Antilles School opened its doors on October 4, 1950 in Villa Santana overlooking Charlotte Amalie harbor, and will be celebrating 70 years of serving the community in the fall of 2020.
Good fortune came early to the Antilles School when the small group of founding parents turned to Deborah Finch in 1950 to be the School’s first Head of School and to chart its course forward. “Miss Finch” is fondly and accurately remembered as a woman fiercely dedicated to both academic excellence and the education of the “whole child.” She was a woman of great energy who expected both discipline and effort from all in the small community that formed the Antilles School at its beginning. Today, Antilles School continues Miss Finch’s vision embracing each child’s academic, creative, and physical development, along with their emotional and social growth.
Antilles’ initial enrollment was 13 students (representing 10 families, a number that grew to 36 students in PreK through ninth grade the next year. Staff included the Ms. Finch, four full-time teachers, three part-timers and a secretary/bookkeeper. Students came primarily from St. Thomas, with a few boarding students from neighboring islands.
By 1955, the school had outgrown its original campus, and Ms. Finch oversaw the move to a four-acre site above the West Indian Company docks in Havensight. Students of that era recall tiny open-air classrooms, assemblies on the terrace with its panoramic harbor view, and driving to a field in Long Bay for sports. Eventually a high school was added, with the first class graduating in 1967.
The school remained at Havensight until 1971, when it moved to its present 27-acre campus in Frenchman’s Bay. The new site provided purpose-built facilities, playing fields, and room for the school to grow.
Under the leadership of Mark Marin, Head of School from 1979 to 2001, the student population grew in size and diversity. The school started a financial aid program, which today provides $1.2 million annually to expand families’ access to an Antilles School education.
A successful capital campaign, begun under Mr. Marin’s leadership, allowed the school to add an athletic complex, a two-story library, and a performance and visual arts venue. The athletic complex (the Mark C. Marin Center or the MCM Center) and the performance space (Prior Jollek Hall) have quickly become resources used by the wider St. Thomas community.
While much has changed over the years, Ms. Finch’s commitment to educating the “whole child” remains the foundation of the Antilles educational experience.
Ms. Finch’s commitment, values, and philosophy are the benchmarks by which Antilles School is measured today.