|Eileen Horowitz Specializes In The L.A. Private Secondary School Admissions Process
1. First, congratulations on your retirement as Head of School at Temple Israel of Hollywood! As an aside, my son and I did the “mommy and me” at Temple Israel and loved it! You’ve had a long and distinguished career as an elementary school educator. Can you tell us a few of your most personally meaningful career highlights?
I began my elementary teaching career in rural New Jersey as a Title I teacher. We made home visits so we could learn as much about each student before they even stepped into our classroom. I took this holistic approach to teaching at both the Center for Early Education, where I taught for 10 years, and started their very successful after school program, Lullaby of Broadway and at Adat Ari El, where I taught and was a part time administrator for 6 years. When I began at Temple Israel (TIOH) in 1995, I was able to encourage and mentor my teaching staff to embrace this philosophy. The reputation of the school grew as did our numbers; from 82 students to 215 when I retired. I have always believed that children, who are encouraged to take risks in a safe and loving environment, have a better chance of maximizing their potential. Helping to create that kind of school was very meaningful. At TIOH, not only did the students flourish, but the staff did too. Today several former teachers are administrators themselves! Mentoring for both the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles, has allowed me to touch the future, and for me that is what teaching is all about!
2. You’ve opened a new chapter in your career as an education consultant and life coach. Why did you decide to focus on families who are making the transition from elementary to middle school?
During my early years at Temple Israel, as the Head of School, one of my important roles was to help children matriculate to the best private and public schools in LA. Working with families, helping them make decisions about schools based on who their child was at that moment, and what their hopes and dreams were for the future, was meaningful work. In my fourteen years, all of our students were well placed! It is a legacy of which I am very proud. When I retired, several families from the school approached me to see if I would consult with them, the way I had done for more than a decade at TIOH. It seemed logical to me to continue this aspect of my work because I loved this part of the process. So “Leen On Me” was originally started to help the families in the TIOH community. Now my clients come from several elementary schools around the city and valley.
3. What advice do you have for families who apply to their school (s) of choice and learn that their child hasn’t been admitted?
Very often the parents or child’s school of choice is not the right match for the child. The family applies for many reasons; including at times, an unrealistic view of which school can best meet their child’s needs. If parents are honest with themselves and approach each school with openness, usually the right school becomes apparent. As a Jewish educator of strong faith, I am of the belief that the students end up where they are supposed to be! It is difficult to have parents who are in the process accept this credo. Yet, my experience has proven time and again that this is the way it works.
4. Why do you think the private school admissions process in L.A. is so competitive and stressful for parents (and possibly admissions directors, too!)
We are living in a highly competitive world, where this generation of parents has the reputation of achieving in all their endeavors. They themselves have had great educational opportunities and expect the same for their offspring. A lot of the pressure is self-imposed. Most parents approach this process very seriously. They do their homework and become very informed about the schools even before they visit. The tours can be overwhelming. When a parent sees the “competition” on all of the same tours they are right to wonder, “How is my child going to get in?” The volume of applicants versus the number of spots is daunting. At every soccer game, birthday party and school event, all these parents can talk about is the process. It seems as though there is nothing else on their minds. And of course, this stress filters down to their children!
5. What services can a family expect if they hire you as a consultant to guide them through the middle school admissions process?
I see my role as literally someone they can “Leen On.” This stressful, transitional time of life for the family brings up many issues and often they need someone who can help them gain perspective. By discussing all the options, helping them see their child through the eyes of the potential admissions committee, making a plan of action and holding them to deadlines, parents begin to feel supported during the process. This helps relieve some of the anxiety and frenzy in which they are caught up. Sometimes the parents have a single session with me at my office or over the phone. I have yet to use SKYPE, but that would empower me to be face to face with a client, which is always my preference. My fee is $150.00 an hour, regardless of how many sessions a particular family needs. I also offer a mock interview with the child, which helps relieve some of their anxiety in approaching this new expectation. Seriously, how old were you when you went on your first interview? Some students need practice before they do anything, so I give them this experience before it really counts. My clients have found this piece to be very helpful too.
6. What is the single biggest mistake families make when applying to middle school?
The single biggest mistake is not being honest on the application. If your child has a learning style that is unique, has had intervention, an Individualized Education Plan, or such, it is imperative to put that information on the application. By doing so, the school knows that these are honest, involved parents, who are going to be partners in helping the student. The school can then assess if they can meet the child’s needs. This helps the child be accepted to the school that is the right match. There is an injustice to the child when parents apply to schools that are clearly inappropriate. Our goal is to have acceptance letters come March, not rejections.
7. What do families do correctly that helps their child get into middle school?
This doesn’t start in September of sixth grade. What they have done up until now counts the most. Have they been attentive, supportive parents who have made their child their priority? Have they spent time to love, nurture and appreciate them for who they are? Have they exposed their child to their own passion, to help model how good it feels to love what you do? Have they cultivated a kind, caring human being who knows what their gifts are and how they can use those gifts to make the world a better place? If so, then their children will shine in an interview because they are poised, articulate, confident and ready to take on a new challenge.
8. The million dollar question: If your child attends one of the most sought after private secondary schools in L.A, does that ensure they will be accepted to a top 25 college or university? If not, why not?
This question goes against my philosophy! All we really know for sure is what secondary school accepts them. A 12 year old has a lot of growing and learning to do before they turn 17 and need to begin to explore colleges. If we can help families stay focused on the here and now, their children will benefit. When we are caught up with what comes next, we miss out on the beauty of the moment. I let parents know that 6th grade is an exciting year for all students, with many richly based curriculum projects and activities, and in most elementary school, a year to hone leadership skills and cement friendships. It is a shame to miss out by worrying so much about what comes next that you miss what is going on now. This is an important life lesson for us all and one that I hope I can help more parents appreciate and support.
Thank you, Eileen! We appreciate your time and expertise.
LEEN on Me
Life Coach/Parent Partner