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Inside the Classroom

Florida college prep administrator chosen to helm Winchester Thurston School

Natasha Lindstrom
| Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, 5:00 p.m.
Scott Fech, a private school administrator in Florida, has been tapped as the next head of schools at Winchester Thurston School, which has campuses in Pittsburgh's Shadyside neighborhood and the North Hills. He will replace outgoing Head of Schools Gary J. Niels in July.
Scott Fech, a private school administrator in Florida, has been tapped as the next head of schools at Winchester Thurston School, which has campuses in Pittsburgh's Shadyside neighborhood and the North Hills. He will replace outgoing Head of Schools Gary J. Niels in July.

Winchester Thurston School has chosen a Florida college preparatory administrator as its new head of schools.

Scott Fech, 50, a native of Griffith, Ind., will take the helm of the private school that enrolls nearly 700 students across its campuses in Pittsburgh's Shadyside neighborhood and North Hills on July 1, the school's board of trustees announced this week following a seven-month search process.

Fech, who has 30 years of experience as a teacher and administrator of Catholic, as well as secular schools, will replace Gary J. Niels — the longest-serving head of schools in Winchester Thurston's nearly 130-year history.

Niels met recently for about an hour with Fech, who plans to be back to visit several more times before his official start date to discuss the transition, Fech said by phone Thursday from his office in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. at NSU University School, a private preK-12 school where he serves as upper school director.

“The exciting part is that the WT school is really thriving,” Fech said. “The enrollment is great and the learning and the parent support is great. It has amazing faculty and staff, so there's a lot of great things to build on.”

Among things Fech would like to build on is to explore expanding the school's “City as our Campus” program , which focuses on engaging students in project-based learning and researching solutions to challenges across greater Pittsburgh — one student invented a device for fixing potholes. Fech said he could see the program also exploring project-based learning through national and international lenses.

“Students learn through experiencing and it's not just about a teacher standing at the board and talking,” Fech said. “It's about what they do with the information, how do we use it and how do we solve problem.”

At NSU School, located on the campus of Nova Southeastern University, Fech led a professional development program for faculty and helped create a medical fellowship for students. He said he focused on fostering stronger collaboration among teachers, relationships with the community and improving the school's advising system.

Fech started out as a French and English teacher at schools in northern Illinois and Indiana before taking on his first administrator post as principal of Bishop Noll Institute in Indiana in 2002. He then worked as an administrator at Grayslake School District near Chicago and principal and director of educational programs at The University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.

He has a master's degree in education from Purdue University and a Ph.D. in educational administration and supervision from Loyola University in Chicago, as well as an advanced degree in theology from the University of St. Michael's College in Toronto.

Fech said he was drawn to Winchester Thurston's credo — “Think Also of the Comfort and the Rights of Others” — as well as the charm of Pittsburgh. He'll be moving to the region with his husband, Rick, and their 3-year-old son, Beckett — who will attend Winchester Thurston once he's old enough.

“We really fell in love with the city,” Fech said. “We love the fact that Pittsburgh has its own zoo, symphony, ballet. There's opera. There's the science center. There are some great sports teams. For it being a smaller city, there's an awful lot going on.”

Tuition at Winchester Thurston starts at $9,500 for half-day preschool and climbs to $29,500 a year for high school juniors and seniors. The school awards $3 million annually in financial aid in the form of grants ranging from $500 to the full price of tuition.

Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8514, or via Twitter @NewsNatasha.

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