Founded by Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in 1971 to provide Christian education and an affordable educational opportunity in a private school setting, Good Shepherd Episcopal School took root in the Forest Hill neighborhood on the south side of the James River in the City of Richmond.
While the public schools were litigating city/county busing plans to achieve racial integration, the school began to grow quietly, beneath the tense political fray. The church community was excited by their little school and built a two-story building to house it, which has remained the school’s home through the present. Three wings with fifteen classrooms, a library, a beautiful 1907 chapel, and a 1925 parish hall became a vibrant community school, drawing from many Southside city and county neighborhoods.
Offering a traditional curriculum, with enrichments, and embracing students with a wide range of learning styles and abilities, the school offers one small class, under 15 students, in grades Kindergarten through eight. In 2021, the school added The Nature Preschool, which strives to foster a lifelong connection to nature and a passion for learning by providing a rich, outdoor environment for creative exploratory play. GSES students have matriculated to over fifteen different high schools, public and private, throughout metropolitan Richmond.
The school and Good Shepherd Episcopal Church separated in the late 1990s. Now separated from the church, the school’s curriculum is no longer influenced by the church. The school is governed by a wholly independent Board of Trustees, which has complete fiduciary responsibility for a 501(3c), non-for-profit corporation, and ensuring delivery of a mission distinct from the church.
As an incorporated entity, it is legally empowered to educate children in the Commonwealth of Virginia by the State Department of Education, the Virginia Council for Private Education, and the Virginia Association of Independent Schools. As such, the school does not administer the Virginia Standards of Learning testing.
Born in an era of predominantly segregated education, the school has evolved not only into a self-governing corporate entity, but also into a very diverse school: religiously, racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically. Diversity, inclusivity, and respect for others who may think and believe differently exist within a community of shared core values, which include a commitment to:
- Immersing students in the Forest Hill neighborhood, Forest Hill Park, and the James River Park System;
- Creating a sense of belonging to a special place that deserves care and respect;
- Developing intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, and collaborative problem solving;
- Recruiting and retaining talented teachers who shape the curriculum and encourage their students’ best effort;
- Valuing a diverse community inclusive of students from different socio-economic, religious, racial, and cultural backgrounds;
- Cultivating the spiritual values of love, patience, joy, peace, goodness, kindness, gentleness, and self-control; and
- Encouraging community service and support of others, particularly through team efforts.
Currently, the school has over 140 students and 30 faculty and staff. Student and staff retention is high, attrition is very low, the budget is balanced, and the facility has benefited from $250,000 invested in improvements, supported by foundations. The school follows the Virginia Department of Education guidelines regarding curriculum. The school’s name remains as a reminder of our association with the church and our location. Although our relationships have been redefined over the years, our mission and core values remain steadfast.
Good Shepherd Episcopal School’s affiliation with the Episcopal church provides a framework for our relationships with one another and for our efforts to develop in our students a sense of self-awareness, responsibility, and commitment. As an Episcopal school, we embrace a core religious identity promoting the values of justice, equity, service, civil discourse, and moral courage with the context of a multireligious and inclusive school community. We act as
servants of God to all persons, regardless of origin, background, ability, or religion;
seekers of justice and peace among all people; and
persons respectful of the dignity of every human being.
The school is a member of the National Association of Episcopal Schools (NAES).