About admin

Christina Simon: Los Angeles, California, United States I'm the mom of a daughter (11) and a son (8) who attend The Willows Community School in Culver City. I live with my husband, Barry Perlstein, in Coldwater Canyon. Contact me at csimon2007@gmail.com

Weekend Links: Play-Based Nature Kindergartens, Parenting Trends and more!

 

Viewpoint at Laurel Hall. First year playing for Viewpoint's flag football team. What a blast!

Viewpoint at Laurel Hall. My son’s first year playing for Viewpoint’s flag football team. What a blast!

Nature inspired forest kindergartens aren’t focused on academics and they’re catching on around the country. (NPR/KQED)

 

Since my daughter was born in 2000, a lot has changed in the world of parenting. My go-to basics like Sippy cups are now out! Who knew? This week, I wrote about the top14 parenting trends, what’s in (and out!) (mom.me)

 

One of the BEST pieces I’ve read about how moms need to be all in, all the time. Our Mommy Problem (NYT)

 

With Sarah Maizes

With Sarah Maizes

My friend Sarah Maizes (above) wrote this hilarious piece about vintage (and terrifying car seats). You must see how we used to ride with our babies! (mom.me)

 

A stunningly beautiful piece about missing the village to raise our kids. This piece resonated with me deeply, as I sometimes feel so alone in raising my kids in L.A. (Huffington Post)

 

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know how much I love school gardens and the movement to feed our kids healthy food at school. Farm to table movement comes to school cafeterias (Marketplace on NPR)

 

Authors of a new report aren’t happy about kindergarten becoming the new first grade. The article points out that some kids are ready to read in kindergarten while others need more time. (Washington Post)

 

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Ethics Guru Josephson’s Lawsuit Against The Archer School For Girls in Brentwood

Archer School For Girls

The Archer School For Girls in Brentwood

In July, 2014, the LA Times published an article detailing the lawsuit by ethics guru Michael Josephson against his daughters’ former school, The Archer School For Girls in Brentwood (7-12th grade).

 

To summarize, after his older daughter was expelled for an argument with a teacher (facts are disputed), he filed suit against the school. Shortly thereafter, his younger daughter left the school just before the end of the school year and was subsequently told by Archer she could not re-enroll for the next school year. The entire Josephson family was banned from the Archer campus. His wife, Anne, had previously served on the Archer board of trustees. Josephson, an attorney, started a blog detailing his legal case against the school.

 

According to the Times, Josephson’s  lawsuit seeks $10 million in damages, which the school calls “frivolous.” The litigation is extremely contentious, settlement attempts appear to have failed and the school is seeking arbitration which Josephson is fighting in court. According to his blog, Josephson is seeking the resignation of the head of school, among other things. As of Oct. 2014, the matter had not been resolved.

 

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Marlborough Head of School to Resign Following Sexual Harassment Investigation Report

Barbara Wagner, head of school at Marlborough School will resign effective June 30, 2015, following an investigation into her handling of allegations of sexual harassment brought by two former students against a former teacher. The report points to a “serious error in judgement by the head of school” when in 2005, Ms. Wagner failed to fully investigate a complaint by a student against the teacher, Mr. Koetters. The report states that Ms. Wagner incorrectly questioned the student’s veracity and motive regarding the teacher. According to the report, Ms. Wagner also failed to fully investigate a second student’s complaint about the teacher in 2012.

 

2:45 p.m. update: BuzzFeed quotes an attorney for one of the victims who says he’s not satisfied with the outcome. Looks like there may be a lawsuit brewing. The piece also quotes the mother of one victim.

Here is the report issued by the Board of Trustees and the Special Investigative Committee

Marlborough 1

Marlborough 1.5

Marlborough 2

Marlborough A

Marlborough 4

Marlborough 5

Marlborough 6

How To Navigate Private School Admissions on mom.me

Momme

I’m SO excited to be a new contributor to mom.me, a national parenting site (part of AOL Lifestyle). –Christina

 

Here’s an excerpt from my piece, part one of two in a series.

 

“When you embark on this journey, you might feel like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” as she travels down the Yellow Brick Road and encounters all kinds of characters (some admissions directors may remind you of the Wicked Witch). So, put on your ruby red slippers to navigate the ups and downs of the admissions process. When it’s over, you’ll (hopefully!) be holding a handful of acceptance letters as you pop open a bottle of celebratory champagne.”

To continue reading, click on mom.me

Private Elementary School BUZZ

 

PESBuzz

Alice Fleming, Campbell Hall’s long-serving director of admissions, will be leaving her job at the end of this admissions cycle.

 

Mr. Andrew, the head of Fountain Day School, has a kid at Laurence School so its not surprising that the West Hollywood preschool is a big feeder to very-popular Laurence School.

 

At my kids’ school, Viewpoint, our very well-respected headmaster, Dr. Robert J. Dworkoski, has stepped down after three decades as head of school. A national search for his replacement is underway. Luckily, Dr. Dworkoski will continue on in a new role as President of the Viewpoint Educational Foundation. We wish him success in his new position!

 

Becky Riley Fisher is no longer the Mirman School’s admissions director. The acting director of admissions is Jocelyn Balaban-Lutzky.

 

Congratulations to Beyond The Brochure’s good friend, Jen Foley Tolbert, who will start as the new head of St. Mark’s in Altadena in 2015. She is currently finishing her tenure as director of the Middle School at Polytechnic. Jen will make an excellent head of school!

 

If you have a legendary last name or you’re a celebrity, feel free to use the school roster at some schools (not Viewpoint) for solicitations for your personal charity or your friend’s jewelry line. If you don’t have a famous last name, don’t even try it.

 

At Willows School, apparently TWO members of the board are applying out for 7th grade this year (rather than stay through 8th grade). Is the Willows middle school not good enough for their kids? Given the school’s rather desperate attempts to keep families in the middle school, this highly unusual move smacks of a double standard.  Board members, don’t seem to have to follow the rules that apply to other families.

 

Let’s be social! Like Beyond The Brochure on Facebook. We post a lot of stuff on Facebook that’s not on the blog!  Are you more the email type? Get our posts in your in box by subscribing (enter your email in the subscribe” box on the right sidebar of the blog. Or, buy the Second Edition of our book at Amazon.com or your local bookstores!

 

 

About Beyond The Brochure: Expanded Edition


Home office

About This Blog

Beyond The Brochure is just over 4 years old! In 2010, after the release of the First Edition of our book, Beyond The Brochure: An Insider’s Guide To Private Elementary Schools In Los Angeles, my co-authors and I decided we wanted to write a blog to accompany the book. Now, 4 years later, we’re still writing. The Second Edition of the book was released in 2013. What started as a book project is now a small business!

 

Who Writes This Blog?

Most of the writing on the blog is done by me (Christina) with the occasional post from Anne Simon (my amazing co-author who is also my step-mom) and our fabulous guest bloggers. The blog is about all aspects of private elementary school admissions. It’s also about what life is like at some of these private schools. I’m proud that Beyond The Brochure has been featured in The Daily Beast, The Hollywood Reporter, LA Parent, Elizabeth Street, Red Tricycle, Mommy Poppins and Santa Monica Macaroni Kid and numerous other publications.

 

The kids and me, 2012

 

What Kind of Blog Is This?

If you’re new here, welcome! Stripped of context, Beyond The Brochure might seem like a lot of things it isn’t. So let me explain. This is primarily a how-to blog (how to get your kid into private elementary school without losing your mind). It’s not a review of private schools. It’s also my story of applying to kindergarten (stressful!), enrolling my kids at The Willows School, the ups and downs during those years. And, it’s about my kids moving to Viewpoint School last year for 4th and 7th grade. Yes, we went through the middle school process (very, very stressful!). Now in 5th (my son) and 8th grade (my daughter) they are challenged and inspired at Viewpoint. It’s an exceptionally good school.

 

What Topics Are Covered on the Blog?

My goal is for this blog to be simultaneously helpful and something you can relate to.  You’ll find that this blog follows the schedule of the admissions process. When you’re agonizing over written applications and taking off work to tour schools, that’s what we’ll be covering. For example, what should you look for during a school tour besides what the school wants you to see? When you’re taking your child for visiting/testing day, we’ll be writing about that topic. You’ll also find pieces about all aspects of private school life, from tuition and annual giving to Q&A interviews with educational consultants and upcoming private school events. Writing about what’s trendy at private schools is also one of my favorite subjects. Of course, the blog contains a bit of snarkiness, along with a sense of humor (required to get through the admissions process). I also share stuff I write as a freelancer for other sites. Our growing Facebook page is a great place to see the information we post that’s not on the blog.

 

Sweetness

 

Who Reads This Blog?

About 15,000 each month, moms and dads who want their kids to attend L.A. private school are reading it. Both the book and the blog are written for parents. Neither is intended for school admissions directors, although some of them read it too. We’ve received emails from a few heads of school telling us they like our blog (we know what they’re really saying is ‘watch what you say about my school’). It’s our belief and personal experience that a lot of the schools hold tightly to information about admissions, making it difficult for parents who aren’t “insiders” to find out much about them, let alone get their kids in. We think private school websites have improved over the past few years, but still offer only the minimum amount of information needed to apply. Navigating the admissions process isn’t addressed on school websites. So, every year, thousands of parents around L.A. re-invent the wheel looking for information about schools, asking questions, seeking the best school for their kids. It’s a process of course, but it doesn’t need to be so strenuous! For example, what should you expect during a parent interview? What kind of questions might be asked? What are you expected to know and/or ask? What makes a good parent interview? What should you do if the parent interview doesn’t go well? These are just some of the questions we focus on.

 

Santa Barbara Summer Cup 2014

 

Who Writes This Blog?

The blog is written mostly by me (Christina Simon). I spend about 30 hours a week writing, attending social media events, writing for other publications and speaking at preschools about kindergarten admissions.  I post here 1-2 times per week. Tools of the trade include my iPhone 5S, a Panasonic Lumix camera, Picktochart for infographics, PicMonkey for photo editing and a bunch of photo editing apps like Afterlight. Together, my co-authors and I answer all reader emails and we welcome comments. There are a lot of L.A. private schools that are excellent. Some are traditional, others are progressive or developmental.  I don’t typically say one is better than another, only different. It depends on what you’re looking for in a school. These schools are expensive, so if you don’t know, that should be your starting point.   It takes me several hours to write each post.  Sometimes, I think about a post, editing and re-editing for several days or talking to people in the know to get another perspective on a post.  Our most popular posts lately are about tuition. I’m on Facebook daily, but as a work-at-home-mom, I have to make sure a big potion of my day doesn’t become too solitary. Writing a blog can be isolating, so I try to schedule lunches with other colleagues and friends, tour schools for our School Profiles section and schedule meetings to break up the day, which also consists of racing around in sweat pants or jeans doing laundry, washing dishes, grocery shopping, picking up kids, going to my son’s games and volunteering at school (a lot like your day, probably).  Every week, I share my innermost hopes and fears with a group of women I barely know in a support group for motherless daughters.

 

Tools of the Trade

 

Professionalism and confidentiality matter. We understand that many readers are reluctant to comment due to concerns about confidentiality. We have never, ever shared a reader email or comment with anyone. You can leave an anonymous comment and be assured your name will remain anonymous. Comments are moderated because we aren’t interested in a bunch of spam or nasty Internet troll comments. You’ll see that my interests are focused on issues like finding your community at private school (this has been my biggest challenge), school gardens and the culture of L.A. private schools. Some private schools are very similar to elite country clubs, while others are far more accessible to regular families. I think private schools should be available to families who aren’t private school legacies or uber-wealthy. That means information about how to apply needs to be easily available to anyone who wants it. Financial aid information, which is used to help middle-income families, not just low-income parents, should also be accessible. I’ve seen a lot of this city’s private elementary and secondary schools, but not all of them (yet!).

 

I don’t write much about my kids’ academic experience for privacy reasons. I don’t use their names for the same reason. What I will say is that I have two absolutely amazing, spirited, insightful, kind, smart and funny kids. Generally speaking, they’re both very good students with different interests and personalities. My son is 11 and he’s a serious athlete who plays club soccer and club basketball, in addition to school sports. He loves math. My daughter, 14, has several favorite subjects like French, writing and journalism. My husband, Barry Perlstein, has written a few posts for the blog. He’s a really good writer and very funny. He majored in math at Harvard and then he graduated from Harvard law school. He’s works in management consulting and previously in private equity. For the past few years, he’s volunteered as an alumni interviewer for Harvard. He’s definitely the smartest person I know. We try to find balance in our parenting style, but we don’t always achieve it. He handles most of the sports stuff for our son. We don’t want to push our kids too hard, but we want them to take advantage of the opportunities they are fortunate to have at Viewpoint.

 

BH Hotel 3

 

You’ll see that my interests are focused on issues like finding your community at private school (this has been my biggest challenge), school gardens and the culture of L.A. private schools. Some private schools are very similar to elite country clubs, while others are far more accessible to regular families. I think private schools should be available to families who aren’t private school legacies or uber-wealthy. That means information about how to apply needs to be easily available to anyone who wants it. Financial aid information, which is used to help middle-income families, not just low-income parents, should also be accessible. I’ve seen a lot of this city’s private elementary and secondary schools, but not all of them (yet!).

 

I grew up in Topanga and went to public school including Santa Monica High. It was too big and impersonal. It’s one of the reason I wanted my kids to experience a smaller, more nurturing private school environment. I attended college at UC Berkeley and worked in politics and corporate public relations for many years. After living in Hancock Park, Barry and I wanted a change so we moved to Coldwater Canyon. About 7 years ago I started playing tennis and its one of my absolute favorite things to do. Our family also includes a rescue pit bull named Cocoa. Supporting charitable causes and hosting/attending events are what we do to give back whenever we can. My guilty pleasures are shopping, celebrity and fashion magazines, HGTV, good books and going to my favorite restaurants like Jar, AOC and Madeo. I drink coffee because without it I’m not myself. I enjoy going to dinner with friends. I wish I were part of a writer’s group or a book club. What else can I tell you?

 

Waiting for a treat

 

I can tell you is how much we appreciate you, our readers. You buy our book and read our blog, you come to our speaking events and tell your friends about this site. This amazes us. Copies of the used book are pulled from your shelf and given to other moms (and dads). That is what keeps me writing, inspired and motivated. One reader emailed me to tell me that she “admires every word I write.” Anne too, has received the nicest notes from our readers. That means so much to us. Just when I want to hit the delete button on this blog out of my own perfectionism or feelings of inadequacy, your kindness and support comes across my desk in the form of an email or a blog comment and my day is complete. We’ve also received incredible support from many preschool directors who consider private kindergarten admissions part of their job. We appreciate how often they invite us to speak at their preschools and share our book and blog with parents at their schools.

 

Preschool years

 

Thank You To Beyond The Brochure Readers

 

Our readers say thank you in the most heartfelt way possible. You let us know when you’re kid gets into a fabulous school. You ask smart questions. You tell us when something doesn’t go right, but how you’re going to fix it. You ask for advice and are so appreciative when we offer it. You share our Facebook posts. This is all so appreciated—and keeps us connected to our online community. Those of you who I’ve met at events are so sweet and in you, I see myself about 9 years ago, with a preschooler at Montessori Shir-Hashirim in Hollywood, nervous about getting into a good school, wanting only the best for my little girl. Truly, you make this blog what it is.

xoxo

Christina

 

Throwback Thursday: Two Abandoned A-List School Tours

This post was originally published on August 10, 2010. 

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 5.58.00 AM

When we were looking at kindergarten for my daughter, I think we toured about 10 schools.

 

There were two school tours that I’ll mention in this post because (1) they are extremely coveted schools with big reputations (and, we found, egos to match) and (2) my husband and I abandoned both tours mid-stream in order to maintain our sanity.

 

School #1

 

The first school is a near-impossible-to-get-into K-12 school, not exactly close to our house. With traffic, it’s about an hour drive. Our tour was scheduled for 8:30 a.m. I scheduled my nanny to come at 6 a.m. to make sure we could leave the house on time.

 

On the way to the tour, my husband and I had an argument. Traffic was horrible, there was road construction and a detour. My husband had already decided this wasn’t going to be a drive we could do. I wanted to continue on to the school and complete the tour. We were totally stressed and snapping at each other. He was driving, tailgating the car ahead. He knows this makes me carsick.

 

We arrived at the school and were greeted by the admissions director, an ice queen. She had us and the other group of parents stand outside the admissions office while she told us about the school. It went on for an eternity. The ice queen droned on. Bored out of my mind, my eyes wandered. Parents were dropping off their kids for school. A very showy drop-off scene. We waited for a few late arrivals than preceded to start the tour. The actress Maria Bello, wearing Hudson Jeans, was on the tour, along with her ex-husband. My husband was on the verge of being an “ex” as well, as he made small talk with Ms. Bello, striving to find some commonality in their Philadelphia roots. When he made reference to her cheerleader scene in “A History of Violence,” I ushered him away for a sharp elbowed reminder of why we were there.

 

The building of this school is quite nice. It’s big and relatively new. The walls are adorned with the art of famous LA artists. Although this art was probably donated, the artists on display sell their work for hundreds of thousands of dollars per painting.

 

We went into the kindergarten classroom, where they were doing show and tell. Show and tell? In my mind, that’s an old-fashioned, dated waste of time. This was a hip, modern school. The teacher had a kid up at the front of the class with his item to show. It was some sort of small animal, as I remember. Another little girl was sobbing hysterically, since school had just stared a few weeks earlier. It was hard to focus with her crying and they finally had her leave the room with a teacher. Not impressive. It definitely didn’t live up to the hype.

 

Then, it was time to go to the math class. The teachers talked about the math program, which seemed fine, if not a bit fuzzy. They also seemed quite proud of the fact that a girl in the class had broken her arm on a recent overnight field trip. I’d pay more than $20,000 to have my kid break an arm on a field trip?

 

This school is big on community service and really touted its various programs to help the community. Parents on the tour seemed very impressed by this. To me the programs seemed outdated and stale. There’s a lot more innovative stuff happening in LA schools, but it wasn’t there. The programs appeared to be at least a decade old. Parents were complimenting the admissions director at every opportunity. I was sure Maria Bello liked the school the most of everyone. She keep oohing and nodding with approval at everything.

 

To me, the school seemed chilly, it lacked warmth. Perfect buildings, gorgeous artwork, no energy, way too quiet for a lower school.

 

After the community service portion of the tour, my husband and I gave each other “the look” which means “let’s go”. The tour wasn’t finished, but we knew this wasn’t the school for us. We left. In some ways, it feels good to cross a school off your list. On the other hand, that leaves one less option.

 

 

School #2

 

Plastic surgery. Designer logos. Super-high heels. Haughty attitudes. The Real Housewives of New York? Nope. A private elementary school tour in Los Angeles.

 

The second tour we abandoned is yet another super-difficult school to get into. I was curious to see this school since it is one of the most sought after private elementary schools in LA. This is partly because of the celebrities who have kids at the school and partly because of the parents at the school, many of whose heads are swelled to the point of bursting with self-importance. Of all the schools, this school suffers (or benefits) from the most rumors about how many kids will be accepted, how many siblings, etc. Parents can spend hours talking about whether this school will admit one or two new kids in a given admissions cycle. We toured it at the suggestion of our preschool director.

 

We arrived and were told we’d be on a tour with two other families. There were lots of other tours taking place at the same time. This school has a low-key exterior and location that belies its interior pretentiousness.

 

The mom who was our tour guide was very unfriendly, had a plastic surgeon husband (who had clearly worked on her face, and my husband speculated a little too loudly, her rejuvenation) and knew very little about what was actually happening in the classrooms. She was jittery and unfocused. I wanted to switch tour guides. Her focus was to look around to see who else was on the other tours. Head to toe in designer clothes, she had zero interest in my family. None. She never made eye contact. Nor did she have any interest in our companion family on the tour. They were not wealthy enough, it was obvious, even though the husband mentioned he was a lawyer.

 

After the tour, the head of school welcomed parents in the auditorium. This head of school is very impressive. Or so the head of school told everyone in the ten minutes that were allocated to us. However, we knew that wouldn’t be enough to make this school work for us. My husband and I saw a door marked “Emergency Exit”. Too bad, or we could have made our escape. Again, we gave each other “the look” We made a quick exit out the front and were gone.

 

I write about these two abandoned tours to say that even if everyone else likes a school, you may not. It’s better to bow out early than waste everyone’s time. I couldn’t get excited about either school. Parents all around me were practically hyper-ventilating they wanted a spot at both these schools so badly. These two schools were all theirs.

 

Our preschool director tried to get us to re-think this school. Tour it again. We have friends there and they love it. It simply wasn’t right for our family.

 

 

 

Let’s be social! Like Beyond The Brochure on Facebook. We post a lot of stuff on Facebook that’s not on the blog!  Are you more the email type? Get our posts in your in box by subscribing (enter your email in the subscribe” box on the right sidebar of the blog. Or, buy the Second Edition of our book at Amazon.com or your local bookstores!

 

ISEE Private School Entrance Exam: Fact and Fiction by Matt Steiner

 

My favorite 11 year-old on the Viewpoint School Annual Fund brochure

My favorite 11 year-old on the Viewpoint School Annual Fund brochure

The ISEE is the entrance exam used by private schools at the elementary, middle and high school levels, in Los Angeles and nationally. My friend and colleague, Matt Steiner, of Compass Prep. has written an excellent piece about the ISEE, by most accounts (including my own), a long test with a high degree of difficulty—-Christina

 

“When chatting with parents, I emphasize the rarity of high stanines, because it helps re-orient their expectations of their children. In my experience, perfectly capable, intelligent, private school-ready students score in the 4 to 6 stanine range and are admitted to top schools year after year. In fact, directors of admission seek out these students to build balanced incoming classes. 7’s, 8’s, and 9’s are certainly impressive, but schools understand that these performances are not typical of the average applicant, nor is it necessary that all admitted students share the same propensity for testing.” –Matt Steiner

To read Matt’s entire ISEE piece, click on Compass Prep.

 

Let’s be social! Like Beyond The Brochure on Facebook. We post a lot of stuff on Facebook that’s not on the blog!  Are you more the email type? Get our posts in your in box by subscribing (enter your email in the subscribe” box on the right sidebar of the blog. Or, buy the Second Edition of our book at Amazon.com or your local bookstores!

The L.A. Private School Mom “It” Bag for Fall 2014

At private schools in L.A. you’ll probably catch a glimpse of the Hermes “Evelyne” bag. Or, maybe you’re carrying this cross body handbag with the iconic “H”…it seems to be everywhere these days. Talking to friends at dinner one night, we compared notes about handbags and realized the “Evelyne” Curtis, Buckley, St. Matthew’s, Viewpoint, and Crossroads. Those are only the schools we know about…but no, I’m not the Viewpoint mom carrying this bag. The cross body style doesn’t look good on me and I need a big tote bag to carry all my stuff. I splurged on a grey Prada tote with top handles and a shoulder strap. This should last me a long time, even if it’s never the “it” bag. I also got an oversized DVF tote at an outlet mall for 40 percent off the retail price, making it about $220. Steal!

Hermes Bag 4

The “Evelyne” ranges from about $2,100 to $3,400, depending on the size.

 

Let’s be social! Like Beyond The Brochure on Facebook. We post a lot of stuff on Facebook that’s not on the blog!  Are you more the email type? Get our posts in your in box by subscribing (enter your email in the subscribe” box on the right sidebar of the blog. Or, buy the Second Edition of our book at Amazon.com or your local bookstores!