In 1982, Rita Rice Ledford and Ginger Parnell co-founded Unlimited Learning, a testing and tutoring service in Greensboro, NC. Early tutoring clients formed the basis for the private school division of Unlimited Learning, which was established in 1987 with eight students and four full-time teachers.
Within two years of opening the private school division, the program had 36 students, nine teachers and four staff members. During that year, the Upper School graduated its first student. Space and zoning issues required the school to relocate during the second school year to Guilford Square on Guilford College Road in Greensboro, NC.
In 1990, students requested a name change for the school. During the school year, the name Guilford Day School was chosen as well as the school’s colors, blue and silver, and the mascot, a knight. Additionally, the school established its not-for-profit status and formed its first Board of Trustees, creating a co-educational institution for students in grades 3-12 with learning differences and/or ADHD.
By 1991, the school had grown to 49 students and a decision was made by the Board of Trustees to relocate the school to accommodate the growing student population. In August 1992, Guilford Day School opened its new facility on Horse Pen Creek Road with 12 full-time teachers and 68 students in grades 3-12. The new building contained 15 classrooms, four individual study/observation rooms, a multi-purpose room, a teacher resource center, and six offices. During this year, the school also established its first Parents’ Association.
Within three years, the school’s student population nearly doubled. Two new Upper School classrooms and a media center with two computer labs were added to the school in 1995. The following year, the Board of Trustees acquired additional land adjacent to the school, bringing the campus to a total of 10.77 acres.
In April 1996, the Board of Trustees approved a feasibility study to consider application to the Secondary Commission of the Southern Association of Accreditation (SACS). The school received full SACS accreditation in 1998. The for-profit tutoring and testing program of Unlimited Learning remained a separate entity, until 1996, when it was made a part of Guilford Day School and renamed Guilford Day School Community Programs.
In 2000, the school embarked on a $5.8 million capital campaign to purchase additional land, build an athletic facility, separate the Upper School, build an art center, renovate the existing facility, and fund an endowment for scholarships. To date, an additional 22.4 acres have been added to the school’s campus. The school leased 20 acres to the YMCA for athletic field development in exchange for the school’s use of those fields and of a 50,000 square foot athletic facility, which opened in June 2002.
From 2004-2008, Guilford Day School experienced growth. Student enrollment increased from under 100 to 145, which was the largest enrollment in the history of the school at that time. Anticipating additional growth, Guilford Day School engaged in a master planning process with Peterson/Gordon Architecture. The school embarked on a capital campaign, with the goal of creating new space to serve even more students with learning differences. Ground was broken on the new building in February 2011 and the new Upper School was opened in January 2012. The new building houses grades 7-12 and includes 17 regular classrooms, four science labs, a research lab, an art studio, an auditorium, and administrative offices.
Concurrent with the plans for expansion, Guilford Day School decided to update the school’s brand, including the logo, website, and print materials. The Board of Trustees approved funds to hire a marketing firm to orchestrate the rebranding process. North Star Marketing and Communications was selected as the firm that best fit the school’s needs. As part of the process, North Star involved a focus group to help clarify the important elements of the school’s brand. The focus group was made up of current and former parents, alumni, current and former board members, and staff. The results of the focus group indicated that in order to develop greater community awareness, a name change was necessary in order to distinguish the school from a larger independent school with the same initials GDS. Feedback from the constituents indicated a clear attachment to the knight as the mascot, as the attributes of a knight also represent our students. North Star came up with the name Noble Academy, as “noble” is a knightly quality that arose from the focus group. The knight logo was redesigned, and the colors were modified from royal blue and white to navy and gold. The unveiling of the new name happened in the spring of 2010 and the name change became official that summer.
The timing of the expansion and the name change, along with North Star’s help with marketing decisions, helped raise awareness of Noble Academy as a local leader in helping students with learning differences. The increased awareness has led to increased enrollment as well, breaking enrollment numbers each year. With the new space, the school has the capacity to enroll approximately 225 students.
During the 2017-2018 school year, Noble Academy celebrated its 30th year in existence honoring our founders, Rita Rice Ledford and Ginger Parnell, as well as what it means to be a Knight. Noble Academy plans to be here celebrating many more years empowering students with learning differences and/or ADHD to pursue their highest potential within a comprehensive, supportive educational environment.
In 2019, Amanda Carter was named the new Head of School, replacing Linda Hale. Under Mrs. Carter’s leadership, Noble earned re-accreditation with the Southern Association of Independent Schools and established a variety of new committees to help improve Noble Academy.