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.

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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.

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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.

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For more information, visit, www.crestviewprep.org

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Pasadena: Great Private Schools, Lots of Competition To Get In

It’s no surprise that Pasadena is a desirable place for families to live. Beautiful homes, historic venues, ethnic diversity and lots to do make the city a sought after location to raise a family. But, when it comes to educating your kids there, you may be surprised at how competitive it can be to gain acceptance to a top private school.

 

Pasadena has a seemingly large number of private schools given its geographic size. But, what makes Pasadena different than any other competitive private school market? A few important factors converge within Pasadena to create highly desirable private schools, with far more applications than available openings for kindergarten.

 

Geography. Pasadena has about 50 private schools within the boundaries of the Pasadena Unified School District (source: Pasadena Sun).  However, the demand for top private schools in Pasadena still far exceeds the supply of available spaces. Part of the challenge for applicant families is that those parents who live outside Pasadena in surrounding areas also apply to Pasadena schools. But, families who live in Pasadena find it difficult to apply to schools in Studio City or Santa Monica. So, incoming applications from outside the San Gabriel Valley add to the volume of applicants, while L.A. schools are less desirable for families living in the city due to driving distance.

 

Legacy Families. Part of what makes Pasadena such a close-knit, wonderful community is the fact that families remain there for many generations. These same families also send their kids to the schools they attended. Tradition is an important part of what makes Pasadena unique. Some families have been in the city for many generations. This makes the “legacy factor” a formidable part of the Pasadena private school community. Legacies who date back many generations with a school and who have remained active alumni, are well positioned (but not guaranteed) to gain admission. Some schools have deeper legacy ties than others, particularly the older schools who have adult alumni with their own kids and grandchildren. Legacy families are both wealthy and middle income. Some need financial aid. But, competition is so fierce that even legacy families worry about getting in and therefore apply to multiple schools!

 

 

If you’re planning to apply to private elementary schools in the Pasadena area, you’ll find a mix of traditional, religious and progressive schools. As we’ve said before, tour schools to see for yourself whether they will be right for your child and your family. Don’t take the word of another parent. Don’t listen to rumors about a specific school. Go see it with your own eyes!

 

One of my friends was born and raised in Pasadena. Her family has lived in the city for many generations and her children attend the same private school she graduated from. She is now on the board of her children’s school. They are a middle-income family and she was a Rose Queen. When I asked her what advice she would give to prospective parents, she said “Pay attention to the school’s mission statement. If its filled with words like, “tradition” and “community”, make sure you understand what that really means for each particular school. 

 

My friend makes an excellent point by emphasizing the role tradition plays in some Pasadena private schools. However,  what “tradition” means to one family could have an entirely different meaning to another family. This is especially true for parochial schools, where it is expected that families endorse the school’s religious traditions, values and practices.  Do school uniforms convey tradition to you? What about a salute to the flag or a big, extravagant Christmas celebration? What if you don’t celebrate Christmas? Will you be offended if school events are held at private, membership-only country clubs? If a school’s tradition includes having kids harvest and cook vegetables from the school garden, what would you think? These are the type of questions to keep in mind when you read a school’s mission statement as well as when you compile a list of qualities you’re seeking in a school.

 

Another mom with a child who entered Polytechnic this September, has some helpful tips from her admissions experience:

“For reasons unrelated to the application process, my husband and I wrote a mission statement detailing our family values and goals about a year before we applied.  Writing this mission statement not only proved to be extremely helpful in aligning our family values with our individual and familial activities, but also served as a blueprint for our responses to the essay questions.

 

She continues, “The kindergarten application process is your time to show that you are “walking the walk” and not just “talking the talk.” When speaking of family values some may reference the arts, community service, athletics or diversity, but at the root of all the essay questions is whether your reverence for those values is reflected in your activities with your child.-Mom of Polytechnic kindergartner (She is a graduate of Polytechnic) 

 

When I asked a dad I know why Pasadena private schools are so competitive, his half-serious answer was, “Parental hysterical!” - Chandler School Dad 

 

When applying, you should note that Pasadena school use Integrated Learning Solutions to administer testing required as part of the kindergarten application process. (L.A. schools test kids at their own schools).

 

Here are a few previous posts related to Pasadena area private schools:

1. Our Waverly School Experience by Samantha Sackin

2. The Pasadena Private Schools Race: Families Face Competition In Private Schools Race-Pasadena Sun

3. How To Apply To Private Elementary Schools by Christina Simon in the S. Pasadena Patch.

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