Welcome to Crestview Preparatory: Q and A with Head of School Baudelia Chavez Taylor

CP Front

A few weeks ago, I stopped by Crestview Preparatory in La Canada to chat with head of school Baudelia Chavez Tayor. I’d never seen this absolutely charming school, but I’ve heard parents buzzing about it since Baudelia left the Center For Early Education about three years ago to become Crestview’s head of school.

Baudelia is immediately likable, personable and low-key. As we talked, I saw her genuine passion for the school, as our conversation flowed from big picture education trends like STEM, Maker Spaces and Robotics (yes, Crestview has these programs) to what’s happening in the school’s Harry Potter garden which functions as a science lab of sorts. The school plants fruits and veggies that local wildlife animals won’t eat, hence the gorgeous Kumquat tree.

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Crestview is very close to Pasadena and is accessible for families who live in Eagle Rock, Atwater, Silverlake, Los Feliz and other areas including the San Gabriel Valley. The school is a blend of traditional and developmental philosophies, with a focus on respect for childhood. One big change Baudelia instituted since taking over the school is a new homework policy. Now, there is “must-do” homework and “may-do” homework. Homework, Baudelia notes, must reinforce and relate to classroom work. The school has a lot of impressive programs like a robust technology program where kids start learning about computers in kindergarten where, as part of the curriculum, they learn to take apart a computer and put it back together, treating the computer as a “family” of parts that combine to create a whole. In later grades, robotics, coding and maker activities round out the program. The school garden is a real-life laboratory, where students plant and grow various fruits and vegetables, with the goal of learning why certain plants flourished and others withered.

CP Kinder Classroom

The school is small, with 155 students total for grades K-6, so Baudelia knows each student and their family personally. She beams with pride as we walk around the campus, peeking in classrooms. She gives credit to her team of teachers, administrators and staff at the school as we walk around the campus. Parent volunteers, she notes, do a lot of work at the school too. Baudelia is no stranger to the secondary school application process, so when it’s time to apply for secondary school, she takes a hands-on approach beginning in 5th grade to help families find the right school for their child. I really like the way she described extracurricular activities, an important part of the secondary school process. She noted that a student can participate in the traditional activities like soccer and piano, but she believes in a broad definition of what comprises a student’s passion like reading voraciously outside of school, which can show a secondary school a student applicant who is studious, patient, imaginative and typically, a very strong writer. So what if your kid doesn’t play soccer! See the impressive list of schools where Crestview kids enroll for secondary school. On my way out, I grabbed a copy of the school’s newspaper, Crestview Blastoff. How cool is that!

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Can you talk a bit about your background and experience? What brought you to Crestview?

I started my career as a teacher at LAUSD working with bilingual students at the middle school level. In 2001, I moved to The Center for Early Education in West Hollywood. I joined as a teacher in the early childhood and moved to the elementary several years later, landing in the third grade- my favorite grade to teach. From there, I joined the administration as the Director of Early Childhood Programs and led the early childhood division for several years before starting my headship at Crestview.

The opportunity to lead Crestview was a blessing, as the moment I visited the school it felt like home. At that time, I was ready to begin a headship and the small size of the Crestview community was perfect. I was drawn to its commitment to elementary education and to providing a balanced school experience to its students.

How would you describe the school’s educational philosophy?

Crestview’s philosophy is centered around the “respect for childhood” and balance in education. We strive to provide structure and nurture as we deliver instruction. We provide hands-on experiences that our students anchor conceptual understanding around.

CP Garden

Crestview describes itself as “the neighborhood school”. What are some things you do to build a strong school community of parents and students.

Amongst the students, we help build community through our Reading Buddies program. We pair students in kindergarten and third grade, first and fourth grade, and second and fifth grade each year. They initially begin their interactions by reading with each other, as the year progresses they work on projects together, they working on community service initiatives and come together to play on a weekly basis. This allow them to build a strong rapport and feel connected across grade-levels.

With our parents, we have many opportunities for them to volunteer on campus. We also have parties throughout the year that parents attend to get to know each other and build community. We have host families that welcome new families.

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Each school has a unique culture. How would you describe Crestview?

Crestview is a small but mighty school, focused on educating children 5 to 12 years old. It is a welcoming environment that is nimble and dedicated on being reflective. We honor the voices of all constituents and encourage conversation about learning and development.

Parents worry about placement into 7-12 schools. Crestview students go on to top schools in SGV and LA area. What does the school do to help students get into top secondary schools?

Families are supported in the secondary school process by Crestview. We begin the process in fifth grade into the sixth grade year. The head of school meets with every family to discuss the student’s profile, advice focus in the summer, and suggest schools to consider. Students are given mock interviews and practice in writing essays to prepare them for the admission’s process. Here’s a list of some of the schools are graduates attend.

CP STEAM

Crestview offers CTY online for gifted students who are eligible. Can you describe this unique program?

We identify current students in accelerated in mathematics through teacher referral, year-end grade-level tests, and ERB standardized testing results on the independent school norm. When identified they are still responsible for completing their grade-level work as they are provided with above grade-level material according to their individual level. We subsidize the courses for our students.

CP Kinder 2

What advice would you offer parents who are applying to Crestview? Any tips for getting their child in?

I advice families to be themselves, we are interested in authenticity. We are child advocates and work hard to make the process a welcoming one for prospective families. We want parents and children to feel comfortable and share who they are with us.

CP Paper

For more information, visit, www.crestviewprep.org

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Your L.A. Private Schools Admissions Checklist by Lisa Marfisi

Lisa M. Headshot

We’re excited to have Lisa Marfisi’s  words of wisdom on the blog! Lisa has been an L.A. private school admissions director for 15 years (see her full bio below). 

So, you’re applying to private school and you think you have a plan.  You’ve visited many schools, narrowed your choices and applied. You have edited your answers multiple times, gotten recommendations from your child’s favorite teachers, and submitted transcripts.  You have friends who recommended you.   You have interviewed, attended events and written lovely thank you notes to each Director of Admission you met.  You are doing everything right!  These are just the basics…. there are a few more “Dos and Don’ts” to think about and add to your to do list.

Clipboard with colorful checkmarks and magnifying glass. Flat vector illustration

TIPS, ADVICE and SUGGESTIONS for applying to L.A. Private/Independent Schools:

  1. ONLY apply to schools where you would feel comfortable enrolling your child.  If you are not CERTAIN that the school is compatible with your educational philosophy and/or the culture does not “feel” right…don’t waste your time or the school’s time.  It takes hours to visit, apply, interview and review each school.
  1. DRIVE to the school at the EXACT time of day you would be going to drop off or pick up. Many parents visit schools in the middle of the day and then are shocked to find out that there is A LOT more traffic and it takes A LOT longer than they thought it would to get there.
  1. FOLLOW DIRECTIONS! If the school asks for a photo of your child.  Send them ONE.  Do NOT send an entire baby album!  If you are required to get recommendations, send recs from teachers who are CURRENT and who teach the subjects which were requested.  When applying, remember MORE is not BETTER!  If you send extra letters, recs, videos, etc….they will not HELP.  In fact, it is unlikely that they will even be reviewed.
  1. PAY ATTENTION! Read the questions on each application carefully and answer the question that has been asked.  If the question is about your child, the answer should be too!  If the question is about your family, stick to the topic and tell the school what they are asking for. Don’t tell about your volunteer experience unless that is what the question is about!  There is a reason they are asking.  Schools try to get information that will help them determine if your child/family is a good fit.  They will NOTICE if you do not follow instructions. In my practice, this is the ONE area that is consistently a problem for most parents.  It is challenging to stick to the topic when you want to share SO much information. Make sure you only answer the question which has been asked!
  1. EVERYTHING counts! If you have to change your appointment multiple times, it will be remembered.  If you are late, it will be noted, If your child jumps on the furniture in the reception area or you drive too fast in the parking lot, the school will KNOW.  On the other hand, if you are very pleasant, on time and you attend many events at the school, this will be noticed too.
  1. DON’T tell EVERY school that it is your first choice. Schools are interested in families that understand their program and WANT them.  If you REALLY have a first choice, it is important to tell the Director of Admission, but if you are not sure, it is better to say nothing.

Take time to reflect on your own educational experience so you can remember all of the things that were important to you as a student.  Think about your child and how he/she is different.  Will the experience you had work for your child?  If not, try to focus on your child’s needs so you can find an environment that is JUST RIGHT!

This may be the only time in your life that you get to enjoy this reflective process. (When students are older, they do not depend on you as much for this process.)  ENJOY this time.  Talk to your child, your partner, your family and use this time to learn about yourself and your family.

Remember that your idea of where your child should be may not match where he/she ends up and THAT’s OK.  You may be pleasantly surprised to find you didn’t really “get” a school until you landed there.

KEEP BREATHING!  It will be OK!  March will be here soon!

Lisa Marfisi has been a professional in education in Los Angeles since 1991. She was the Director of Admissions K-12 at Wildwood School and PK-6 at Echo Horizon School. She also worked at the Archer School for Girls, PS #1, and Westside Neighborhood School. Lisa’s experience has given her an understanding of what schools are looking for and enables her to help parents navigate the admissions process from an insider’s point of view. Lisa has been helping families with the admission process as a Director of Admission for 15 years. Her two children are in college at UC Berkeley and UC Santa Barbara. Lisa has experience as a parent at independent, public, charter and parochial schools.  She holds a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania.

Contact information: email: lisa@lisamarfisi.com  Ph: 310-560-9393 and web: www.lisamarfisi.com

Lisa Marfisi

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Choosing A Preschool: 5 Things That Matter and 5 That Probably Don’t by Mommy Poppins

 

 

Sunshine Preschool in Brentwood has a reputation as a "feeder" school to John Thomas Dye, Brentwood and others.
Sunshine Preschool in Brentwood has a reputation as a strong “feeder preschool” to John Thomas Dye and Brentwood School. Photo: Sunshine

Here’s a super-helpful article in Mommy Poppins by Jacqueline Stanbury about choosing a preschool in L.A. I sent my kids to two different preschools. My daughter went to an expensive preschool (Montessori Shir-Hashirim) with celebrities and all the extras like Chinese, theater and piano lessons. It is a “feeder preschool” to several schools where I knew we’d apply for my daughter (Oakwood, Willows). It is also feeds to  schools like Laurence, Center For Early Education and Mirman where we didn’t apply. My daughter flourished there and attended Willows for K-6. She’s now in 10th grade at Viewpoint in Calabasas.

My son attended a local neighborhood school that has since closed. I found it through a friend who sent her son there. It wasn’t fancy and cost about half the price of my daughter’s school. It had great teachers, a shabby exterior, hot lunch and a willingness to play football in the yard with him before pickup. He loved it. He was the only kid who attended private elementary school from that preschool and that’s because his sister was already at The Willows. If I’d wanted him to go to a different private school, the preschool director wouldn’t have been able to help at all.

I will say that Stanbury makes an important point about preschools that feed to specific elementary schools. She says, “Those of us who make the mistake of applying only to preschools that feed into one of Los Angeles’s many prestigious elementary programs can too easily get caught up in seeking approval from the director to secure a kindergarten slot.” However, I think these  “feeder preschools” can be important if you want your child to attend a specific, competitive private elementary school.

There’s a clear path from certain preschools to a few of the same elementary schools every year. By sending their kids to “feeder preschools” parents hope to increase their chances of getting into schools like John Thomas Dye, Curtis, Brentwood, Carlthorp and others. Attending a “feeder” isn’t a guarantee into specific schools, but it’s a good place to start (if you can get in) and it makes it a lot easier than applying from a preschool John Thomas Dye has never heard of–good luck with that! Certain hard-to-get-into-private elementary schools admit high numbers of kids from “feeder preschools” and you’ll have to decide if that’s the route you want to go. There are politics involved in elementary school admissions and reasons as to why they choose kids from preschools they know and have worked with for years. Relationships exist between the preschool director and elementary school admission director. A single phone call can smooth the way for your kid to get in. A blow-up with the preschool director can ruin everything. Your relationship with your preschool director can’t be underestimated when it comes time for your kids to apply to kindergarten. And, expect that the preschool director will wield power when it comes to where your kid should attend elementary school. If you have your heart set on one school, but the director thinks it’s not the right school for your child, you’ll be in a difficult position and that’s where your negotiating skills will be required. Also be aware that your child will be competing for a few kindergarten spots with his/her classmates. It all depends on what you’re looking for in a school. “Feeder Preschools” are one option, but certainly not the only preschool option! As the author points out, and I agree, a small, low-key neighborhood school can be just the right place for your child too.

Click to read Choosing A Preschool 5 Things That Matter and 5 That Probably Don’t

 

Sunshine Preschool in Brentwood. Photo: Sunshine
Sunshine Preschool in Brentwood. Photo: Sunshine

Here’s more about Beyond The Brochure’s thoughts on “feeder schools” as we explore how it works and some of the benefits and drawbacks:

You’ll note that when we talk about “feeder” schools (preschools that send more than a few students to particular elementary schools every year) we put the term “feeder” in quotation marks. We use quotes because there is some disagreement within the private school community about whether “feeder” schools even exist. We think they do. But, some private school administrators, preschool directors and even some parents don’t buy into the idea of a “feeder” school. They argue that even if a school is termed a “feeder” school for a certain elementary school, there is no guarantee that any specific child will get into that school. They also believe that to call a preschool a “feeder” diminishes the hard work of the preschool staff and the students who are accepted to the elementary school that receives the “feeder” preschool’s kids. In other words, saying a preschool is a “feeder” implies that it operates primarily on it’s relationship and connections with an elementary school and not much more.

Those are definitely valid points. We do think “feeder” schools develop based on relationships and connections between schools, but also because a particular preschool fits the educational philosophy of a specific elementary school. And, the elementary school probably has success with students and parents from that preschool.

We simply believe that if you look at certain preschools and the number of students they send each year to certain elementary schools, they fit our definition of “feeder” school. If a preschool sends 1/3 or more of it’s class to the same elementary school year after year, that’s what we’d call a “feeder” preschool. We think this is helpful information when you’re in the application process. It can give you important information about your child’s preschool and about the preschool director’s ability to help you place your child. But, don’t enroll your child in a “feeder” preschool just because you want your child to attend a certain elementary school. That’s not enough of a reason to pick a preschool-and things might not work out as you planned. You need to really love your preschool and if it’s a “feeder” to a great private elementary school, all the better. See our previous posts for more about which preschools are known as “feeder” schools. This term also applies to elementary schools that send significant numbers of kids to upper schools.

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“Navigating L.A. Private Secondary School Admissions” with Sandy Eiges of L.A. School Scout-1/19/17

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To reserve your spot, CLICK HERE.

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To reserve your spot, CLICK HERE.

 

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Applying For 9th Grade: Skylar’s Story

Photo: Ruth Hartnup/Flickr
Photo: Ruth Hartnup/Flickr

Here, I interview one of my good friends, Skylar, about her experience as a mom going through the L.A. private school admissions process for 9th grade. Her son, Luc, attended The Willows for K-8, which is where we met. I think it’s always helpful to hear different perspectives about admissions from a variety of voices.–Christina

Question: Thank you, Skylar, for sharing your family’s experience with the 9th grade admissions process with our readers. Can you describe what the process was like for your family?

Answer: In a word, CHALLENGING. My son really wanted to go to Crossroads. My husband and I really wanted him to go there. Crossroads was his first choice. He wanted to be in the Crossroads theater program and play baseball there. We had high hopes that coming from The Willows he’d get in. He is a multi-faceted kid (baseball, theater, led tours of Willows, rock band, good grades and engaging personality). His ISEE scores were good, but not great. We had great letters of recommendation from parents at the school, his theater director, his baseball coach and even the head of the baseball league. Despite all this, he didn’t get in. It was devastating for him and for me and my husband. He was wait-listed and we tried so hard to get a spot from the wait-list, but it didn’t happen. It was an emotional time for us. Luc had good friends going to Crossroads and he wanted to go there with them. And, we thought it would be the best school for him. But, the numbers didn’t work in our favor. There were too many families with board-level connections and we didn’t have those relationships. Fortunately, he was accepted at 3 other schools.

Question: What do you think was the most difficult part of the process?

Answer: Definitely it was the written application.  The parent essays and the essays our son had to write for every school were very tedious. They are so time-consuming and you want to answer the questions directly but still be interesting and not dull.  Some schools require long essays and others are short. Each school asks different questions. Whew!

Question: What was the easiest part of the process?

Answer:  We are all outgoing and talkative, so for our family the interviews were the least stressful part of the process. We can talk to a potted plant and make it a two-way conversation. But, if you are the quiet type, or your kid is quiet, try to anticipate the type of questions you’ll be asked and practice answering the questions. The schools might ask why you want your kid to attend the school. They might ask your kid why he/she wants to go to the school or to talk about his/her extracurricular activities. If it’s an all-boys or all-girls school, they might ask your kid why he/she wants to attend a single-sex school. Vague, general answers aren’t what they’re looking for. Try to be specific!

Question: What advice would you give parents who are applying for 9th grade?

Answer: Cast a wide net! Tour a lot of schools. Apply to enough schools so you end up with options. Look outside your obvious choices or the most “popular” schools. Look for schools where other families at your current school are not applying. Remember that if you’re at a private school, your head of school has a lot of families who are applying to the same few schools, so if you can apply to a school that is not on that list, your might have a better chance of getting in. Your kid is competing against his/her classmates, unfortunately.

Question: Do you think it’s possible for a kid to get accepted without letters of recommendation?

Answer: Yes! At one school, we didn’t know anybody and Luc got in. At the other schools, we did have letters from current parents. The admissions process is very political at some schools. It can be about who your family is, or what you do for work, at some of these schools, even for 9th grade. If your job gives you strong connections to board members that’s a big deal.

Question: Do you have any words of advice for other parents?

Answer: Try to stay calm and know that your family will get through the process, possibly with an unexpected or surprising (in a good way!) outcome. Don’t rule out a school just because it is different than your current school. Kids change and have different educational needs in high school than they had in elementary school. Keep an open mind. Look at teachers, classes offered, extracurricular activities and college placements at prospective schools. Do they fit with what your kid wants? What you want for him/her? If so, apply! We were way too focused on one school and didn’t initially realize that there was another school that was a great choice for Luc. Also, I’d say that a lot of D1 sports school are religious, but don’t let that deter you. They attract kids of all faiths who come to play sports or for other programs.

Thank you, Skylar for your insights and advice–Christina

Skylar is the mom of Luc, a sophomore at Crespi Carmelite High School in Encino, where he is enjoying playing baseball and excelling at the all-boys school. 

Names have been changed for privacy. 

 

Keep up with all the private school news and events, Like Beyond The Brochure on Facebook!

 

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