Mission Statement and History
Mizzentop Day School provides a stimulating and innovative educational program dedicated to building a supportive community through living values and instilling a love of learning in our students at our private day school.
The Guiding Principles of Mizzentop Day School are:
To develop scholarship, creativity, and character.
To build skills of critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving.
To promote the joy of learning and academic achievement using multi-sensory, project-based methodology.
To foster sensitivity and encourage citizenship in our diverse, global world.
To provide a safe, sound intellectual, emotional, and physical environment where morals and values are embedded in the curriculum in a practical and meaningful manner.
To foster in students a sense of tolerance and social responsibility enabling them to become positive contributors to their respective communities.
To be well prepared socially, emotionally, physically, and intellectually, children must be nurtured in an environment that places emphasis on the whole child. MDS offers a challenging program that focuses on each child’s personal development and learning styles. We help students learn, and we guide them toward independence and self- confidence in a nurturing, secure, and structured environment.
A strong foundation in reading, writing, and mathematics prepares each child for an increasingly rigorous curriculum in the future. Children are taught according to developmental needs and in the style that best suits them. Small classes allow students to discover and build on personal strengths using a highly integrated curricular approach. Hands-on projects fully engage students, and classrooms vibrate with the activities of curious children. Children are encouraged to speak up, ask questions, and contribute in all areas of their educational day at our private day school in Pawling, NY. Learning from their teachers and from each other, students work together making connections and finding solutions to problems.
MDS views childhood as a journey that is enhanced in a positive and caring learning experience. We stress the importance of building community by establishing routines, procedures, and attitudes that foster trust among the students and teachers. We treat and talk with each other in ways that model respect.
Hundreds of students have benefited thanks to the initiative of Mizzentop Day School’s Founding Head, Lisa Daniels. Along with a dedicated group of supporters, Mrs. Daniels launched Mizzentop as a small, independent secular preschool on Quaker Hill in Pawling in 1998. It was a new chapter in the history of education in Pawling and its surrounding communities.
Located 1,600 feet above seawater and reached by steep and winding roads is Pawling’s Quaker Hill. Atop this hill but a short three miles east of the hustle and bustle of the Village, one can still find the same quiet serenity that attracted its first settlers in 1764. The meeting house of the Quaker Friends was built here 11 years before the Revolutionary War broke out. Parishioners would lay here in devout contemplation, alongside farmers eager to reap a harvest from the fertile plains of the valleys below, and patriots whose mission it was to secure the hopes of their generation and quell its fears.
The village was founded in 1788 and less than a century later, the New York and Harlem Railroad was extended into Pawling, bringing with it the prosperity and grandeur of the late 1800’s. The town would be home to two hotels that would accommodate the sudden influx of city dwellers yearning for the “clean air” of the countryside. The first, the Dutcher House - named after its founder, politician and railroad tycoon John B. Dutcher - would be located but a few footsteps away from the train depot located in the heart of the village. The second, also financed by Dutcher and backed by town notable Albert Akin, would be completed in June, 1881. Dutcher’s second project would boast 145 rooms and would command an extensive view of the rugged peaks of the Harlem Valley.
The second hotel, set high atop Quaker Hill, would be named by Admiral John Lorimer Worden, the former commander of the Civil War ship USS Monitor. Struck one day by the sweeping landscape of rolling peaks and valleys below, Worden chose the nautical term, “mizzen,” used in sailing to describe the sail, mast, and platform located toward the stern of the ship, to describe the hotel’s spectacular location. It would be called, he decided, the Mizzen-Top Hotel.
The din of the financial crisis of the Great Depression, however, loomed overhead. In 1906, Dutcher would sell the Dutcher House to Dr. Frederick L. Gamage, headmaster of St. Paul’s School of Long Island, who eagerly sought a location for an institution of his own. The Dutcher House would thus be transformed into the Pawling School, the first location of the all-boys preparatory school that is now known as Trinity-Pawling. With conditions becoming ever more dire, Mizzen-Top would soon be demolished, its name a monument to the courage and endurance of that trying time.
Strengthened By Time
Unbeknownst to him at the time, John Dutcher, through the careful stewardship of his land and with his steadfast perseverance, inspired not one school but two in the town of Pawling. Perhaps our founding headmaster, Lisa Daniels, recognized this as she sought the ideal location for a small, independent secular preschool, and in doing so found the Lowell Thomas Center on the site of the old Mizzen-Top Hotel at the crest of Quaker Hill. True to its namesake, Mizzentop Day School would become a guiding force in education with its small classes and individually-tailored learning environment, steeped in the rich traditions of its past but ever looking forward.
Mizzentop outgrew its first campus in 2002, a mere four years after Lisa Daniels opened its door in September of 1998. By the time we moved off Quaker Hill and into the heart of Pawling, our program had grown to include art, music, drama, computer science, physical education, foreign language, and overnight field trips. After the move to our present location in what was then the Norman Vincent Peale Center for Positive Thinking was complete, Mizzentop added a Middle School and graduated its first class two years later in 2004.
Over the past two decades, Mizzentop has remained steadfast in its mission: to provide a stimulating and innovative educational program dedicated to building a supportive community through living values and instilling a love of learning in our students. Our students learn in an environment with caring and knowledgeable faculty that encourage them to speak up, ask questions, and contribute in all areas of their education. Many of our students go on to attend the leading secondary schools, colleges, and universities throughout the United States, including Cornell, Princeton, Colgate, and New York University, and they become leaders in their communities.