A Few Of The Private School Acceptances From Public Schools

We thought we’d share some of the private elementary school acceptances we’ve heard about from parents we know. These are instances where the families applied from public school and were accepted in grades higher than kindergarten at private elementary schools.

Here are the schools:
  • From 3rd St. Elementary School to Oakwood School for 2nd Grade (Fall 2010)
  • From 3rd St. Elementary School to Mirman for 4th Grade (Fall 2010)
  • From 3rd St. Elementary School to St. James Episcopal School for 1st Grade (Fall 2010)
  • From Larchmont Charter School to Marlborough School for 7th Grade (Fall 2010)
  • From Wonderland Elementary School to Oakwood School for 6th Grade (Fall 2010)
  • From Warner Elementary School To Willows Community School for 4th Grade (Fall 2010)
  • From Warner Elementary School to Turning Point for 4th Grade (Fall 2010)
  • From Carpenter Elementary to Oakwood for 6th Grade (2009)
  • From Carpenter Elementary to Laurel Hall for 6th Grade (2009)
  • From Carpenter Elementary to Buckley School for 4th Grade (2009)
  • From Carpenter Elementary to Los Encinos for 4th Grade (2009)
  • From Kenter Elementary To Crossroads for 3rd grade and K (2008)
  • From Westwood Charter To The Willows for 2nd Grade (2010)
  • From Westwood Charter To Wildwood for 1st Grade (2009)
Obviously, these are just a few of the acceptances from public schools. Maybe this will inspire you if you’re considering a move from public to private school. Or, you may be thinking about starting in public school, with a plan to apply to private schools in higher grades…


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Private Elementary School Parent Associations: Not Your Average PTAs






Wacky antics, stealth agendas, soap opera plots, screaming fights, politics more labyrinthine than Capitol Hill. Is this a high powered, testostorone-fueled corporate boardroom? No, this is just your average LA private elementary school parent association.


Volunteering at your child’s school can be as fun as a girlfriend’s lunch or about as dreadful as spending time with a bunch of mean girls.


All the private elementary schools have parent associations. Some schools make sure the administration keeps a tight rein on the activities of the group for obvious reasons. Other schools take the approach that the parent association and it’s event are “parent run” and therefore somewhat out of the control of the school. Parent associations are a very visible reflection of the school in many ways, especially when they are responsible for numerous school events each year and selecting parents to serve on volunteer committees.


Here are a few types of parent association volunteers you might encounter:


The Professional. Accustomed to working efficiently in a high-level job, this no-nonsense mom doesn’t have time to waste. She knows how to run a meeting and cut to the chase. She doesn’t suffer fools easily. If she gets antsy, she won’t look up from her Blackberry.


The Flake. You’ll see her name everywhere there is a volunteer job to be done, but you’ll never see her. She’ll text the person in charge at the last minute with an excuse. But, her name was all over the place, so that’s all she cares about.


The Micromanager. She clings tightly to her job and likes to keep those under her on a tight leash. Refusing to share helpful information, this volunteer is not a team player.


The Reliable One. The most loved volunteer. She’s always willing to help, no matter what the task or how late at night she gets called. She shows up, does the work and leaves. No drama. No problem.


The Hidden Agenda. This mom has an agenda. It may be to be appointed to the board of the school. It may have to do with her child. Either way, she’s using volunteer work to advance her agenda and will step on anyone who gets in her way.


The Talker. Her divorce, dating life, problems with her kids. It’s all about her during meetings. She’s hard to shut up and if you try, she may just keep talking.


The Self-Designated Super-Star. She jets in at the last second to find fault with other volunteers decorations, yearbook design or other work. She insists on redoing the work herself so she feels like she contributed. She angers other volunteers with her sheer arrogance.


The Leader. Brings people together, motivates parents to stay late and makes it fun. A true leader who everyone wants to work with.


In Over Her Head. This mom means well, but just doesn’t have the skills or ability to do the job she’s supposed to do. Usually people try to work around her, but sometimes, she’ll be asked to step aside if a big project starts to fall apart.


Toxic Mom. By far the worst of the bunch. She is unbalanced to begin with and a pressure-filled volunteer role makes her mean and antagonistic toward anyone she perceives as a threat. Try to figure out who she is early on and steer clear!



My shouting match one morning with a mom from the parent association (she’s also on the board) in the Willows School parent lounge filled with other parents isn’t one of my proudest moments. Tensions were running high. I was exhausted. It was the final few days before the auction fundraiser (I was a co-chair) and this mom came in swinging. This cringeworthy episode was, unfortunately, not all that unusual for private elementary school parent-run events. But, I learned my lesson. I’m just not cut out for parent association volunteering. I help our school in other ways, but I now stay far away from the parent association. Its in my best interest…and theirs too.



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One Mom’s Story: From Public to Private Elementary School For 4th Grade

An Unlikely Private School Success Story


I guess I’ve given away any chance of a surprise ending to this blog post. Yes, unlike many private school admissions horror stories, this scenario has a happy ending.


There’s really no reason why it should. As an applicant, my nine year old daughter wasn’t any sort of shoo-in on the admissions front. Anna* was a public school kid, matriculating through the grades at 3rd St. Elementary pretty seamlessly. But the clock was ticking on the public school front. She seemed under stimulated. Funding for the school was in constant jeopardy, with programs under threat of extinction. And then, there was that dreaded “gap year” to worry about. It all finally came to a head when LAUSD was slow to test Anna for gifted status. I arranged for a private test, just to see what was what. And when the results came in, it seemed clear that private school was in her immediate future.


In retrospect, we were total idiots about the whole process. Completely naïve. Because we hadn’t reached this private school revelation until Anna was in 3rd grade, she’d missed that private school 3rd grade entrance year. Fourth grade would be harder. We are a divorced family, and while everyone is doing just fine, thanks, it’s not like anyone’s rolling in dough; there would be no school buildings with our names on it.


Nevertheless, we moved blithely onwards. Next step was picking the schools. We divided and conquered on this one, with my significant other helping as well. It was clear that Anna needed a lot of structure, since in a looser progressive environment she’d probably stage a military junta and start her own small country. We looked at St. James, which was lovely, but perhaps not academically challenging enough. We looked at Curtis, but we weren’t sure it was a good fit for a number of reasons. We also looked at a school that was well-meaning, but was so gooey and precious, we knew it wouldn’t work for Anna. That was out.


Here’s where we were idiots once again: we only ended up applying to two schools. No safety. This narrowed our chances for success even further. So Mirman and John Thomas Dye it was, based solely on what we felt was right for her: traditional, academically challenging, and small.


And then there were the interviews. It’s probably stressful for everyone, but in a divorce situation you really feel like you’re under the microscope. I think admissions directors are looking for any sort of tension between the ex-spouses, constantly checking for signs of trouble. It’s hard to blame them, really. We get along just fine, but I did feel the scrutiny bearing down on us. As far as appearances for the interviews, I went for something slightly more conservative than my usual garb (I teach Pilates and write. My style can best be described as “fashionable slob”). So my t-shirts were traded for button downs, I kept the jeans but wore flats rather than Converse, and I added a lovely scarf. We wrote the ADs very correct thank-you notes.


There were some notable differences in the interview process at each school. Mirman was primarily interested in the child. She was interviewed solo; we were interviewed with her present. She spent a half day at the school, simply participating in classroom activities. She took a test, of course. The whole process was extremely child centered, which we liked since she’s the one who would attend the place.


John Thomas Dye, on the other hand, was all about the family. We were interviewed together, which meant Anna clammed up. There was a huge stress put on the families engaging as a community, which sounded great, except that I couldn’t get a handle on what sort of families belonged there. There was a lot of stress put on the divorced status, with the AD talking about divorced couples she’d interviewed who couldn’t stand to be in the same room together. Obviously, that’s not the case here, but I got the feeling that we were being tested as a “unit” the entire time.


Both schools were great, though. There was no question that each would keep Anna engaged, involved, and out of trouble. The kids at both schools seemed very nice. Anna liked the schools, although she was apprehensive about leaving her environment. We settled in to wait for the letters.


And then she was wait listed. At both schools.


Oh, boy. Although we knew that with only two schools in the running and a 4th grade entrance Anna’s chances were slim, it was still a bummer. But, we did all the right things. Made the calls, stressed how interested we were, offered to build a science lab (kidding). And then we promptly forgot all about it.


The call from Mirman came in early July. It was a complete surprise. “There’s a spot that’s opened up in Room 4,” the admissions director said on my voicemail. “We’d like to offer it to Anna.” Needless to say, we jumped at it.


So how lucky is that? Admission for an off year, only applying to two schools, not offering millions of dollars, no reference letters from titans of business, initially wait listed, and then, finally, acceptance. Yes, we didn’t do everything right. It was stressful and, as I’ve previously mentioned, we were idiots. But, somehow, the whole thing worked out.


I really wish I’d known about this blog when we first started this process. I would have been far more prepared for the private school admissions reality. And then, perhaps, I could have relied more upon wits than luck. But, there’s always middle school admission to worry about, so I guess there’s another opportunity on the distant horizon. Bleh.


* Name changed for privacy. Thank you to our guest blogger, Jenny Heitz, for sharing her story. Jenny’s daughter attended preschool at Montessori Shir-Hashirim. You can find her blogging at www.findatoad.com a fabulous, well-edited site for adult and kids gifts under $200.

Next time we’ll post a list of some of the recent private elementary school acceptances from public schools.

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From Public Elementary School To Private: Making The Switch

We thought we’d share some of the private elementary school acceptances we’ve heard about from parents we know. These are instances where the families applied from public school and were accepted in grades higher than kindergarten at private elementary schools.

Here are the schools:
  • From 3rd St. Elementary School to Oakwood School for 2nd Grade (Fall 2010)
  • From 3rd St. Elementary School to Mirman for 4th Grade (Fall 2010)
  • From 3rd St. Elementary School to St. James Episcopal School for 1st Grade (Fall 2010)
  • From Larchmont Charter School to Marlborough School for 7th Grade (Fall 2010)
  • From Wonderland Elementary School to Oakwood School for 6th Grade (Fall 2010)
  • From Warner Elementary School To Willows Community School for 4th Grade (Fall 2010)
  • From Warner Elementary School to Turning Point for 4th Grade (Fall 2010)
  • From Carpenter Elementary to Oakwood for 6th Grade (2009)
  • From Carpenter Elementary to Laurel Hall for 6th Grade (2009)
  • From Carpenter Elementary to Buckley School for 4th Grade ( 2009)
  • From Carpenter Elementary to Los Encinos for 4th Grade (2009)
Obviously, these are just a few of the acceptances from public schools. Maybe this will inspire you if you’re considering a move from public to private school. Or, you may be thinking about starting in public school, with a plan to apply to private schools in higher grades…

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Admissions Directors: The Keys To The Empire

A post yesterday on a parenting blog caught my eye. A mom on a well-known LA site wrote that she didn’t like the admissions process at a private elementary school in LA. She thought it was outdated and antiquated. The school in question is a fairly traditional school, so it’s possible that the admissions process is traditional too. It got me thinking: what if you are really turned off by the admissions process? Does that mean you should let your feelings about the admissions director or the school’s admissions process determine your feelings about the entire school?

Each school has a unique admissions process. Some are more rigorous than others. Certain schools give parents the feeling they are trying to weed out kids through the process. Other schools make the admissions testing or visiting day seem like it’s merely a formality, but certainly not something that could make or break your child’s chances for acceptance.

The main point to remember is that you just have to get through the admissions process and you won’t have to deal with the admissions director again once your child is at the school, unless, of course, you like him or her. I really like Kim Feldman, the admissions director at the Willows, and so I’m always happy to see her.

At one LA private elementary school, the admissions director is known for being eccentric and odd. She asks the kids to hop on one foot during admissions testing. This, for some parents, is a huge deal breaker. Would this be enough for you to drop out of the process at that school? I toured this school and for a number of reasons, including the weird arrogance of the admissions director, chose not to apply. But, I have friends who have kids at the same school who are very happy there.

When I think of words to describe some of the admissions directors I encountered, here’s what comes to mind: Professional, low-key, quirky, odd, old-fashioned, unpredictable and drunk with power.

Still, I didn’t let my feelings about most of the admissions directors deter me from completing the process at the schools where really I wanted my daughter to attend. I had some bad moments before it was all over ( a terrible parent interview, stomach pain, and other stresses we discuss in the book).

I’ve concluded that private elementary school admissions directors occupy a unique place in LA. They are the gatekeepers who hold the keys to the empire. If you want a spot in their empire, you must convince them to unlock the door for you!

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Reader Comment on "Insider’s Perspective…"

We pulled from this from a reader comment on the post, “An Insider’s Perspective On Private Elementary School Admissions” (7/14/10)
Anonymous said…

I just bought your book and finished it really quickly. Thanks for all the useful information! Unfortunately, we had already submitted our application for the school that I am keen on before I read all the advice. We left the section on the application where we were invited to share ‘any other important information about our family’ blank. However, I feel good about what we wrote about our child. After reading your book I realize how important it is to share information about the family. Should I wait for the tour or interview to offer the admissions director a revised application or should I call right now? Did I blow it?

Christina Simon said…

Hi Anon:

Thanks for buying the book and reading the blog!! Anne and I both feel that the section of the application you left blank is generally to give a family the chance to forewarn the school about something unique, out of the ordinary or unusual about your family. The fact that you left it blank is fine. We don’t think you should revise the application or call the school. Leave your application as it is. But, make sure to round out your “family messages” or information about your family in the parent interview. You should have the opportunity in the parent interview to discuss your family in detail. If the parent interview is focused on other topics i.e the weather, you will need to try to guide the conversation towards your family’s attributes and importantly why your child will be a GREAT FIT for this particular school. Not any private school, but the school where you’re applying. Try to be specific with examples i.e. the sports program, the reading program, the similarity to your preschool, etc. Obviously, private schools want kids that they can teach and that will be happy and stay at the school and, of course, parents who will contribute their volunteer time and contribute financially, if possible. You can help them understand that YOU are that family! Also, see our previous post about “Family Messages”. Good luck!

Christina and Anne

Anonymous said…

Thanks so much! Great advice!!!

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Reader Question: Resume Building To Appeal To Schools?

One of our readers asked us what things she should “build up” or emphasize on her “resume” as a parent to be more appealing during the school admissions process.

This is a great question!
As we’ve said many times before, private elementary schools are evaluating the child AND the family. It’s so important for you as a parent to highlight your skills, volunteer work, charity work and anything else you think you’ll be able to contribute to your child’s elementary school.
If your child is currently at preschool and has another year there, get involved, if possible. Private elementary schools like to see a track record of school volunteerism. Simply paying tuition and never helping out isn’t what they like to see.
Really think about your professional and volunteer skills and how they could apply to a private elementary school environment.
Parents sometimes underestimate the unique and in-demand skills they possess so they don’t mention them on the application or in the parent interview. Your skills have been developed over a professional career, your time at preschool, your time as a mom and your work in your community. All these experiences can be relevant! But, nobody will know about them unless you break them down into specific, “can-do” skills and abilities:
For example:
  • I’m skilled with graphic design computer programs and can train volunteers to use them
  • We own a restaurant and often donate to locate community events
  • As a volunteer, I chaired a non profit organization’s committee to bring in donations for our charity event
  • I’m a writer and would love to help with any school publications like the newsletter, website, etc.
  • We just re-landscaped our back yard and would welcome the opportunity to work in the school garden
  • We own a small printing business and would be happy to donate printing services for school events (invitations, flyers, announcements)
  • And, you can just simply say, “I’d be happy to help out with whatever is needed at your school…I really want to be involved”. What admissions director wouldn’t want to hear that from a prospective parent?

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Public vs. Private School: Public Debate or Family Decision?

Recently, I saw a comment on a popular LA mom blog which read:

“I have looked at several public schools, and mentally I am having such a hard time with the idea of my child attending for kindergarten, all of them look like cement-and-chain-link fence prisons. What do you guys think? Will my child be emotionally scarred by the sheer ugliness of those places?”

The responses to this mom’s comment ranged from openly hostile to supportive. I didn’t comment. Sarah Maizes, LA mom and writer of the hilarious blog, Mommy Lite, did leave the following comment:

“Yes. Yes it will…and while you’re at it, you should also avoid pictures of hungry children.”

She went on to blog about the fallout from her comment the next day (see her post “Fresh Picked Fight” 7/12/10).

As some of you know, I have never attended private school. I’m a product of LAUSD, Santa Monica Unified, UC Berkeley and UCLA. My elementary school, Topanga Elementary, was idyllic. Hidden away in the hills of the canyon and shaded with beautiful trees. My university and graduate school were also quite spectacular public schools.

You’ll also notice that we do not criticize public schools on this blog. Like you, we’re well aware of the very public problems LAUSD struggles with. We also know that within LAUSD there are some very good schools. One of my oldest friends is on the LAUSD School Board working hard to make things better. Obviously, her children attend public school. And, private school is simply not a financial option for many families.

Private schools aren’t perfect either. The problems may be different (or maybe not), but they do exist. Toxic parents, bullies and other issues are common at private schools. We’ve written about some of these issues on this blog (see “Kindergarten And The Bully” 7/2/10). Quite frankly, some of the private elementary school campuses are downright depressing. They definitely won’t make you Ohh and Aah! One school I toured made me want to run the opposite direction because it was so run down and in need of serious repairs.

Rather than have an explosive public vs. private “debate” or shouting match online, we think the decision about where to send your child is personal and for your family. You may be open to public OR private school when your child is still in preschool. Look at all your options!

The public school vs. private school debate is really only of interest to us on this blog to the extent that parents want to figure out how to transfer from public school to private school and to learn more about how to get into private elementary schools. And, we try to paint a real picture of what life is like at private elementary schools…and, no, it’s not perfect.

Even within private school parents, “debate” goes on about which is better, a traditional or developmental or progressive school (this is code for which school will help your child get into Harvard-Westlake and then an Ivy League college).

Choosing a school is such a personal family decision that we want to make sure parents have as many options available to them as possible. The difficulty of getting into private elementary schools in LA is what motivated us to write Beyond The Brochure and create this blog. The more information, the better!

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K-8 Private Elementary School Model

Families at The Willows Community School recently received a letter from the Board of Trustees updating us on campus projects and thanking families for our help with various school accomplishments over the past year.

The letter also discussed the merits of a K-8 school on the same campus, which is the Willows School model. Here is an excerpt from the letter:
“At The Willows, children have the opportunity to become natural leaders, and all our students, from youngest to oldest, are surrounded by a faculty that knows each individual child. Remaining in an environment which many of our students know as a second home allows our children to retain their confidence and sense of safety during both childhood and early adolescent years that follow…and, once again, this year’s 8th grade graduates who applied to independent schools received multiple acceptances and gained admission into one or more of his top choices.”
When I was applying to kindergarten for my daughter, I didn’t really think about the various school models. We loved the Willows immediately, but I was more concerned about getting into at least one school! Therefore, I focused on the kindergarten and not much beyond that. It’s difficult to project ahead years down the road when you have a young child. But, I can say that the K-8 campus is really unique. When I walked into Marlborough this summer to drop off my soon-to-be 10 year old daughter for summer camp, I was amazed at how Marlborough is really designed for older kids (it is a 7-12 school). It’s a wonderful summer program and a fantastic school. My daughter has loved every minute at summer camp, but she misses The Willows.

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Reader Comment/Question re: "Gap Year"

We pulled this reader question from our April 8, 2010 post, “Your Family’s Key Messages”. In case you missed this in the comments section…
Anonymous said…

I just discovered your blog and find it enormously informative and helpful. I am trying to decide if we should start our daughter in private K or for middle school. I am finding that many LAUSD elementary schools end in 5th grade while private schools have major entry points in 7th grade. Are there other schools that accept students for 6th grade? How do other making the switch to private for middle school deal with the gap year?

June 10, 2010 8:34 AM

Christina Simon said…

Dear Anonymous, thanks for reading our blog! We love writing it!

Your question brings up an issue lots of LA parents deal with. Here are my thoughts. If you start in public kindergarten, you will need to find a school for 6th grade, since public schools are K-5. Then, if you decide to move your child again for 7th grade, that could be 3 schools in 3 years. That’s a lot of transition…just something to think about.


Or, you could move your child to a private school that has a 6-12 or a 6-8th grade and create more stability for your child. Kids get admitted to private school from public schools regularly. Private schools are very well aware of the “gap” problem and tend to be understanding of it, if they have space.


Some private schools DO except students for 6th grade, Brentwood and Crossroads are two that I believe accept applications for 6th grade. At other schools, there are less spots, as I understand it for 6th grade. However, it can be done. Generally, points of entry are K, 3rd (limited spots), 7th, 9th (limited spots).


The “gap year” issue is a tough one for everyone. It’s something that certainly can be handled, it will just require some time and effort to plan ahead, knowing it’s coming up ahead for your child. You could also leave public school for 3rd grade, 5th grade, etc. Sometimes, this is a smart strategy that a lot of parents use. Openings occur every year in every grade, it’s just a question of numbers. If you prepare in advance, you will find a spot, I’m sure. Just remember, like kindergarten, you’ll need to apply to several schools, not just one. And, there is an exam your child will need to take to get into private middle school.


One last point. A very savvy educational consultant told me recently she tells her clients that if they have a “gap” year to go to public school for a year and then apply to private for 7th, since private schools don’t like to “poach” students from other private schools. In other words, if you go to a private for one year and then apply out to another private right away, that can be tricky, for the reason called “poaching”. Interesting advice.

Hope that helps!!! Good luck!



June 10, 2010 8:58 AM

Anonymous said…

Thanks again for this helpful advice!


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