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Private Schools – Steps in Selecting the Right School For Your Child

You’ve made the decision that you want your child to go to a private school. Now, how do you select one?

Identify your Needs

There are many factors to consider when choosing the “right” school. At the start of your process, make sure you know what your needs are, and rank them in order of importance to your family. What are the “must haves”? “Nice to haves”? Things you don’t care about?

Search for Schools

You can start your research by consulting the Web or various published guides. Or, you can hire a consultant who is knowledgeable about the private schools in your area and can help you determine which schools match your requirements.

Coming up with the Finalists

Once you have a list of schools, begin your specific research on each one. Here is a summary of commonly asked questions to help guide you through this process:

  • What kind of school do you want? Private? Independent? Religious? Day or boarding? Single sex or co-ed? Large or small?
  • How far do you want it to be from your home?
  • What school best matches you child’s academic, social and athletic needs? His or her talents?
  • Are there any specialized programs? Extracurricular activities?
  • How diverse is the school population?
  • What kind of social life is there?
  • What is the tuition? How and when is it paid? Is there financial aid?
  • How safe is the school? How does it handle disciplinary issues?
  • What is its academic philosophy?
  • What degrees does the staff have?
  • What is the ratio of staff to students?
  • What is a typical daily school schedule like?
  • How long has the school been in operation?
  • Is the school accredited?
  • What is the school’s financial status and endowment?
  • How does the school rank among other private schools?
  • Can parents get involved
  • What are the entrance requirements?
  • Do we know anyone who goes there?

The answers to many of these questions usually can be found by looking at a school’s Web site and by requesting literature from them.

Once you have your information, begin to make a list of the pros and cons of each school. This will yield a shorter list that you want to start looking at in more detail.

Visit the Targeted Schools

If possible, try to visit the schools you are interested in to look around and discuss its philosophy and standards in person. Check out its facilities and a classroom setting. Make sure you child talks to students to get the “lay of the land.” Ask school officials to provide you with contact information for a few parents of currently enrolled students.

If you already plan on applying to the school, you can combine this visit with a formal admission interview. If you are not sure, the visit can help you decide on whether to pursue it further.

Talk to Each Other

Parents and children should sit down and discuss all the information you have. You might like the school, but your child does not, or vice-versa.

Acting on Your Decision

Once you have your “short list” of desired schools, start the formal admission process. This will include your child taking required admission tests and both of you filling out the admission paperwork.


Our Kids Face More Chronic Illnesses Unless We Change What They Eat at School

One-third to one-half of children born since 2000 will acquire Type 2 diabetes in their lifetime. Many others will face chronic obesity-related health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, asthma and breast cancer.

If present trends hold, our children will be the first in the nation’s history not to live longer than their parents according to the National Institute of Health and school lunches are contributing to the problem. There are a number of school systems, however, that have successfully changed the way our kids eat.

Schools Lunches: Unwrap-and-Heat High Calories and Low Nutrition

The best description for school lunch food is “fast-food” said pediatrician AyalaLaufer Cahan MD. “Overall, it’s salty, sweet and fatty; the meat is breaded and highly processed – even the fruit and vegetables aren’t fresh for the most part. Most of the schools have no kitchens and just unwrap and heat foods,” she said.

The school meals, however, are not the only problem. There are also the food and beverages sold in the cafeteria or vending machines which make up a big part of what kids actually eat while they’re in school.

Kids spend half their waking hours in school and consume half of their daily calories while on campus. Changing school food is critical in the effort to combat obesity.

Communities Are Finding Ways to Improve School Lunches

From the Food Network Star Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign to Chicago’s Healthy Schools Campaign, there are a number of nation-wide and local efforts to improve how our kids eat.

Cook for America™, founded by Kate Adamick, JD and Chef Andrea Martin, LLC, focuses on training and empowering school food service personnel to provide healthy, cooked-from-scratch school meals through five-day culinary boot camps. Offered nation-wide, they are now running a series of boot camps in Colorado.

“We use a lot of culinary language.We move into knife skills.We give them French terms to understand what they are actually doing.We do basic cooking techniques and put them in chef whites.We had kids walk by the classroom the other day and they said, “Oh, look at all the chefs in the room. So, we start to give them a sense of identity,” said Martin.

They also teach them “stealth health”, i.e. how to hide the vegetables so the kids will eat them; for example, blending vegetables in the spaghetti sauce or adding pureed squash to the macaroni and cheese. “The issue is not that kids won’t eat it.The issue is, the adults think the kids won’t eat it.And it is almost universal that we see the kids really do eat it,” said Adamick.

Ann Cooper, author of Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children, along with Martin, Adamick and Alice Waters, transformed the Berkeley, California school lunch program from “100 percent of the food arriving in plastic, reheated in plastic, and served to the kids in plastic,” to a program that includes:

  • Salad bars in all schools
  • Removal of 95% of the processed foods
  • Hormone- and antibiotic-free milk
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables served daily
  • Most foods made from scratch
  • Organic or whole wheat rolls
  • 50% of rice, brown
  • Majority of food purchased locally
  • Natural and grass fed hamburgers and hotdogs

Needs Parents to Help Make It Happen

On August 4th,Congress passed The Child Nutrition Bill which allocates $4.5 billion over a decade to support school cafeterias and introduce new standards for food sold in schools, including vending machines.

The impact from this, however, will take time, and it’s not enough. Schools can meet the program requirements for school lunches in any way they choose – as long as nutrition satisfies the federal guidelines. The National School Lunch Program is implemented on a national level and administered on a state level. Local school authorities make decisions on the specific foods and meals prepared and served.

Improving school lunch programs will need to be done at the local level and it will take more than just the school cooks to make it happen.

If you want to improve the school lunch program in your district, chances are there is a way. Two good resources for starting are Ann Cooper’s book Lunch Lessons which gives readers the tools to transform the way children everywhere interact with food. Another is Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign which outlines steps to success for parents, schools, the community, elected officials, kids, community leaders and chefs.

Cooper says school cafeterias have $2.40 per day to spend on each kid – 70 percent of which goes to payroll and overhead. That leaves 72 cents to spend on ingredients. So it takes more than what most schools have budgeted to improve school lunches but it can be done.

The Berkeley program is a partnership among the Berkeley Unified School District, the Center for Ecoliteracy, and the Chez Panisse Foundation. Colorado schools are receiving support from several foundations and federal stimulus funds. Chicago’s program is supported by Applegate Farms. So there is support out there.

“I feel very empowered,” said school cook Shannon Soloman, a Cook for America™ boot camp graduate and mother of five who just lost 100 pounds. “I want to bring my education to the kids.That is where my heart, that’s where my passion is.Five-star restaurants are great and I love the chef learning I had right now but impacting the lives of our children and bringing that to our school district, it’s the most important thing to me right now in my life.”


Schools Are About Learning – Learning Is About Relationships

Schools are about relationships. Learning is about relationships. We learn in relationship to ideas and concepts, and in relationships with others.

As long as we gather our children together in schools, the adults who care for and teach them are without question among the most important people in their lives. Schools are communities that should be first and foremost devoted to learning. All too often other agendas get in the way of learning. Other agendas might include an administrator’s desire to advance his or her career, a teacher’s desire to do the same or to avoid the additional work that comes with being a member of a team devoted unremittingly to each student’s success, or a board’s efforts to take the school in a different direction than that of its mission. Agendas in schools other than being totally devoted to learning are sad and unfortunate. But, let’s not despair. Many teachers and administrators have as their primary objective the learning and welfare of their students. They approach each day with passion for teaching and learning, and compassion for their students.

Here are some questions that you may wish to ponder about your school and colleagues. I offer them in the spirit of learning. They were helpful during my days as a school leader.

  • Do teachers in my school believe that professional growth and renewal are of the utmost importance?
  • Do teachers in my school believe that setting the highest attainable academic and social standards for students is essential, and that this constitutes one of our faculty’s most basic values?
  • Do teachers in my school believe that being on the student’s side and wishing for them conspicuous, daily success form two of our faculty’s most fundamental goals?
  • Do teachers in my school believe that disciplinary steps and/or confrontations with students must be conducted in ways that leave students’ dignity intact?
  • Do teachers in my school believe that rendering assistance to one’s colleagues is of crucial importance?
  • Are casual conversations among faculty members constructive, upbeat and professional?
  • Do I have complete trust in my school colleagues?
  • Do I have great respect for my school administrators?
  • Does my school administration give active support to, and establish an active engagement with, all school faculty members?
  • Does my school administration powerfully support proactive communication with, and service to, each student’s parents?

Imagine being in a school where you and your colleagues are totally devoted to professional growth and your students. What a lovely place to be.


Healthy Faculty Culture Is Essential to Creating Excellent Schools

Faculty culture plays a major role in student achievement. Students in schools with a healthy faculty culture perform better than their peers in schools with an unhealthy faculty culture. Yet, most school improvement efforts do not focus on developing and maintaining a healthy faculty culture. School leaders are often reluctant to systematically assess faculty culture out of fear that the findings may be threatening. Yet, to the contrary, the perspectives of faculty are among the most valuable to a school leader interested in developing strong leadership skills. To create a learning environment in which students excel academically, socially and intellectually schools must be vigilant about assessing and improving faculty culture.

One way to assess faculty culture is to survey the faculty about perceptions, beliefs, ideas and assumptions that ultimately create the faculty’s common perspectives and performance. Teachers complete it anonymously using a scale of one to five. The results indicate the areas in which faculty culture is healthy and those that need to be improved. Typically, a school consultant facilitates the process and uses the information to in the context of school improvement or faculty and staff development plan. Here are some examples of items that might be included in the survey.

  1. Teachers in my school are committed to professional growth. They participate in in-service training at school, attend conferences and workshops, and clearly convey in their actions and words that professional development is vital.
  2. Faculty members in my school establish high and realistic academic standards for students. One of our fundamental values is challenge our students academically while providing the support they need to be successful.
  3. In my school, teachers establish high and achievable social standards for students. They believe that the social and behavioral success of students is as important as academic success and that students’ social welfare is one of our basic values.
  4. Teachers in my school believe that their primary responsibility is to help their students be successful. They are devoted to their students and go the second mile to help them whenever possible.
  5. Faculty members in my school treat students respectfully at all times, including times when they need to address a student’s unsatisfactory behavior. They consistently model the behavior they expect from their students.
  6. Faculty members in my school value working together collaboratively, assisting one another, sharing resources and generally helping out whenever possible.
  7. In the faculty room, hallways and wherever teachers get together to chat, conversations are typically productive, cheerful and professional.
  8. I totally trust my teaching colleagues.
  9. I totally trust my school administrators.
  10. The administrators in my school actively support teachers and do their best to help them be successful.
  11. Teachers and administrators in my school communicate professionally with parents and seek to keep them informed about the school and their child’s progress.

Based on the results, schools can identify areas that must be addressed to improve faculty culture. Regardless of the instrument a school may choose to use, faculty culture assessment and improvement should be an ongoing part of school evaluation and goal-setting. Ensuring the health of the faculty is paramount to creating and maintaining an excellent school.


Executive Coaching for Charter School Leaders Improves Leadership and Schools

Charter school leaders face daunting challenges compared to their private and public school counterparts. That said, public and private school leaders also have very complex and demanding jobs. Executive coaching can provide leaders with the support they need to meet the challenges and strengthen their leadership. Here we focus on executive coaching for charter school leaders.

Charter school principals do not have central office services like public schools or the financial resources enjoyed by most private schools, yet they have similar responsibilities. They are responsible for all aspects of running a school, nurturing trust between adults and students, managing limited financial resources, and balancing the inescapable demands of multiple constituencies school communities. They must recruit students and teachers, supervise and support teachers, secure and manage facilities, raise money, manage school finances and work with boards, to mention a few.

Inadequate facilities, recruiting excellent teachers, high teacher turnover, low faculty morale, constant fundraising, low student achievement, discipline problems, and balancing the budget are a few of the issues that keep charter school leaders awake at night. Furthermore, while taking care of the urgent, time for the important is rarely found. Strategic planning, quality review, schoolwide improvement planning and new initiatives are lost in the dust.

Despite the plethora of challenges, charter leaders are deeply devoted to the missions of their schools. They find satisfaction in the passion they feel for the mission of the school, the opportunity to make lasting change in students’ lives and the autonomy they have as leaders. Many passionate, talented people are stepping up to the challenge of charter school leadership.

While passion and devotion to a school’s mission are necessary, they are not enough to be a successful charter school leader. Experience and leadership training are critical.

Executive coaching is perhaps the most effective way for charter school leaders to learn and get support on the job. Research shows that leaders perform better when they are coached rather than “supervised”. Clearly, someone who has made it into a school leadership role has demonstrated considerable skill already. Yet the overwhelming demands faced by charter school leaders can quickly lead to burnout or pushout.

Coaches can help leaders avoid burnout and pushout, continue to be successful, and become more effective. Through careful listening and effective questioning, executive coaches provide support and guidance as leaders negotiate the complexities of headship and improve their leadership skills. Coaches also provide resources and advice as appropriate. However, more often than not, school leaders arrive at their own answers with assistance from the coach. That’s the beauty of coaching and being coached.


Discrimination in Schools – Math and Science Teachers Underpaid

The Seattle Post in Washington reports that science and math teachers are paid less than teachers of other subjects. Nineteen out of thirty Washington school districts pay math and science teachers less than high school instructors of other subjects. When we are taught throughout elementary and high school that math is a subject we must take seriously as it is used in every job that you get in life, why are its teachers paid less? Especially with the subject of science, this subject its extensive as it involves labs, dissecting and a lot of hands on lessons, it seems odd that science teachers also get paid less than other teachers. Schools that discriminate against its teachers are wrong. Since teachers are unionized why isn’t the union protecting the math and science teachers as equal teachers like the history and English instructors?

They say that because Math and Science teachers leave schools before they receive promotions since they are recruited out of their jobs to higher tech companies that pay higher than teaching jobs. How are schools going to be able to hire and keep effective math and science teachers if they are easily swayed to other companies because of the low pay they are receiving from the schools? Its important for schools to keep and maintain good relationships with its math and science teachers as these subjects are important for students to do well in college. The better-prepared students get with their math and science classes in high school, the easier the transition will be when going from high school to college. Since math is such a fundamental subject why aren’t schools paying the math teachers more to keep them at the schools and help the students do better in the math subjects. If math teachers are constantly being recruited out of schools to higher paying tech jobs, then schools are also constantly hiring new math and science teachers to fill their places.

This results in inexperienced math and science teachers coming into the schools and teaching students a subject that is so fundamental for a student’s success in their educational career. Students deserve to have well educated and well-experienced teachers teaching them these subjects as they are subjects that you either get or don’t get. Teachers need to have experience in teaching a diverse group of students with different learning abilities and learning speeds. Some students learn different than others and students need that individualized attention that only comes from teachers that have had years of experience in actual classrooms working with a group of students with different learning abilities. Its so important for students to learn from effective and experienced teachers. If such important subjects in schools are being taught year by year by new teachers since the pay is son low that they are getting recruited faster than the school can promote them or give them raises, it seems that the schools should start the pay higher. In turn this will get students getter grades, better test score and in turn, better school ratings.