Thursday, March 21, 2013

Strong Leadership, Rigor & Joy: The Hamlin School Review

This past week we learned that our daughter was placed at Rooftop and offered admission to Hamlin, two amazing but very different choices of schools in San Francisco.  As this Kindergarten search is coming to and end for us, I figured it is a good time to post my review of The Hamlin School as requested by a commenter or two. Hopefully, it'll be useful to parents going through the process next year.

Review of The Hamlin School (written before we got our letter in the mail)

When we started the elementary school search, I wanted to at least see some private schools. Truth is the Hamlin School almost got crossed off the list before we even set foot on campus. It is very far from our home, way too expensive ($27+K/year!), and, at the time, still represented all the stereotypes I had for private schools. But after attending a few events, my husband and I found it refreshing, honest and an amazing option for our daughter (if she is offered admission, of course). 

I was unable to attend the Learn About Hamlin Event, but my husband went. He was a little intimidated by the valet parking, but left the event thoroughly impressed. Having attended public schools in the Southeast he has some frustrations with the lack of resources at schools, inequity of resources among public schools, experiences of other students misbehaving in class, and the limitations of his educational experiences. And at Hamlin, he saw opportunity! He saw articulate young women giving the tours. He saw a school that was very open an honest about the vision they had. And, he was completely wowed by the head-of-school…

When I went on the tour of the school, I saw the same things. But, before I get into why this school is a school I would consider schlepping my daughter across town for every day and pay tuition for (although I have to be honest, there is no way we could afford this school without a very generous financial aid package), let’s get some basics aside:
·      K-8 Independent all girls school
·      Approximately 400 girls.
·      40% students of color.
·      Spanish taught starting in Kindergarten
·      Catered lunches sound delicious
·      2 full-time art teachers
·      Science labs and an emphasis in STEM
·      Drama, PE, Music, Art and Dance
·      Various Service-Learning Opportunities

Beyond this kind of checklist of things that the school has, we were more impressed with the things that fill the space between academics and the topics of conversation introduced by parents and administrators. The parents were friendly and frank about their experiences with the school.
  • Girls are encouraged to be their authentic selves.
  • Diversity is beyond just getting pictures for their brochure, but the belief that the conversation gets better when there is more diversity. There is more creativity and innovation with diversity and cultural competency for leadership is considered necessary.
  • The school is unapologetically rigorous, but they say there is “rigor and joy” simultaneously.
  • They want to foster an environment where girls are intellectually curious.
  • They want to create an environment where girls can love STEM.
  • There is an emphasis on developing leadership.
  • Parents and administrators acknowledge that there are issues of race and class, but they attempt to lean into the problems vs. stepping back. 
  • Women of color are administrators at the school! Wanda Greene, the Head of School, is inspirational! 
  • They have a girls of color group that includes staff, faculty, students and parents to offer the little girls the support they need. 
  • They take opportunities to speak about the strength of women and have curriculum for the girls to learn about women in history. 
We have attended the Open House, Families of Color Night, School Tour, Winter Social, Affording Hamlin Workshop and Diversity Dialogue. It was crazy to check out so many events, but we wanted to see if we would really send our daughter there. And, we were just so surprised that we liked it so much.   We weren't seriously thinking about privates until we saw this school.  In the end, we believe The Hamlin School has the resources and thoughtful leadership needed to provide an unbelievable educational experience for the girls who attend.

Of course, we are still talking through whether or not we would/could do private school over public school. The tuition is way beyond our means. Hamlin would be a very different environment and community for our child and there are other problems that could arise. But as we think through this all... we HAD to at least apply. Hamlin is definitely a school worth looking into.


  1. Great summary. What an incredible school! I hope that your daughter enjoys her years there.

  2. Don't kid yourself about the 40% "students of color". Rich kids are rich kids, and are not all that diverse, really. And sorry to be a little ignorant, but if you just look at the classes, or watch the parents (nannies, drivers) at pick up time, there is simply no way you could ever extrapolate that 40% of the Hamlin tribe are non-white. That's just not true.

    Yes, Hamlin a trying to be better, and they really do reach out to recruit, but an honest look at the classes, especially after the second and third grade, will tell you that they need to do better keeping the kids involved. They are still quite white, and quite quite rich. And diversity isn't just about ethnic background, it's about money, and on that level, the diversity is severely non existent. If you're family makes $150,000 per year, at Hamlin, that makes you under privileged and you get financial aid (I was one of those families, and I also fit into the diverse category). If you live in public housing, for example, you might last a few years, but you are isolated. And you would be the only one from public housing. And the other kids don't know how to deal with you.

    So let go of the diversity argument. Hamlin is an amazing school, yes, but it's amazing because those girls can't be anything other than amazing. They have been given nothing but amazing lives. The issue at Hamlin is usually the psychological issues young girls face living lives like that, and often, it's not healthy and it's not pretty.

    If you want true diversity, go to public school. We just need to stop kidding ourselves that a school costing $27,000 can ever be diverse. It can't.

    1. Thanks for your post. I think what your saying is real. It's one of my real fears of private school. I don't want my daughter to be psychologically scarred because of the racism/classism she feels at school. From going to all those events and talking to different administrators and parents, they seemed serious and sincere about addressing these issues and finding ways to support each child.

      I'm curious when you or your child went to Hamlin.

    2. A study recently covered in the New York Times may be relevant to these issues:

      Better Colleges Failing to Lure Talented Poor

      "Most low-income students who have top test scores and grades do not even apply to the nation’s best colleges, according to a new analysis of every high school student who took the SAT in a recent year. "

      The headline argues the point of view that the colleges are failing to recruit poor students, particularly those not from large cities. However, according to the study’s authors, "The students often are unaware of the amount of financial aid available or simply do not consider a top college because they have never met someone who attended one".

  3. Now that you are no longer at Hamlin -- where did you find that perfect school with diversity, academics, art, pe, music, dance, science labs, and leadership opportunity? And small price tag. Let us all know cause we are dying to find out.

  4. so wordofthemutha, did you decide to go to Hamlin? I may have missed your post sharing your final decision...

  5. a real cliffhanger >> where are you enrolling?

  6. Even IF Hamlin was all wealthy and all white, why should my child not have access to the same amazing school, the same incredible leadership and the same academics that the wealthy white girls have? That's self-segregation. And the only difference between those families and my family is that they have bigger homes and they stay in nicer hotels. But we all celebrate joy and mourn sorrow in the same way.

    1. I couldn't agree more. Self-segregation is something that happens when non-wealthy take themselves out of the running for amazing educational opportunities for their kids by saying "I just didn't feel comfortable with the parent community". We think those sentiments help our kids, but they hurt our kids. So what if we live in a small flat compared to a mansion that a few others live, why does that mean necessarily that our kids won't fit in or be able to thrive in a wonderful school? Why should our kids miss out on educational opportunities because of our lack of confidence?

    2. Schools like Hamlin can't be diverse if people who represent diverse constituencies won't come. I'm educated middle class and have lived and worked among wealthy socialites, trailer park denizens and poor African villages. I've met nice, interesting, friendly people and obnoxious people all those places. If Hamlin seems like a great opportunity for your daughter and you can make it work, why be self-defeating and deny your child the chance without trying because of assumptions about other families there? The worst thing that can happen is your child will be unhappy or unsuccessful, and you change schools next year and you will have still learned something about yourselves. And the best things that can happen could be wonderful. (For the record, I have no past or present connection to Hamlin.)

    3. @2:02, as adults we're in a fundamentally different place than children and teens, where one of their big developmental tasks is figuring out who they are. As an adult with an established sense of who I am, it's much easier to cross over social and cultural lines that when I was a child.

      We want our children to be happy and to develop a strong, positive sense of who they are and where they come from. The social dynamics of preteen girls (and boys) can be hard, even for a girl who's part of the privileged majority. Remember that adolescent angst, the mean girls?

      One of the worse things that can happen is that your child learns to be a little embarrassed by or ashamed of your family, and by extension, of parts of themselves.

      Everyone's experience is different, and everyone works it out in the end. FWIW, I went to a very affluent school for grades 10-12 but hung out with a group of middle to upper-middle class students, and was super-happy. YMMV.

    4. "So what if we live in a small flat compared to a mansion that a few others live, why does that mean necessarily that our kids won't fit in or be able to thrive in a wonderful school?"

      It means a lot, especially when you're a kid. For my friends who were the poor kids in the super-wealthy schools, or who are the parents of said kids (and for the record I was a poor kid who went to poor schools), their experience has been remarkably consistent. The poor kids, while accepted on some level in school, quickly become invisible outside of school. They're not in the same social circles, so they're not invited to the same parties/events (and in San Francisco private schools, just wait til you get to the drama of "dance classes" and who's in and out). The wealthier people don't come to the poor side of town to hang out. I have a neighbor in Dogpatch whose daughter goes to Hamlin who said her daughter's classmates wouldn't come over to play because the other parents were afraid to bring their children to our neighborhood. Wow.

      Sure, this is all on a social level, and not in the school itself, but that social interaction is a part of your education as well. It makes people stronger, sure. But it's not really realistic to think it doesn't happen or it doesn't matter.

  7. If you felt like it was a good fit for your family and your daughter, you should go. It seems that you felt very comfortable in dialogue with the administration which leads me to believe that you would be able to continue that conversation on your daughters behalf for many years to come. I think how the administration listens and works with families is key to any successful school experience. If you felt that you could have an honest conversation about your daughters needs in regards to class issues and the climate is receptive to that, I would take the spot. Going to a private school like Hamlin that has a lot of resources and a thoughtful approach to race and class issues is a rare opportunity. It's not that I think it will enable your daughter any more than a public school in terms of her overall education. It's that she will have access to phenomenal resources and be taught in a manner that is more individualized. It's just a different way to know oneself in a school environment. She will also be in a single-gender environment which could have a positive impact on her interest in math, science, and leadership.

  8. I think one thing that can be challenging with the higher tag schools like Hamlin is the out of school activities. Take summer camp. For many families there, if there kids are around to go to summer camp, the camps chosen will be ones like Coastal Camp or riding camp in Petaluma. They will be camps in the $350 plus a week range, or a lot more. If that's not an option for you, or maybe you have more than one kid, and even park and rec feels expensive, your kid will notice. Or swim lessons -- they'll often head to Petite Baleen when you might look at the price tag and think why not Park and Rec or YMCA? Vacations will be very different. Many will be in Tahoe most weekends in the winter and not be around for play dates. House size also can matter. Some families are not willing to come to where you are to play in areas of town that are not theirs. Some of course are. But if you're a reciprocal type, and like to invite other kids your direction too, it may not always work out. As kids get older -- like third grade -- they start to be far more aware of these sorts of things, and materialism can be a factor. Many kids can wear fancier clothes or carry higher end tech stuff (iphones etc.) This can be hard to witness if you're a kid who can't have these things or whose parents believe in a different approach.

  9. Yes, this is all true. I went through it. I could never have people over, never keep up, coveted every little thing that got handed to the other kids on their 16th birthdays, faked my way through socially. Nobody knew that we literally ran out of food at the end of every month or that I pretended I liked staying on campus for "interim week" but really we could not afford for me to take any of the trips, or that my family dreaded prom like the plague.

    And you know what? I'd do it all over again. Because this is what it gave me: double vision. I know what sacrifice is, and how not to take an opportunity for granted, and what it's like to not have what you want -- I think I have some actual character. AND I am extremely well educated and unintimidated by even the fanciest of the fancy people. I'm not saying I came out perfect, and there was some class attitude to unlearn even as I ran circles around my college classmates because prep school was so much harder academically. But overall, the experience was worth it, and so I am sending my own kid to private school on heavy financial aid.

  10. I think you should go for it. It's an incredible opportunity with the financial aid offered. Maybe it will work out and give your daughter such intellectual and academic opportunity. Yes it's a bubble so your job is to address those issues as best you can with your daughter.

  11. I am a parent at Hamlin; my daughter is now in middle school. When we first toured the school some years ago I was impressed with exactly the same things as are stated in the review. The confident 8th grade girls giving the tour, the strong academic, the loving environment, girls showing pride over their school and the administration. And they, some years later, even more impressed with the administration, Wanda is a rock star in by book.

    I was 100% set on public school education for my kids, but once I saw what Hamlin offered I knew that was what I wanted for my daughter. We are a "middle class" family with two children who lives in a rented 2-bedroom apartment. My daughter has friends who live in rented apartments, mansions and everything in between. Has she ever felt different? I honestly don't think so. Yes, there are quite a few people with a lot of money, but not has she felt intimidated by friends living in large homes. I think it is all about what you put importance on as a family, and we have never put weight on physical things.

    I agree with some previous posters that say that a school can't be diverse if you limit yourself to self-segregation. If you want a good education for your child, why limit yourself and not go for what you really want? I keep hearing that Hamlin can be a "snobby" school, and never have I once felt that. Quite the opposite, I have felt right at home and more importantly, so have my daughter. Our family has loved our experience at Hamlin, having your child go to school happy every day means the world.

    Is it rigorous? Yes, absolutely but also very, very loving and supporting. Not once have we felt out of place, I absolutely love the community.

    I think if you get an offer from Hamlin and feel that it is a good opportunity for your child, go for it!! Or any other school for that matter. Only we can limit ourselves and I don't think that we should. I am so very grateful for the experience that my daughter has had at Hamlin (and still has) as well as our whole family.

    I can relate to all of you on this blog in different levels, and I think it is so very important that we respect each other’s choices. A school that might be wonderful for your child might not be for your neighbor, but trust that everyone makes a wise choice for his or her child.

    My daughter has made wonderful friends during her time at the school, friends that are very supportive of each other at all times. Do they have different backgrounds? Yes, but at the end of the day they are just a bunch of girls who just enjoy hanging out together no matter what their social/financial status is.

    If I could choose again today, I would make the same choice over and over again. We absolutely love the school, the administration, the teachers, the families - the whole community and feel truly blessed to be part of it.

  12. One thing to still consider here is that the debate is not just whether to take Hamlin. It's in the context of what the other choice is. And in this case, the other choice is pretty spectacular - Rooftop. That seems like the real debate. Or maybe it's not. Rooftop sort of seems irrelevant here, an assumed not as good option academically. That might be rethought, since you've won the lottery twice here so to speak. Rooftop will have more true diversity, but it's also got a lot of wealth and resources. It too is coveted.

  13. Yay for us 2 Rounders on one more Rooftop spot!

  14. I am also a Hamlin mom who attended public school and who was not initially considering Hamlin for all the stereotypical reasons. We have been at the school several years and have many friends at other private and public schools.

    First off, I am confident in saying that as a private school Hamlin does a great job attracting as diverse a population as it can. Is it perfect? No, but it certainly not all rich nor all white neither. My daughter, who is not white, has never felt uncomfortable on that score. She has rich friends and not rich ones - money doesn't seem to be a factor.

    Second, a school boils down to its teachers, and after five years my daughter has had a disproportionate share of excellent ones. Duds have been remarkably few and far between. As a result she still loves to learn and work hard.

    Finally, my daughter loves going to school every day. It has been a validating and posirive experience. Its a strong fit for her, and for me that's what matters most. Whether the school is private, public, parochial, charter or at home, it should fit the child well.

  15. It strikes me that as a culture, it's amazing that we still have some vestiges of a social ideal where the wealthy (or wealthy institutions) are trying to create opportunity for the middle and lower classes. I doubt there are very many countries in the world where there is as much income inequality as the United States, and San Francisco in particular, where there is an active impulse to create opportunities for people outside of the class the school traditionally serves. As many of people have mentioned, if you are not a wealthy family, you are crossing a rather extreme class barrier. That can be an opportunity and it can be intimidating and alienating. But on some level, it is amazing that the opportunity is even there to reject. I can imagine a time - in the not too distant past and possibly the not too distant future - where elite and elitist organizations will not feel compelled to admit students of different economic classes. The idea that people from diverse background (all types of backgrounds) provide a richer educational environment is rather new, probably put into action in the mid-1960s. But it is also an attitude that seems to be fading as affirmative action is attacked, there is not a popular commitment to providing opportunity to people from poor and middle class backgrounds, and the income gap between the ultra-wealthy (many of whom live in our region) and the rest of the population widens. Schools like Hamlin could fill every single spot they have with wealthy families of a variety of ethnic backgrounds. San Francisco is a global city. Instead, they try to bring in families from diverse economic backgrounds and offer them means to attend the school. Obviously, the poster will decide on the basis of her own feelings and intuition. But, it an opportunity that did not always exist. I think that is why the social aspect of it is a bit tricky and requires some complex thinking. It's not a well-chartered pathway. There is no real guide book on how to be the scholarship family in the rich school. The guide book that is established is how to be a rich family at a rich school.

  16. I hope that you take (or took) the spot at Hamlin. Perform a reality check in January 2014 (and each successive January). If it fulfills your dreams and wishes, hold tight and enjoy. When honeymoon is over, submit SFUSD round 1 of public school lottery. - Donna (a public middle school parent who appreciates options)

  17. We are a Rooftop family and were in the same spot you were two years ago. We had to choose between #1 private and Rooftop. We have
    have been really happy with our choice. There is a good vibe, awesome teachers, and strong parent community. Good luck with your decision.

  18. WOTM, I'm curious based on your picture if you have a boy and a girl? If so, does that play into your decision?

  19. It is a sad commentary on how materialistic and superficial our society is if one person feels they can't comfortably attend an outstanding school because their house and their stuff and their vacations are not as fancy other families' houses and stuff and vacations--or feels so sure that will be the case that they advise someone they don't even know, "Don't go there. Your kid will feel inferior among those rich people." I know some people do seem to have had those "scarred for life on scholarship" experiences and I'm sorry, but it does not have to be that way.

    I attended a mostly poor rural public school, several affluent suburban public schools, a posh private girls' school, a staunchly blue-collar Catholic school, a Barron's Most Competitive private east collage college and UC school. There are cliques, mean girls, nice people and people with more and less money all those places. Our family was in the middle of the pack financially, and my Great Depression-scarred parents did not like to spend money. Our house was spacious but filled with cheap ugly furniture, our annual vacation was a long weekend at a rustic breach cabin, I never went to camp, and I never went skiing in a place where all anyone talked about all winter was skiing. I was introverted and insecure and felt my family was odd. The place I was happiest and most academically challenged was the posh girls' school. The school simply had more resources, the BEST teachers by far, and each student got a personalized education and opportunities that did not exist in public school. Some of my friends were super-wealthy, and some were there on full scholarship. My group of friends bonded over common interests, not where our families fell on the socioeconomic spectrum.

    1. Best post I've read on sfkfiles yet! It is a sad commentary indeed on our self esteem if we would give up a wonderful education with financial aid because we can't compete on houses/vacations with some (but not all) other families. I agree that education and teachers trumps how much you fit in with the "parent community". Keep in mind in SF, many wealthy families are putting pressure on their schools to provide socioeconomic diversity and fund the scholarships so they are actively seeking a mix, and want their kids to meet and friend all kinds of kids.

    2. Racism and classism affects people and they aren't just internal struggles of individuals. A lot of things can happen at school in interactions between students or between students and teacher. I don't think that most parents are denying kids educational opportunities because they have low self-esteem or feelings inadequacy. They are looking out for the social and psychological well-being of their child. And if kids are so negatively affected by the environment they are in, they aren't going to have a good educational experience anyways so maybe another school is a better fit.

      I am not speaking to Hamlin or any specific school. I am just annoyed that people think that it is some deficit in the parent that makes them choose public schools over private schools. Money can't buy everything.

    3. I don't see anybody saying that there is a deficit in the parents who choose public school over private. Posters are encouraging people not to let assumptions about other families and students in a private school or worries about having less money than other families cloud the decision. Kids can have bad social experiences in any school.

      I don't think anybody here would automatically pick a private school over a public school just because one is private and the other is public. If a family has more than one financially workable option, they are going to compare and say, "Which do I think is the best opportunity for my child?"

  20. And Rooftop is excellent, which makes this conversation more limited. It's not like going to Rooftop would have meant suffering from an inferior education. There is huge variety in what's available. Also curious if the posh girl's school was boarding. Having attended a mostly african american public school, a private day school, a top private boarding school, a top of the heap northeast liberal arts school, a midwest graduate school, and City College, I learned that where one goes to school (city/town versus boarding school; rural versus urban; middle of the country versus coastal) can make a massive difference in comfort. I too found the boarding school far more comfortable socially (though not necessarily more academically challenging) than the private day school, for example. Because clothes and shopping got tossed out of the equation once we were all in a small rural town.

  21. The posh girls' school was a day school. We wore uniforms, as do the girls at Hamlin. On free dress days it was obvious some girls had larger clothing budgets than others, but it didn't interfere with friendships.

  22. Rooftop or Hamlin!?!?

    Both are excellent schools. If money were an issue, I would have gone to Rooftop and saved my money, but that's just me!

    I know many families at Hamlin, but they are all wealthy--none middle class (making less than 400,000 a year is middle class in my neighborhood--I'm not kidding). Most of the families I know (some snobs excepted) are really sweet, committed parents, and are lovely.

    I hear that Hamlin says they have kids from like 20 zip codes, but everyone I know there is from pac/presdio heights, seacliff or cow hollow. I hear there are now families from cole and noe valley, but they are in the minority--and are as far out of the wealth range as I know.

    But they aren't all white. But racial diversity is represented by mostly mixed kids--Caucasian/Asian by far in the majority and some black/white.

    The school--from what I've seen--has changed a lot, and there are way more "visibly diverse" girls there. But because of a lot of reasons, the school's community is bifurcated between the parents with one (or none) job between them or 2 jobs. That seems to determine a lot of who runs the school and what kind of playdates you go on.

    What would make your daughter feel alone and alienated is if: She is "quirky" or thinks uniquely. The school has not ever changed its essential formula of class composition: girls who are well behaved and smart, but not geniuses or particularly creative. If your girl is an outlier (into dungeons and dragons, star wars, robotics), is an oddball or has a learning difference she will suffer, no doubt.

    The school has changed for the better under Wanda's leadership as well--it has revitalized and is just a better place. But what sort of message does she send when she takes her son out of a well known preschool and places him in a playgroup that the Gettys have in their home?!! Very bad message.

  23. I thought they used the screening/admissions process to select kids who are likely to fit into the school culture? Would they really be so nefarious as to give financial aid to a five-year-old who they know will not fit in just to bump their diversity admission statistics? I hope not!

    I haven't yet met a lot of five-year-old girls (or boys for that matter) who play Dungeons and Dragons or build robots, but if, as the years pass, the girl developed into a Hamlin outlier and is unhappy socially, there are other schools. Attending kindergarten should be seen as an adventure, not a nine-year prison sentence.

    I hear about the stay-at-home versus working mom thing at every school, public, private and parochial. It's just reality that the stay-at-home parents, and they're 98% moms, have more time to hang around school volunteering, and that gives them more input.

  24. I am a Hamlin parent. We are not nearly as narrowly defined as some of these posts make us out to be. We do not live in Pac/Presidio Heights, Seacliff, or Cow Hollow. In fact, we don't even live in Cole/Noe Valley. My daughter is obsessed with Star Wars, and I'm sure she would love building robots if she had the opportunity. As for Hamlin's formula of well-behaved and non-creative girls... Not quite sure how my daughter got into Hamlin, if this is the case. Wanda's message is that girls SHOULD think uniquely. They SHOULD be their authentic selves.

    And I completely disagree that the school community is bifurcated between parents with one or no jobs and full-time working parents. I am a single mother and work full time. Of my closest friends at Hamlin, I'd say 3/4 are families that work full-time and 1/4 are families with a stay-at-home parent. That has had no bearing on friendships among girls or among parents. The only reason that has any bearing on what kind of playdates the girls go on is because many of the girls that have full-time working parents hang out at HUB after school and have more opportunities for interaction. And there are PLENTY of girls at HUB.

    As for who runs the school and volunteers... I'm thinking of the biggest volunteer opportunities at Hamlin. Some are headed by non-working parents, some by working parents. I have chaired a number of events, and have certainly not been the only working parent in the room. The PA President this year works. The parent running the annual auction this year works. The parent who will be PA President next year does not work. It spans the gamut.

    There are many many wonderful schools in San Francisco, and it is impossible to put any of them in a box. Parents should make a decision based on the best fit for their family and their child, but it shouldn't be based on anyone else's definition of a school.

  25. I agree: Hamlin IS a great school.

    However, if you look at Friends, Live Oak, Presidio Hill, SFDS, Synergy, CDS, and the SFSchool, the spread of personalities/diversity of the intellectual abilities of the student body is just so much bigger (and not because of the coed aspect of it). This is something me and my friends--many parents of Hamlin girls included--just admit.

    It's not an insult: it is simply the way students are selected there. I think Lisa does a good job: she did it for Corrine, and she does it for Wanda. But if you think the intellectual/developmental spread of girls there is very wide, I have a bridge to sell you (now it has LED lights!). If that were not the case, the concept of a good "fit" (finding the school right for your child) would be irrelevant.

    In many ways, Hamlin reminds me a bit of Wellesley.

    The only question I have is if there are better options in this modern age (ask yourself if the conditions still exist that led to the founding of single-sex schools--male or female). If you still believe segregating the sexes is still a valid idea, that it is still mutually helpful to BOTH sexes and society in general, then Hamlin--and Town, etc. is for you.

    In the end, the kids from all the privates all end up in the same high schools--and Hamlin does no better or worse than the others for "good" university admissions. Its just a personal decision, and good luck to you there.

  26. What bugs me about this post is the perception you need to have a lot of " stuff" to go with an acceptance to this school. The big house, car, etc. the focus is education so maybe rethink your values and priorities if you want to invest the money in the education. Maybe you can't do the fancy camps or skiing but maybe cool road trips or Shakespeare festivals or day camp at the Y. Be a minimalist and focus more on experiences instead of whether your house is fancy enough for a play date.

  27. Why don't you be a real minimalist and go to Rooftop?

    sorry, but the big house does indeed go with it. I see what its like for the kids not as financially advantaged at the school. Are the other kids mean? Not really, just thoughtless. What do you think its like when the winter break is called "ski week", and you can't even afford Tahoe much less heli-skiing? No one is mean, but thoughtless.

    education is a broad term--so many of the public schools provide a superb education--and you don't have to be a minimalist for that!

    Everything is a tradeoff, and for everything, one hopes to gain much, but one must give up something as well. You don't need a whole lot of stuff to go to private schools, but keep in mind that there are many unspoken "experiences" that some kids don't get to enjoy.
    That being said, no child will be ignored just because they aren't rich--its just not that bad.

    1. what do you mean when you say "I see what it's like for the kids not as financially advantaged". Are you a Hamlin parent? It doesn't sound like it beacause you sound very pro-public, or should i say anti-private because I am pro-public too but not anti-private.

    2. Also, what do you mean by thoughtless? I think it's good for all the kids to see that some people go heli-skiing in switzerland and some stay home. If you are the ones who stay home and feel terrible about it, then you're buying into the whole thing as much as the snobs. If you stay home and are okay with it and model that attitude to your kids, isn't that what really matters?

      You can't fake true happiness and a stable, loving home life, and the kids will know who has that and who doesn't.

    3. "I think it's good for all the kids to see that some people go heli-skiing in switzerland"

      I think I am going to vomit.

    4. I had to google heli-skiing to find out what that was. Whoa. No one is really doing that with their kids, are they?

  28. Wow, no wonder wordofthemutha has waited to reveal her choice. There is such judgment on this website (mostly from families advocating public over independent). The same tone was lobbed at "Kate" during this blog's creation and she gave up a "golden ticket" financial aid package at her dream school (MCDS) to attend Jose Ortega on round 2. People were mad at her when they thought she was going private, and people are now mad at word of mutha for doing the same. Why the sour grapes? I think this sounds like a great opportunity and shouldn't we do what's right for our kids by giving them what we see as parents as the best possible choice for them. Only a parent can make that call: not us anonymous kfiles commenters. In fact there have been nasty posts to geekmom too for picking Freinds, not disclosing her public assignment, and calling SF Friends a creepy cult school with poor academics. I think it's very rude to take advantage of all the helpful info and posts these bloggers have written during the process, and then ultimately flame them when they go private ultimately. It's their choice and responsibility to make the best choice for their child. They don't owe us anything, and it's given parents who support public a bad (defensive, vitriolic) rep.

    1. I absolutely agree that each parent has to make the decision for their child, and that different people are going to make different choices. But, I don't agree that there have been nasty (defensive, vitriolic) posts, at least on this particular thread, from people who support public education.

      I have seen a lot of posts pointing out that at a school with annual tuition in the $25,000 range there are going to be a lot of very wealthy families. I don't think this is a contentious thing to say. It's just an accurate thing to say. And a child whose family is not in that same wealth range is, at some point, going to be aware of that. No-one is saying that these aren't nice families, but the difference in circumstances is going to be felt at some point. This doesn't mean anyone not super-wealthy should turn down a spot at Hamlin. And it doesn't mean that child won't get a great education there. It just means you should try to go into it with your eyes open as to reality.

    2. Thanks, 8:04, for the kind words. I think bloggers need to have thick skin, no matter which way they go. Sunrise Sunset also had people 2nd guessing their decision to go public.

      Posting your school decision is a little like telling people what you've chosen to name your child before they're born. There's always someone to tell you why they don't like your choice. In the end, the decisions are as individual and personal as what we name our kids.

    3. Then why agree to be a blogger for this site? Why make these posts and detailed observations about the school process, then not reveal the result of that. It's like not completeting the assignment and toying with the readers.

    4. I know, I should post where our daughter will be going next year. I plan to, but I have a lot to say since it will likely be my last post. I am in the process of editing what I wrote. It's too long and TMI. I work, have two kids and do a lot of things in my community and this was such a big decision it sucked up so much more of my time. It's coming, I promise.

  29. I just can't stand the perception that those paying pricey tuitions or scraping together financial aid are " investing" in their child's education. Those who agonize over public are investing just as much and are just as committed to their child's education. Part of also reflects a consumerist approach that if we want it, we should have it, even if we can't afford it and will deal with the debt later. I personally am uncomfortable with some of the herd mentality reflected.

  30. Congratulations to wordofthemutha on having two great options to choose from. I suspect that whichever way you end up deciding you'll probably have a good experience and feel as though you made the right choice.

    If you do feel comfortable sharing your decision when it is made, we would love to know which school you decided to send your child to.

  31. I posted yesterday at 12:27am.

    I'm not anti-private school at all! My children go to private school (co-ed). We didn't choose Hamlin for us (and my daughter was admitted there--as well as 2 co-ed schools)because of a better fit for our family and values. I have many friends who send their kids to Hamlin, and it was the right choice for them.

    But if financial issues had been a consideration for us, I would have chosen Rooftop IN A HEARTBEAT!!! If I thought my child had a learning issue (and its hard to know), I WOULD CHOOSE ROOFTOP!!!
    Public schools are legally obligated to address learning issues, but privates just kick you out (some are better than others, but none can handle mid-level dyslexia, auditory processing disorders, adhd, etc). Will you have to fight with your public school to get the services? oh yeah. but you have a chance. Even at our school, most (MOST) kids are getting some sort of tutoring/therapy. It is like a WHOLE EXTRA tuition and its the rule, not the exception.

    The dirty secret of our school (and all other privates) is that for most parents, it doesn't affect them AT ALL. No one I'm close to is going to like paying nearly another tuition in annual fund donations, therapies, etc, but its not going to prevent you from skiing at your house in Sugarbowl either. Its just the cost of buying in to the system.

    However, the schools will even pay for extra help above and beyond learning specialists for kids who need financial support (presumably so that they all perform at "precocious" levels).

    So, I'm not anti-private or pro-public--I just think that K-grad school schooling is very, very long, and every year must be horrible if you have to worry about paying for every semester. It is esp. difficult if your child needs extra help. And if VERY FEW other parents even have a clue about what your financial struggles are, its isolating and anxiety provoking. That’s what I meant by "thoughtless."

    Do I think private offers a better education? NOT AT ALL!!! my friends kids in certain publics--rooftop being one of them--are WAY smarter than my children, and do better in school. But there are more opportunities to think outside the box and go forward because there is an expectation that all kids are as quick and smart as each other, and there are RESOURCES for everyone.

    But one thing to think about is that for all those privates boasting about their unique "rigor" and "critical thinking", their graduates ALL end up at pretty much the same private high schools and colleges. There is no one school that far and away sends kids to University or Lowell more than the others. What that says to me is that the private educations are rather uniform.

    The advantage my children have over public school is that the classes are smaller and they get way more attention. But these kids have no idea how precious and expensive their education is—its like nothing to them. If you have to scrimp and save for that education, what are you going to do when your child adopts the same attitude? Still, Hamlin girls are often seen as more serious about school precisely because Wanda has mixed up the student body, and has more "hungry" for knowledge kids (or as has been joked, "aspirational”).
    But if I had to decide between vacations, eating out or living in our home, I'd save my money and go to rooftop!! But its different for everyone.
    This discussion is bound to offend someone--its personal and sensitive. If you are honest about private v. public (from the private perspective), you come off sounding horrible and shallow and elitist (unearned snobbery no less). But I'm just trying to be honest.
    Do what makes your whole family happy, and remember that you will also need money for retirement! Imo, the choice between these two schools is a choice most parents would be lucky to have. They're both good.

    1. I do know two families at Friends where the younger sibling has had a learning issue, and the families are leaving as a result since the school is not equipped to deal. One family is moving to Stern, the other is just pissed at Friends because they've made them feel bad and said that they would not have admitted #2 if they weren't a sibling and it annoyed the parents. Private schools are not great at handling learning issues (except Stern and Laurel) and the school visit/assessment is designed to spot early indicators of these. Often families get a "no" or rejection if the school thinks there may be some needs or learning issues beyond what they can handle.

      I also know families at Rooftop and they've told me it is just ok. I know three families there and they have liked it for K-2, but not beyond, and certainly not for middle school.

      My sister is a teacher at an independent high school and she agrees that as many public students get into top high schools as private students, but there is a very real difference between how they cope and operate once admitted. Her public students are less likely to advocate for themselves and raise their hand and utilize the many resources in the school. In fact, her school (University) does a special orientation a week early for kids coming from publics to try and teach some skills they've noticed are not honed in their public middle/elementary schools. The private students by contrast are a lot more confident in their skin, more resourceful and more likely to develop relationships with teachers which helps them perform really well. She also found the private students to exhibit a lot of social maturity she's found quite remarkable. Finally, she says her school draws from all the top privates and publics but by percentage the private school that sends the most applicants (25% of their graduating class each year) is SF Day and she's enormously impressed by their students - in fact she raves about them.

      Finally, if wordofthemutha goes to Hamlin, and has a younger boy, the Head of Hamlin may help her by writing a letter of reference for her younger boy to Cathedral as that is where she sends her boys. Hamlin's Head does not have any daughters but picked Cathedral as the boys school to send her children personally.

    2. We have heard this about SF Day too (that they send the most kids to University High School and are the most impressive high school students.) Most of the Bay Area Independent Schools send their schools to UHS, Lick, Lowell, etc. but it becomes more interesting once you look at college placement data. SF Day sends by far the most students to Ivy Leagues year after year.

  32. It does seem strange: What is up with Town? Isn't that the school that is Hamlin's counterpart? Wouldn't she send her children there? Also doesn't the head of Hamlin's husband work at MCDS?
    Why do so many parents pick cathedral (or even stuart hall) over town?

    University is a great school for many students (very competitive though), and SFday really does offer an excellent education, so that does make sense that many of them go there.

    And if it were between Rooftop, Hamlin and SFday, I would pick SFday in a heartbeat. The location is not great (masonic seems pretty busy), but the level of education that I saw there was really unique (a combo between social skills, STEM, and a killer art program--and diverse and cool parents--a real community from what I saw. maybe its because they have a lobby?. It was just heads and shoulders above Hamlin. That being said, I was impressed how poised the girls were at Hamlin. They seemed really great at public speaking.

    I think what was just posted though is true: Self advocating at public schools can get you trouble as being pushy and entitled, but at private (not parochial) school, it is a social skill. That is something I didn't think about, and a value that is good to have.

    1. Hmmm, that's not my impression of the boy's schools. Most people I've encountered choose Town over Stuart Hall and Cathedral. I think a big reason is they want non-religious education. And many don't even apply to Cathedral, partly due to the heavy church focus (lots of chapel time for hymns etc.) and location. People seem to view Town is the better academic choice. Again, that's just my impression based on a number of friends and relatives with kids in elementary and high school. And those with children in high school have lamented that they felt the academics could have been stronger at Stuart Hall and Cathedral, but they were very nurturing environments.

      Wanda from Hamlin likely has that connection with Cathedral, because as someone alluded to before, she has her kid(s) in a playgroup/preschool at the Getty house and the Getty's have deep ties with Cathedral School/Grace Cathedral.

    2. That's so funny: I heard the exact opposite! It just shows how school is such a personal choice.

      I didn't look at any single sex boys schools (not my thing), but I've not heard anyone say anything glowing about Town. I know several families that send their boys to Town, but these families wanted Cathedral or Stuart Hall. One tried for two years, and gave up a spot for Town to try again for Cathedral (but ultimately took Town).

      I heard that Cathedral was more innovative and "gets" modern education (and Stuart Hall is on the right path), but that Town is moribund with a head of school that is from a completely different era. I know that Town draws from more of an "east coast" type (but in general it seems to me they all draw from the same pool), but I know an atheist family that sends their children to Cathedral (and was thrilled to get in over Town). They say the religion aspect is more spiritual--not dogmatic at all.

      But it certainly doesn't look good if the head of the partner girl school sends her son to the different boys school. Not a vote of confidence there.

    3. Mis-information in 11:50am post and other posts too.

      Take this blog with a grain of salt. It is rife with incorrect information. Lots influenced by commenter's personal admissions acceptances and rejections. Human nature.

      The best way to select potential schools for your child is to experience the schools for yourselves and talk to the parents and staff in person.

    4. I don't think anyone is spouting anything as gospel, just what they've heard either first hand or through the grapevine. Frankly, I don't know how helpful any of that is but I think (hope) people have the wherewithal to do their own research and make their own decision.

    5. Hamlin and Town aren't partner schools. Plenty of opposite sex siblings get denied at each.

  33. Hamlin does not have a boys school counterpart. There is no formal relationship with any other school. Families at Hamlin have boys at Town and Cathedral in equal measure. There are also plenty of girls at Hamlin with brothers at SFDS and a few at Friends. There are even girls at Hamlin with brothers at Stuart Hall, although this is less common because Stuart Hall has Convent which is the girls school under the Sacred Heart umbrella.

    The choice of schools is personal, and all kids are different, which is why Hamlin girls have brothers at many different schools, both all-boys and co-ed. And I am certain that Wanda made a choice based on what was best for her son, not for any other reason.

    There are plenty of non-religious (or religious but non-Catholic or Christian) friends at Stuart Hall and at Cathedral.

  34. While you really were in a tough and really lucky spot, I was one of those people who was not loving Rooftop after I toured. Some of it was superficial like the lack of space and all the bungalows. I also didn't like how some of the classes I toured were composed and the afterschool program seem so limited. Also, when looking at API, I wondered whhy scored weren't higher and if the academic needs of all the kids there were being fully attended to. Also, from what I observed, the children seemed really special and thoughtful. The PTA is very committed and responsive and sent me a very thoughtful follow up to some of my concerns. Distance and start time also ruled it out for me. It seems very solid school with some great programs, but it's tough for any school to live up to it's hype. Wouldn't rule it out but wasn't my 1st choice either.

  35. SFDay, Town, and Hamlin are academically strong. SFDay has Dr. Jackson who is very focused on improving and losing the tutoring culture. Town is not stuck in another era. They are focused on STEM and are very forward-thinking.

    I have friends with kids at a number of these schools and the ones at Cathedral and Stuart Hall/Convent have had concerns about the academics and/or have tried to switch out. I'm sure the opposite happens as well.

    All we are going on is personal anecdotes, but I figured I would throw mine into the ring as well!

  36. Our parochial has provided excellent support for our ADHD child and encouraged us to get family support through a multi-week study of drug-free behavior management strategies at UCSF. Six or seven out of the eight families in our study were private school families, mostly the high-priced independents, and they all seemed to be getting good support from their schools. I am not saying private schools want whole classrooms full of ADHD kids, or that, unless it's a specialty, they are are equipped to handle challenges like Downs or severe autism. However, I do have to challenge a blanket statement like "no private school can handle ADHD."

    1. All I can say is, "wait." At private schools, you get support for learning differences--until you don't. Then, either your child can be managed/accommodated/supported--or you're asked to leave. Its shocking how many get the boot. Btw, no one said "no private school can handle adhd"--its about the degree of the learning difference in perspective of the culture of the school. I challenge blanket statements too--especially when they're set up as straw men.

  37. WHich parochial school? Sounds great.