Category Archives: Features

David Jackson Takes On New Role

By Jasmine Chen

After being the director of Oak Hall’s Upper School for four years, David Jackson was promoted to Assistant Head of School at the beginning of this school year. In terms of management of the school, this promotion shifted Jackson’s priority into long-term strategic planning, which includes thinking about where Oak Hall is going as a school in next five years and focusing on the school accreditation process as well. “It’s a great opportunity…and I’m excited to continue to help to serve the school in a new capacity,” Jackson said.

Jackson started his career at Oak Hall School as a Middle School teacher in 2002, after graduating from the University of Florida with bachelor’s degree in political science, history, and classical studies. He became the World Language Department Chair in 2013, then was promoted to Director of the Upper School in 2015. 

Being a member of Oak Hall’s administration was not part of Jackson’s plan, until about 7 or 8 years ago. “If you were to ask me this question maybe 10 years ago, I would say no way, never gonna happen, totally not interested,” Jackson joked. When a number of people suggested he would fit well in administration, however, Jackson began contemplating the change. These suggestions inspired him in terms of career direction and future opportunities. 

The biggest piece of advice that Jackson would like to give to John Perlette, the new director of the Upper School, is to always listen and hear all sides of an issue. “Aside from that, just really embrace what he’s doing, be there for the students, for the faculty, and for the parents as well, because they are all very important parts of the school community,” Jackson noted.

Perlette was promoted to Director of Upper School at the same time Jackson’s promotion occurred. He is “very happy with this career move” and “excited to be in this position working with faculty members and the students and staff and the administration,” Perlette said. This career move shifted his primary focus and has brought on more responsibilities. “Before when I was a math teacher, my primary concern was for my students in my classroom. And then, as a math teacher and coach, my primary concern then was split into two roles, where my concerns were my students in my classroom and my athletes on the track,” he said.

With his new role, Perlette acknowledges a transformation of priorities. “Now in this role, my concerns are, the people that I care about, is everybody in the building…all my faculty, all the staff members, all the students in all the classes, and all the parents that are associated with the Oak Hall Upper School,” he acknowledged.

Faculty Spotlight: Paul McInerney

By Grace Bernstein

A new year at Oak Hall has begun, and with it, new faculty has arrived. The Upper School math department gained two teachers, both from Turkey, Ugur Baslanti and Paul McInerney. Although McInerney was born in America, he taught in Turkey for seven of the past eight years, with teaching one year in China. Currently, McInerney teaches AP Statistics, Algebra II, Algebra II – Honors, and an ACT/SAT prep course.

Growing up in Bay Shore, NY, McInerney always wanted to be a teacher ever since he was 7 years old. As his education continued at New Trier Township High School in Chicago, so did the desire to teach the grade he was studying himself. In college, he knew that high school students were his favorite demographic to teach. 

He began his career as a substitute teacher in upstate New York, and while that only lasted six months, he gained experience in many different subjects. For the latter half of the year, McInerney was a math teacher at Morris Central School, a combination school about three and a half hours from New York City. After a short stint at a junior high school in Chicago, McInerney taught in Wisconsin for the next six years. From there, he taught in Miami for eight years, then decided to take a break and become a travel agent in Denver, before returning to teaching. “It was my little hiatus,” McInerney joked. His return to teaching kept him in Denver for four years before having an immense desire to teach abroad.

This interest all started with a vacation to Hawaii. He loved being in a new environment, surrounded by a different language and a different culture. “It felt like I was in a different country,” he said.  Since Hawaii was the farthest he had traveled outside of the continental United States, he “wondered what it would be like to teach in another country.” McInerney reached out to a teacher placement agency, Carney Sandoe & Associates, to see if any opportunities abroad were available.

He began his international teaching journey in Turkey and loved it, but his family wasn’t too fond of him staying abroad. Two years after his teaching adventure began, he taught in China for one year, before returning to Turkey for another six years. While contemplating his initial expedition to Turkey, he came to a realization about life. “I didn’t want to be old and say, ‘I regret that’, not teaching outside the US,” McInerney stated.

McInerny explained that he learned all he knows about teaching due to observing other teachers. “Any good teacher is a good teacher because they are a thief,” he joked. He noted that the best teachers learn from their own favorite instructor and apply those skills with their own students.

As he began looking to return to the states, Oak Hall was one of the suggested schools for McInerney, given to him by his placement agency. After much research, and an unconventional interview process, the math teacher realized Oak Hall was the right fit for him. “This school is amazing for me,” he said. “The students are very exceptional in personality and have great academic potential worthy of some exploration and drive.”

Faculty Spotlight: Ginny Switt

By Antony Stark  

This past summer, one of Oak Hall’s Lower School science teachers, Ginny Switt, fulfilled a life-long dream: to go on a dinosaur excursion and find fossils. In 102-degree weather in rural Montana, Switt joined several graduate students, and experienced paleontologists from the University of Washington. Switt helped dig up the Jurassic-era fossils in an area known as Hell’s Creek, which is located incredibly far from modern civilization. Not only did Switt get to participate in a dig for fossils, she also experienced camping for the first time. According to Switt, this experience was a “harsh way” to be introduced to camping! The campground terrain was “dry and sandy, with a large freshwater river flowing beside us,” she said. The trip lasted one week, but finding a Tyrannosaurus Rex hip bone, and the skull of Triceratops, made the work under the intense heat well worth it.  

On the first day of the excavation, the team searched for the rocks that were under the dinosaurs when they became extinct. The rocks contained “little shiny water-like particles”, which were scattered over the surface of the rocks. The particles turned out to be the substance that fell onto the dinosaurs when they met their demise.

For the remainder of the trip, the team learned to develop essential skills with help from the professional paleontologists, so the group could spread what had been learned in a better and more accurate way when they returned home. Switt said the best part of the trip was “[being] able to work with real paleontologists and see how they do their job and see how hard it is.” Most of the paleontologists were students, and were brought to teach the visitors, like Switt, so they can learn how to teach others in their field. The leader of the paleontologists was more experienced and had been going to Hell’s Creek with undergraduate paleontology students for a long time. In the 90’s, he was on the same expedition in Hell’s Creek, but one of the guests was Steven Spielberg, the director of one of the most popular dinosaur movies, Jurassic Park. Spielberg used the team as a reference, not only to display accuracy with the dinosaurs in the movie, but also to replicate the personalities of the group he worked with in Hell’s Creek, into the movie. 

Paleontology, specifically dinosaurs, has been in Switt’s life ever since the second grade. She would base school projects on dinosaurs and paleontologists. The topic has always fascinated her, which has carried into her daily job at Oak Hall. While paleontology is a very exciting and interesting field to enter, there is a lack of students wanting to pursue it as a profession. From what she has learned from this experience, Switt plans on taking the information and knowledge she gained and bring it to Oak Hall. “One thing that is kind of a push is getting students interested in science so that they can think about this as a career…to pursue paleontology and to pursue animal sciences,” she said. Switt is the pre-kindergarten through third grade science teacher and runs an after-school enrichment program to educate students about how fun and interesting paleontology, and science, can be. 

Photos provided by Ginny Switt

About the author: Antony Stark is a senior at Oak Hall and is in his first year of journalism. While he has lived in Gainesville his whole life, Stark has been at Oak Hall since second grade. His current goal is to play soccer in college, the sport he is most passionate about. The senior Eagle is currently looking at attending college in Seattle.

Coffee, Cupcakes, and Community

By Lauren Cohen

On Wednesday, Sept. 4, Patticakes was welcomed into the Oak Hall community, after a quick opening at the campus student store, located within the Administration Building. Students and faculty made their way to the newest attraction on campus to explore the shop and the menu selections, and Patticakes is quickly becoming the buzz of the school!

The newest coffee shop, however, sells more than just coffee. Patticakes is creating a space for good conversation, and food as well. It hopes to encourage students and faculty to gather and share stories with one another.

Emily Welch, the manager of Patticakes, expressed her delight over meeting members of the Oak Hall community, and getting to know the customers. “We love [hearing] stories at Patticakes and getting to know people, what they do, and what their passions are,” she said excitedly. Welch also enjoys being able to meet new people, and learn new faces. Patticakes is all about coffee, cupcakes, and community.

Patticakes manager, Emily Welch.

The store will be open every school day from 7:30 a.m. until 4 p.m., and plans to sell breakfast and lunch. Menu options are spelled out on scrabble pieces, in a creative way to capture the eye of the customer. For breakfast, the menu includes various muffins and quiches; and as for lunch, numerous sandwiches can be ordered including veggie, turkey, ham, and cheese. Aside from breakfast and lunch, Patticakes will serve cupcakes, ice cream, smoothies, tea, and coffee. There are currently many options available for students and faculty; and management is always welcoming suggestions and requests if there is a high demand.

Raquel Sokol, a first-year Oak Hall freshman, is very excited to have this attraction on campus, as she has always been a fan of the original location in Haile Plantation. In addition, Sokol is always happy to see a local business thrive. “I think having a coffee shop on campus is amazing,” she said. “Being able to grab a coffee or a cupcake during lunch is so much fun,” she continued. Sokol is looking forward to spending her free time in Patticakes, while enjoying cups of iced coffee and munching on treats.

The menu at Patticakes, located on Oak Hall’s campus in the Administration Building.

The owner of Patticakes, Jan Patterson, was thrilled to receive a call from Kirk Klein, a member of the Oak Hall School Board, and father of three Eagles, who informed her of the exciting opportunity to open up a new location on Oak Hall’s campus. Patterson enthusiastically accepted the offer, just two weeks before the start of this school year.

In just a short amount of time, Patterson assembled her staff, and got to work. She has been humbled by the kindness and graciousness of the Oak Hall faculty and staff. On the first day, after trying to set up the espresso machine, Patterson began to notice a leak. Thankfully, Oak Hall maintenance worker Fernando Castro, rushed in and helped solve the problem.

One of the greatest challenges of managing a place, beyond technical aspects, is “trying to figure out what the customers want on any given day,” Patterson explained. This challenge excites her, and the Patticakes team, as they begin to learn more about the Oak Hall Community.

“Wherever we can make new friends and grow our community, we are happy to be there,” Patterson said joyfully.

Photos by Lauren Cohen

About the author: Lauren Cohen is an Oak Hall Sophomore and Journalism II Honors student, as well as a staff member for the Oak Hall newspaper, “The Talon”. Lauren loves to express herself through writing, oratory, and photography. In her free time, you can find her writing opinion pieces for “The Gainesville Sun” or doing street art photography. Lauren is humbled to be working for the school newspaper, and looks forward to sharing stories within the school community!

Preview: Fall for the Arts Homecoming Night

On Oct. 18, the Oak Hall community is joining together for an epic homecoming celebration, complete with Eagle (temporary) tattoos and pompoms! Benefiting the Oak Hall Annual Fund, in turn benefiting Oak Hall students, the Fall for the Arts Homecoming Night extravaganza will transform the traffic circle between the Upper and Middle School into one, large, spirit party.

Prior to the Eagles’ Homecoming football game versus Rocky Bayou Christian, numerous activities will occur from 5-7 p.m., including bounce houses, corn hole, singing with the always amazing Oak Hall musicians, silent auctions, and a spaghetti dinner from Napaletano’s, along with other exciting forms of entertainment. Furthermore, raffle tickets for a chance to win a 2-year lease on a Chevy Equinox (or $15,000 cash) will be sold, with the winning ticket drawn at Eagle Fest.

In addition to the pre-game festivities, the district championship football team from 1979 will be honored at halftime.

“I truly hope this becomes an evening where we all get together to celebrate the Arts, cheer on our football team, and join together as one school to celebrate Oak Hall,” commented James Hutchins, Head of School.

The Oak Hall Annual Fund is a program designed to “benefit every Eagle, every day”. Since tuition doesn’t cover the abundant number of programs offered to the students, professional development for staff and faculty, and enhancements to classrooms, amongst other things, donations are encouraged to cover the operating costs of the aforementioned items.

The Fall for the Arts Homecoming Night is just one of many fundraising opportunities for the school. In fact, for the past three years, 100 percent of the OHS faculty, staff, and board of directors have given support to the fund.

For a complete list of activities, and to purchase tickets for certain activities at Fall for the Arts, please visit or contact Director of Advancement, Rebekah Johnson at