Notre Dame Academy Elementary and Middle School: A Traditional Catholic School For The 21st Century

Notre Dame Front


Notre Dame Academy Elementary and Middle School (NDA) in West Los Angeles is a traditional Catholic (Transitional Kindergarten-8th Grade) located on a picturesque campus in West L.A. It is located next to its sister school, Notre Dame Academy High School (all girls). NDA’s quaint, statuesque façade may be familiar to Westsiders, since it has been a landmark on Overland, south of the Westside Pavilion for 60 years. The school is a small, safe hamlet within big, bustling Los Angeles.


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NDA is a co-ed, private school run by The Sisters of Notre Dame and a Board of Trustees. It is affiliated with the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles but is not a parish-supported school. NDA is a traditional Catholic school in the sense that religion class is taught for TK-8, teachers must be Catholic and there is Mass every morning. Upon entering and leaving the classroom, students say a quiet prayer (so quiet in fact that I didn’t even notice until it was pointed out to me). Students wear uniforms and the Sacraments are taught by a Sister in the lower grades.


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The school’s mission is as follows: “Guided by the Educational Principles of the Sisters of Notre Dame and the mission to proclaim God’s goodness and provident care, the faculty and staff of Notre Dame Academy believe that a solid instruction in Catholic doctrine and practices is essential for shaping morally centered adults.”


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NDA exemplifies modern Catholic education. It is a religious school in every sense of the word. Yet it is contemporary, both in its curriculum and its bold use of technology. I was intrigued by the blending of old and new at this distinguished private school.


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Meeting Lilliam Paetzold, the principal for a tour and interview was like being greeted by a dear friend. She’s such a burst of positive energy. Warm, intelligent and dynamic, she is excited about the school’s tremendous advances over the past five years which include a major project: to implement an updated curriculum map, which includes a significant new technology component. Lilliam is herself a graduate of NDA and her connection to the school is genuine and heartfelt. She is completing her 4th year as principal and her 25th year as an educator.


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The curriculum map was created to ensure Common Core standards are met. Spanish, Technology, Drama, Music, Art, Debate and P.E. are included in the weekly schedule. Enrichment classes are offered in music, yoga and other fun subjects. School athletics begin in 3rd grade. Choir is offered for grades 2nd-8th. There is a resource specialist on staff. NDA has many of the “bells and whistles” of a non-religious private school, making its admissions more competitive than many other Catholic schools.


NDA is consciously, thoughtfully utilizing the best practices in the education world. The school’s major focus on an updated curriculum with an integrated technology plan is impressive and carefully engineered. The classrooms are almost all updated with a few left to be re-designed. The amount of resources and hard work that has gone into the curriculum map is a signal that the school fully embraces teaching and learning for its current students and beyond.


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Perhaps the most important aspects of the curriculum update is the full integration of technology into the classroom, with a technology coordinator and training for teachers and staff to ensure systematic use of new technologies.


For grades 4th-8th, there is a 1:1 iPad program, which is integrated with the curriculum (this means kids use the iPad for real learning, not just for fun or searching online). For grades TK-3, there are 2 iPad carts in the classrooms.


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In middle school (grades 6th-8th), there is a student broadcast studio filled with all kinds of Apple equipment. The middle school offers a host of tech electives including robotics, web design and coding. Students in the middle school use iPads for their books, note taking, and project sharing and collaborating. One very talented middle schooler won an award or his iPad animated video, “An Interview with Martin Luther King, Jr.” from the LA County Office of Education.


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Using the most up-to-date technology helps ensure students work independently on platforms like IXL Math and Spelling City. Apps and programs track real time progress that is monitored by teachers and instruction is differentiated. Teachers are supplied with–and trained to use–Mac Books and iPads to create a true technology-based curriculum. Interestingly, students remain with the same teacher for science, math and English for grades 5th-8th to help ensure a smooth from elementary to middle school. There is a 5th grade study skills program to help students prepare for 6th grade.


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Parents benefit from the school’s use of technology, including social media, to communicate, plan events, order healthy hot lunch online and ensure it is easy to keep up to date with everything that’s happening with just a click of the computer.


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NDA students are diverse, coming from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. About 25 percent of the student body is non-Catholic (most are Christian and they aren’t required to take communion).


After passing by this quaint school many times, I was pleased to finally visit it. I absolutely loved the school! It is impressive on many levels. NDA adheres to a personalized approach for each child. It summons a nostalgia-tinged memory of an era gone by, at the same time it is thoroughly modern and so right now it in its educational philosophy. There’s nothing stodgy about this faith-based learning institution. This combination makes it fairly unique among Catholic elementary and middle schools. Notre Dame’s covetable use of technology is a signature aspect of its commitment to state-of-the-art education. The emphasis on technology is the finishing touch on an already robust school.


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Charity work includes St. Anne’s Food Pantry, Halloween Candy for Operation Gratitude and funds raised for a sister school in Uganda, among other causes that are both parent and student led.


At NDA there is one class per grade with two teachers in per class. TK has approximately 20 students, with kindergarten and grades 1st-8th average 30 students. There are 280 students, with a student to faculty ratio of 10:1.


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NDA is an academically rigorous, traditional school with a meticulous commitment to Catholic teachings. The school equips its graduates with the skills to aim high, to become future leaders or whatever they want to be in life. Notre Dame graduates exemplify a strong moral and spiritual foundation. The school retains a personalized approach to each child, exactly what all kids need during their formative years. All of this is a wonderful endeavor indeed.


NDA students matriculate to the following schools for 9th grade: Notre Dame Academy High School (girls), Loyola, Notre Dame High School, Marymount, St. Monica, Crespi, Pacifica Christian and Marlborough.


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Visitor’s Day Presentation and Tours:

Jan. 21, 2015, 8:30-10 a.m.


Open House, Meet The Teachers:

January 10, 2015, 10 a.m.-12 noon.


Application deadline: Jan 28, 2015

Annual tuition: $8,100.

For more information,


PS1’s Point of View: Purposeful, Progressive, Pluralism (co-authored by Matt Steiner)

PS 1 outside


There’s something captivating about PS1 (Pluralistic School One). Of course, the immediate impact of the award-winning sustainable campus, built from the ground up on an acre in Santa Monica, is remarkable. It’s a series of buildings where the architecture encourages exploration into every inch of the creatively constructed school. Modern classrooms surround a central outdoor space, perfect for gathering and playing. There’s plenty of shade in just the right places, provided in part by a 100-year-old oak tree. There’s an easy indoor-outdoor feel that makes this urban school instantly welcoming. It’s a place you’ll want to stay a while, like the parents I observed, who’d dropped off their kids and stayed to chat with each other.


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PS1 asks, encourages, requests parents to be a part of the school community, modeling an inclusive school community for the students. We absolutely love the philosophy at PS1, where the school is part of an extended community in which parents raise their kids. Trust us when we say this doesn’t happen accidentally at private schools. It takes unwavering school leadership to set the tone for an inclusive, connected community and encourage even the most reluctant cynics to help foster these relationships through events and volunteerism.


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The outdoor courtyard is where I ran into Lisa Perttula, a PS1 mom and herself an educator. Before the prospective parent tour started, Lisa and I spent a few minutes talking about the school. Lisa loves this place where her family feels so immersed in its activities. The Perttulas have strong ties to the school (her mom is on the board) and her kids are thriving and happy there. We talked mostly about the school’s remarkable ability to educate a wide array of kids from different backgrounds.


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The tour began with remarks from Joel Pelcyger, the head of school. He co-founded the school in 1971, when he was just 24 years old! A bold, ambitious task that was no small feat, Joel has stayed true to his mission and thus the school has too. PS1’s unique brand of progressive education is the result of Joel’s vision and work, along with his co-founder and team. The place Joel occupies as a leader in the forefront of progressive education has remained powerful for more than three decades. This experience gives PS1 the confidence to teach what it believes, to incorporate the latest in educational best practices and to resist pressure to conform to ideas it doesn’t believe serve children well (i.e. teaching to the test). The result is a fabulous mélange of big ideas that come together inside the classroom and extend to the school community. “Pluralism is the belief that a community is enriched when individual differences are respected and welcomed.” A founding value of PS1, this concept is woven into all aspects of the school.


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Joel opened the tour by welcoming the packed room of about 80 prospective parents. He is bright and engaging, candid and committed, reminding me of one of my favorite college professors at UC Berkeley. He imparts strong, well-honed beliefs about the state of education in 2014. Overall, he sees the U.S. educational system as one which creates a “high-pressure environment where the focus in on success at any cost.” The result, he says, is “kids cheating on standardized tests and trying desperately to get ahead.” Astutely, he observed, this approach is “unbalanced and lacks engagement…we need engagement and performance, not just performance.” The essence of his brand of progressive education the belief that creativity, innovation, storytelling and critical thinking get young people jobs, creates entrepreneurs and leads to lifelong success. Learning, he believes, should be for life not just for the sake of learning to get through school. “Start with fitting in by being yourself,” Joel believes. That is the essence of pluralism.


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Pluralism, Learning, and ‘Self-Making’

In order to fully appreciate PS1′s program, it’s helpful to have an understanding of the philosophical underpinnings of pluralism. We can then use this understanding to analyze the school’s curriculum and how it upholds pluralistic virtues.


At the root of pluralism is the notion that individuals espouse different beliefs about ‘truth, goodness, and beauty.’ These divergent belief systems, although occasionally in conflict with one another, are honored for the complexity and richness that they bring to a community. Put another way, pluralism recognizes that there is not a singular framework through which every person should construct a meaningful life. For example, a collectivist society that values collaboration, solidarity, and the well-being of the group is not more or less important than a society that highlights individual success, autonomy, and independent leadership. Pluralism allows space for multiple ways of being.  


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At PS1, students are celebrated for the unique histories, heritage, and life experience that they bring to the school. Simultaneously, they are offered the opportunity to explore who they are and to shape their identities through the numerous creative and academic pursuits offered on-campus. Essays on family histories, learning style and personality inventories, and a vast number of visual arts and music projects allow children – even as early as kindergarten – to think about who they are and tinker with their evolving identities. Unlike some of PS1′s more traditional peer schools – which may emphasize the cultivation of an ‘academic’ self above all things – PS1 empowers its students to steer the process of self-making, to be introspective, and to see themselves reflected in schoolwork. Academics are incredibly important, but they are not the sole focal point of an education at PS1.


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A clear example of PS1′s commitment to ‘plural self-making’ is its recent launch of the STEAM Studio program (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math). The Studio is, quite literally, an intellectual and creative playground filled with art supplies, gadgets, and building materials (I’m reminded of the ‘black box’ experimental theaters that are popular in college). Under the supervision of the Studio’s director, Abbie Perttula, a veteran PS1 teacher with 43 years of experience, children engage in collaborative and experiential projects connected to what they are doing in their respective classes. The Studio is an ideal space for the early self-expression and reflection mentioned above. In addition to simply being a ‘fun’ place, the Studio grants students a sense of self-possession that is atypical of elementary learners.


PS1 uses a developmental approach. Every kid learns in different ways, at different rates and at different times. The school’s teaching techniques help each child reach his/her maximum potential. There is, says Joel, “an element of genius in every one of us.”


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The size of PS1 is intentionally small. It is a K-6 with 220 students. All classes are multi-age, called “clusters” with a 2-year age range. There are two lead teachers for every class and 5 full-time specialists for music, PE, art, drama and library.


There’s a happy adrenaline that flows through PS1. As the tour visited classrooms, we stopped in at one of the two K-1 classes where were working on a writing workshop. Every classroom has a shared outdoor space to connect it to its neighboring classroom. In the 2-3 grade class, kids were talking about their social justice study unit. There is a lot collaborative group work among the students. The science unit focused on energy was using computers to research wind, solar and geothermal energy. The kids were articulate and engaged, willing to explain their work to us as we stopped into their classrooms. The classrooms are big and bright, humming with the kids’ sense of fun, exuberance and creativity. PS1 uses traditional teacher-directed lessons in combination with students working in groups and individually.


PS1 is a plastic-free, nut-free school, with an emphasis on eco-friendly practices and sustainability. Financial aid based on need is available at PS1. The school allocates nearly 15 percent of its tuition to financial assistance. This is about $900,000 annual in financial aid.


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Students graduation from PS1 and go on to Crossroads, Marlborough, Harvard-Westlake, Brentwood, Windward, Viewpoint, Archer, New Roads, Chadwick, Paul Revere and Lincoln Middle School, among others. PS1 admits students from over 50 preschools and zip codes in the greater L.A. area.


At PS1, the equation is clear: instead of knowledge acquisition with a singular focus on performance outcomes, students are taught, inspired and encouraged to be engaged learners who embrace differences.  These are tools and skills that will be acquired during students’ formative years at PS1. These are the same skills that will empower kids and easily translate into the real world. A powerful notion exists here: there is immense value in fitting in by being yourself. Community, acceptance, self-expression, non-tradition, engagement, diversity, learning, gratitude, future, community service. In a word, PLURALISM.


For more information, visit 


I enjoyed collaborating with my friend and colleague Matt Steiner on this piece!–Christina

Matt Steiner has worked in the fields of elementary and secondary education for nearly 10 years. His nuanced knowledge of elementary schools is informed by his relationships with admission directors, school placement consultants, and his many visits to private schools in Los Angeles. He is currently the Director of Marketing at Compass Education Group, a test preparation firm that specializes in private SAT, ACT, and ISEE tutoring. 


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Holiday Gift Giving: One Private School’s Guide


When a friend forwarded me this message from her kid’s school to all parents, I had to post it, of course. While I’m not mentioning the school name, I will say it this gift list is clearly not voluntary, despite claims to the contrary. But, most of all, the ranked order of staff and dollar amounts for their gifts is cringe-worthy. If it were me, I’d double triple the gift amount for the facilities staff. Take that, posh Westside private school! 


From the school:


We invite you to participate in the holiday gift-giving program for our faculty and staff. This program is designed to give them monetary gifts instead of presents to show our appreciation for their dedication to our children.

Attached is a list of our faculty and staff (except for XX and XX few staffers), who are not eligible for cash gifts).

Your gifts are completely voluntary, and you can give any amount to as few or to as many people as you wish. Some parents have also asked us for a gift-giving guideline:

Lead Classroom Teachers: $50-$75
Lead Specialist Teachers
(Spanish, Technology, Music, P.E., Art, Science, Library):
Assistant Teachers (both classroom and specialist assistants): $15-$25
Staff (office staff, facilities, administration): $10-$15



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Weekend Links: Pasadena Preschool Fair, Dissertation-Style High School Finals and more!

Pasadena Preschool Fair

(Click on flyer above to see list of schools attending Pasadena Preschool Fair)



Instead of tests, rigorous dissertation-style final exams are used as assessments at one school in the Bay Area. The Pursuit of Deeper Learning. (The Atlantic)


The GOP staffer who resigned after cruelly insulting the Obama daughters still has one important thing left to do. I’m still seething about this distressing episode. My piece this week in


A dad talks about his decision to choose the local “underprivileged” school in San Diego and make it his family’s community. (NYT Motherlode)


Getting into some public schools can be extremely competitive. The cutthroat world of elite public schools. (The Atlantic)


Finally, the chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York, the Grand Jury verdict last week, the ongoing protests and political commentary have all been topics of discussion in our house with our kids. It is heartbreaking.


Courtesty of @markduplass on Twitter

Courtesy of @markduplass on Twitter


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 or your local bookstores!

Guest Blogger Alice: Getting Into Harvard-Westlake

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Harvard-Westlake. It’s one of the schools we’ve all heard about, known for academic excellence, rigor and college placement.  If our kids can make it there, they’ll make it anywhere… Admit it or not, there are plenty of parents in L.A. that choose their preschools based on their dream of sending their kids to Harvard-Westlake. They believe that Harvard-Westlake leads to Harvard, Princeton or Yale and untold riches from there.  Maybe…  if you can get in.


I think there are better reasons to apply to Harvard-Westlake than plotting where your kid will go to college. It offers an exciting high school experience that is hard to match, not just in L.A., but also in the country.  There’s an intellectual curiosity in the air and there are kids there doing amazing and inspiring things in athletics, art, film, dance and drama. The energy is palpable.  You might be talking to a kid headed to MLB, or about to join an orchestra, or on their way to West Point.  There’s true variety and intensity. It’s fun.


My family has applied twice to Harvard-Westlake, one daughter was wait-listed and chose not to fight the wait-list and go instead to Brentwood. The other got in and went, so I have a little perspective on the application process and what it entails.  First, I just have to say a few truths not every parent wants to face. Harvard-Westlake is really a great school for the right kid.  But not every kid is the right kid and those kids who don’t go to Harvard-Westlake can have an equally spectacular future ahead of them that will be best realized by finding the right school for them.


We private school parents can be little nuts.  We occasionally put prestige and self interest ahead of what type of learner a kid is — how self directed they are, how organized and a myriad of other things.  Every admissions officer and lower school counselor will tell you that they want to find the match for your child.  It can sound like a blow off when you first hear it, because we know what we want, however, I have three kids ages 22 to 9 and I’ve seen a hundreds of kids going through the private school system and it’s kind of true.  You are looking for a match.  And it’s not just a match for your kid, but for your family.


Location of school, cost of tuition, what’s happening with siblings, these things actually matter and admissions officers know that.  No school is worth stressing out the whole family, either with an untenable commute, or by putting a family in financial hardship.  And if you’re only applying so you can get into an Ivy League College, bare in mind there will be a hundred other kids applying to that chosen Ivy from Harvard-Westlake that same year.  Your child may actually have a better chance getting there from somewhere else.


Then there is your kid.  If your kid needs you to force them to do their homework every night, if you edit every paper, if you have hired a math tutor two years running, if your kid cares more about the weekend party than the “C” he or she got on a test, than Harvard- Westlake really might not be a match.  Your child has to actually want the work and enjoy intellectual rigor.  You wanting it for them likely won’t cut it.


That’s not to say there isn’t a range of kids at Harvard-Westlake, there are.  There are kids there who aren’t great students, but generally speaking those so-so students are either the scion of donors or super talented athletes, musicians or artists. Harvard-Westlake isn’t looking for only one kind of kid — they cannot have a class of 270 brainiacs.  They need kids who don’t want to go to Harvard, but want to go to Cal Arts.  They need the film school kid, or the Big Ten athlete, or even the one going straight to the MLB.  They even need those kids who will choose UCSB or Hobart or one of the million other great colleges in the US.   But I think when they are building a class, they are looking for “something”.  Something that your child brings to the table that will make the class interesting and rich and full.  You need to figure out what that is before you and your kid fill our your application.  Why are they a Harvard-Westlake kid?


Both my daughters were perfectly academically qualified to be Harvard-Westlake students.  They had the same IQ, which I only know because I sent them to Mirman and you have to take a test. ( Mirman is one of several feeder schools for Harvard-Westlake but plenty of kids get in from all over, including kids who were home schooled).  My daughters had similar, though not identical, grades.  Both did extra curricular activities, both had talents and both had parents who gave the same amount of money to annual giving (not much).   The year my oldest applied it was one of the toughest years to get in.  The economy was thriving; everyone wanted private school education and could afford it.   She was wait-listed.  When I snooped around, I discovered, every kid from Mirman who’s ISEE’s were higher than hers got in.  Everyone in her class who’s ISEE’s were lower did not.  She was the only one wait-listed.   Her ISEE’s were fine, but not great.  Lots of “7s”and a “6″.  But she’s applying from Mirman and generally speaking Harvard-Westlake is looking for Mirman kids to be their test takers, their science kids.  That year they had a lot to choose from and took the best scores.


Cut to my second daughter’s year to apply.  The economy had tanked, people were fleeing to public magnets and Catholic schools.  Mirman kids with way worse ISEEs than my eldest were accepted to Harvard-Westlake that year.  Never underestimate how much sheer random circumstance plays in this particular game. However, while I believe that my older daughter would have definitely gotten into Harvard-Westlake my younger daughter’s year, I also believe my younger daughter would have gotten in any time she applied.  You can’t stop the right match.  And I can say this with some certainty because my husband sort of tried to stop her.


Since our eldest had gone to Brentwood, he thought her sister should too.  Plus he’d heard all the horror stories.  It’s an evil citadel where children are over worked and under appreciated. There are drugs and roving gangs of over privileged kids wandering the halls.   (These same stories circulate about all the private high schools at one point or another).  So he shows up late to her interview and was ever so slightly combative with the interviewer.  But my daughter knew what she wanted and had worked hard to get there.  We never had to ask about her homework, it was always done. She had won awards of some substance in theatre.  She tested well in mythology and Spanish and the other various ways Mirman academically competed and she’d won the heart of her teachers.


Her ISEE scores weren’t perfect but she had one “8″and one “9″ so her “6″ and “7″ could be more easily overlooked.  The “9″ she had was in English, which matched her academic profile.  She was a match for Harvard-Westlake.  So much so, that as a graduate she has taught in their summer school and been a paid teacher’s assistant twice.  Her late application, her parents who give in the “hundreds” range at annual giving, and her older sibling who had made another choice, nothing could stop the match, she was a Harvard- Westlake kid.  She got in.


So if Harvard-Westlake is the dream:

  • ISEEs matter.  Take a prep course, but only one.  Your child simply needs to know the test and how to take it.  Studying for years won’t change things.  There’s only much the scores will go up.  Some kids with 4’s and 5’s will still get in, if they bring something else to the table, (music, art, dance, sports)  so don’t make this the sword you die on.


  • Your child should be able to clearly state why they want to go to Harvard-Westlake.  What does the school offer that works for them?  Don’t make it up. If your kid doesn’t have a history of caring about science, don’t pretend they’re suddenly going to love it now.  If they love theatre, fencing or Anime, say it, they might be looking for just that kid this year.


  • If you’re alumni or have a strong connection to the school, play it.   These things do matter.  The caveat however is that you can’t pretend to be a bigger donor than you are.   Your history of giving is your history, if you’ve been giving a thousand dollars a year to your elementary school, no one will believe you’re suddenly going to give a million.


  • The interview is important.  Not for you to talk, but for your kid to.  My daughter very clearly articulated why she didn’t want to go to the same school as her sister and why Harvard-Westlake was unequivocally her first choice.


  • Let your elementary or middle school counselors know what you want and why.  But prepare to listen!  If the counselor is saying over and over you need to look other places, or they don’t think it’s the right match.  Hear them and start looking seriously at other schools.  They are telling you that despite the perfection you see in your kid, their teachers recommendations aren’t going to be as great as you think they should be and that you’re elementary school which has an ethical obligation to be honest will not be promoting your child as a match.


  • If there is an extra recommendation that really is relevant to your child’s talents, dedication or enthusiasm then get it and submit.  But there is such a thing as over kill.  Don’t submit three of them, or get random recommendations from the most famous people you know. Getting J.K. Rowling or President Obama to write your kid’s recommendation can come off as obnoxious rather than cool.


My short story ends like this.  I have one more kid, my son who will surely apply to Harvard-Westlake. He hung out there growing up and loves it in theory.  Right now he’s 9 years-old. In the end I have no clue if it’s going to be right for him or not.  My sense is that if he makes it, it will be on sports and not on being a top test taker.  I hope it works out, I do love the place, but I’m already compiling a short list of places I’d be perfectly happy sending him.  They are smaller, closer and great schools as well.   We shall see.


Mother of three, Alice attended east coast private schools as a child and has been in the private school world as a parent for nearly twenty years.  Her kids attended Mirman for elementary, then Harvard-Westlake and Brentwood for high school, with one still to go.  She is a writer working in film, TV and for various magazines such as Family Fun, Wondertime, Glamour and Brides. 


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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!) (


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! (


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)


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 or your local bookstores!

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

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How To Navigate Private School Admissions on


I’m SO excited to be a new contributor to, 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

Private Elementary School BUZZ



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 or your local bookstores!