And the strength of the wolf is the pack.” The Wolf Pack mantra has united our school community through old and new traditions such as Spirit Week, Holiday Sing, Eighth Grade Commencement, and school assemblies and pep rallies.
After listening to the children who asked for it, Nishant and Coach Rob Canavan organized TCS’s first sports program in 2016, inviting student-athletes to build upon their leadership and collaboration skills and to work as a team to compete against other local schools in volleyball, cross country, basketball, track and field, and ultimate frisbee.
Nishant’s leadership fueled TCS’s culture of learning and leading by increasing our professional development budget by more than 160 percent. This commitment has enabled 100 percent of our faculty and staff to attend workshops and/or conferences each school year, including training for anti-bias, Lucy Calkins Writer’s Workshop, Math in Focus, Responsive Classroom, Social Emotional Engagement – Knowledge and Skills (SEE-KS), and more.
Last, but certainly not least, we proudly affirm that our diversity is our strength at TCS. Nishant leaves TCS as one of the most diverse communities among all of Atlanta’s independent schools. This highlight of Nishant’s tenure benefits each of us and is a gift that will never stop giving.
Ultimately, Nishant’s impact is found in the words, feelings, and memories of our community:
One early learner, James Wood, remembers Nishant coming to share fruit break with his 3’s/4’s class. James’ mom, current third-grade teacher and TCS alum Sally Wood, recalls the playful moment they shared: “They sat together and had grapes. Nishant later reported that James was very concerned that his grapes were not cut. ‘Don’t you know you could choke!’”
“I’m thankful for all seven years of Nishant’s leadership,” said sixth-grader Emma Fleming. “I have only been here for three of them, but they were very memorable, and I owe that [to him].
Michele Reiner, former chair of the Board of Trustees, looked back and remembered some of the earliest days of Nishant’s tenure:
“I was confident from the first time I interviewed Nishant that he was the right person to lead The Children’s School forward. His passion, commitment to excellence, growth mindset, and curiosity were evident then and are still characteristics I attribute to him and his leadership style. During his tenure, with the support of an amazing group of board members, staff, faculty and families, we were able to look introspectively at what makes up the DNA of The Children’s School, set a plan for showcasing and strengthening these assets, and bring the power of our school to more students.”
“We know Nishant will leave everything he touches better than he found it. We hope he finds endless opportunities to observe, ponder, enjoy, and create,” shared the Nazzaro family. “He has embodied the culture and the character of TCS during his tenure here. He made so many huge strides in a positive and meaningful direction for the school and has left behind a solid foundation upon which the next head can build.”
Allen, our assistant head of school for academics and Upper School director, shared his gratitude for the leadership and friendship Nishant gave over the years:
“I most appreciate Nishant’s ability to create powerful teams, to inspire each member to be their best selves, and to harness the collective intelligence of the team in a way that is bigger than any one member could achieve alone,” Allen said. “I wish for Nishant what I know he seeks: impact on the lives of children that expands their view of themselves, and broadens their horizons, so that they may live lives of impact too.”
Chair of the Board of Trustees Sonya Halpern expressed how Nishant’s leadership has helped move our school forward while remaining grounded in who we are:
“There’s a saying that goes, ‘authenticity is at the heart of success,’ and Nishant’s leadership is a proof point of that truth. He believes in big ideas and ideals: empowering and enhancing children’s capacity for learning, creating opportunities for leadership development, and building a strong campus community. Working in partnership with the board, he is a strong collaborator and team player, from vision to strategy to execution.
“The innovation that’s happening in our school is being noticed regionally and nationally,” said Sonya. “Nishant walked on campus everyday thinking about how he could breathe life into our mission of enriching minds and inspiring dreams. He leaves having made his mark!”
Nishant’s greatest gift to our community may in fact be how well he has positioned our school for the future. There is no limit to our potential as we eagerly welcome Roslyn Benjamin as our next Head of School on July 1, 2020.
“Since the day I was named the head-elect of The Children’s School, Nishant has been gracious with his both wisdom and time to ensure a smooth transition for the students and their families as well as the faculty, staff, and executive team,” said Roslyn. “We have met regularly over the past five months when he has reflected on the school’s expansion and growth during his tenure. He has allowed me to begin my time at TCS with a thorough understanding of TCS’s history and culture.”
Although Nishant will be remembered for accomplishments and accolades, to many of our students and parents, he is simply the man in the red nose who welcomed them at carpool on the first day of school, who smiled, laughed, and played, and who empowered all of us to embrace our inner child and to celebrate, not rush, the journey of childhood itself.
Nishant obsesses over this kind of childhood. For seven years, we have shared in his obsession and revelled in the “magic” along the way. Nishant’s presence will be missed but his impact will be felt by current and future generations of The Children’s School.