WILLIAMSTOWN -- C. William "Bill" Bennett is finally taking a break of sorts.
He has been a teacher with the independent Buxton School for 44 years, the sole director for 25 years, and co-director with Peter Smith for the past five years.
This year, he has decided to step down as co-director. He will take on the title of "director emeritus" and pass the sole director role to Smith, effective July 1. Smith will be the fourth director in the school's history, preceded by Bennett, Ellen Sangster and Ben Fincke.
Franny Shuker-Haines will continue on as associate director, collaborating with Smith to help develop and spread the school's mission and purpose.
"This is [Bennett's] first step toward making a shift, and part of the reason why he and Peter have been working together as co-directors for the last five years. I think he plans on teaching as long as possible, but he did want a succession plan," Shuker-Haines said.
Bennett is currently traveling and could not immediately be reached.
Bennett and Graeme Fincke, president of the Buxton board of trustees, announced the leadership transition back in February, sending a letter to parents, students, alumni, faculty and other associates of the Buxton School community.
In his letter, Bennett, who turned 66 in May, said, "It is time for another change ... However, let me be perfectly clear: I AM NOT RETIRING. I love Buxton. I love my work, and I will continue to do most of what I have been doing."
Over this past weekend, Buxton welcomed alumni to the campus to celebrate the independent school's past and present and to discuss its future.
"The board of trustees and I are profoundly grateful to Bill for his decades of leadership, and we are no less deeply enthusiastic about the years and decades to come," said Fincke in a written statement.
Fincke said Smith's new role as director represents "a natural evolution."
A Buxton alumnus, Smith has taught at Buxton for 29 years, coached soccer, directed the all-school play, and has coordinated the annual all-school trip. He currently leads faculty meetings, officiates at graduations, serves as a school-wide mentor, and has overseen campus construction projects and summer use programs.
Shuker-Haines has been teaching at Buxton for 16 years and has served as associate director for seven. She also serves as director of admissions and oversees Buxton's Development Office. Last year, she also coordinated the school's NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges) re-accreditation process.
Smith said he is honored to take on his new leadership role and is dedicated to the school community.
"I think Buxton is a very well-kept secret here in the Berkshires and we have a desire of making it more visible," said Smith.
Buxton bills itself as a "progressive college preparatory boarding and day school," which enrolls about 90 high school-level national and international students each year on its 150-acre campus. In addition to academics, students are responsible for cleaning and maintaining their dorms, classrooms and grounds and even cooking on weekends.
"They are stewards of their own education," Smith said.
He said his hope for the school is to continue growing opportunities for students and learning.
Already in the works is a plan to restructure the school's winter study term and expand cross-curricular studies.
Smith said he is particularly interested in fostering Buxton's approximately 20 faculty members by enhancing and supporting professional development opportunities, through in-house training and possibly offering sabbatical time for faculty learning.
Said Bennett in his letter, "I am looking forward to the years ahead with unqualified confidence in Peter's leadership and in Franny's fine work and with my unshakable faith in this beautiful place populated by uniquely wonderful young people and some of the finest adults involved in education today."