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Founding Story

Our Beginnings

Great communities need great educational resources for their young people. With Pacific Ridge School’s opening in the fall of 2007, its founders intended to enrich the educational opportunities in San Diego’s North County, offering the community an educational mission that focuses on mind and heart, that combines academic excellence with ethics, and that links civic responsibility to global awareness.

In the fall of 2002, after years of talking and listening to others lament the limited options for excellent college preparatory secondary education in Coastal North County San Diego, two pioneering families, the Bechtler-Levins and the Merrifields, began thinking seriously about the prospect for an exemplary middle and high school in the area. They were joined in the summer and fall of 2003 by other founding families, the Gietzens, the Hoffmans, the Nassifs, the Perrys, and the Pooles. Soon after, these families were joined by other board members, including the Breitmeyers, the Ruhs, the Sandersons, and the Wolfs.

The trustees of Pacific Ridge School share educational experiences that were foundational, diverse career choices that deepened their desire to give back, and overseas experiences that were transformative. They wanted to create for their children and for the community a dynamic school environment with powerful teacher-student relationships, an integrated program, and a sense of ethical values necessary to becoming global citizens. “There is a hunger for a new kind of school—one which combines the best of traditional education and innovations about how students learn - where students are challenged academically while cultivating their own sense of balance and purpose,” said founding board chair Scott Bechtler-Levin.

Early on the founding families consulted Jacqueline Smethurst, an educational expert with extensive experience in advising independent school start-ups in California. Her advice was strategic and energizing. Soon Janie Anderson, who had just the right experience in successful development campaigns and a broad knowledge of the local philanthropic community, helped generate a well-spring of interest among other families in the area that produced almost 2.8 million dollars in commitments to the project. Volunteers from all over the county came together to lend their time, expertise and support.

The founders crafted a very simple yet powerful mission statement:

“In a community that fosters academic excellenceethical responsibility and global engagement, Pacific Ridge School prepares students for college and a purposeful life.”

When the search began for a Head of School in 2004, the mission statement and the passion of those involved with Pacific Ridge School generated national interest. Dr. Eileen Mullady, an educator with an impressive background in both secondary and higher education, was lured West by the excitement of founding a new school along the contours planned for Pacific Ridge School. She was particularly drawn by the last phrase of the mission statement—“a purposeful life”—because education is not just about the years leading to and including college; rather, education makes an entire life.

The board of Pacific Ridge School was delighted that Dr. Mullady accepted the offer to head Pacific Ridge School. Her outstanding credentials, her personal warmth and wit, and her engaging connections to children of all ages made the board’s choice unanimous.

Dr. Mullady took up her position as Head of School in the summer of 2005, hired a core staff, and worked with veteran teachers from across the country to design a curriculum that would bring to life the ideals of the mission so carefully crafted by the Board of Trustees. Pacific Ridge School welcomed its founding faculty and 7th and 9th grade classes in October 2007. In the spring of 2011, the Board of Trustees unanimously approved a co-head leadership model, promoting Dr. Bob Ogle to Co-Head of School, alongside Dr. Mullady.

The commitment of our founding families and early board members was instrumental to the immediate and enduring success of Pacific Ridge School. Please see our Founding and Former Trustees page for a list of these individuals.

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