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March 2009 Archives

An article from today's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Minnesota prep school spawn hockey elite) highlights the strong qualities of Shattuck-St. Mary School's community and the school's hockey program. S-SM produces great prep hockey teams and individual players, but more than just the hockey, S-SM provides a great setting for hockey players to mature.  

As S-SM alumnus and Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby told the paper:

"I was away from home for the first time...I didn't know what to expect, and I was lucky to meet a bunch of really nice people. I grew as a person on and off the ice."
The S-SM team seems to live an especially intense boarding school life: 

"They live together, eat together, go through a grueling course load together and play 50-60 hockey games a season against high school teams, junior teams and men's teams. Down time is rare."
Tenth year S-SM coach explains it this way:

"It takes a special breed of cat to fit in and get through a day here...The expectations are high for them on the ice and in the classroom, and they need self discipline and good time-management skills."

"They have to do it on their own. That's what makes this place special."
Rinker Buck of the Hartford Courant wrote an interesting piece this week, "Enrollment Shift Could Burden Farmington Valley Towns" in which he lays out the linkages between public and private school enrollment in private school dense areas. Looking at Hartford and its surrounding area, its private school density and the changing fortunes of private school families, he presents the private and public school sides of the education coin as some families shift their children from private to public schools.

Mark Zito, Simsbury schools' Director of Human Resources told Buck, "This winter, during our budget planning process for the 2009-2010 school year, we were aware that there might be an influx of students from private schools...We are planning for an extra 33 students above what the models predict our enrollment size should be." (Hartford Courant)

Public and private schools have been living in a very nice world with families paying local school taxes while paying private school tuition. Now local public schools face increasing resource demands as students migrate to public system while prep schools face declining endowments, enrollments and tuition dollars.

Westminster School Headmaster, Graham Cole added: "I have not seen anything like this before...The independent schools have been riding the crest of good times for so many years, so it's a wrenching emotional experience for us now. But I'm confident there will still be a role for independent schools and that they will still be here." (Hartford Courant)

John McPhee Spotlights Lacrosse in The New Yorker

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John McPhee- perhaps our finest non-fiction describer, boarding school alumnus and boarding school chronicler (The Headmaster)- published "Spin Right and Shoot Left" in the week's New Yorker. If you've ever been part of that boarding right of spring- lacrosse, you'll find much to warm your heart and reminisce over. The piece is a nice primer on lacrosse history, development and dissemination.

"Lacrosse and basketball are the siblings of soccer, hockey, and water polo...

Of these five games- with their picks and screens, their fast breaks and rotational defenses, their high degree of continuous motion- water polo, in its sluggish medium, is surely the most awkward, and lacrosse, at the other extreme, creates the fastest, and crispest accumulation of passes and is the prettiest to watch."
McPhee touches on the game's roots and history, international spread, a bit of coaching, some minutae- like the FOGO (Face Off, Get Off) specialist, modern equipment, his own playing experiences and the constant fiddling and re-engineering of one's stick. He requisitely mentions one of the great pieces of lacrosse trivia. The game's greatest player? Syracuse's Jimmy Brown, yes, that Jim Brown.

You can hear Princeton coach Bill Tierney talking pure lacrosse to English national team players- pure coaching and lacrosse tempered with diplomacy and respect for learning players.

Pure, feel-great and fun. Spring is here.

Photo credit: psmithy

A Sad Passing: Pine Ridge School Announces June 5th Closing

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We saw today in the Burlington Free Press that Pine Ridge School (Williston, VT) will close after graduation in June.

Twenty faculty member will lose their positions; Pine Ridge will help students and their families find schools for the fall during these final months.

Pine Ridge had restructured and changed its mission over the past few years and changes never found traction with potential students and families.

Photo credit: Pine Ridge School
I almost let this comment go, but it's too good to pass-up. Last Thursday (3/12) David Brooks focused his column on President Obama's education reform an efforts (No Picnic for Me Either). While Brooks pushes, prods, and argues that Mr. Obama needs to move educational policy to recognize and reward great teachers, I was particular struck by two paragraphs in the piece where Brooks recognizes great teachers as the ones who build healthy relationships with their students.

"...The Obama approach would make it more likely that young Americans grow up in relationships with teaching adults. It would expand nurse visits to disorganized homes. It would improve early education. It would extend the school year. Most important, it would increase merit pay for good teachers (the ones who develop emotional bonds with students) and dismiss bad teachers (the ones who treat students like cattle to be processed).

We've spent years working on ways to restructure schools, but what matters most is the relationship between one student and one teacher. You ask a kid who has graduated from high school to list the teachers who mattered in his life, and he will reel off names. You ask a kid who dropped out, and he will not even understand the question. Relationships like that are beyond his experience..."
When families ask me, 'why private or boarding school?'  My answer invariably is a treatise on relationships. Relationships fundamentally differentiate the boarding/private school experience.

Western Independent Schools Meet and Explore Green Campus Ideas and Initiatives

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We've published a few pieces on environmental initiatives of eastern boarding schools (Green Cup Challenge) and, not to ignore western schools, we just learned that Cate School hosted the Schools Going Green Conference back on January, 15th.

Faculty and students from 15 school convened for a day-long conference exploring the successes and future of campus environmental initiatives and policies. Participants explored and shared ideas on how to reduce each school's and each individual's environmental impact- realizing that, sometimes, reducing consumption and creating changes requires discomfort.

"Our environmental club took on a militant approach," said one teacher in another group discussion. "We shut down half the school power and water and blocked off walkways for the better part of a day. Everyone was uncomfortable, if not irritated with that," she chuckled, "But that's the point. We'd all be uncomfortable if we started losing the resources we take for granted." Teachers shared the many initiatives at their schools and took notes on how their peer schools implemented their own campus-wide environmental efforts. " (Schools Going Green Conference at Cate School)
After reading their blog and writing our own post about Gould Academy's 9th Grade class trip to China, we wanted to know more- about the program's genesis, it's philosophy & goals, and how it fits into Gould's program.

We wrote Tucker Kimball, Gould's Director of Communication and he was kind enough to fill us in and share some photos (see gallery below):

1. How does the China trip fit as part of the Ninth Grade Program? What concepts will the China trip provide, emphasize, teach, reinforce and teach?
 
Tucker Kimball (TK): This trip is part of Gould's larger Four Point Program. Four Point, as it is known around campus, provides each class with an unforgettable experience that takes students out of their comfort zones and provides the opportunity for self reflection and growing self confidence. During the last week in February, ninth graders travel internationally, sophomores remain on campus engaged with local artists and the local community, juniors spend 8-10 days winter camping in the White Mountains, and seniors follow their own passions through independent projects that often take them around the globe.
 
For many ninth graders, this trip to China is their first experience traveling internationally. Imagine being 14 or 15 again and traveling to China? It is an amazing opportunity and one that is so important to Gould's mission of preparing each student for the global community. Our ninth graders will come away more unified as a class and, individually, each one will have learned more about his/her self and that they are part of something larger.
 

2. Is the trip a culmination of a specific course of study?  Do students study China specifically before the trip or does the ninth grade program revolve around teaching concepts and China is 'this year's  trip?"
 
TK: There is an intentional, shared curriculum in place for our ninth graders that works in concert with ninth grade Four Point. Through their English and Human Geography courses, ninth graders learn about China's landscape both physical and cultural through novels, poetry, and film. They've studied Taoism, Confucianism and the Cultural Revolution. So, they have a great background before they leave and are that much more engrossed in the culture when they arrive, culminating in a very powerful experience.
 

3. Does the entire ninth grade go?

TK: Yes, every year the entire ninth grade travels internationally. The Four Point Program is a graduation requirement.


4. What's the goal for the students?  How will they use the trip after their return?  Will teaching and lessons continue drawing on the trip for the rest of the year?

TK: Each student is required to keep a 60 page journal based on themes they've covered in their English and Human Geography classes. When they return, each student creates a 500 word narrative from their journal. This serves as the script for a digital story that each creates layering narrative, photos and finally sound.
 
The reflection aspect of Four Point is a very important part of the program. The experience does not end once they return. It changes into something just as a powerful, as they begin to process the trip and how it has affected them and their view of their world. Self discovery through experience is something Gould is very good at. 

Westover School and Brass City Ballet Expand Their Collaboration

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Westover School and Brass City Ballet have expanded their five year joint program with a new opportunity beginning fall 2009. The new program will "provide more intensive ballet instruction for Westover students and bring new talent to Brass City Ballet."

The expanded program offers Westover students the opportunity to become members of Brass City Ballet's Performing Company along with accompanying opportunities to perform in "Brass City Ballet's major productions such as The Nutcracker and Spring Gala."

Elizabeth Barisser, Artistic Director of Brass City Ballet, sees great benefits and the opportunity to reach world wide talent through partnering with Westover.  "[BCB Enhanced Program] will allow Brass City Ballet to welcome new talent, which will not be limited to local talent."
Blue Ridge School recently added its Affordability Plan to the school's web site laying out their commitment to affordability.

It includes both philosophical and concrete examples of the school's approaches and commitment. Among other items in the Affordability Plan, Blue Ridge has increased its financial aid budget by 30% over the past two years and, one item that I really like, the school makes clear that the tuition, room and board are inclusive of all school activities- including textbooks. This is more important than it sounds; for years, many schools have used extracurriculars and books as profit centers- charging and billing for activities and bus rides.

I like Blue Ridge's willing to publish their positions and thinking. They use one of my favorite terms transparency. Transparency allows parents and families to make the best possible decisions.

Although the official notification date is today, March 10, two acceptance letters arrived on the 9th to our great relief. The Director of Admissions for our son's school called to let us know that our daughter is on the waiting list, which was such a gracious thing to do. At 12:05 this morning we received an e-mail from a fourth school bringing the news of another acceptance, and we are still waiting for a letter from the fifth school.

As through the whole experience, the culture of a school shines through their communications with applicants. One acceptance yesterday was a single page form letter for our daughter and a similar letter for us with all the information on tuition and fees. Not a missive which made her feel particularly special or wanted.

The other school, fortunately her first choice, sent a highly personalized package including an acceptance letter citing her references and her distinctive qualifications, information about the re-visit days and, most exciting to her, a bumper sticker.

The school which informed us by e-mail early this morning included a link to youtube with a special message, but as we have only dial-up in the provinces, we're unable to view it and are hoping it doesn't have any requisite information.

We hope the last letter contains positive news as it is one of two schools which she would like to re-visit. There is a long exhale at our house.
Editor's Note: We're excited to feature a post by the Boarding School Mom's daughter. She offers her on the ground take on the boarding school admission process.

The applications are in, and there is little you can do but bite your nails and wait. However, the endless flow of questions is not over. This time instead of what to wear to the interview, when is the interview, what should my essay be, etc., the questions are did I do everything I could have done, did I do my very best work, etc. These questions can sometimes be more mentally exhausting and more worrisome then questions about the interview or applications. Most humans like to feel in control and these questions are putting me as from the control booth as we can be. This adds to your level of anxiety.

I'm not here to give you breathing exercises or say "yes" with a little bit of magic the questions will fade and you can sleep at night once more. However, sometimes when you realize that you're not the only one dealing with these issues; things can seem less intense or unreachable. For me the waiting has been more of an excitement than anything else. I want to know, but have not been nervous about finding out or scared about what the results will be. However as the deadline slowly approaches, I've become more nervous, counting down the days, and silently praying that everything will turn out right.

When the applications first go in, it's more of a relief than anything else as you feel free for the first time in weeks and your arms can finally rest. Your worries about getting carpal tunnel syndrome disappear, and you relax for the first time since September. However, by the end of January your mind starts throwing questions of doubt at you, and you lose your relaxed feel. From there you're simply sliding downwards. For all of February I fought these questions and tried to convince myself that I'd done my very best. I could manage to relax again during sports and at home, but school was still a tense mess. I felt like there was nothing I could do, and I was partly right. These feelings are completely natural. High school is a huge deal and going to the perfect place is something to fret over, but you can also fall back on the truth that you will be in your right place. It worked and once again I was completely relaxed just looking forward to finding out the results.  Then, the nightmares and horrible thoughts started. This time however they weren't fueled by my own over-excited imagination or my mind, but by other people.

You can't control what people say to you, but when every person you talk to asks you if you're nervous or if you've heard from schools, you start to become nervous and more edgy about finding out. The more people that asked the more anxious I became. The first time I freaked due to boarding school fears was when my report card came. At any other time, I knew it would have been excellent, but this time I was having visions of getting straight "F's" and my teachers writing terrifying comments. This was a completely nonsensical worry, because I knew this couldn't be true, yet in my frazzled state I'd almost managed to convince myself I was getting "F's". I am now worried that each letter next week will contain a rejection and am now in a feverish state about what's going on. However, I have managed to convince myself that I did everything I could. The one thing that I've found hard to accept, but know is true is that getting in or getting rejected doesn't change who you are. You are still the same great person it just means it wasn't meant to be and who knows like my brother it could turn out to be for the better! (read first Boarding school mom blog)

To maintain privacy and confidentiality, our author writes under the pen name "Boarding School Mom" and all family, child consultant, and school names will be changed or omitted. You can reach AQ's Boarding School Mom at [email protected]. 
 
Photo credit: alexanderdrachmann

Waiting for Our Admission Decision

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Well, we are counting the hours and wondering how soon letters mailed from various parts of the country on March 10th will arrive in our corner of New England. Our consultant has shared that she is hearing positive comments from her contacts at the schools at which we've applied. However our daughter is getting a little frazzled. We are making as few commitments as possible in late March and early April so that we are able to attend re-visit days as necessary. The benefit is that we have realized that our last child is (hopefully) leaving in five months which makes us treasure each moment with her and makes us much more patient when our buttons are pushed.

I have been privileged to spend time lately with a young man in eighth grade currently in a junior boarding school who will be applying next fall to prep school. A thoughtful and organized kid, he is already thinking about where he wants to apply; so we spent a couple of days visiting schools to get a feel for whether or not they are places he wants to interview in the fall. It's been fun seeing schools I had visited with my children in a different season and through another's eyes and also interesting to visit some new campuses. An athlete and a thespian, the priority for him has been to visit the gym and the theater at each school, which does indicate the value a school places on each.

To maintain privacy and confidentiality, our author writes under the pen name "Boarding School Mom" and all family, child consultant, and school names will be changed or omitted. You can reach AQ's Boarding School Mom at [email protected].  

It's March 10th! Time for Decision Day Insights and Resources

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Today's a big day. It's when boarding school decision & financial aid letters go out and/or arrive. You'll learn which schools you've been invited to attend; which schools where the fit wasn't quite right; and, perhaps most importantly, the size of the financial aid package.

Weighing the options, you might feel that you now have a more serious, focused decision to make than when you constructed your list of prospective schools.

You might be wait listed; you might have financial aid awards to weigh; you might have received acceptance to several schools. What to do now?

We've published several articles over the years providing insight and thinking into the "which school should I go to; wait listed, what should we do?" questions. As you take the next month or so to make your final school choice you might find them helpful.

The Admission Process: Decision Time!

Waitlisted at a Private School?

Tips for Students Accepted at a Private School


Photo credit: ocherdraco


Myron Rolle on CNN

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Myron Rolle paid a quick visit to CNN this morning touching on topics ranging from the NFL draft, education versus money, the possibilities of being an MD and life as role model.

For those new to this story, Mr. Rolle is a Hun School alumnus, Florida State graduate, Florida State football  player, potential NFL first round draft pick, Rhodes Scholar headed to Oxford this fall and aspiring MD.

A School Administrator Talks About Paying for Prep School

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As Brian mentioned in the post before this one, late last week I sat down with two financial aid experts for a podcast that examined financial aid in an economic downturn. My guests offered sound advice for families considering financial aid options.

We're always on the lookout for additional FA articles & resources and Rob Kennedy, my friend at privateschool.about.com, offers a number of blog entries that focus on the topic.

I encourage you to visit his site and read through his writings. A good one to begin with is his post on Paying for Private School in Tough Times- a Q&A with Dr. Wendy Weiner, Principal of Conservatory Prep Senior High.

Rob asks Dr. Weiner about what parents of currently enrolled students should do if they find themselves in a position where they can't afford their tuition payments.   

Dr. Weiner discusses the need to maintain an open line of communication with your school (a point we always stress); should parents use college savings to pay for prep school; what are your contract obligations; and renegotiating aid based on a change in circumstance.

A Podcast Conversation About Affording Private School in an Economic Downturn

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Addressing the admissions notification and financial aid season, we produced a podcast today discussing financial aid in tight times.

Peter spoke with Martin Peyer, CEO of Tuition Data Services and Jamie Miller, Director of Financial Aid at the Blue Ridge School. They explored financial aid and tuition payment strategies for families as they make their private school commitment for 2009-2010.

Suggestions to families include:

Opening a dialog with admission and financial aid officers at the start of the application process

Prepare to document your financial condition

Explore tuition payment plans and lending options

Ask the financial aid officers about resources. They know the foundations and sources interested in supporting their students.

Please share their commentary and suggestions as we work through then enrollment and financial aid process in this difficult environment. The episode is available below, through our Boarding School Podcast directory or AQ's iTunes channel.

Approaching Financial Aid in a Recession Download the .mp3 (Audio) (16.9 MB)

Get it on iTunes Get it on iTunes!

From today's Washington Post (Aid Is Increased to Help Keep Struggling Families From Removing Students)- with experience working through difficult situations over the past decade- declining enrollment, increasing costs and families electing non-catholic education options, the Catholic schools of the DC area are moving quickly and decisively to help families seeking financial aid.

As Karen Ristau, president of the National Catholic Educational Association told the Post "Any kind of issues that we had before have just been intensified by the concern over the economy."

To their credit, the administrators of DC are Catholic schools are committed to finding and making increased financial aid available to families who might need tuition assistance for the first time.

"To retain students whose parents have hit rocky financial times, dioceses are increasing financial aid for next year, extending financial aid deadlines and offering emergency aid for this year for families facing sudden setbacks who are unable to pay tuition, which runs between $4,000 and $18,000 a year.

The Arlington Diocese, which has about 18,000 students, has increased its financial aid from $1.7 million to $2 million for next year. It is also offering $250,000 this year for people in immediate need, said Sister Bernadette McManigal, interim schools superintendent.

She expects the money to run out quickly. "I probably could use a half-million just for immediate need," she said." (Washington Post)
While doing great work, I find the-story-behind-the-story the most interesting aspect of this piece. Increasing financial aid is something that every tuition driven school would love today.  Most can't. But some schools- like the DC area Catholic schools- find more aid. And, I think the reasons are simple. Start with Lower overhead.  But, beyond that, I see commitment and communal bonds.

Most everyone, clergy, teachers, parents, students, charities and families share a common bond of service and shared sacrifice. "Working together, we can find a way to make this work." And, unlike stand-alone independent schools, catholic schools seem to be able to draw on revenues from other parts of their diocese.

"Barbara McGraw Edmondson, principal of the School of the Incarnation in Gambrills, said her school's leadership has decided that it will waive tuition, if need be, to keep children in school. Several families have come to the school seeking assistance because of unemployment or decreased income.

"If a family is in that situation, we certainly would have the child remain in school even if they can't pay the tuition," Edmondson said. "That is the reality now." (Washington Post)
One can't help but be impressed by the commitment and levels of shared sacrifice and wonder, "are there ways for independent schools to build, practice, and benefit from these intense levels of commitment and sacrifice?"
You gotta love the stories that get told through blogging. As part of the Gould Academy's Four Point Program, the entire ninth grade class is wrapping up 12 day trip to China. You didn't misread; the entire ninth grade traveled to China to experience a different culture and gain some perspective and understanding.

During their trip students and faculty kept a blog in which they documented their trip from planning forward. The students seem to have done a nice job getting out and working to experience the unfamiliar language and happenings. The blog includes some observational student and adult writing as well as a good number of pictures.

Gould students took language lessons; practiced calligraphy; got out into the countryside; visited the Great Wall; experienced a tea ceremony; visited temples and shrines; spent time with host families, and most importantly met and connected with other students.

Some of my favorite excerpts/observations from Gould in China:

We ate lunch nearby at a restaurant along the river. The students quickly made the connection between the vegetables and livestock on display outside the restaurant and lunch itself. (March 2)

Now imagine a crowded city sidewalk with people streaming in both directions, ducking and diving in and out of the tightest gaps imaginable. Only in this case, instead of people on a sidewalk it is cars, buses, scooters, and bikes in the middle of the road. The lines mean next to nothing as our taxis regularly crossed the double yellow line into oncoming traffic in order to gain an advantage on the bus or Audi just ahead. Apparently the only rule is that if your nose is ahead, even by a few inches, you have the right of way. Just when you think you can relax, a scooter will be cutting across four lanes of speeding cars going the wrong direction in an effort to make a side street, all while dodging the ever present pedestrians in the middle of the street. Liberal use of the horn, and a fearless willingness to do whatever it takes, seem to be the only requirements for driving a cab in China. It is truly an experience that has to be seen to be appreciated, though it is not for the faint of heart. (March 2)

Two brave students, Tutu and Will chose to do a very Chinese thing- have their ears cleaned on the street by men with tuning forks and a variety of tools. As with any endeavor that takes place in the street, it drew a big crowd! (February 27)
Part of the Larger Picture
Far from a just-for-fun trip, Gould designs their trip with a purpose. Students have worked through a curriculum designed to support their travel experiences prior to traveling and they will work to produce pieces drawing on their experiences as they complete their school year.

In addition to their trip blog, checkout the Ninth Grade Program blog to learn more.
Playing for dad at any level has it's ups and downs. At the University of Rhode Island, wife & mom, Cindy Baron makes the father-son/coach-player tandem of Coach Jim Baron and player Jimmy Baron work.

The friction seems particularly difficult in this story as the blunt, workaholic Coach Baron is driven not to favor his son on the court while Jimmy seems motivated to work so hard so as to deprive anyone from using the line 'coach's son.'

The guardedness and sacrifice of the father-son relationship is palpable. As Jimmy Baron told the New York Times (When Father and Son Clash at Rhode Island, Mom Mediates):

"The hardest part has been not being able to develop a father-son relationship. We try not to show much affection in front of the other guys, because you don't want them to get the perspective that what he's doing is for his son." (NYT)
Noteworthy from the boarding school perspective, Jimmy's high school basketball career bloomed late during a post-graduate year at Worcester Academy (Worcester, MA). His brother Billy Baron, will also attend Worcester.

Photo credit: Balakov

Thinking Spring on a Snowy March Morning: A Quick Look at a Southern Boarding School

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Like so many in the Northeast, I woke up this morning to another foot of snow and whole lot of shoveling. So now that I'm at my desk and editing an article on Southern boarding schools (and envious that it's the beginning of Spring for schools in the South), I thought I'd warm things up a bit with a shot from St. Andrew's School in Boca Raton, FL. Got to love being able to go school in shorts year round.

If you're not familiar with St. Andrew's, it's "an Episcopal School founded in 1962. It is a nationally recognized K-12 day and boarding college preparatory school." Visit the school's site to learn more.

Think Spring everyone. We're almost there.

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This page is an archive of entries from March 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

February 2009 is the previous archive.

April 2009 is the next archive.

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