Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hot topic: Private schools for boys

An SFGate reader asked me to start the following thread. Please try to keep the focus on private schools for boys.

Not to stir the pot of private/public, but since it is that time of year, I would really love to see a 2009/2010 thread started for the independent schools for boys. My sense is that parents who choose all-girls schools often do so for pedagogical reasons surrounding same-sex education, while the all-boys schools in San Francisco tend to attract parents for very different reasons (they like the traditional/formal nature of the instruction). Not sure how to frame that in the context of a thread, but I would really love to hear from some other folks as to the self-selection of different types of families into the various all-boys schools…

I’m interested in learning more about the “personality” differences (both kids and parents) among those that choose same-gender education versus co-ed. I’ve been struck by the differences between Town, Stuart Hall, and Cathedral (versus one another, and the co-ed independents, as well as in the parents) but would love to hear from others!


  1. This topic is predestined for private/public nastiness so I'll try to get in an early response. Keep in mind that this was only our observation and opinion and I’m sure you all “know other families” or know someone that knows another family or know that this school for a fact does it this way or that way. It’s simply one family’s opinion. The schools are very different in both approach and atmosphere. We looked at the all boys schools because we felt that the boys would learn better in that setting. Boys have a lot of energy and require a slightly different approach. It seemed to us that a group of boys wouldn’t have the distraction and a teaching style could be tailored to their energy level. That being said, each school seemed to approach this differently because they had a different type of “model” type of student. Town boys were steadfast and upright. It was quite formal from the “how do you do maam” handshake in the morning to the stiff style they brought to everyday life. I suppose the tie sort of reinforced that as well. This was actually both quite appealing and quite disturbing at the same time. Who doesn’t want that super well behaved formal child when they first see it? It’s impressive but upon later further reflection, the answer to that for us was we don’t want that. We wanted our kids to be just that, kids. Goofy playful crazy kids. The Town boy seemed like they were very high achieving with a pretty rigid formula. I know it was nothing compared to say Andover or something but for SF it was quite strict. The boys were aggressive in a good/bad way about much of what they did. Aggressive in sports and in their pursuit of academics. The parental body seemed similar. This seemed like a very good school to send your kid to if they were competitive active individuals that could use some rules to reign them in a little. The opposite? Well, that would be Cathedral. For us this seemed like the hand holding school. The kids here by the time they were in the upper school were very solid with firm core beliefs. In the lower school they seemed like they were all on the way out of their shell. I wouldn’t call them timid but certainly not aggressive. This school seemed to do a lot of nurturing to bring the kids up. The religious aspect doesn’t get talked about much but make no mistake, it’s substantial. I do realize that the class is made up of all kinds of religions but when they go to the church three (or was it two?) times a week and sing hymns (yes, I know they sing the national anthem too) beneath a giant cross in a beautiful cathedral with probably 200 foot ceilings led by a clergy man, it’s kind of hard to argue that it’s not religious. I couldn’t get over the little boys in the choir boy uniforms walking around and the 3rd grader saying “Oh can we sing Lord Light the Way?”. Also, the grounds are quite dark. It is a church after all and all the cement just seemed kind of claustrophobic. I don’t think the lunchroom even had a window. Academics seemed very good though and they really stress the community leader ideals. This seemed a very good school for the shyer boy or the one that had just not come out of his shell quite yet. Stuart Hall was a bit of a middle ground. This is a Catholic school although you wouldn’t know it from the size of your tuition bill. The boys here run the gamut and can be aggressive or shy but they are all mixed together. They are also very kind but I had a hard time garnering the typical approach here. It seemed to be straight between the Cathedral and Town models. One thing I will note is the head of school was quite a nice person and I believe a very effective leader. The town head seemed great as well. The cathedral perhaps a notch below but that might just be because of his, I’ll say gruff, nature. Good luck getting in, I hope you have plenty of choices.

  2. Thanks for the honest and candid post!

  3. I don't mean to stir the pot because I really do despise the way parents opting for private schools seem to get attacked so much in this forum but I wish so much there were single-sex options in the public school system! It would be tremendously beneficial. If we could afford it, we'd apply to an all-boys school but sadly, that's not the case.

  4. Yikes was that a good post. Wonder how long it's going to take for people to knock it down.

  5. "I wish so much there were single-sex options in the public school system! It would be tremendously beneficial. If we could afford it, we'd apply to an all-boys school but sadly, that's not the case."

    I'd be real hesitant about sending my kid to a single-sex school.

    I had 12 years of single-sex elementary and secondary education, and then went into a career that was 85% the same way in college. Because of the lack of interaction with the opposite gender in childhood, adolesence and college, I treated them like mysterious enigmatic space aliens until about my late twenties. It would have been nice to get that experience earlier in my life.

  6. I have a boy and a girl and am not looking at same sex schools b/c I'd have to go thru the whole enrollment process twice. I don't think any of the same sex schools have a "sister/brother" school. It might be lazy, but I just want to get the first kid in somewhere and then relax knowing the younger sibling is a shoe in.

  7. The Sacred Heart Schools have sibling priority -- so if you have a boy at Stuart Hall, a younger sister is considered a sibling for a spot at Convent.

    I don't have any personal experience with boys schools, but my daughters are in an all-girls school and have plenty of friends with siblings in the boys schools. From what I have seen I would probably tend to agree with the first poster. What I absolutely will say about the boys I know at all three schools is that they are VERY polite and impressive young men who are allowed to be energetic and happy boys but are also taught to reign it in when appropriate and behave like gentlemen when appropriate. I have always seen them interact and play very well with girls on mixed playdates or at large family events. I also think that Cathedral has the most diversity of the boys schools.

  8. One thing that especially struck me when I toured Cathedral was the level of engagement of the boys in the upper grades. It was markedly different than what I saw in the co-ed schools.

    I do think there's a value to a school with a religious roots. It makes it easier for the program to stay rooted in the core philosophy, and gives the school a clearer identity.

  9. Thanks to 9:30 for your detailed comment.

    I can't tell you how often we've been told by people with experience that our son would be an ideal candidate for a boy's school, so we're going to give them a go this year, applying for second grade. Unlike single-sex girls schools, which I've always thought were a great idea, I used to have a pretty strong prejudice against boys school. Everyone I knew who'd been to one had done time. But that was back in the days of a near-military, paddle-heavy approach. Now the boys' schools seem very progressive in their approach to dealing with boys' needs and learning styles, as well as seeking to develop all sides of their personalities, not just toughness and discipline. So I will be following this thread with interest and hope lots of parents who have currently have or recently have had boys in single-sex schools will chime in with what they like and dislike about them.

    By the way I don't think there is a right or wrong answer when it comes to single-sex versus co-ed schools. Everybody's got their preferences and good reasons for them. I'm glad there's a choice--well, sort of, if they let you in:-). I wish that, just as some public schools have language immersion and others do not, they would consider offering a couple of single-sex public schools for each gender--but maybe that's illegal, I don't know.

    Anyway, I hope this thread will stick with informational comments and not degenerate into a public/private debate (since if you want a single-sex school, public is not an option for you anyway) or an argument about the relative merits of single-sex versus co-ed schools.

  10. This is re Cathedral: My son had a friend in (public) elementary school whose parents lanned all along to send him there for middle school.

    This boy was super-smart, articulate and charming with adults. But as an elementary schooler, we knew him to be pretty difficult at times with kids. He had a big problem with losing at any game, from four square to Monopoly, and would try to change the rules, start arguments and end up throwing a tearful fit, for example.

    I was certain that his classmates at ANY boys' school would make hamburger of him. Before the boy started at Cathedral, I remember my husband, who's a much less judgmental person than I am, watching him in one of his fit-throwing moments once and agreeing with me sadly.

    Well, the short version is that this kid THRIVED at Cathedral. Whether the school helped him get past that immature behavior or he just matured -- either way, the classmates apparently did not make hamburger of him, and he developed into an impressive, well-rounded, well-liked, high-achieving youth leader. He came out as gay, too, but I think not till high school.

    I'll add that I'm not only a strong public-school booster but someone who thinks it's weird to send a kid to a religious school if you're not religious -- on the "why attend the concert if you don't want to hear the music?" basis. But despite those viewpoints, I'm still pointing out that Cathedral seemed to be really successful for this young man.

  11. We toured Town, Cathedral and Stuart Hall for our son and were impressed with each school. The admissions directors encouraged us to attend community events for the school (fundraising, sports events, etc) and we found that step most valuable in identifying a community which would best fit our family. I would highly encourage looking at the school outside of the tours and admissions event.

  12. According to, there's 400 public schools offering some form of single-sex education:

    For those of you who want to terrify your dear kindergartener or 1st grade son into tidying their room, there's a K-8 school (St Catherine's) in Anaheim that is a:

    - Catholic
    - Boys only
    - Boarding (after second grade)
    - Military Academy


  13. Wow, that might actually work for my unruly boy. I'm goin' to Disneyland!

  14. People in our neighborhood (yes we do live in SF) send their elementary age son to a military boarding school in Colorado, and they all seem happy about it. Different strokes . . . but could we please get back to comments about boys schools here in San Francisco? The story about the socially difficult boy who went to Cathedral was awesome.

  15. Thing about Cathedral is you really have to be comfortable with the amount of religion that will be involved. They really do wear choir boy outfits and spend a lot of time in the nave singing hymns. Also, be careful with Cathedral. Sometimes it really is who you know. For example, the admissions directors son just happens to work for a familly that was new this year. Amazing how they fit the bill for that school. That strikes me as rather un-Cathedral like but you can see it happens here too.

  16. 3:34 p.m. I have a question for you please. What is your definition of "a lot of time." Is it only the boys in the choir who are doing this or all the boys? I was under the impression that they went to chapel three times per week. I forget how often they have religion class.

  17. All the boys sing three times a week in the nave, choir boys sing more. 3:34 that's OUTRAGEOUS that someone hired the admission directors son and got in.

  18. My son attends Stuart Hall, and we've been very happy. The comments by the first poster regarding the three schools seem generally on mark, but exaggerated. I don't think the differences in the schools are as extreme as suggested. I will concur that the head of school is terrific, and the boys are nice. They really work with the kids to be kind to each other and respect each other.

    Our attraction to Stuart Hall was not the single sex aspect. In fact, it was the only single sex school we seriously considered because it was extremely important to us that our kids go to the same school (for bonding reasons, not hassle reasons). Obviously, our daughter can't go to Stuart Hall, but at Convent, she'll be in the same community, same after school programs, extracurriculars. That was important to us.

    A big part of our attraction to Stuart Hall is educational philosophy and curriculum. I was especially impressed with the writing program, which was a subject I struggled with. The math program is a nice blend of traditional instruction and applications to everyday life. I would not call the education formal. It is very individualized to students.

    One thing we did not appreciate as we went through the process, but that we are very thankful for now is the amazing community here. I've never been in a more supportive environment. There have been some families with challenges, and everyone at the school has rallied to come to their aid. I've had some relatively minor challenges, and I've been amazed at the unprompted offers of help. And the things I've done for the community have been highly appreciated - even little, bitty things. It's a very warm and fuzzy feeling.

    Lastly, the first commenter mentioned that we are Catholic but with a big price tag. We are Catholic, but the school is very different from the parish schools. The population is about 50% Catholic, and the environment is very inclusive to those of different faiths. I've talked to some families that were wary of the Catholic aspect when enrolling their kids, but the non-Catholic families I've spoken to feel very good about it now.

    I know that this is not much of a comparison with Town and Cathedral, but maybe it will give some insight to Stuart Hall.

  19. For those who aren't churchgoers, you might be interested to know that while Stuart Hall is Roman Catholic, Cathedral is Episcopalian (also known as Anglican for those of British or Commonwealth background). The service (liturgical mass) is very similar, but the Episcopalians don't have the pope and they do have gay clergy, women clergy, and in general these days, more liberal politics. San Francisco Catholics are often quite liberal, but in an official sense they are more constrained by the teachings of the Vatican (and increasingly so, under the present pope). I'm not offering this as a judgment, but those who are wondering about the religious experience and how social values are taught may wish to know this information. The boys at Cathedral may very well encounter women clergy at the altar, and gay clergy too, with partners and children--because oh yeah, the clergy can marry too--whereas they surely will not at Stuart Hall. YMMV as to how you feel about the importance of all this.

  20. These may be the most civilized posts I've ever read on this blog. And snark free Thanks for keeping it real.

  21. Considering the head of the youth Sunday school is a woman and that Mary is likely the next dean and also runs the Sunday school, I can virtually guarantee you they will run into women clergy. No gay clergy in SF yet but I'm sure Mr. Robinson will make an appearance at some point. That being said, as a comparison, I'd certainly put Cathedral as a more religious experience then Stuart Hall. Not as a negative, just as an observation.

  22. I just posted but forgot to mention. It is mildly disturbing that the directors son was hired by a family that just happened to go to the school the coming year. It strikes me as unethical.

  23. 9:39, I don't know who you mean by "Mary the likely next dean," as I think the dean search for Grace Cathedral is ongoing, but as an Episcopalian I can assure you there are dozens upon dozens of gay Episcopal priests in San Francisco. And more than one of these gay clergy folk can certainly be found up there on Nob Hill at the Cathedral! I don't know how involved they are with the school, but they along with several women priests will be found at the altar--I'm sure the boys run into them. They won't be introduced as "so and so the gay priest" or so and so the woman priest"--they just are priests (who happen to be gay, or female, etc.).

    I just had to laugh when you said no gay clergy in SF--the Episcopal Church here is overflowing with them around these parts. Why not? the Episcopal Church is the ultimate high church experience for the gay guys who like to dress up and process around, and I mean that in the nicest possible way (really). There are plenty of lesbian clergy too, and even some straight clergy--it's quite the mix, and everyone is open about it because it's just not an issue in our diocese. Many of our gay and lesbian clergy were married last year before Prop 8 was struck down, with the support of the present (straight, but not narrow) bishop.

    Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire has visited plenty of times for speaking engagements, but he's fairly busy back home running things there to come out here all that often.

    So anyway--Cathedral is religious, but not narrow on the gay issue, or on women's ministry either. That may make a difference to some people, but not to others.

  24. And by the way, there are jillions of gay Catholic clergy too, really a significant % above the norm in the general population, but they have to be in the closet. I happen to think this is problematic for lots of reasons that go very deep; the closet is a warped place to be. There are NO women clergy at all in the Catholic church. How you feel about this, again, is your own personal thing.

  25. Please take it a step down. It was a nice conversation up until then. The poster was mistaken. No big deal. Perhaps she just didn't know of any gay clergy in SF and hadn't been there to meet Bishop Robinson. It wasn't exactly a highly published event. I'm sure she was also speaking of Mary Haddad, a wonderful speaker and teacher. There is no need for "you to laugh" and take such a hostile tone. For such a tolerant respectful religion you are getting very up in arms. I'm sure Alan Jones would not have acted such. Yes, obviously I am a member of the congregation as I'm sure you are as well. I'm also a parent at the school.

  26. We've toured all three boys schools and agree with the general assessment. The question we have re: Town, as it wasn't necessarily answered in the tour, is how do they/do they address bullying and is the school hands on to deal with the issue or just let the bullies be? We've heard how the school has changed over the years, but we can't put our finger on this one.

  27. Good discussion (other than that freak out by 10:23/10:29 in some rhetoric to someone that was just mistaken as to the number of gay clergy in SF). I'm not sure how much Town has changed. It used to be let boys be boys which led to a fair amount of bullying. But that was 10 years ago. Since it's come more to the forefront, that may have changed. That would also be my primary concern with this school in particular. For essentially the reasons that the 1st poster mentioned.

  28. Can anyone comment on the non-sibling spots available this year at Town, Cathedral and Stuart Hall? My memory is Cathedral is going back to one K class.

  29. This is 10:23 again from last night. My apologies for coming across as sarcastic or whatever it was that some of you felt. I guess that's the problem with internet. When I said I had to laugh, it wasn't at that person, it was just so funny to me that anyone could say there were no gay Episcopal clergy in SF, simply because there are so MANY! Probably more than half our clergy are openly gay! I laughed because the statement was exactly like saying, nope, no gay people in the Castro yet, but maybe Tony Kushner will pop in some time from New York to was funny. I didn't mean it as a takedown of that person.

    And okay, yes I do care because I am gay and married and a refugee from the Roman Catholic Church--I love my many Catholic friends and much about that Church, but I want my kid raised in a spiritual environment that is not teaching him that we are bad people or living in sin. Cathedral provides positive role models with women and gay clergy and that is good!

    But again, my apologies if the tone came across as scolding. I really was laughing at the incongruity, not the person.

  30. Like previous posters, I'm interested in hearing from current Town parents about the bullying issues.

    I have a concern about the birth date cutoff, as well. My son is a late July birthday, so missed the cutoff (by less than ten days). For all other schools, he is within the accepted date range, but for the boys schools he misses it. Anyone have thoughts on this? Put him in K somewhere else and then apply at Town/Cathedral the following year for K again? for 1st? I didn't anticipate, as a July baby, that he'd be the oldest (or the youngest) in his class!

  31. I am also a member of the congregation. I have to admit I also didn't know we had gay clergy. Honestly, I don't care either as long as they are happy. I agree that a spiritual component is a very nice thing to have. I'm a bit on the fence as to whether I'd rather that come in Sunday school or in the regular school program though.

  32. As a (legally married in California) gay person and as a parent, the most important thing for me is that the kids are not getting a message that spirituality is anti-gay. That would be harmful to my child as a member of a gay family.

    The other thing for me is that I know that significant numbers of clergy in all faiths are gay (this is well-researched--gay people are over-represented in all helping professions, including clergy, teaching, etc.). The difference between the Catholic and Episcopalian experiences of this is that the Catholic clergy have to be closeted, whereas the Episcopalians (and now Lutherans) do not. Also, the Episcopalian and Lutheran clergy can marry (or have their relationships blessed if the state doesn't have gay marriage yet).

    Why does this matter for a parent? Because being in the closet is warping. I would not go so far as to say that the entire pedophilia scandal in the Roman Catholic Church was about their officially sanctioned homophobia + their celibacy rule, but some, yeah, some of it can be laid at that doorstep. Please understand: I am NOT saying that all Catholic schools are filled with pedophile priests at this time. I am not making that accusation. I am saying that a culture of the closet, combined with an archaic celibacy requirement and then an official clerical-bound culture that covered up the crimes of sexual abuse led to well-documented situations where children were hurt. Because the Episcopalians (including Cathedral) don't have the culture where gay priests have to hide or any of them, gay or straight, have to be celibate, plus there are women clergy, I would feel safer there for my child, spiritually and physically. Much, much safer with all this in the open than I would if there were a pretense that there were no gay people around the children--which I assure you, there are in EVERY school, whether public, private, parochial, catholic, evangelical. Honesty is the point. (Not teaching the kids about sex either, but honesty about who are our families and what do they look like).

    Probably now I will get flamed for over-dramatizing this, but I think it is a real issue. But then, I grew up as a gay kid in the Roman Catholic Church, so I have thought a lot about this issue!

  33. I agree that a spiritual component is a very nice thing to have. I'm a bit on the fence as to whether I'd rather that come in Sunday school or in the regular school program though.

    3:06, I imagine that Cathedral school, and other religious / parochial schools, see the spiritual piece as part of their mission, part of why they have the school in the first place. They may be less aggressive about it than some evangelical ("Christian") schools, but they are both trying to provide faith formation for families that are a part of their faith tradition, and hopefully (in their view) also encouraging others to join them. Many years from now, those boys will remember, in their bones and sinews, the experience of chapel in soaring Grace Cathedral, with the beautiful music and maybe incense--that gets inside you much more than learning about religion from a book! It's sensory learning.

    I think Cathedral is probably *very* broad-minded about how they include kids from other faith traditions, knowing the Episcopalians and how they respect other faiths, but ultimately their purpose is on some level to build up their own. And that is legitimate, in my opinion. Just as it is legitimate for Brandeis kids to get lessons in the Jewish tradition--religious as well as cultural.

    However, none of this would be legitimate in a public school.

    Basically, it is up to each family to decide if they want that level of spiritual formation in their child's education, or not. Some will say yes, even if they are not practitioners themselves. Others will say no. Others will embrace it wholeheartedly.

  34. 3:40 you won't get flamed by me. I think it's horrible that you had to live in the closet and I absolutely think that any religion should be open about people and their lifestyle choices. I wish you only the best of luck.

  35. 12:12 He wouldn't be the oldest. There are several very good preK programs in the city including one at the Little School. While I'm sure many will disagree, I believe it is very helpful for boys to get an extra year under their belt both socially and emotionally. Others actually do K somewhere else and then still apply for K at the boys schools. Your Mileage May Vary.

  36. Town dad here -

    Take a look at the book, "Raising Cain". Its theme of a boy's "emotional literacy / emotional intelligence" is a prominent part of the experience at Town. They try to stay ahead of the curve so they aren't dealing with issues like bullying after the fact. In the early grades there's an emphasis on creating a community (for lack of a better word) in the classroom. In 3-8 the boys go to weekly discussion groups (check Student Support Services on the website). There are plenty of resources for parents too. Last year they brought in someone to talk about cyber-bullying and if your kid plays sports you're required to attend a session with people from the Positive Coaching Alliance.

    Anyway I'm confident that bullying incidents would be dealt with appropriately (although we don't have firsthand experience, thank god).

  37. "Wow, that might actually work for my unruly boy."

    It's military academy or Ritalin right?

    "I'm goin' to Disneyland!"

    Here's the website if you want a tour:

    'Did those little boys cry when they went to the military academy in the second grade and had to leave their mummies and daddies and their nice bedrooms and sleep in a cold dormitory with other sad little boys. Why, I guess they did, but they had to learn how to be disciplined and good after their mummies and daddies got tired and had to rest after dealing with all the unruliness of their dear little boys'

    [Wicked laughter]

    The worst of it is, they'd probably thrive down there.

  38. Here's a report from a tour of Stuart Hall for Boys (K-8).

    Tuition: $22,500 for 2009-10. Uniforms extra; books included.

    Aftercare: $4500-$5500 per year.

    Food: Kindergarten brings lunch and a snack. 1-8 bring a snack and can buy or bring lunch.

    Student Population: 350. About 24 kids per class in the lower grades.

    School day: 8:30-3:00.

    Facility: Physically spectacular. Located on Broadway between Webster and Steiner. Facility is three contiguous converted mansions connected by tunnels and bridges, plus a large new gym and a five-year-old arts and sciences building that houses studios, labs and a 350-seat theater. It has its own ghost, Maud Flood. Because these buildings are converted homes, most classrooms tend to be rather small. A nice computer lab has a few dozen new Macs. The elementary school library has two cozy rooms and holds around 27,000 volumes. Other than no grass to play on, a child at Stuart Hall would lack for nothing in terms fo facilities.

    Academics: K-8 is divided into lower form (K-4) and upper form (5-8). Subject teaching begins in upper form. In the lower form, students have a main teacher but work with different teachers for art, computer lab and PE.

    Students take a semester of French and a semester of Spanish in 3rd grade, then elect which language they want to continue through 8th grade. Latin is introduced in 6th grade.

    There is lots of emphasis on the basics: reading, writing and mathematics but the education is quite well-rounded.

    The classrooms seemed organized and calm, and the teachers highly skilled. They have clearly done a lot of work on boys' learning styles, as I believe has also been the case at Town and Cathedral.

    We got to hear boys in 5th grade tell us about the books they were reading and an 8th grader told us about the experience he and his brothers had a the school. The boys were well-spoken and presented themselves confidently.

    From an academic perspective, almost any boy would be fortunate to attend Stuart Hall. This program appears to lay a rock-solid academic foundation.

    Religious Life: There's not a lot of religious stuff around compared to parochial schools I've seen. The staff members we met said boys opportunities to study religious beliefs and traditions but are encouraged to set their own spiritual paths.

    Community Service: This is a mandatory part of the curriculum. Boys tutor at Cobb Elementary and organize various food and clothing drives. Some boys in the upper form went to Uganda to help build another Sacred Heart school.

    Other Impressions:

    This school is a well-oiled machine. It fairly oozes money.

    In case you have been wondering why you don't see more blond heads at other schools you're visiting, I can tell you: they're all at Stuart Hall and Convent Elementary. After we left, all my husband and I could say to each other was "it's sooooo white!!" It was really quite disturbing how few children of color we saw. We were afraid that if our son went to this school, he would experience people of color mainly as objects of his charity. Every parent on our tour was white. I know that's not the culture the school wants to cultivate and I am sure the vast majority of the families at the school are wonderful, well-intentioned people, but whatever they're doing to reach out to more diverse communities seems to have met with not as much success as one would like. The relative lack of diversity is really tragic, because this school would be such a wonderful academic opportunity for so many boys, and, if the reader can forgive a bit of ethnic stereotyping about affluence or lack thereof, there is money for financial aid.

    In the End: We left feeling that Stuart Hall would be a wonderful learning environment for our son, but really sorrowful that the school did not appear to be more reflective of our city's people.

  39. "Other than no grass to play on, a child at Stuart Hall would lack for nothing in terms fo facilities."

    On this topic: what schools in SF actually have any grass to play on?

    Some schools (Flynn, Bessie Carmichael) use parks next door, but I can't think of a school I saw with much more than a garden onsite for greenery.

  40. "Town seemed like a very good school to send your kid to if they were competitive active individuals that could use some rules to reign them in a little. The opposite? Well, that would be Cathedral. For us this seemed like the hand holding school."

    This is the reputation and somewhat accurate although not in such stark terms. Ofcourse in lower grades both schools are very nurturing. Sorry I don't know as much about Stuart Hall.

    Is a more sheltered environment better than one where a boy has to learn to cope in a competitive world? The answer is not always clear and it also depends on the boy.

  41. "On this topic: what schools in SF actually have any grass to play on?"

    Burkes. Oops I guess this is a boys school discussion.

  42. Going along with 10:14's comment, they don't pick 40+ active, competitive boys. They choose a range of kids to make up the class. I think they do it pretty well too (based on my kid's class).

  43. It's not in SF but half of it's students are from there, MCDS has LOTS of grass to play on.

  44. "It's not in SF but half of it's students are from there, MCDS has LOTS of grass to play on."

    I knew about MCDS, but wanted to know about schools geographically in SF.

  45. Then you're out of luck. Burkes is the only one I'm aware of. SFDay/Friends/Town/Cathedral/Hamlin/Stuart Hall/Convent are all either astroturf style or that new plastic grass that looks like grass or asphalt/concrete. Gyms are nice at some though. I don't know about Brandeis.

  46. Live Oak does have that park across the street. I'm not sure they use it due to safety issues though.

  47. Live Oak uses the park across the street. I am not sure what the reference to saftey issues is by the previous poster but the school definitely uses the park.

  48. The park's clubhouse recently closed due to structural issues. But the rest of the park (playgrounds, tennis courts, basketball court, and athletic field) is open.

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  50. I know nobody has posted on this thread in a while, but here's a report from Cathedral School for Boys.

    Location: Grace Cathedral

    Tuition: $22,500 for 2009-2010, includes organic hot lunch, books and program fees.

    Hours: 8:15-2:30 or later Extended care 7:30 to 6:00.

    Enrollment: 240. This year there are two kindergartens of 24 kids each but they will drop back to one for next year. I did not ask about sibling spaces.

    Foreign Language: Boys choose Mandarin or Spanish starting in 4th grade (or maybe 5th grade). Latin is required in 7th and 8th grade. This is an acquisition program, not an immersion program.

    Technology: Smart boards in most of the classrooms. The computer lab has a lot of Macs and there other computers throughout the school.

    Arts and Music: Art studio is one day a week for 45 minutes a day. Visual art is also integrated into the curriculum for other subjects. The kindergarten was doing a gingerbread unit and they had made gingerbread men that incorporated geometric shapes from math class into the buttons. All students sing in the chapel several days a week. Instrumental music starts in third grade and is part of the regular curriculum, with additional lessons available through the after-school program. Most of the upper school students play in a band. The jazz ensemble plays gigs outside school. Many students are part of the Grace Cathedral Men and Boys' Choir, which travels extensively. Drama is also part of the regular curriculum. By the higher grades, kids are writing and performing in their own musical shows.

    PE: 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Plus two 20-minute recesses. There's a big rooftop play space, with a play structure, plus a gym.

    Library: In boxes due to construction, but they have 12,000 volumes.

    Sports: Some are parent-organized, some are school teams, some are through CYO. The administrators seemed quite enthusiastic about the sports program.

    Chapel/Religion: The boys gather in chapel several mornings a week where they have singing and prayers for about 20 minutes. Our tour went to the chapel first, and it was lovely to hear the boys sing in that space. Chapel at CSB is about spiritual development and community building rather than indoctrination in any particular faith. They have Buddhist and Jewish services in chapel as well as Christian services.

    Community Service: Much work is done through the Bayview Mission. They emphasize not just collecting and delivering stuff, but learning WHY they are doing community service.

    Impressions: My overall impression was one of barely controlled chaos, which I viewed as positive. The energy was palpable. The boys were very engaged. Some of the teachers seemed more in control than others but nothing seemed particularly problematic.

    I loved the emphasis on arts and music in the curriculum.

    The boys seemed sweet and well-behaved, but a bit, well softer, for back of a better world, than those at Stuart Hall. Not that the Stuart Hall boys seemed like hard cases by any means, but I guess the culture at CSB just seemed a little more laid back--the CSB boys seemed slightly less professionally polished. There is far more racial diversity at CSB than at Stuart Hall.

    The physical layout is confusing and some of the rooms were a bit under-heated.

    Unless you've got free parking downtown or live on one of the north side bus lines, this is going to be a hard school to get to for an 8:15 start time.

    I felt a very friendly, fun vibe at CSB. It seemed a bit less rigorous than Stuart Hall, but the high school admissions data are perfectly acceptable.

    Unlike Stuart Hall, there is no adjacent sister school, but the kids interact with girls from Hamlin and Burkes.

    I found this particular school's approach to religion and spirituality very desirable. It seems to represent the Sermon-on-the-Mount best that Christian teaching has to offer people of all faiths or no faith.

  51. Just had to add perspective on the comments about the admissions director at Cathedral and her son's employer. While I don't know anything about that particular situation, consider:

    This is a relatively small city, especially when you take in to account the number of families with children.

    Admissions directors (and other admistrators/faculty) actually have lives and families of their own, and often live in SF. Their children also have to go to school, grow up and get jobs.

    Paths cross. There is an implication that this was some sort of tit-for-tat insider situation. But maybe the AD's child has been in the job for a while and the employer happened to have a young child who is going to kindergarten. I really don't know. But these things can happen without any sinister motive!

    More generally, it can sometimes feel as though you are left out of some kind of insider's club when you're going through this process (I know I did), so it's easy to use external "indicators" to explain why someone gets a spot and someone else doesn't: they know the right people, they are rich, they belong to the Jr. League, etc., etc., etc.

    But there are a bunch of kid-centered metrics that go into how a class is created. Maybe Little Johnny really is a great fit for a particular school/class. But because the parents are rich we all assume that's the only reason he got in.

    The reality is that most parents in the private schools know of applicant families who didn't get a spot despite great wealth/connections. It's just that those people aren't writing on blogs about how they offered to donate a half-million and know the board chair and still didn't get in!

    And all of the privates have plenty of families who came in with no particular advantages.

    I'm not naive enough to suggest that no one gets in at any of the private schools based on wealth or connections. I just think that that as the sole reason for admission happens way less than people imagine.