Verde Valley School

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Verde Valley School
Sedona, AZ, USA
Coordinates 34°48′19″N 111°48′21″W / 34.805229°N 111.805959°W / 34.805229; -111.805959Coordinates: 34°48′19″N 111°48′21″W / 34.805229°N 111.805959°W / 34.805229; -111.805959
Type Private, Boarding
Religious affiliation(s) Non-denominational
Established 1948
Headmaster John Kelley
Faculty 26
Enrollment 120 total (102 boarding, 18 day)[1]
Student to teacher ratio 7:1
Color(s) Green and white
Mascot Coyotes

Verde Valley School (VVS) is an international college preparatory boarding and day school for students in grades 9-12. It is one of only a few U.S. boarding schools to offer the International Baccalaureate curriculum as its sole curriculum for 11th and 12th grades. The school is located in Sedona, Arizona. There are approximately 118 students from over 18 states in the U.S. and more than 16 nations. The school owns 13170 acres (53.000.000 m²). VVS maintains an average class size of nine and an overall teacher-student ratio of one teacher per every eight students, rather than the national school average of twenty students in a class and a teacher-student ratio of one per every six students. SAT scores are also higher than average. More than three-quarters of the faculty have advanced degrees.

All classes, programs, and activities are based upon five mission principles:

  • Academic Excellence
  • The Value of World Citizenship
  • Service to Others
  • Environmental Stewardship
  • The Value of Physical Labor


Founded in 1946 by Hamilton "Ham" and Barbara "Babs" Warren, Verde Valley School opened in 1948 with sixteen students and a handful of teachers and artists.

Hamilton Warren was raised in New England, a graduate of Harvard College. His mentor at Harvard was Clyde Kluckhohn --- the first president of the modern American Anthropological Association, for twenty-five years the chair of the Department of Anthropology at Harvard, and one of the earliest group of Rhodes Scholars. Clyde Kluckhohn was the one who inspired Hamilton Warren through his reputation as a truly international educator and inspirational teacher. Kluckhohn learned Navajo by the age of fifteen and had set a standard for the importance and value of engaging cultures different from one's own.

Barbara Warren grew up in Guatemala, the child of British coffee finca owners.

Other individuals that helped shape the founding generation of the School included Margaret Mead, one of the century's most articulate exponents of both anthropological studies and progressive education, and John Collier, Commissioner of Indian Affairs during Franklin Roosevelt's administration, and Max Ernst who lived in Sedona for two years in the 1940s when the school was being built. With the assistance of scholars and public figures like these, Ham and Babs determined to establish a school for talented young people. Mindful of the global horrors of World War II and the ravages of ethnocentrism and racism in this country, the Warrens believed that America — indeed the world — needed a school where the values of cultural diversity would be understood and celebrated, not simply studied and tolerated.

In the years since, Verde Valley School has looked internationally, to Germany, Spain, Italy, Vietnam, China and Korea, for other cultures to represent at the school and has continued its efforts to attract Native Americans and Mexicans, which originally formed a percentage of the students.


Two-thirds of Verde Valley School's population board at a tuition of approximately $43,000 per year. Day students pay approximately $23,750. It is one of two U.S. boarding school that offers the International Baccalaureate Diploma as its sole curriculum for juniors and seniors.

There are seven dorm building on campus; four are for girls and three are for boys. The three boys' dorms are Perkins, Avery, and Christensen. The four girl dorms are Sears North, Sears South, Dogpatch and Motel. Each dorm has between three and five dorm parents who live in the dorm.

Experiential Learning[edit]

Experiential education is nearly impossible in a larger schools where class sizes may be above 20 students per class, in part because quieter and less assertive students might be left to their own devices while activities could be led by more self-assured students. At Verde Valley, with class sizes commonly under 12, experiential education, with equal participation, was first developed in the arts and in annual field trips, later becoming integrated into many areas of study. Experiential education allows students to learn without sitting still and while using more of their senses while they investigate topics of study. Learning becomes more memorable and students commonly feel that they are working for themselves instead of working for a teacher.

Value of Physical Labor[edit]

Work is an integral part of VVS and is embodied in the school's work jobs program which incorporates three of the school's mission principles: the value of physical labor, service to others, and environmental stewardship. In the early years of the school, students and faculty worked together to literally build the school’s facilities. Today, VVS offers students a number of ways to learn the value of physical labor. Daily morning dorm chores, a weekly work job program, and several community work days are scattered throughout the academic year. Work jobs include the VVS garden, barns, and recycling program.

Field Trips[edit]

Each year, every student participates in a VVS field trip. These trips have been a part of the Verde Valley School curriculum since the school was founded in 1948. Many options are available each year, but in each case the objective is either to engage directly in the lives of people whose values and life experiences are different from those generally considered "mainstream", or to give practical expression to the ideal of environmental stewardship and service to humanity.


Surrounded on three sides by National Forest land, VVS uses its location to provide a vibrant afternoon sports program. English and Western horseback riding, rock climbing, mountain biking, personal fitness and hiking. Competitive sports include soccer, basketball, cross country and volleyball. The 2011/2012 soccer team was undefeated and won the Northern Arizona Athletic Association title.


  • Ham Warren (1948–1963)
  • Denny Salzmann (1963–1966)
  • Neil Bull (1966–1970)
  • Leonard Mason (1970)
  • John Huie (1970–1974)
  • Gerry Cunningham (1974–1978)
  • Ed Rubovits (1978–1983)
  • Ray Bizjack (1983–1988)
  • Joseph Staggers (1988–1989)
  • David Tuites (1989)
  • Jonathan Ulsh (1989–1992)
  • Roy Grimm (1992–1996)
  • Saul Benjamin (1996–1998)
  • Anne Salzmann (1999–2002)
  • Paul Domingue (2002–2010)
  • John Griffiths (2010–2011)
  • Graham Frey (2011–2014)
  • John Kelley (2014-present)


  1. ^ "Fact Sheet". QUICK FACTS ABOUT VERDE VALLEY SCHOOL. Verde Valley School. Retrieved November 15, 2012. 

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