The search for a new upper school principal is officially over at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School. And starting with the new school year, there will be a new face in town.
Nigel Furlonge joins Fieldston this fall, making the move from Plymouth, New Hampshire. His arrival comes “at the perfect time in the school’s evolution,” said Jessica Bagby, the head of Fieldston, in a statement.
He’ll succeed Robert Cairo, who served as an interim principal until a permanent replacement was found.
Furlonge comes from an immigrant family full of educators. He learned early on that “nothing was promised.”
Furlonge’s parents moved from the Caribbean island of Trinidad to Boston, and as teachers, instilled in him at a very young age the importance of instruction, and what it meant to treasure an education.
In college at the University of Pennsylvania, it was Alex Haley’s “Autobiography of Malcolm X” that inspired him to pursue his passion of history. Motivated by his father, Furlonge taught himself how to study and learn well as a student.
Today, Furlonge still loves history, but is more concerned with how schools function and “it’s never been just one way.” When summer starts, he plans to dive head first into Fieldston’s scheduling, focusing on the most reasonable and rational way to help students move through their day efficiently.
“Fieldston, like many schools I know in New York, communicates a clear sense of academic excellent and academic integrity,” Furlonge said. “And that’s so important to me.”
Furlonge earned his undergraduate degree in American history at Penn, and picked up his master’s in the same subject from Villanova, along with a master’s of education from Columbia University.
Furlonge comes to Fieldston after serving as head of Holderness School in Plymouth since 2015. Before that, he worked at various schools in New Jersey including as admissions director and dean at Christina Seix Academy in Trenton and academic dean of Lawrenceville School.
He also spent time in Delaware as director of studies at St. Andrews School.
Christina Seix was a unique experience for him, because before he helped found the school with the New York City-born investment manager, there were no Trenton private schools.
“Trenton was a community that we felt our school could have a lasting and meaningful effect on,” Furlonge said. “All the kids certainly demonstrated an economic need. When we started, the average income per household was less than $20,000 a year.”
Furlonge describes himself as a risk taker with an entrepreneurial spirit. He is focused on asking the questions that will help lead a school to the kind of institution it needs to be.
In Plymouth, Furlonge and his family were surrounded by the White Mountains and seemingly limitless nature. Yet, he’s excited about the move to New York and what he joked was its “really cheap cost of living.” But most of all, Furlonge said he’s ready to help educate students at Fieldston in its progressive fashion.
“Their ethical learning piece is beautifully integrated and inspirational,” Furlonge said. “I am excited to learn about how the school lives that part of its mission.”
Bagby expressed confidence in her new hire.
“Nigel’s unique experiences in several of our nation’s most distinguished schools, coupled with his passion for providing educational access across the socioeconomic spectrum and racial ethnic divide in our society, resonate with Fieldston’s identity and mission,” Bagby said.