Legacy - Dr. James Taylor

Gordon Hunter
"I would not be at Calvary Day School had James Taylor not sold me on the mission of impacting kids for eternity." - Gordon Hunter, Director of Advancement and Alumni Services
On Monday, November 4th, 2019, the Cavalier Family was informed that Dr. James Taylor would not be returning to Calvary for the 2020-2021 school year. James explained to the Board of Advisors, administration, teachers, and families that he had been called to Hebron Christian Academy as the new Head of School, effective July 1, 2020. 

Today marks the end of the legacy Dr. James Taylor made while serving Calvary. As the Taylor family takes their talents to northeast Atlanta, I want to revisit the impact James made on this campus and community during the 15 years he spent pouring into Calvary.

The Taylors joined the Calvary family in 2005. Moving from the suburbs of Boston, Dr. Taylor accepted the position of High School Principal. The Patten family played a huge role in God calling him to Savannah. It is fitting that Luca will be in Dr. Taylor’s final graduating class. James’s wife, Karen, taught middle school English for 14 of the 15 years they served in Savannah. She also coached the varsity cheerleading squad for ten years and advised the Middle School Student Government and National Junior Honor Society for many years. Alyssa and Colton grew up as Cavaliers. Alyssa attended Calvary from 3rd grade through her graduation in 2015 and married Ryland Fox recently in Wilder Chapel. Colton only saw the inside of the Calvary walls during his school days, kindergarten through his graduation in 2018. He now continues his studies at the University of Georgia. 

Understanding Dr. Taylor’s family is vital because this is where his legacy begins. Dr. Taylor helped build the foundation of the family atmosphere we know and love at the Day School. He hired couples and relatives to work alongside one another. Cavalier graduates were employed to come back and serve the school they attended, building on their culture and traditions. But, the school they knew was going to change shape.

James was the High School Principal who helped design and oversee the building of the new High School Building in 2009. I’ve heard stories of him sleeping inside the building during the final days of construction to make sure that the school year started in the completed space. He worked hard to make sure the job was done. But, not just done, but done with excellence. 

Dr. Taylor was also the mind behind updating the historic bus fleet. He helped garner funding, design the look, and place the order for five of the seven buses currently in operation, allowing students from all over the Lowcountry access to the excellent education Calvary provides. The Cafeteria Renovation was another upgrade that Dr. Taylor recognized and developed a plan to change. After this project was completed in 2018, Calvary has been able to serve more students and offer more lunch options than ever before. The attention to students' desires led to the opening of Cafe’ 252 in January of 2019.

While James claims to be an academic mind, he has undoubtedly had an impact on Cav Town athletics as well. During his time on campus, Calvary won 5 GHSA State Championships. The completion of the Leroy Harvey Athletic Pavilion in 2016 and the Specialty Sports Complex in 2018 are proof of his attention to athletic facilities. I witnessed James pitch the turf field project to more than 20 donors. In a short 7-week period at the end of 2017, James secured more than $740,000 in donations and pledges to help green light that project for construction. Indeed a remarkable time witnessing what God was doing through him.

When James took over as Head of School in 2012, the school’s enrollment grew because of his vision. He restructured and expanded the Board of Advisors, promoting growth, professionalism, and excellence. He helped create the Calvary Day School Endowment, which will impact Cavaliers for the life of this ministry. If you worked alongside him, you know he is a visionary who sees the big picture.

Rigor might be the area of the most significant improvement in James’s legacy at Calvary. He launched an Academic Enrichment Program allowing kids with educational needs to receive a Christian education. Dr. Taylor directed the improvement of Calvary’s SAT/ACT scores to the top 10% nationally. In our most recent SACS-AdvancED accreditation, Calvary achieved the highest possible score. The SACS chair of the accreditation process had never given a higher score to any school. He pushed the leadership team to apply for, which was then earned, the Blue Ribbon of Excellence in 2016 through the National Department of Education. James helped develop a STEM Program that changed the approach to education in every class. 
Because of Dr. Taylor’s commitment to academic excellence, we are proud to announce the Dr. James Taylor Scholarship, which has been endowed. Every year for the life of Calvary Day School, a deserving student will be awarded this scholarship based on James’s key verse, which is Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” 

From most I’ve spoken with, the greatest impact James had on the Calvary Family was spiritual. From the creation and implementation of Spiritual Emphasis week, hundreds of Calvary students, faculty, and parents have grown closer in their walk with Christ. The Taylor’s journey to Calvary began by following the will of God, and this writer believes that they are continuing to follow His will in their exit.

I would not be at Calvary Day School had James Taylor not sold me on the mission of impacting kids for eternity. I remember him challenging me in our first conversation, “Gordon, you can use your talents to impact your professional development or His kingdom.” While I have no doubt God orchestrated the plan, Dr. Taylor was the vessel He sent for me. From the Bible studies and Sunday School classes, or simple discussions in his office, there is no doubt James has helped shape me into a better man. Those who understand CDS know he has made Calvary a better place. Godspeed James Taylor; Hebron is in for a beautiful journey.

Gordon Hunter is the Director of Development for Calvary Day School. He believes that all Christians are called to give: give of your talents, time and resources. Deuteronomy 16:17 “Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which he has given to you.”