Saturday, November 7, 2009

Hot topic: Private all-girls schools

An SF K Files reader asked me to post the following:
The discussion about boys' schools was fascinating! Can we talk about girls' schools now? Hamlin, Burke's, are there any other non-religious ones?


  1. I think it's fine to talk about Hamlin and Burkes but why exclude the religious ones like Convent?

  2. Given that two of the three boys schools are religious ones, I'm not sure why the exclusion either.

  3. I'm assuming they mean non-parochial, not non-religious.

  4. Why the exclusion? The poster probably isn't religious and doesn't want to send her daughter to a religious school.

    Both Hamlin and Burke are top of the line schools. Key differences are: Burke is on nearly four acres of land on the edge of the City in Sea Cliff. Hamlin is basically a concrete edifice in Pacific Heights. Burke's head of school is a little reserved. Hamlin's head of school is brash and vocal. Both parent populations represent the best of San Francisco. Hamlin has a reputation perhaps deserved for developing girls who are a little more cutthroat than Burke. Burke looks stronger in the sciences.

  5. Well, I for one would be interested to hear about Convent, which hasn't been written about as extensively on this blog as the other two. I would also be interested in comments about the idea and reality of girls' schools in general, pro and con.

    Also, not trying to start anything, and I'm looking at all sorts of schools myself (public, private, religious), but I found the phrase about the two schools representing the "best of San Francisco" in terms of parents to be very off-putting. There seem to be plenty of "best of" in many places, not least in our public schools which seem to have some real heroes among their parents in terms of their commitment to educating all our city's children. One of my concerns about Burke and Hamlin (would like to know more about Convent) is that sense of "we're the creme de la creme" of the city. I'm interested in same-sex education, but I am concerned about that attitude and would not want my daughter to cultivate it. It's a serious question/concern, and I'd appreciate any comments. thanks.

  6. Our daughter, who was not religious and never became religious, went to high school at Convent. She had been a mediocre student through 8th grade in public school, a shy kid who did not make waves, so they passed her with B's but never encouraged her to apply herself.

    She blossomed academically and personally at Convent. The focused attention on each student helped close the gaps in her earlier learning and built her confidence. The small classes where she could not hide forced her to prepare and perform. She is about to graduate from college with departmental honors. Her professors consistently praise her diligence and the breadth and depth of the education she brought to college with her.

    Socially it was an adjustment because a fair number of students and their families (by no means all, they do have a good endowment for financial aid) were out of our socioeconomic league, but overall it was positive. We worked so much just to try to keep up with the expense that we did not have time or energy to be involved much in the school community, but when we did participate, we felt welcome. I'm sure if we'd wanted to, we could have felt slighted, but we kept a positive attitude and focused on the great educational experience. Our daughter did not have trouble making friends, though she was embarrassed to have them over to our decidedly "basic" condo. She tended to go over to their houses or do "out" activities like movies.

    We were took on a lot of debt to make the Convent tuition, but knowing how much the school did for her, we don't regret the sacrifice. However, taking on 4 years of independent private high school tuition when you know your kid needs a lot of support after a public school experience that did not work out is one thing. If you're thinking of K-12 at Convent and you'll need the after-school child care during the elementary years, you're probably looking at $400,000 per child, maybe more, if tuition increases continue as they have over the past several years. This sum also holds for Burke's and Hamlin, which are slightly more expensive than Convent. Every penny of private school tuition comes out of your after-tax income. You'll need to be pretty high-income, have help from family, or get lucky on a financial aid application.

    Based on results, I don't think you can do better than Convent. But unless money is no object, it's important to bear the potential expense in mind before getting your heart set on a single-sex education for your daughter in San Francisco.

  7. The "best of" was another poster's impressions. My daughter goes to Hamlin and our parent community doesn't strive to be the creme of anything. The school has put great emphasis in creating a diverse community, and our class is made up of kids from many different preschools and neighborhoods and their parents are from many different walks of life. I've never sensed any discomfort amongst anyone in our class, and have really enjoyed getting to know the other parents. It isn't a "power" crowd at all.

  8. Thanks to the parents of the girls that went to Convent and Hamlin.
    These are very informative posts.

    Convent mom, good for you for putting your daughter first.

    Again, can we skip the "best of" remarks. At least, be more specific, because I'd really be interested in what is meant by "best of."

    Most wealthy?

    Most educated?

    Most altruistic?

    Most worldly?

    Most innovative?

    Most artistic?


    Most full of themselves?

    Really, what is "best of" ?

  9. Yikes please don't take this conversation to the boys section.

  10. I appreciate the very specific comments, especially from the Convent mom. Was your daughter in SF public previously? I also appreciate your point about the overall cost. It sounds like you did the right thing for your daughter. I wouldn't put down someone who made the opposite decision, however, depending on the child. The mix of specific children's needs and overall the overall family's needs can be quite complex, especially if money really is a concern.

    Also, thank you 1:48 for calling it. I, too, want specifics, and if you say "best of" I also want to hear best of what. Your examples got me laughing out loud. I think Marcia Brady's posts re SE public schools are a good example of the specifics that are most helpful in any review. Not so much about generalities or reputation, but more about curriculum, teaching strengths and weaknesses, and so forth. Thanks! I appreciate all who write in with those kinds of stories to tell.

  11. I'd like to know how friendly those schools are for gay and lesbian parents. When I inquired, last year, it didn't seem that either Burke or Hamlin were very gay/lesbian-parent savvy though they seemed like they wanted to be.

  12. For the parent inquiring about gay/lesbian community -- Hamlin has an LGBT event where prospective families can meet current LGBT families and ask them about their experiences at Hamlin. The event is coming up shortly, I think it's Tuesday, November 17th at 6pm, and is usually held at someone's home. Your best bet is to call Hamlin's admissions office and ask Lisa Aquino for the specific information. I'm sure that would be the best place to hear first hand from other gay/lesbian parents what their experience has been like at Hamlin. I know that Burke's has a similar event called Mosaic which would also be great to attend.

  13. Convent mom here: Our daughter had been in public school in an East Bay suburb that people move to for the public schools. Many kids thrive in that system, but she did not.

  14. "When I inquired, last year, it didn't seem that either Burke or Hamlin were very gay/lesbian-parent savvy though they seemed like they wanted to be."

    Just curious - What does it mean to be GLBT "savvy" or "friendly". I am not being a jerk - This is an honest question. We have tried to raise our children to be respectful of every person and have also taught our children that families can be created in a variety of ways. Thanks!

  15. A perspective..

    We started out looking at private and public. Did tours of both. Decided based on what we saw that their is no doubt private would be a far superior experience. However the price tag was extreme. Applied to both and somewhat resigned to go public if we got one of our top choices. At least give it a try, however, our hearts were with one of the all girls schools mentioned here. We just knew it would be the right fit, on the other hand we didnt feel that way about any of the publics and we toured about 5-7schools.

    Anyway respones came back; public 0-7 assigned crappy school in our opinion. Private we fell in love with accepted. The choice was clear take the leap and so we did enroll at the private. The school could not have been a better fit for our entire family. We felt and feel at home. However for a long time the main question we had was; is it worth it? The price tag is so steep, why not move? (insert all other questions everyone here raises)....... The funny thing is over the last year the dialogue changed from is it worth it, to a weird understanding that the school has become one of the major reasons we will not leave the city. Among many other factors, we finally relaized the school experience is bar none for our family and no matter what we would not willingly give it up.

    I hope this helps.... bottom line Burkes and Hamlin are exceptional..

    We have friends with kids in public and parachroial schools. (In my opinion) There is no comparison! In many cases you can see it by looking in the kids eyes when hearing their own accounts of school. In fact and I know I will catch crap for this. All but 1 kid I know say they are bored or hate school when asked. I have yet to hear any kid from Burkes or Hamlin to use adjectives like that to describe their school life.

    Very few people will get to choose from both, so if you get a spot at either don't hesitate you can always change your mind in a year...

  16. OK, just so we're clear, you could have got your point across just as well w/out the unnecessary digs at public schools. It does the schools you are purporting to support a disservice when you present yourself in that manner.

  17. My kid *LOVES* her public school. She cries if she ever misses a day of school.

    (just sayin')

  18. And it may work well to do a blend of schooling. Some public, some private - certainly will expose a kid to a broad range of people and situations. I also think it's worth noting that the daughter of the Convent Mom is thriving and praised for her intellectual curiosity and aptitude even though she went to public school (and one that apparently didn't even fit all that well) for 9 years. Maybe in some way that school gave her something too; maybe it gave her the chance to tackle high school with an urgency she wouldn't have had otherwise. Motivation can be driven by all sorts of factors. And being in a situation which is not the best fit, or is one in which you're a minority, or where everything isn't provided for you can really lead to a degree of empathy and appreciation as well. Convent was a wonderful place for the daughter, and maybe she was just in the best place to appreciate and take advantage of that learning opportunity. (From someone who went to public herself through 6th grade and then went private.)

  19. Yes, my middle schooler loves being at school (where her friends are). She's also doing well academically and artistically.

    But I'm sure we all have stories (or "children of friends") to site. LOL.

    Just to be clear, public school parents/advocates did not start a public-private debate here or on the boys' private school thread or on the parochial thread. Did anyone notice that? This salvo came from a private school parent, and people are responding.

    Anyway, it is remarkably unhelpful to talk in such generalizations anyway. ("There is no doubt" an entire category of schools is better than another?). There is MUCH variation within the private school world, between publics, and between religious schools. There are certainly X,Y,Z public schools that are better on any number of measures (language, arts, academics, social/community) than A,B,C private schools--and vice versa, so this kind of broad-stroke comparison is meaningless!

    What has been very helpful in any thread, public or private or parochial, has been specific comments about a particular school's approach to education, community, curriculum, facilities, teachers, and leadership. Then we parents can make up our own mind about "fit" based upon our children and our values as to what factors are most important (and balanced by cost of course too).

  20. 3:04--PUBLIC school parent of a middle school if you hadn't guessed. :-)

  21. For the poster asking about the signs of LGBT "savviness" in a person or school:

    There's no secret handshake, I promise. I think what most of us LGBT people are looking for is just something other than the presumption that everyone is heterosexual. Neutral words like "partner," "caretaker," and "parent" when talking to adults, or "your grownup" for kids. Routine examples that include same-sex family life, as in "Billy's dads are a chef and a tennis champ; Sarah's mom is a neurosurgeon and her dad writes novels at home." A matter-of-fact attitude about gay people.

    That's a slight notch above mere abstract "tolerance" for difference, and different than saccharine "celebration" of difference. It indicates a comfort with gay life and a familiarity with it that generally comes from some exposure to it, whether through friends or family (no need to take a lover just yet). That's true of racial, class, religious, and other differences, and a really good argument for putting your kid into a variety of diverse contexts. Not every one of their contexts has to be the perfect diversity rainbow, but kids need to be in one or more places where they are not always in the majority, or not the automatic norm, or whatever. They need that double vision, the double vision all minority people have as a matter of course.

    When it comes to school, I think we want to know that our kid won't be the only one with same-sex parents, that stories and examples (again) will reflect our kids' realities occasionally too, and that teachers and staff members won't assume that our family structure *de facto* contributes to any problems our kids may be having. I can't think of anything else, but that's a start.

    Not to hijack this thread -- I am truly fascinated and, as a lesbian parent, wonder whether a girls' school is a good idea or something that would get my daughter more flack than a co-ed situation.

  22. "All but 1 kid I know say they are bored or hate school when asked. I have yet to hear any kid from Burkes or Hamlin to use adjectives like that to describe their school life."

    But that's because, being more affluent, they are genetically and morally superior and born to rule us untermensch.

  23. took 10 whole comments before teh claws came out. Well that's 5 more than normal. Public vs private, nothing to see here.

  24. Yup. "You can see it in their eyes" .... poor, poor public school kids!

    I love it when the private school parents put their feelings right out there about us hoi polloi! There was NO fight at all until she went on her little rant about our kids.

  25. For those of us who are neither public school nor private school folks (because we're in the middle of the process and want to explore all options), would people please share their specific thoughts re: Hamlin, Burkes and Convent. There was a good discussion on this topic on an earlier private school thread before it dissolved in the usual private/public debate. Please, I implore you, keep the bashing out of this thread. This process is so time-consuming, I really need this blog to help me sort through my options and I know other parents do as well. It is really not useful to anyone when it dissolves into the bashing. I know there are strong feelings out there, and I try to respect all of them. (It sort of reminds me of the old, hopefully completely outdated now, debates between work from home moms and work outside of the home moms). Let's set our differences aside and have a discussion, not a brawl. Thanks.

  26. I'm a Hamlin mom of a lower schooler. It has been a wonderful experience so far for our daughter. Her classmates are, for the most part, kind, fun and curious. Her teachers have been excellent. The small class size and individualized attention have helped my daughter learn and thrive (Hamlin has 3 classes of @ 15 incoming K students. Many of the others we looked at had 2 classes with higher numbers). There is a lot of emphasis on writing skills and developing strong readers. There is a new math program, which uses a lot of manipulatives and incorporates different learning styles when it comes to math. Hamlin is big on cultivating public speaking skills. Starting in kindergarten, the girls take turns as "class reporter" at Friday assemblies, working their way up to running the entire assemblies in 4th grade. This is hard for my shyer daughter, but it's been a great way to help her find her voice. I think Wanda Holland-Greene, the new head, has been a breath a fresh air for the school. I think the school is making positive strides with diversity. Our class has 3 LGBT families. The parents have been way more down to earth than I expected, and come from all over town. There are plenty of tony families, for sure, but it just hasn't been a big deal. The after-school program/Hub has been an unexpected bonus in how flexible it is with drop-ins, providing "camp" during many holidays, days off, etc. (granted for a charge), so it's appealing to working parents. Dads seem really involved.

    The downsides?
    -the cost
    -the vertical nature/lack of open space
    -it's going to get more demanding. We're still in a bit of a honeymoon, but it's going to get harder. We all have to be ready for that!
    -I think the class skews older, so it's probably going to be harder for younger girls with summer birthdays during admissions.
    -Having bought into the school and seen the positive impact it has had on our daughter, it would make it that much harder to leave. But you need to tally the costs and think long and hard about the financial implications. If you have only x dollars over the long haul, where should you spend it? Should you save that for private middle/high school? Something to think about.

    I will also say that we have friends at Burkes and Convent, and they love their schools as well.

    Hope that helps a little.

  27. I like the idea of an all-girl school for my daughter, who is a single child, but my major concern (aside from cost and acctually getting in) would be the lack of some sort of natural day-to-day interaction with boys. How do girls school parents deal with that aspect? Are there opportunities to interact with boys outside the class room, do you plan co-ed activities on your own, what?

  28. 3:51 - Thank you!

    I was the original person who asked the question. Thank you for the thoughtful, candid and funny response!

  29. My daughter is at Hamlin and she still has lots of interaction with boys, just in everyday life. One of her close friends happens to be a boy, and she does play with him regularly, but I don't see the absence of boys from her school as a negative at all.

    Actually I think the all-girl setting has improved my daughter's ability to interact with boys. She is much more confident and able to speak up for herself, and will happily march up to boys she doesn't know and ask to play with them. That would never have happened before she started school.

  30. "The after-school program/Hub has been an unexpected bonus in how flexible it is with drop-ins, providing "camp" during many holidays, days off, etc. (granted for a charge), so it's appealing to working parents. Dads seem really involved."

    I'll agree that it's a Godsend to have this. [Just FYI for those also considering public school options, the campuses which have GLO for before/afterschool care also offer 'camps' during holidays. Others may have this also.]

    Afterschool care & care during holidays is going to be one of your biggest stress factors as a working parent. It's also hard to get complete information on, but really more important than cosmetic differences between schools or minor differences in academics.

  31. Convent has its brother school Stuart Hall, so there is great opportunity for co-ed experience. Hamlin and Burkes girls can have plenty of interaction with boys in their daily life, while benefiting from single-sex education. I'd like to include Convent in discussion with Hamlin and Burkes here. Let's be clear: Convent is not a parochial school; it is a Catholic school. From touring all three schools, I'd be happy for my daughter to attend any of them.

  32. Id be happy if people stopped using the ridiculous term hoi polloi

  33. I think it was meant as an evidently ridiculous and satirical riposte to the "you can see it by looking in their eyes" melodrama about our poor public school kids ;-)

  34. "Id be happy if people stopped using the ridiculous term hoi polloi"

    OK, we'll go more modern and use the term plebians.

  35. For those of you considering single sex schools, I'd recommend reading _Why Gender Matters_ by Leonard Sax. Very interesting. And fyi, there was a question about single sex public schools, maybe on the boys schools thread. According to this book, in 2001 Hillary Clinton crafted new legislation legalizing single sex public schools, which passed unanimously in the Senate and is now law.

  36. Can someone please explain the difference between "parochial," "religious," and "Catholic" ?? (I'm specifically wondering how a religious Catholic school differs from a parochial Catholic school and how that differs from what someone else here described as simply a "Catholic" school, that was not also religious. It may help to describe these differences in terms of actual religious teaching, vs. religious practice (services or prayers within school) vs. church culture (celebrating holidays, maybe?), vs. academics influenced by religious views (e.g., teaching creationism instead of or on a par with evolution). As someone who grew up in public schools, I really don't understand the differences but it would really help in any discussion of schools affiliated with one religious institution or another. Thanks!

  37. I'm quite certain both the parochial and Convent don't teach creationism. At least I hope not.

  38. When it comes to Catholic schools, I believe that parochial schools are associated with a parish - as in, St. Teresa's School (when it existed) was affiliated with St. Teresa's Church. That's why you'll see reference to some schools giving preference to families that are part of the parish.

    Some Catholic schools aren't affiliated with a particular parish - often (always?), these are run by a religious order, like Sacred Heart or Jesuit schools. I've occasionally heard these called "private" Catholic schools, though I'm not sure how common that terminology is. I *think* (not sure) that these are sometimes more expensive, as parochial schools might be subsidized by the parish and/or archdiocese, while the private Catholic schools might not be. I'm not even sure that these non-parochial Catholic schools are affiliated with the local archdiocese (I think there's a good chance that they're not), while I'm nearly certain the parish schools are.

    So parochial schools are a (large) subset of Catholic schools (though maybe some other denominations also have parochial schools?), which are in turn a subset of religious schools. I get the sense that some of the non-parochial Catholic schools are somewhat less religious than the parochial ones, but I'm not sure that's actually the case. If it is, I don't know if it's for structural reasons or more cultural reasons.

    Among the private Catholic schools that are affiliated with particular religious orders, you could probably look into that particular order to learn more about the typical culture and practices in their schools. For instance, Jesuit schools (like Saint Ignatius in SF, or Georgetown University) have a reputation for being especially academic/intellectual. A few of my friends who went to Sacred Heart schools talk about them as being pretty liberal, pretty warm and fuzzy, and on the less religious side. (I think there are multiple Sacred Heart orders, so I'm not sure their schools were run by the same order that run the SF Sacred Heart schools.)

    Sorry I'm so fuzzy on the details, I couldn't find a good link to do a better job explaining!

  39. I think I can speak to the "parochial" versus "independent Catholic" distinction a little bit, having participated in both systems. Don't worry, Catholics don't teach creationism or that the earth is less than 10,000 years old or that homo sapiens walked with dinosaurs, and they don't believe that every word of the bible is literally true. The rulers and paddles of yore are long gone, and you won't find anyone resembling The Penguin from "The Blues Brothers."

    Catholic schools administer the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills to their students. I don't know if it varies from school to school, but the Catholic schools I'm aware of in San Francisco, independent and parochial, are accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

    Convent (girls) and Stuart Hall (boys) are both K-12 "independent Catholic" schools operated by the Religious of the Sacred Heart. They are about 4 times as expensive as parochial schools. Their funding is independent of any parish and independent of the archdiocese. They set their own curriculum. They welcome students of all faiths and no faith. Religious studies are part of the curriculum, but they are not training little Catholics. Their literature (and in our experience their practice) reflects a desire for each student to learn about a variety of religious traditions and set his/her own spiritual path. The kids participate in some chapel activities and are expected to be respectful but I would not consider it indoctrination. Schools like Convent and Stuart Hall are noted for their academic rigor.

    Parochial schools are K-8 and tied to an individual parish church. Tuition is quite modest. The curriculum is a combination of all the state requirements plus material prescribed by the archdiocese. You will get more of a religious feel at a Catholic parochial school than at a place like Stuart Hall or Convent. The curriculum includes opportunities (optional) for children to prepare for their first holy communion and their confirmation. The facilities are not going to be as fancy as you'll find at Convent or Stuart Hall, but some parochial schools are quite well funded. I've not seen that many, but NDV, for example, feels quite well off. St. Philips in Noe Valley feels closer to a public school. All of the parochial schools I'm aware of in San Francisco welcome people of all faiths. With the possible exception of St. Brendan's, I don't believe any of the other parochial schools in San Francisco have enough children of parishoners to fill the classrooms. Not all Catholics choose to have their children attend their parish school, and many non-Catholics choose Catholic school because they believe that their child will get a no-nonsense, high-quality an education.

    Mercy (Sisters of Mercy) and St. Ignatius (Jesuit) are other Catholic schools in SF, but they're high school only. There may be more I don't know about.

    Hope this helps some.

  40. " I'm not even sure that these non-parochial Catholic schools are affiliated with the local archdiocese (I think there's a good chance that they're not), while I'm nearly certain the parish schools are."

    I thought the same, that e.g. Stuart Hall, given it's tuition is several times other Catholic schools wasn't run by the Archdiocese, but according to, it is part of the Archdiocese. St. James, AFAIK, is not part of a parish, but is also run by the Archdiocese.

    FYI, here's a useful link for data on seven of the Catholic schools in the Mission area:

  41. 3:57 pm, is Stuart Hall independent of the Archdiocese? Just the document at made me think it was part of the archdiocese, although I'd previously thought it was independent. Could you clarify?

  42. "academics influenced by religious views (e.g., teaching creationism instead of or on a par with evolution)."

    Catholicism doesn't have the same problems with evolution as fundamentalist denominations, as the Catholic tradition isn't of literal interpretation of the Bible.

    The science classes teach straight evolution. A theistic interpretation of evolution (i.e. that evolution was a tool used by God) may be taught in the religion classes. There are some creationist Catholics, but not many.

  43. The private school haters just won't leave the threads that don't concern them alone. It really hurts the utility of this blog. Frankly I think it is very telling that the private school haters feel like they have to interject themselves into private school threads.

  44. "The private school haters just won't leave the threads that don't concern them alone."

    "It really hurts the utility of this blog. Frankly I think it is very telling that the private school haters feel like they have to interject themselves into private school threads."

    The private-versus-public debate had been dead on this thread for 20+ comments. Right now the discussion is on parochial schools.

    Why'd you troll the topic up again?

    Also, as the public-versus-private started with someone hating on *both* the parochials and the publics.

  45. If i were to have sent my child to a single sex school, it would have been Hamlin. I feel the director does a really diligent job of trying to keep her school diverse as possible and still solvent. Still the diversity really does seem token--the plurality of girls admitted are still from rich, largely caucasian, east coast ivy league connected families from the most well known preschools. Still, money is a reality, and at least they try.

    Wanda Holland Green seems dynamic and seems to have great plans for the school, but frankly, she annoys me, and the gospel singing (as an atheist) really annoys me.

    There was something about Burkes that just rubbed me the wrong way, and it was just way too far away. The head didn't seem right for the job. Also, the people i happened to know who went to Burkes versus Hamlin seemed more "old school"--just more conservative and into exclusion and elitism. The girls seemed more into fashion than I would have liked. Still my sample size was very small.

    Convent presented too many problems for me to send my daughter there. It just seemed like the "fall back" school, and I just couldn't send my daughter to a school where there are too many issues "in the closet".
    Convent wants to be a private school with an open mind, but if you are even tangentially connected to the catholic church, how can you truly say you are open to gays who have the right to be married, and how can you stand by when they torpedo health care for everyone in the U.S. just because of abortion?

    Those were my impressions of the school, and my reasons for not sending my child there.

  46. Just setting the record straight regarding Hamlin. 40% of the girls self-identify as being girls of color, and the incoming kindergarten class of 48 girls comes from 31 different preschools.

  47. Hamlin:

    Thats true, and Lisa tries hard, but most of the kids still come from the "name" preschools; she plucks one or two kids from disparate preschools that aren't top listers and then takes 5 or 6 from the name schools. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

    The vast majority of "of color" are also Amerasian. Again, nothing wrong with that, but in the bay area, not really diverse, no?

  48. Anyone out there who sends their daughter to Burke's care to share their thoughts (don't think we've heard from any actual Burke's parents yet)? We weren't planning on looking at single sex schools, but live in the Richmond so decided to tour Burke's. I have to say, we were unexpectedly blown away by the school at the open house, and really enjoyed our tour as well. From the well thought out curriculum, to the beautiful facilities, to the emphasis on really knowing your daughter and helping her become a confident girl, this school seems to have it all. The parents leading the tours did not fall within the stereotypes mentioned here. Kim Wargo did not seem cold, to the contrary she came across as smart and thoughtful. I'm really interested in reading other parent's impressions (or better yet, first hand experiences) as well.

  49. Are there that many "name" preschools? 31?

  50. What are "name" preschools?!?

    Are you really serious?

  51. I don't think there are "name" preschools any more. Maybe there are preschools that more people recognize... The Little School? What else? But I think that has no bearing on getting into an independent school! Independent schools are trying to expand their zip code, so they aren't going to take 10 kids from a Pac Heights preschool! They would rather take kids from lots of different preschools and from all over the city, and schools even have outreach programs to try to get in front of parents that they wouldn't otherwise have access to. The "name" preschool theory is false.

  52. My daughter goes to Hamlin (lower school) and it isn't true that five-six girls come from a "name" preschool, at least it isn't true in our class. Stats are stats -- I don't think the school can just make them up!

    I would say there are slightly more Asian/Amerasian kids than other types of ethnic diversity, but I don't find that surprising given the Bay Area has a very large Asian population. And there are many other forms of diversity as well--economic, family structure, etc. etc.

  53. please don't kid yourself.

    Kids get into the independent schools in way larger numbers based on the preschool they go to.

    Ask yourself how many girls at hamlin (and the others) went to the little school, 150 parker, pacific primary, cow hollow school and even russian hill school, and you will see almost the whole make up of the student body. come on--
    its not fair to say that its not determinative!

  54. Hamlin parent here. I confess I don't know where everyone in my daughter's class attended preschool but I do know the following:

    little school - I can think of two girls (one a sibling so I don't know if that counts)

    150 parker - can't think of anyone off top of my head

    pacific primary - two for sure-maybe three?

    cow hollow school - I can think of one for sure

    russian hill school - I can think of one

    lone mountain - three I think

    You forgot St. Luke's, reputed to be a Hamlin feeder. Excluding siblings i can think of two girls.

    This isn't definitive. But if a "block" of spaces were being occupied by a particular preschool I feel like I would have noticed by now. Funny thing is I've recently heard complaining by parents at well-known preschools that they'd be better off admissions-wise if their kid attended an obscure one.

  55. Also, my daughter attended one of the preschools attended above. You should keep in mind the "better-known" preschools have a much greater percentage of parents applying to private school kindergarten. Having seen several classes go through my daughter's preschool the main advantage of some of these preschools is their director can help steer parents to schools where the kid is more likely to be successful (and admitted). But the preschool in and of itself does not affect the admissions outcome.

  56. I do have the breakdown for my daughter's Hamlin class. Here are the numbers for your "name" preschools: Little School 1 new, 2 siblings; 150 Parker 1; Pacific Primary: 1 daughter of Hamlin staff, 1 sibling; Cow Hollow 2; Russian Hill 2. There are an additional 25 preschools represented, some of which I'd literally never even heard of.

  57. THe question: How many of this year's "diverse" kindergarteners (ethnically, racially, socio-economically) will actually graduate from Hamlin or Burke's?

    My guess is very few. THose schools have long admitted diverse classes, but have had trouble keeping those families long term.

  58. And whose fault is that?

  59. I think it would be hard to say. Hamlin itself admits that it didn't make a really serious push for diversity until five or six years ago, and it wasn't successful until perhaps even more recently. So the classes admitted under the current AD aren't near graduation.

    I can imagine two reasons it would be difficult to retain a diverse class:

    1. Tuition. For sure I can imagine it would be harder to keep families who are on the brink economically in a downturn, though the school has been reasonably generous in terms of financial aid with the families I know.

    2. An environment that is hostile to diversity, be it other classmates, parents or the school. I can only speak for our class but the families I know are very down to earth, and I know many of them made diversity a very high priority in their school choice. My daughter is of color and I haven't witnessed any negativity or hostility; quite the opposite.

    Another issue that comes up with Hamlin and retention is academic rigor, particularly in upper school. This probably worried me more than anything else. My daughter loves it so far, but I confess I'm glad Wanda is focused on making sure the girls are able to live balanced lives between work and play.

    I can't speak for Hamlin ten years ago or even more recently--for all I know the rumors are true. But that hasn't been the experience of myself and many of the families I know.

  60. OMG not this again. This is the same poster that said almost no "diversity" students went on to graduate. It's a load of bull don't bother answering.

  61. The schools can't accept people who don't apply. If the majority of applicants are at "name preschools" that's what will comprise the student body. Admissions directors like to cast a wide net and make sure that most preschools are represented each year. That's just good business for them on every front, from diversity to keeping applicant/matriculation numbers high.

  62. Burkes parent..

    I'm happy to answer any direct questions you have.

  63. I'm not the poster who makes claims about graduation rates of students of color (particularly non-Asian kids of color), but I would urge people not to call these kinds of questions a load of bull. There's a long history of low diversity in private schools, for MANY reasons, some conscious, some not. Accusations that they are / have been enclaves of largely white privilege have a big boulder of truth in them, no?

    That history doesn't mean the current school community is bad--I very much appreciate the recent comments from the parent whose "of color" daughter attends Hamlin about Wanda's work, and how Hamlin has a more serious commitment now to diversity. But the history does mean it's a heavier lift to work on diversity.

    Head in the sand attitudes won't address the real challenges of diversifying (financial aid, serious outreach, making families comfortable which means changing the culture, having a critical mass of kids not tokens, having a diverse teaching staff, etc.). Saying it's a load of bull just makes me think the wider school community isn't taking it seriously.

    Please--I'm not making this a private-public issue. But it is one of the challenges facing private schools in this city, despite everything they do have to offer.

  64. I truly doubt you could find one school director in San Francisco with his/her head in the sand regarding this issue.

  65. I think the whole "diversity" topic in private school is amusing.

    We allow gated communities to exist and flourish in housing and social settings (golf club memberships) but for education it's a no-no.

    Seems like every private school has to have a good "diversity" story. But if the doors were really open and school became too diverse (especially low income diverse), no-one would pay the money to go there...

  66. I think the whole "diversity" topic in private school is amusing.

    We allow gated communities to exist and flourish in housing and social settings (golf club memberships) but for education it's a no-no.

    Seems like every private school has to have a good "diversity" story. But if the doors were really open and school became too diverse (especially low income diverse), no-one would pay the money to go there...

  67. Well, for a long time many private schools did function like country clubs and no one thought it was a problem. Now you'll hear different things. Maybe 11:52 thinks it is still not a problem to have low diversity (other than marketing, perhaps). Other families say that they do want more diversity, along with the educational benefits of private (small classes etc.). So, which is it? Are the schools really committed to diversity--building classes that look more like San Francisco?

    I think learning-within-diversity is valuable in this 21st century world; the kids have to function outset of a country club mentality. However, I don't believe any of the talk until I see real efforts and real results. I think Hamlin is making an effort; results will have to be seen in a few years.

  68. "...I'm not making this a private-public issue. But [diversity] is one of the challenges facing private schools in this city,"

    It's a challenge facing public schools in this city as well. How do you balance a school when a) the demographics don't support it and b) people of every race prefer to not be in the minority at their school?

  69. To the hamlin parents:
    think about it. if there are that many kids from those preschools in your daughters' class, how many are in the school's kindergarten class in total. I already know that in this year's class of K's there are way more kids from each "name" preschool than you listed (way more)--you're quoting the kids in your daughter's class and then adding 25 others!

    There are at least 3 from little school, 3 from Cow Hollow, 3 from 150 parker--are you seriously going to say where you send your kids doesn't affect their chances for entrance?

    It absolutely does--or do you believe the kids that go to the Name preschools just had a little somethin' somethin' that got them in?

    its the same at every independent school (except the ones like cds, sf school).

  70. "How do you balance a school when a) the demographics don't support it and b) people of every race prefer to not be in the minority at their school?"

    I think this is an excellent point. I will add some nuance though. Despite the SFUSD's dogmatic (and illegal) pursuit of racial diversity at all costs, I actually don't think families are as concerned about skin color.

    I think that education level and income drive people to self-segregate (with culture coming in third). I have more in common with someone who has common experiences. Those common experiences make it easier to develop friendships. It's natural for people to want to join a school where they feel they can form friendships.

  71. Thanks 10:18/Burke's parent. I'd love to hear the following: 1) why you chose Burke's, 2) what you (and your daughter) like about the school, 3) what could be improved at the school, 4) a description of the community, 5) percentage of girls from dual-income families and 6) your opinion on the after-care program. Also, going on all of these tours is bringing back memories of those not-so-fun middle school years. For me, it wasn't competing with boys that was the big issue, it was the "mean girls." I can imagine that an all-girls school could be a really nurturing place that addresses those adolescent issues head on, or on the flip side be a breeding place for mean girls. How does Burke's address such issues and what is the social environment of the upper school? The three 7th/8th grade girls who spoke to the tour seemed very level-headed and friendly, but obviously they are carefully chosen. I'd love to hear more about this topic. Thanks!

  72. "are you seriously going to say where you send your kids doesn't affect their chances for entrance?"

    (I am not the Hamlin parent but...) You are statistically misguided. If you put, in a paper bag, 10 applicants each from preschools A through F (the "name preschools") and 1 applicant each from preschools G through Z (everything else), you will have 60 applicants from A-F and 20 from G-Z. Now let's draw 20 out of the bag. Odds are 2 to 1 that you're going to draw a "name preschool" applicant. But them ain't ~your~ odds if you're the applicant.

  73. OK, 1:04, this is ridiculous. I'm the one who posted the preschool numbers for the Hamlin K class. Those numbers? They were for the WHOLE kindergarten class. Not just for my daughter's class of 16. How do I know this information is correct? I am a PARENT there, I have a LIST with names of each girl and info, including preschool attended. Where are you getting your numbers? Did you call all the preschools and ask them where their graduates are attending school? Did Lisa Aquino give you specific names and numbers from each preschool? If so, you would know, I'll repeat, that there are 31 preschools represented in the current kindergarten class. Enough. I'm not sure what your agenda is, but you clearly have bothered to take the time to gather plenty of (mis)information about Hamlin. Go focus on something else.

  74. I'm not a Burke's parent, but I thought it was amazing. I have friends there they are thrilled with the academic and social/emotional education their daughters are receiving. One thing that stood out for me at Burkes was the small meeting rooms off of each of the main classrooms which allowed each teacher to pull girls out for some one on one time. I also liked the the way they differentiate math levels in the upper school -- I think there are three tracks? Not sure if it's only math or other subjects as well. Kim Wargo seems to be really on the ball regarding girls' brains and all girls education.

  75. burkes parent. reply to 1:25

    1) why you chose Burke's? I know this might sound cheesy, but it just fit. We were very impressed with the open campus setting and the feeling that the school was run by women and every little detail from the class curriculums, school vision, and gym engravings was well thought out and focused. The approach to education grabbed us; it was about focusing on the entire child. They have a saying there is 500 ways to be a Burke’s girl; meaning every child represents the best of burkes in their individuality. This was really different than any other school we toured. We were in fact not well informed about single sex schools and never imagined us or our daughter in this setting, but after the tour and open house it felt right and we felt confident singe sex could really benefit our daughter by a curriculum that focuses us how girls learn.

    2) What you (and your daughter) like about the school? We love just about everything. The biggest surprise is the energy you get from the school. The kids are just beaming with excitement from start to finish; the girls are all such good friends. My daughter has a social life that is well beyond my own. If a girl has a b-day party everyone in the class is invited. The parents in our class have been fantastic as well. Very friendly!

    3) What could be improved at the school? Music does not have any real instrumental section which I find lacking.

    4) A description of the community? I would echo some of the stuff you hear on threads. Upper grades seem less diverse than lower grades. However, everyone smiles and most everyone I met has been nice and approachable. Very engaged and focused on creating a fantastic experience for the kids. Once your kid is in the school she is accepted as a Burke’s girl! Lots of fundraising, participation, events, etc… We love it and have not felt pressure to give beyond our means.

    5) Percentage of girls from dual-income families? Well I only know families who I have met. I would say roughly 60% and another 15-20% that are part time or plan to return to work. Not sure what you wanted to find out with this one? A lot of people work, but appear to have plenty of money.. Most professionals are lawyers, doctors, finance people, executives, etc.. Few people with jobs like accountant, engineer, etc…

    6) Your opinion on the after-care program? It’s the best!! My kid rather stay there then come home. Imagine 20 or so kids getting free time to play outside and inside with little supervision. It’s their time! Also there are classes you can enroll in on top of the after-care that ranges from golf, drama, tree frog trek, to individual piano lessons.

    7) How does Burke's address such issues and what is the social environment of the upper school? I don’t know haven’t gotten to upper school yet. Bottom line I’m sure it’s not all peaches and cream. But from what I see from all the girls is a lot of smiles, friendliness, and polish…

  76. A helpful Hamlin parent from 8:00 p.m. yesterday listed the K class this year with the following preschool incoming students:

    Little School 1 new, 2 siblings; 150 Parker 1; Pacific Primary: 1 daughter of Hamlin staff, 1 sibling; Cow Hollow 2; Russian Hill 2.

    Any Burkes or Convent parents willing to divulge how many K students from these schools and/or any significant incoming students from another preschool? or for that matter a helpful parent from any private with respect to his/her child's school?

  77. As far as I recall, Little School sent 4 to Hamlin 3 (or 4) to Burkes and 0 to Convent this past year.

  78. I think its important that parents know--for all private schools, not just Hamlin--that where you send your child to preschool is way more important than everyone seems to think.

    Last year, so many people were shut out of private schools, and parents blamed themselves (or their children). But its very important to remember that there are multiple factors as to whom gets admitted and who does not; the right preschool may not be a necessary condition, but your chances are certainly better!

    If that is in dispute, how do you explain that last year nearly everyone from the little school/pacific primary/150 parker was admitted somewhere straight away? are they all little geniuses?

    That said, its important to apply and try your luck--you won't know if you don't try. Just don't blame yourself.

    And parents whose children were admitted, give it a rest and just admit that for the most part, it has nothing to do with the child and much to do with the surrounding circumstances of the child's lives--whether or not financial aid is needed, connections, parents who have the resources to volunteer, AND yes, the right Preschool--when it comes to being admitted.

    --we were admitted to 3 of the 4 (with one "too young" letter) privates we applied to, and I would have to be delusional not to recognize that we had ALL the factors that helped us gain admission.

  79. I'm a preschool-doesn't-really-matter poster. I've seen more than a few bright, wonderful kids - from "name" preschools - get shut out, so it isn't true they all get in someplace. The more competitive elementary schools are looking for particular diversity some years, particular mix of personalities, etc. etc. It can be pretty random.

    One thing I have noticed is that if a name preschool has a competitive admissions process, they're more likely to get families who will do well in the K process anyway, either because the family is prominent or desirable in some other way.

    I also cannot stand it as well when private school parents whose kids do well in the process get big heads and think their kids are some kind of geniuses. Blech.

  80. Sometimes when kids at "name" preschools get shut out it's because they didn't listen to the preschool director's advice.

  81. For what it's worth, my child is at a wonderful preschool that has not been named on this thread. Every year there are kids from his school that get into top independent schools (Hamlin, Town, SF Day, Presidio Hill, etc.), kids that get lucky in the lottery (Lilienthal, Rooftop, Argonne, Sunset) and kids whose families had already made the decision to move to Marin. Just because a preschool doesn't have buzz on this blog does not mean that the director does not have connections or that independent schools have not accepted students from that school. In other words, the list of "name" schools may be a list of schools popular with a certain set, but it is certainly not a complete list of preschools who successfully place students at independent schools.

  82. I think that's the same person again -- the one that flunked statistics. The populations of what you are calling right preschools are those that are most likely to go private school or bust. Attending one doesn't increase your own odds of getting in. In fact, if you have something to offer and are coming from an underrepresented preschool, you are way ahead of the game in the eyes of an admissions director.

  83. "I also cannot stand it as well when private school parents whose kids do well in the process get big heads and think their kids are some kind of geniuses."

    Hey, some of us take Parenting seriously as a Competitive Sport. We'll never field an Olympic team in Competitive Parenting if we don't have local leagues of parents one-upping each other at the playground.

    Schools, preschools, your kid earning a karate black belt by age 6, reading Dante in the original before they're potty-trained - there's all kinds of ways to show other parents your kids are better, and hence, have had superior parenting. Our nation's chance at Olympic Gold in Competitive Parenting depends on how good you can make your subtle put-downs to others.

  84. 3:15
    Not sure who you're slamming, but stop being insulting by claiming someone failed statistics because they don't agree with you!

    I get their point: being a "name" preschool-- especially in this small town where connections matter--helps. Will you de facto get in because you're at such a school? No (but it helps).


    In fact, I would say you're being delusional if think otherwise. Does that prove my point? No, but its easy to insult, eh?

    When I think about the admissions process, I think I always try to remind myself its not really about us and just hope for the best.

    But if my child gets accepted (God, were hoping for SFDay, which has just acheived a minority majority class, and where our school search would be over for our dual gender family) I will try very hard to be humble, and not pretend that it was because we were better than anyone else.

  85. Fuzzy math but if Little School has 16 kids in its transitional kindergarten (from the website) and lets say another 8 from its "old" program (4.2-5 in Sept) heading off to preschool and lets say half or 12 are girls. Three girls apply and accept at Burkes and Hamlin for a total of 6 girls in either Burkes or Hamlin for K; that is 50%!!! From here, those odds look good.

  86. oops, meant "heading off to K"

  87. 9:34 PM,

    Your math neglects siblings, who are usually admitted. It's possible for a preschool to send six or more kids to a school and yet not get any new families in that year. That may not be the case here, but it's pretty unlikely all six would be new incoming families.

  88. Exactly. As stated in a previous post, the Little School sent 1 new family and 2 sibling families to one of the girls schools. Regardless, at this point it doesn't really seem helpful on a blog that is for parents participating in the kindergarten process. Their kids are already in a preschool, and whether it's Preschool X or The Little School, they'll apply and be admitted or not. Not much you can do about preschools at this stage of the game. Plus, I guarantee you that the number of kids currently attending The Little School that are applying to independent schools is much greater than the number of kids applying that attend Little Star Preschool in the Outer Sunset, for example. If no kids from Little Star apply, none will get in.

    The independent school process is very frustrating, and everyone tries to justify why they did or did not get in and why someone else they know did or did not get in. The arguments are usually 1) We didn't get in because we don't offer diversity 2) We didn't get in because we are diverse but requested financial aid 3) We didn't get in because we won't be major donors 4) We didn't get in because our preschool director is not well connected. Which leads to the conclusion that all the independent schools must only be filled with wealthy African American, Latino and Asian families.

  89. who went to the little school. :)

    still, whether they are siblings or not (they are still at that preschool AND they are still getting in) it just means the sibling got the "pull" several years before.

    Its the same reason people get pissed when legacies get into University.

  90. Arguing that siblings shouldn't be counted in terms of defining what preschools are "right" makes no sense: the older child got into the school and more than likely that older child went to the "right" preschool.

    People who think that attending The Little School and the like don't matter in terms of getting into a top school really are in denial. Just look at The Little School's fundraising. There is no doubt that these activities forcefully translate when candidates are being assessed by the top privates.

  91. If you have money or raise money, it doesn't matter what preschool you went to. Woe to you if you sat with a thumb up your arse for 4 years at the Little School.

  92. " good you can make your subtle put-downs to others"

    I think that should be " subtle you can make your good put-downs to others"

  93. I think the Little School sent 2-3 new students to MCDS last year too. That's half the acceptances for the entire city. Still doesn't matter?

  94. Little School parents often (dare I say almost always?) receive their first choice for primary schools.

    And traditionally, that choice has often been Burke.

    The two have very similar demographics/status.

  95. "Still doesn't matter?"

    Not worth discussing further unless you can provide the statistics for how many people applied, from which schools, and whether they requested financial aid.

  96. Its great to shut down a conversation with threats of statistics, but it illustrates the point: There is very little public information to prove or disprove your theory (I'm assuming that the preschool doesn't matter?). What exactly would you be running a regression on?

    What i can tell you is that my son is at SFDay, his class is full of great kids/families and they all went to great preschools (which are very well known). He's in second grade, and I haven't met a fellow parent yet who told me a preschool that wasn't on the "name" list. Coincidence? maybe.

    His friends are at various other schools, and for the most part, all of our friends who were interested in private school and went to popular preschools and didn't need financial aid also got into a private school somewhere (though some had to go to Marin to do it). I personally only know of one name preschool child with means who didn't find a private school spot.

    Hearsay and unscientific? absolutely. But it would be very difficult to look at where his fellow preschool friends are now and to think they got there solely because they are all smarter than the rest of the applicants.

    that defies logic.

  97. If anecdotes work for you then I will say that at our lesser-known, non-name preschool, which is economically very diverse, every student who applied to private school got a private school offer. 100% of the school did not apply, but 100% of applicants were accepted. Not all matriculated.

  98. Sure, having a name preschool can help, but it's not necessary or a guarantee. Not everyone at the Little School or other name schools got their number one choice and some came up empty handed on letter day last year and had to really work all connections during the week after letters were mailed. We turned down an offer from a name preschool because we loved our daughter's preschool. We had mutiple offers last year. I think it does really help to have a preschool director who knows your child, can suggest schools that would be a good fit, and can advocate for you if you end up in a waitlist situation for a school you love. There are lots of preschools in the city that have directors that can do this and not all of those preschools are the "name" schools.

  99. Nobody said it was a guarantee. There is no silver bullet but it certainly helps along with being a volunteer and having donation capacity and diversity and of course having a great kid.

  100. Incorrect 10:31, all you have to do is add in a few numbers to discover there is clearly something about certain preschools that help. (I said HELP not guarantee) MCDS had 500+ applications last year. Even if you cut that in half and say only half came from San Francisco (it's 70% but I'll cut some slack here), you get 250 applications. There were 6 new spots in SF. A third to half the spots went to Little School families. Now unless they have some sort of secret underground classrooms that applied, they certainly didn't have 125 applications. The PreK class was more than half siblings with only 8 going on with new status. The other older classes had 18 total. Even if ALL of them applied to MCDS (they surely didn't but go ahead and throw that in as well) you are still way ahead of the game.

  101. Don't worry,

    Unless they're bored with this thread (because its obvious a preschool can help), 10:30 will comment that the rest of us are idiots because we don't have complete admission information (impossible) and the statistical acuity to prove that indeed, preschools can aid in the admission process.

    I like my kid too, but when your kid gets admitted to whereever, remember that there were probably dozens of kids that were equal to yours in every way--only yours had a factor that shouldn't matter anyway (ability to pay, preschool, bad playdate day, whatever).

    No gloating please.

  102. Hardly gloating. We didn't get in and we didn't get into Little School while I'm at it. I would have done it differently if I could have gone back and done it again, although I'm happy with my school (Friends.

  103. What would you have done differently?

  104. Things that distinguish Hamlin from Burkes: location (urban vs. suburban setting); their foreign language programs are different; Hamlin has deeper roots in history and San Francisco (Hamlin was founded in 1896; Burkes is 100); past and present leadership: Hamlin has been led and shaped by eleven female heads of school; Burkes had a male as the head of school for more than two decades. No judgment against males-- it was just a different influence and role model for girls. By the way, Wanda Holland Greene has far more K-8 experience, is nationally known for excellence in private school leadership, serves on multiple boards of trustees, and has never sung a gospel song to any Hamlin audience, to correct the misinformed poster (atheist) from Nov. 12th (10:10). Hamlin's award-winning Middle School Chorus sings from a variety of cultural and musical traditions, gospel being one of them. (Perhaps the poster remembered them, not Wanda, singing a gospel song about hope at the October admissions event.) Current Hamlin parents know that Wanda makes it a point only to sing to current families and students, so it's absolutely impossible that any prospective parent has heard her sing live.) I'm not sure why the poster would have sent her daughter to Hamlin if she couldn't stand multiculturalism and/or if the head "annoys" her. If you ask me, the Hamlin admissions office did a great job keeping that family out.

  105. "Current Hamlin parents know that Wanda makes it a point only to sing to current families and students, so it's absolutely impossible that any prospective parent has heard her sing live"

    The foregoing is a complete lie (lodged in the midst of an unpaid for commercial for Hamlin). I attended a number of prospective parent events and Greene sang at every single one of them. It was painful and provided me with yet another reason to avoid Hamlin.

  106. I confess I happen to really like Wanda and think she's a terrific asset to Hamlin. I also love her singing.

    But whether she sings or not, or does yoga poses on stage, can we please refrain from criticizing specific individuals - at any institution? I don't think it helps anyone and is unecessarily hurtful.

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  108. I'm afraid you are the liar, and a disgruntled one at that. We are so incredibly glad that you are steering clear of Hamlin. It's best to keep the negative folks out of our positive school. IF you have heard Wanda sing at all, which I seriously doubt, you were attending a parent education event (which is not meant for admissions at all, but a courtesy invitation to prospective parents). A morning admissions tour? A parent coffee? Poetry, yes. Music no. Leave our amazing head of school alone, and go lick your wounds. Play some music while you're at it.

  109. While this discussion is quite dead, the one thing I noticed from the Hamlin parent that s/he never acknowledge St. Lukes as a feeder. From a current St. Lukes parent (who is applying to Hamlin and is 'certain' to get in), the SL parent's comment was that Hamlin probably tries to mix in a few families from other preschools so people would not notice St Luke's feeds right into them. If you do the math on the 30-33 preschools being represented in a a class of 48, it fails to mention that there are at least 15 spots that go to one of these preschools - meaning you could have feeders. Thoughts? Comments? That can't really be diversity, can it?

  110. I graduated from Hamlin in 2004 and am now at a top college on the east coast. I can honestly say that my experience at Hamlin has prepared me so well for both high school and college. Hamlin is an academically rigorous school, and at times in middle school, the stress can be quite high. However, I have never met kinder or more helpful teachers. I know my college success stems from my middle school Hamlin days. Additionally, I flourished so much as a person at Hamlin. I was quite shy when I was younger, but became very confident during my time at Hamlin. Sending me to Hamlin was one of the best decisions my parents have ever made. Also, in terms of the snobby factor - yes, Hamlin has a lot of wealthy families. But as a student from a very middle class background, I never felt uncomfortable.

  111. St. Luke's is one of the largest preschools, so it makes sense that more students apply and get in. It's not about preference-- it's about proportion. If you are a St. Luke's parent, you already know that there are seven girls going to Hamlin next year from St. Luke's because they are SIBLINGS of girls from various older grades. Who knows how many non-siblings might get in as well? If you don't know the story behind the numbers, it looks like a feeder. But it is not. It is a big school.

  112. We seem to have veered off-topic here...

    Are there any more parents out there who can comment on Convent, Hamlin or Burke's from **personal (parental) experience**? All three are amazing and did a great job of presenting themselves - now I need help distinguishing between them.

    Ideally I would like insight on: what you think is lacking at C, H or B; what the challenges are; how they work with girls on social skills; how they encourage the girls to take risks; if they are facilitating a life-long love of learning; I don't need my daughter to think school is "fun" but I do want her to be completely engaged and to want to be doing what she is doing; are any of the schools incorporating progressive educational theories; is there hands-on learning going on; are there aspects of the curriculum that are integrated so that the girls are making meaningful connections between disciplines?? My husband and I both have very traditional/ classical educational backgrounds - I want to pass some of that on to my daughter but I am also a follower of Sir Ken Robinson, Alfie Kohn, Daniel Pink, etc... and am looking for a place that is evolving with brain developlment and scientific research (not following fads, but recognizing what studies are showing about how children learn).

    If you are at one of the three girls schools please share your insights - I would REALLY appreciate them (especially related to all of the areas mentioned above).

  113. 5:51

    Last year, we applied to both Hamlin and Burke's and got admitted to both. We actually liked both schools a LOT, but chose Burke's.

    We loved the new head of school at Hamlin (Wanda Holland Greene), but experienced Hamlin as somewhat more old-fashioned (for example, French required rather than Spanish or Chinese in the early grades). In addition, related to 5:41's comment, the girls in middle school at Hamlin seemed more stressed and less confident. It felt as if they were under more perfectionistic expectations and performance pressure at the school, and the result was a kind of tentativeness or cautiousness about expressing their opinions and just being comfortable socially with the adults on the tour and in the open house.

    The girls at Burke's, by contrast, seemed more confident, poised, and happier at the school and with themselves. They didn't seem to be having as much performance pressure in middle school. They seemed to be friendlier with each other and with the adults on the tour and at the open house. Yet they seemed just as ambitious and motivated academically as the girls at Hamlin.

    Another difference we felt, although it's hard to pinpoint exactly why we felt this way, was that the admninistration and teachers at Hamlin did not seem to us as collaborative and unified in their style and philosophy as the administration and teaching staff at Burke's. This may have been because Wanda Holland Greene just took the helm at Hamlin last year, but Kim Wargo also just recently took the helm at Burke's. So we suspected that Burke's staff was probably more unified than Hamlin's before the new directors took over and that Wanda Holland Greene was having a harder time turning the ship around because her staff seemed more "old school" and conservative than she or the staff at Burke's seemed to be. This is likely to change over time as Wanda shapes the school in new ways, with new hires as well.

    Having said the above, we know a LOT of parents who preferred Hamlin. They felt it was more academically rigorous than was Burke's. But we felt that these people were mistaking a climate of external academic pressure for substantive academic content, and that Burke's was providing as high a level of academic preparation as Hamlin. Equally important, we felt that Burke's was instilling more love of learning and sense of play in learning than was Hamlin. We believe the results of that difference should ultimately show up in Burke's graduates higher internal motivation in the absence of external structure when the girls get to college and the work world eventually.

    Lastly, we felt there was more status-oriented pressure at Hamlin related to ideals of sending graduates to places like Andover and Exeter for high school and Ivy League schools for college. This didn't sit well with us because we know there are lots of wonderful colleges that are not Ivy League, even though my wife and I both went to Ivy League colleges ourselves. Again, we were not getting this vibe from Wanda Holland Greene, with whom we felt much more sympatico and who is a very generous and down-to-earth person, but from some of the other long-term faculty and staff at Hamlin.

    Everone we know was dazzled by Wanda, but there's a lot more to a school than its head, and it didn't seem to us that Wanda was necessarily a more effective leader than Kim Wargo even though she has a more extroverted and engaging style.

    I'm sure there are folks out there who feel exactly the opposite about these two schools, and we still feel both schools are really excellent, especially if you believe your child will thrive in an all-girls environment. It's just that Burke's appealed to us somewhat more for the reasons stated above.