Marin Primary & Middle School was founded in 1975 as Marin Primary, an independent preschool in a Corte Madera church basement. Five years later, the school moved to the present location in the former Larkspur Corte Madera Public School. Each year, a grade was added until the program encompassed preschool through middle school. In 1994, the school’s name was changed to Marin Primary & Middle School to reflect the addition of fifth through eighth grades.
The vision and core values of founders Roberta and Jim Heath and the founding head of school, David Heath (no relation) remain central to MP&MS. At the heart of our mission lies a deep respect for the developmental stages of childhood and early adolescence. The founders envisioned a school where teachers respect the pace of each child’s journey from childhood through adolescence, recognizing the many ways in which children learn and striving to educate the whole child. The school’s integrated curriculum provides opportunities for children to explore their passions in many different areas and attracts dedicated teachers with a deep understanding of children and learning.
During the twenty-five years of David Heath’s leadership, the school developed robust specialist classes in the performing/visual arts and physical education, and added a unique projects lab. David’s entrepreneurial spirit and vision remains strong and alive in the school today. The Learning Resource Center was created to provide additional support for students. Additionally, a dedicated library space, music and art studios, and a beautiful organic learning garden, the David Heath Outdoor Education Center, became the heart of the campus. Murray Lopdell-Lawrence, head of school from 2002 to 2005, further enhanced the school’s curriculum, pedagogy, professional development, and organizational policies.
Julie Elam joined MP&MS as the third head of school in July 2006, leading the school through a period of increased strength and stability, supporting further professional development for our dedicated and talented teachers, and creating a campus master plan under the leadership of architect Peter Pfau. The success of the school’s first major capital campaign led to a transformation of the campus, including renovation of existing buildings, the addition of new playgrounds and outdoor spaces, and a new amphitheater. Upgrades to improve the accessibility and environmental sustainability of the campus were addressed throughout the project. Middle School 2.0 included the expansion of sixth through eighth grade class sizes, the introduction of a departmentalized model, and a ten-day rotating schedule for primary and middle school. The addition of two science labs and an updated restroom facility were also completed in the middle school. After serving 11 years as head of school, Julie Elam retired in the summer of 2017.
Marin Primary & Middle School's fourth head of school, Andrew Slater, joined the community from July 2017 until the fall of 2020. Andrew oversaw several important initiatives, including leading the school through its fourth accreditation; expanding curricular review and development; and introducing new roles to support programmatic and institutional enrichment and advancement. Other areas of focus included the establishment of Marin Primary & Middle School’s Fund for Financial Aid; plans for a new community building to serve as a gathering place and provide space for indoor physical education, the arts, and other events; the commitment to sustainable practices and facilities; and the launch of a new website.
In December 2020, Peter McCormack joined MP&MS as Interim Head of School for a period of 6 months. With 40 years of experience as a teacher, coach, and administrator, Peter brought a depth of understanding and a wealth of expertise to our community. Peter's warmth, thoughtfulness, and experience in cultivating deep relationships in small schools settings was an excellent match for MP&MS. His leadership experience, background, and educational philosophy were strongly aligned with our school’s mission and values.
Following this transitional period, the board of trustees unanimously appointed Phil Gutierrez as the next Head of School. Phil was selected from a national pool of candidates and brings a wealth of experience to MP&MS, including his recent leadership role at Mid-Peninsula, where he successfully increased enrollment, annual giving, and improved faculty compensation and professional development. Prior to joining Mid-Peninsula, Phil spent twenty-three years as a faculty member and administrator at the Branson School. Initially an English teacher, Phil moved on to become Admissions Director and later Assistant Head of School for Advancement and External Affairs. Throughout his work in advancement, admissions, and school administration, Phil has demonstrated a strong commitment to supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion within school communities.
MP&MS received its first accreditation from the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) in 1999, and first Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accreditation in 1995. The school received a seven-year term of accreditation from CAIS and WASC in 2020.
As Marin Primary & Middle School continues to grow and thrive, our mission and the vision of our founders inspires an ongoing commitment to creating connections, embracing growth, and honoring the learning journey.