About

History

Curtis School, now nearing the century mark, unites innovation with tradition to provide a vibrant learning environment for children in grades DK through 6. We are proud to continue to carry forward the school's mission of providing a well-rounded, challenging education within a caring and inclusive community and preparing young children for their futures.

Founded by Carl Curtis in 1925...

Curtis School was founded by Carl Curtis in 1925 and reorganized in 1937 by his nephew, Carl F. Curtis. In 1964, Willard E. Badham became headmaster and ran the school for the next three decades. During that time, Curtis grew from a school of less than 100 students to one of the largest and most respected independent elementary schools in Los Angeles. In 1983, the school moved to its current site on Mulholland Drive. Willard Badham retired in 1992 and was succeeded by Clay V. Stites, formerly Headmaster of Friends Academy in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts. Clay Stites revitalized the academic programs and oversaw the Curtis 2000 campaign that enabled the school to build many of the modern facilities Curtis enjoys today.

Stephen E. Switzer, former Headmaster of Le Jardin Academy in Hawaii, was appointed in 1997 and led Curtis for twelve years. Stephen Switzer spearheaded the Securing Our Future campaign that made it possible for the school to build an additional Developmental Kindergarten classroom and security booth, to increase its endowment, and to expand its programs.

In 2009, Peter W. Smailes was named the sixth Headmaster of Curtis School. During his 19 years at Curtis, he served our students and school in many roles. Before stepping into the role of headmaster, Mr. Smailes was an English teacher in the Upper School, Dean of Upper School, Head of Middle School, and Curtis's Outplacement Advisor. He is widely credited with many of the structural and programmatic improvements made at Curtis over the last decade, and his leadership is notable for his work to create a more diverse and inclusive school community.

In 2015, we welcomed Meera Ratnesar as our current head of school. Ms. Ratnesar came to Curtis from Harbor Day School in Corona del Mar, California, where she was Head of the Upper School (grades 5-8) for six years. Prior to that, she worked at the Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, the Trevor Day School in New York, and the Collegiate School in New York. Ms. Ratnesar has taught every grade from Kindergarten through high school and is a curriculum expert with a particular expertise in mathematics. She earned a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics from Bryn Mawr and was a prestigious Klingenstein Fellow at Columbia's Teachers College. Ms. Ratnesar has 19 years of experience in independent school education and administration. She has begun to implement a number of initiatives that are designed to keep Curtis on the leading edge in all areas of the school's administration, programs, instructional strategies, and curriculum. She is passionate about leading Curtis's vibrant and joyful school community.

Central to the school’s mission is its commitment to providing an exceptional and well-rounded education for the whole child. Academics, the arts, and athletics are taught in an environment that encourages personal growth and excellence. Curtis has a strong tradition of developing character in young people through its emphasis on critical thought, good citizenship, sportsmanship, and social responsibility. Curtis fosters an active partnership with families and welcomes the involvement of parents and guardians in fulfilling its mission. Curtis School is an inclusive community that does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or gender expression, or national or ethnic origin in the administration of its admission and educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic or other school-administered programs.
    • Curtis Today

      Curtis Today