The Shipley Magazine

Steve Piltch: Educating Students for the 21st Century

If you follow the arc of Steve Piltch’s life, you’ll find the shape of Shipley there.
Hailing from a large and loving family of modest means, Steve inherited the value his parents placed on good education.
It wasn’t until his undergraduate days at Williams College that Steve discovered his passion for education. After graduation, he accepted a position at the highly regarded Choate Rosemary Hall, where he taught, coached, advised, and eventually became a class dean. “I wasn’t there 20 minutes when I knew that education would be my life.”
Steve’s subsequent experiences as Harvard’s championship-winning squash coach and Assistant Director of Athletics, public school teacher and tutor, and Doctorate of Education candidate, paired with his time at Choate, uniquely prepared him to pursue his dream of becoming a head of school.
Steve was 36 when he interviewed at Shipley. “A lot of people thought I was too young. A lot of people wondered how a squash coach became the head of a school,” he recounts. “But running a school is not a lot different from coaching a team. In fact, that’s what you’re doing on a large scale, if you think about it,” he explains. “You’re trying to develop a connection with as many people as you can. You’re speaking to a common mission. As you strive to meet the needs of as many people as possible, you’re trying to make each individual in the group and the whole group the best they can be.”
Steve felt confident that he could perform the job well and that Shipley was the place for him and his young family. “I just got a really good feeling, and I loved it. I loved the mission of the School. I loved the commitment to educational excellence, love of learning, and compassionate participation in the world. I thought I could do this job. I thought it could be a great place for Sunny, our kids, and me. Did I think we would be here 27 years? Never even gave it a thought.”
With the best interests of Shipley’s students as his north star, Steve set out to be direct, open, and honest in his leadership. “Having a sense of connection and a sense of community really mattered,” Steve says of his goals for the School. And, as always, effort, process, and character were more important than the outcome.
“We should be proud of the school that we are, committed to making sure our kids’ needs are met, that they flourish and thrive, and that we’re the kind of community that will reach out and make a difference. Of course,” explains Steve, “that’s not new here. Although I’d like to think it’s better accentuated, more a part of us, and more consistent, it has been part of Shipley since the School’s inception. Even though you can interpret the pieces of our mission—educational excellence, love of learning, and compassionate participation—in different ways, our history reinforces the things that I’ve said.”
Steve is incredibly appreciative of his time at Shipley. “It is 25-plus years later, and I still love my job. I’ve loved it since I arrived. Although there have been some very difficult moments, they have helped all of us learn and grow and have brought the community together in a special way. I feel incredibly lucky to have been here for 27 years and will be forever grateful for my time at Shipley. This is a terrific community, and I could not have asked for more.”

A Lasting Legacy

When he was hired by Shipley’s Board of Trustees 27 years ago, Steve Piltch’s charge was clear: balance the budget, bring all divisions into synchrony, and improve communications. What else will his legacy entail?

Remained mission-driven during a period of significant economic, social, and market changes and challenges.

Successfully fund-raised in a way that enabled significant campus improvements, including new Lower and Middle Schools and a transformed Upper Campus.

Research-Based Wellness
Instituted an ongoing commitment to students’ needs using research (e.g., Center for the Study of Boys’ & Girls’ Lives and Sports Concussion Institute) to support the development of the whole child and to create a safe and welcoming community with the Concussion Prevention initiative and the Gender and Sexuality Diversity Policy.

Balanced Budgeting
In partnership with the Board of Trustees, and with the support of talented CFOs, implemented a conservative approach to budgeting, which has resulted in financial stability and sustainability for the School.

Character Education
Advanced the School’s commitment to character education through the Social, Emotional, and Ethical Development (SEED) program and the launch of Positive Education.

A School for the 21st Century
Oversaw the building of an academic program and modern campus to support 21st-century education, with a 1-to-1 computing program and an emphasis on interdisciplinary, experiential, and deeply rooted learning.

Doing Well & Doing Good
Articulated the goal for Shipley graduates to “do well and do good.” Encouraged “compassionate participation in the world” and developed important partnerships, such as with the Brain Tree School and Andrew Jackson School.

Focus on Diversity
Facilitated an increase and intensification in diversity initiatives in order to create and support a multicultural and economically diverse community where each individual can thrive. Oversaw an increase in financial aid awarded to families.

Excellence Everywhere
In partnership with colleagues, committed to excellence in and out of the classroom, ensuring that all programs (athletic, music, arts, etc.) meet high standards of excellence.

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The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.