At a Farewell Tea on Saturday, June 1, current families, alums, faculty and staff, and friends of Lowell all came out to celebrate Debbie Gibbs’s retirement and twelve years of extraordinary service to Lowell. Over 300 were in attendance to reminisce and wish Debbie well.
The celebration’s garden party theme was brought to life by longtime parent Louise Greenspan who transformed the gym into a delightful tea for all ages. With guests mingling, music playing, and voices of children streaming in from the playground, Debbie said, “It’s perfect for me!”
Debbie soaked in the festivities with her family from New York and Houston. Jay Greenspan, longtime Lowell parent, emceed the program of heartfelt appreciations from division directors, parents, and board members who highlighted Debbie’s visionary leadership, her care for children, and her dedication to Lowell. Class of 2018 alums—Leah Fitzpayne, Ethan Irwin, Flynn McGrath, and Nick Penniman—serenaded Debbie with “What a Wonderful World,” and the Kalmia Kings led everyone in a rousing rendition of “The Garden Song.”
Charles Gibbs took the stage to recognize Debbie’s career in education and highlighted their family. Jason Novak, Stefania Rubino, and Kavan Yee highlighted Debbie’s curricular and pedagogical leadership—from her commitment to fostering children’s critical thinking to her introduction of the thematic curriculum and the design of the Middle School program. Kavan who has observed Debbie teaching in the Middle School said that she is an example for all teachers: “She not only does what is best for children, she truly brings out the best in them.”
Debbie was moved when she had the opportunity to come to the stage and say a few words about her time at Lowell and to give a glimpse into her future.
I understand that leadership matters, so I am honored to have the spotlight shine on me today and to receive your heartfelt appreciation. I also understand that no leader succeeds without the support, hard work and dedication of the community. So to all our teachers, staff, administrators, parents, grandparents, students and alums, thank you for journeying with me as we sought to help Lowell continue to grow and flourish while maintaining steadfast commitment to its mission—to create an inclusive community of life-long learners in which each individual is valued and respected.
…As I head off to Houston, to my new art studio, into a much fuller role as grandma, and into a life with more time for Charles and our beloved Skeeter, I feel very special and very lucky. I can honestly say my entire career in education has brought me great joy and satisfaction, and Lowell has brought the greatest of both. I look forward to letting all we have accomplished together sink in. And I am sure I will smile many times as I remember Debbie’s Farewell Tea. I will also remain, and Charles joins me in this, a friend to and supporter of Lowell.
In a video testimonial, teacher Sarah Smith recalled meeting Debbie when she was a candidate for head of school: “Something she said at the party really stood out for me—that the job at Lowell was not a stepping stone for her. She really thought of this as the culmination of her career, and she promised she would give this gig her all, and I think she has.”
In appreciation of all she has given to Lowell, past Board chairs—Jennafer Kwait, Jess Rosenbaum, and Liz Steinglass—presented Debbie with a gift of art supplies to continue her painting in retirement.
In response, Debbie shared these words:
I want to give a special thanks to the board chairs who have supported me and Lowell along the way. Being the head of a school is a tough job. Without a strong and committed board chair, the job can be very lonely and even harder. I’ve been blessed with strong, committed board chairs.
Especially, I want to draw attention to Marcie. She has done so much for Lowell, including her leadership of the search process that led to hiring Donna Lindner as Lowell’s next head. As I leave Lowell, it is a great gift to know my legacy, our legacy, will be in great hands as Donna, with Marcie at her side as board chair, leads Lowell into the powerful future, which I am delighted to say we have more and more evidence of every day.
In support of the legacy Debbie is leaving, Board members Keri Piester and Cynthia Francisco announced that the Debbie Gibbs Fund for Advancing Teaching and Learning has raised over $200,000 for the endowment to help future leaders of Lowell advance the school’s mission.
In a final speech, Board Chair Marcie Bane and Parent Community President Erica Johnson enumerated the many decisions Debbie has made that put children first.
When the Board came to Debbie with the idea that back playground should be covered in mulch instead of the cheaper, more durable, ground up rubber tires, Debbie said, “It’s more expensive, harder to maintain, AND what is best for children? Let’s do it!
When the LPC was struggling to find the right lunch provider and had to change mid-year, TWICE, Debbie said, “Keep looking, and you will find the one that is best for children.”
When the MS needed a to hire a math teacher in October but were unable to find the right candidate, Debbie volunteered for the job. I said, “Are you sure doubling your workload in your last year is a good idea?” Debbie said, “I will manage and it’s what’s best for children.”
Fittingly, Marcie and Erica announced the dedication of the back playground—a project that was clearly best for children’s learning—to Debbie.
A champagne toast, an extended standing ovation, and many hugs later, the event wound down. Guests lingered to connect with Debbie and her family and took home packets of wildflower seeds to commemorate the event. The Lowell community will keep the garden growing—inch by inch and row by row!
Please view this special video gallery of members of the Lowell community honoring Debbie for her accomplishments.
Lowell School is a private PK-8th grade school located in NW Washington, DC. At Lowell students gain the knowledge, skills, and social-emotional literacy to be the bold leaders and creative problem solvers our world needs.