I decided to tour on a whim, almost against my better judgement. It did, however, have location, small size and the Spanish component that I so desperately want. My concerns were the lack of consistent leader and the fact that this school is owned by Bright Horizons, a for profit company.
Most of my notes from today are impressions or anecodtal as we were on a private tour with the admissions director, Cameron Story, and I felt awkward transcribing every last word.
Marin Prep is a co-ed Spanish Infusion school located in the Castro. They are currently in their fourth year of operation. Ultimately they will go through eighth grade. They also offer a junior kindergarten (JK) program. There will be two classes per grade and they anticipate about 16-17 children per kindergarten class.
My husband and I were both very impressed with Cameron. She is clearly dedicated and passionate about the school. We are also learning that this is the job of the admissions director. They are, in essence, the first face of the school.
The actual building is just charming. The classrooms are large, bright and airy. Its the building that housed both Live Oak and Friends as they were just starting out. The outside play space is lacking. There is one small space behind the school that has structures and blacktop. I *think* I recall Cameron saying something about trying to be able to officially use the park/green space next door (I could be wrong here).
Cameron did not flinch when I asked her point blank about the (lack) of head of school.
In case you don’t know, the original head of school was Ed Walters who left halfway through the first year, taking with him many families to start Alta Vista. After Ed left a fabulous woman named Flora stepped in to help out. She was with Bright Horizons at the time but now is at Town School. From there they hired another head of school, Patrick Gaffney, who one day was there and then he wasn’t. He lasted approximately six months. In stepped Debbie Highsmith who is with Bright Horizons (Vice President of Operations) act as head. Paul Wenninger , an interim head of school was hired for the 2012-2013 school year. Phew. Cameron told us that they had a person of interest that they really liked to come on as head of school. She did not say anything else.
Addendum, April 15: Jeff Escabar was named as the new head of school. Jeff is currently the admissions director at Marin Country Day School. I immediately called my two teacher friends at MCDS to get the scoop and both of them raved about Jeff. I also spoke with three families who attend MCDS and all the feedback was glowing. Lastly, I had an opportunity to get feedback from admission directors here in SF and again, everyone had fabulous things to say about him
I also asked Cameron about the relationship between MPS , MDS and Bright Horizons. MPS is part of the Marin Day Schools (MDS) community. MPS is governed and guided by the MDS Board of Directors, who has retained Bright Horizons (BH) to manage the school, as they do at all MDS campuses. From the website, “By contracting with BH to manage and operate its programs, MDS benefits from the business infrastructure and resources necessary to maintain the excellent programs. Support includes financial, human resources, recruiting, education and training and allows the organization to move forward in a fiscally responsible manner. The MDS/BH organization provides the foundation and funding for Marin Preparatory School. MPS has wonderful programs with professional administrators, dedicated teachers and strong educational leaders”.
We spent a good 10-15 minutes in each classroom. In each class we visited there were a variety of things going on - kids in small groups both at their desks and huddled on the floor and kids working independently. The children were focused and working hard while seemingly having fun. There is a dedicated music specialist and art teacher on staff. All of the classrooms have two teachers, at least one of which is fully bilingual. They also have an after school program, Ademas, for an additional monthly cost.
There are some definite unknowns and their newness I think could turn out to be one of their greatest strengths. They aren't set in their ways (no dead wood), their decisions will be very purposeful and the parent body will be made up of like-minded people who were willing to take a little risk.
My husband and I both walked out surprisingly ‘wowed’. It seems like the one big question is the head of school. The turnover to date doesn’t really bother me its more the thought of moving forward. Everything else seems right on the mark for us!
I also have to admit that the word ‘preparatory’ makes me cringe. Preparing for what? For me, its right up there with ‘academy’. Oh well, we can stick to MPS.