Westridge School: Where Girls Are Unstoppable!


Welcome to Westridge School!
Welcome to Westridge School!

Arriving at Westridge School in Pasadena on a cloudy morning, I was immediately struck by the serene beauty of the school, which sits on a cul-de-sac on a quiet residential street. Westridge is an assemblage of a set of 17 graceful, elegant Craftsman style buildings, interspersed with mid-century modern structures. The 9.5 acre campus is filled with trees and has the feel of a small college campus, appropriately scaled for girls grades 4-12.


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Helen Hopper, director of admissions and Monica Menez, the school’s communications director, welcomed me graciously to the office where we talked before setting off on a campus tour. Helen has been with Westridge for 26 years and Monica joined the staff almost 10 years ago. They are both lovely. Helen is the type of administrator I immediately connected with. I trusted her invaluable experience. She’s so friendly and articulate, with knowledge of both the big picture of the school and the tiniest detail. Monica is young and fun, a role model and someone the girls can identify with.


Craftsman inspired!
Craftsman inspired!

Sitting in Helen’s office, I asked about the overall educational philosophy of the school, which Helen described as a “progressive, college preparatory girls education.” Westridge begins in 4th grade because, as Helen explained, “Research shows that’s the age when girls benefit from a single sex education.” Under the leadership of head of school, Elizabeth McGregor, Westridge will celebrate its Centennial next year, an amazing accomplishment.” Founded in 1913 by Mary Lowther Ranney, a noted architect and teacher who had been denied the right to vote, Ms. Ranney opened the school in her home so that girls would have the right to be fully educated. The school has based its programs on girls’ developmental stages of learning with qualities like confidence and critical thinking demonstrated by girls, for girls, forming the central tenet of the school. The rest is, quite literally, history, as the school enters its second century!


How cool!
How cool!

Simply put, Westridge is astounding! The breath of programs and the warmth of the school are impossible to overlook. It boasts some formidable advantages, including very robust, state-of-the-art signature science and arts programs, a college preparatory curriculum, and top-tier faculty, many who have advanced degrees.


Lower School classroom
Lower School classroom

In the Lower School (Grades 4-6), there are about 100 girls. The language arts curriculum is integrated to connect the study units with what the students are leaning in science and other subjects. Math, performing arts and Spanish offer immersion into these subjects with a focus on collaboration, group work and hands on learning. This style of education underscores the school’s progressive approach.


The Sciences Are Front and Center

The Science and Math Building
The Science and Math Building

As I walked around the campus, not really wanting to leave the quaint oasis, we entered the incredible new upper school science and math building, a 14,000 square foot, two story space where students “do science, not just study it.” (Westridge School). It is filled with chemistry labs, math classrooms, physics labs, technology and a data center to support the school’s 150 laptops. The eco-friendly quality of the building (it is a Platium LEED-certified project) allows for teaching about green technology and environmental education.


Girls and science go together!
Girls and science go together!

Art With Panache

Equally as impressive as the school’s science programs are its performing arts programs. In the Lower School, choral music in all three grades is emphasized, adding string instruments in 5th and 6th grades. Art, drawing, painting and mixed media are offered in all three grades and ceramics is added for 6th grade. The Performing Arts Center, a 600 seat, state-of-the-art theater is the home for numerous theatrical productions, concerts, dances and more.



As Helen, Monica and I crisscrossed the courtyard to reach the Lower School, Helen stopped to ask a group of girls to chat about the school for a few minutes. Eager to share their Westridge experiences, the girls told me about the ease of making friends, the great teachers and their enthusiasm for coming to school every day. The quiet of the campus is filled with girls’ laughter, a lot of pink and purple backpacks and khaki-skirted uniforms. Helen pointed out that Westridge has human development programs, student council and a full-time nurse and counselor on staff, with courses to help girls navigate the social and health issues of tween/teen years in a safe, non-threatening place. Some of these life skills courses are offered in the after-school enrichment program for grades 4-8 that is included in the tuition. Clearly, Westridge has sharp insight into what girls want and need!


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Lower School Spanish
Lower School Spanish

According to Helen, the main entry points for admission are 4th, 6th, 7th and 9th grades. For 6th grade, the school adds between 8-10 students and about 1/3 of the students are admitted for 7th grade (about 20 new students). Incoming students are admitted from both public and private schools. Families from the San Gabriel Valley, Los Feliz, Silverlake, Atwater Village and other areas attend Westridge. The total enrollment, 4-12 grades is 480 students, with an average class size of 14 and a student/faculty ratio of 6:1. Tution for 2012-13 is $25,550 for grades 4-6. Financial aid is an important part of the school’s mission, with approximately 1/3 of the current students receiving some financial aid. Awards range from a few hundred dollars to full tuition. Tours are ongoing by request.


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College matriculation

Westridge is proud that in the past six years, it has produced 22 National Merit Scholarship finalists. The Class of 2012 gained admission to Brown, U.C. campuses, University of Chicago, Claremont McKenna College, Johns Hopkins, USC, Stanford, MIT and many more.


Athletics field
Athletics field

Westridge School’s past has informed its present in a remarkable way. It’s impossible to miss the impact and contributions of the school’s founder and its alumna over the years. Yet, Westridge has embraced state-of-the-art science, art and technology in a truly modern way.


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Westridge School is the belle of the ball…and of the world!


Academic Achievers’ KinderPrep Helps Your Child Get Ready For Kindergarten! (Sponsored Post)

Sometimes, it seems like kindergarten is the new 2nd grade. Depending on where your child will be attending school, the kindergarten of 2013 at many L.A. private schools is a lot more accelerated than in years past. So, if you’re looking for a summer program that incorporates fun-based learning to ensure your child will be prepared for kindergarten, check out Academic Achievers’ KinderPrep Program!


I truly enjoy working with Janis Adams, the lovely and talented CEO/founder of Academic Achievers. Janis has been a sponsor of past Beyond The Brochure speaking events at Kidville in Brentwood, she’s written very informative guest posts for our blog and she’s the proud mom of 3 kids who have graduated from Village School, Harvard-Westlake, Loyola and Harvard University. Janis knows what’s required at L.A. private elementary schools and she’s created KinderPrep to meet the needs of students who will be entering kindergarten!


For more information, visit, www.academic-achievers.com/kinderprep

Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Academic Achievers. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Academic Achievers. 

Weekend Links: World’s Most Beautiful Kindergarten Buildings and More!

Spring Cup
Proud Soccer Mama!

Wow…amazing! Architect designed kindergarten buildings from around the world! Check out #7. The World’s Most Beautiful Kindergarten Buildings. (Timbuktu)


A private school K-12 education can cost as much as a year of college and parents are racking up debt to pay for it. Private School Education Worth The Cost? (Foxbusiness.com)


A profile of the long-time head of H-W who recently stepped down. Thomas Hudnut Leaves A Legacy of Excellence at Harvard-Westlake (Los Angeles Times)


This article is hilarious! One mom’s comment is very entitled. I’ve never seen this happen at our kids’ school, but I’ve heard it does occur in L.A. too. Stop Sending The Nanny. Expensive Manhattan private schools want parent volunteers, not nanny volunteers. (NY Post)


New head of school at Poly. Polytechnic School, Pasadena names John Bracker as Head of School for 2013-14. (Polytechnic website)


My friend, blogger Jessica Gottlieb, likes what the headmaster at her kids’ L.A. private school has to say about parenting in the age of parental anxiety. (JessicaGottlieb.com)


(click on flyer to enlarge)

The Girls School Advantage

Have a great weekend!- Christina

5 Reasons You Should (Or Shouldn’t) Cross A School Off Your List

When you’re checking out school websites or touring schools, its easy to get distracted by seemingly important issues and quickly decide a school isn’t for you. Or, you may be willing to ignore an issue that should be a red flag.

Map of LA Private Schools

Here are 5 reasons you should (or shouldn’t) cross a school off your list.

1. Don’t reject the school if the parent leading the tour is rude or not well informed about the school’s curriculum or which math program the is used. This happens and its up to you to excuse this one parent if you like the school. I’m not saying don’t make a mental note of it, but he/she is only one out of many parents at the school. Leading tours is a coveted volunteer gig and there are many reasons why parents are selected for this job. You can always attend another tour and hopefully it will offer different tour guide. Disappointing? Definitely. Dealbreaker? No.


2. Don’t reject the school if the school’s website is outdated or disappointing. Yes, we assume a private school in L.A. should have a great looking, informative website, as well as a Facebook Page and even a Twitter account. Well, that’s not always true. Don’t cross a school off your list just because its website falls short of expectations. There are many reasons for this and as the saying goes, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” You might be surprised to learn that some schools are behind the technology curve by a few years. Maybe you can be the volunteer who changes that!


3. Do reject the school if the distance will make you crazy. For kindergarten, if a school is too far from your house, delete it from your list. What is “too far?” This is different for every family, but with young kids a long drive too and from school can be difficult on everyone. Carpools are unpredictable with little ones and its best to assume you’ll be doing a lot of the driving. Try driving to and from the school during morning and afternoon on a weekday.


4. Do reject the school if you are on a tour and you don’t like the way a teacher is speaking to the kids, that’s a red flag. If a teacher seems disinterested or is snappish with the kids, this could end up being your child’s teacher. Of course, there are different teaching styles and educational philosophies, and some schools are stricter than others. But, if you hear or see something that doesn’t sit well with you, it might be because it’s the wrong type of school for your family.


5. Don’t reject the school because you dislike the behavior of families on the tour. Obnoxious questions and over-the-top-bragging are overheard on too many tours to let it influence your decision about a school. Remember, these are parents who are touring, but that doesn’t mean their child will be attending the school.



The Costs of L.A. Private Elementary School: The First Year



Getting your first enrollment contract can be exciting and daunting. As you may have noticed, tuition isn’t the only cost of private school. Now, I’m not complaining, I’m just saying…its something to think about. The reason I’m not complaining is that I think private school is worth every penny. I really do! Even so, very few of us are immune from the stresses of the family budget and the hefty price tag associated with a good private school education.


Here’s a breakdown of some of the fees you can expect. Tuition is the big expense, but it’s not the only one. This is not based on one school, but our own example of what an L.A. private elementary school might cost.



Tuition:  $24,000 (can be paid in full or using a monthly payment plan which charges interest and requires tuition insurance)


Facility Fee: $750


Class Trip Fee: $200


Parent Association Fee: $75.00


Field Trips: Many field trips are free, but overnight trips can cost several hundred dollars.


Hot Lunch (optional). Many schools offer hot lunch and the cost will depend on the school and how often your child orders hot lunch, but it can cost about $6.00 per day. 


Enrichment Classes (optional): These afterschool classes like cooking, art and sports generally cost about $100 per class. You should note that many kids take more than one enrichment class per session. There can be two or three sessions per year.


Teacher Holiday Gifts/Gift Fund (optional)


School Bus: $2000/year


School Uniforms: $500/year


Aftercare Programs/Extended Care: Many schools offer afterschool enrichment classes and aftercare for parents who work. Every school is different, but the cost of after school care can be substantial and is definitely something you should budget for if you need it.


Spring Break and Summer Camps: Some schools offer their own camps during vacations. If your school has a camp, it’s convenient and a good way for your kid to be with their friends. The costs for school camps start at about $350/week and may include lunch.


The other costs like Annual Giving, school fundraisers, classroom charitable projects and bake sales, moms night out are worthy of a separate post (coming soon).