Weekend Links: Former NFL Player Blames Harvard-Westlake, John Thomas Dye for “Soft, White” Education…and more!

Porcha and I spoke with parents about private elementary school admissions at a combined event hosted by Branches Atelier and New School West Preschools.
Thursday night, Porcha and I spoke with wonderful parents about private elementary school admissions at a combined event hosted by Branches Atelier and New School West Preschools. Thanks for a great evening!
Isn't this gorgeous? The new pergola at the farm is absolutely gorgeous--many thanks to Waverly parents Simon Morgan and Esteban Nuno for their generous design and construction skills, and, of course, to Waverly staff member Carlos Aldaco for absolutely everything.
The new pergola at the farm is absolutely gorgeous–many thanks to Waverly parents Simon Morgan and Esteban Nuno for their generous design and construction skills, and, of course, to Waverly staff member Carlos Aldaco for absolutely everything. Check out Beyond The Brochure’s School Profile of Waverly School in Pasadena!

Former Miami Dolphins football player, Jonathan Martin, who is African American, blames his John Thomas Dye and Harvard-Westlake education for the problems he encountered in the NFL.  “I suppose it’s white private school conditioning, turning the other cheek,” he wrote to his father. John Thomas Dye declined to respond to the article. Harvard-Westlake did respond. This is a fascinating article, yet I don’t think private schools are to blame, but rather the toxic culture within the NFL.  (NYT Motherlode) 


News flash! “Moms who brag about being lazy and sloppy can be just as judge as too-perfect ones.” Slacker moms, who don’t worry about nap schedules, sugar or too much screen time, are creating a culture of reverse bullying, says writer Elissa Strauss. It’s unfortunate that adherents of any single parenting style feel compelled to judge other moms. In this case, the slacker moms may not even realize what they’re doing. (Salon.com)


Happy Weekend!

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Wordless Weekend: Name That L.A. Private Elementary School (Part Two)

A traditional K-6 in Bel Air located on a stunning campus. Known as a “feeder” to Harvard-Westlake (photo: Google Images)
Located in the Valley, this school has a friendly, rustic feel and impressive curriculum (photo: C. Simon)
This developmental K-6 school includes a program for students who are hearing impaired. (Photo: C. Simon)
A small, very progressive K-6 with a bohemian vibe on Mulholland (photo: Google Images)
This Santa Monica school is traditional, loved by its families and very academic (photo: Google Images)
This progressive, experimental Westside school uses a lottery based on geography and ethnicity to admit applicants. (Photo: Google Images)
Home Sweet Home! (photo: C. Simon)

If you can name that school (or even one!) leave a comment!

Guest Blogger Jenny: Don’t Be A Pretender When Applying to L.A. Private Schools

Does She Look Rich?

So you just read the above headline and thought, Well, doesn’t this seem obvious? Yes, you’re right, it does, but apparently there’s a portion of the population who are poseurs when it comes to applying to private schools.


The New York Post recently had an article about just how stressful it is to gain Junior’s admittance to a suitable private education institution. The article was called, “Parents Crack Over Admissions.” Parents were stressed out enough to require therapy after interviews (just proof that, if paid, someone will listen to just about anything).


But it gets worse. There is the alleged account of a single mother posing as a lesbian in order to get a leg up on the acceptance process. I could discuss the irony of all this until blue in the face, but instead I’m going to remind all of you engaged in this hellish application process of a few simple facts regarding The Great Pretender applicants.


  • If you pretend to be something that you’re not, the Admissions Director (AD) will know. Seriously, those ADs didn’t just fall off the turnip truck. It’s not their first rodeo. And you can’t pull the wool over their eyes. They know when you’re faking it. If you want to buy a fancy new Hermes handbag, go ahead, but don’t pretend to be fancy new people.
  • If you pretend to be something you’re not, your kid will know. Kids are not stupid. They recognize a faker immediately, which is why they don’t like to kiss certain relatives and have no use for particular babysitters. If you ask them to misrepresent themselves, or they see you act like completely different people, your child’s b.s. detector will go off, big time. And there might be trust and behavioral consequences.
  • If you pretend to be something you’re not, you’ll know. And, unfortunately, you’ll have to continue pretending long after your child’s acceptance into the school. It will get wearing. And that new handbag will pull your shoulder out of alignment.

Of course, there are moments during an interview when less than authentic behavior occurs. Sometimes it’s not even your fault. When my ex-husband and I were interviewed at a very exclusive, popular school (John Thomas Dye) a couple years ago, the AD seemed rather fixated on the fact that we were divorced, and that I had a boyfriend (now fiancé). Her probing made us a bit nervous, as if we were under a microscope (we are perfectly amicable, but she seemed to demand something more). And when she suggested at the end of the interview that we all walk off together, get in his car, and drive to mine, we did it. It looked forced, because it was.  I drove away feeling vaguely shamed. Our daughter didn’t get in. Was it a factor? I don’t know, but I’m glad she’s at Mirman (who didn’t give a fig about our divorce, but did focus on our child).


So hang tough. You don’t need to go shopping for a new bag or a new sexual orientation to gain acceptance to the school of your choice. Be authentically yourselves.  And hey, if you need that therapy, go for it. They’ve heard worse.


To read the article, click on NY Post


Jenny Heitz has worked as a staff writer for Coast Weekly in Carmel, freelanced in the South Bay, and then switched to advertising copywriting. Jenny is a graduate of Crossroads. Her daughter started 4th grade at Mirman School last year. She previously attended 3rd St. Elementary School. Jenny has been published recently in the Daily News and on Mamapedia, The Well Mom, Sane Moms, Hybrid Mom, The Culture Mom and A Child Grows In Brooklyn. She now writes about gift ideas and products on her blog, Find A Toad.


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Guest Blogger Jenny: Those Pesky Application Questions!

Ah, it’s application time again. I remember mine well. Sitting down at the kitchen table, pen in hand (why can’t they have these things online, since I’m way more comfortable on a keyboard; I always pitied the AD who had to decipher my chicken scratch printing). I tried to bust them all out in one evening, figuring that once in the groove, completion was possible.


What struck me most about the applications were the questions that weren’t really about my child. I could handle the strengths and weaknesses type of questions. One can always turn a child’s weakness into a kind of strength. For instance: “Although my daughter likes to play independently, that independence makes it easy for her to work on longer term projects.” Reading between the lines: my kid doesn’t do well in groups, but you’ll never have to harass her to get her work done on her own, either. It’s a decent enough trade off.


If faced with these types of questions, there are probably terms you should avoid (and remember, this is just my opinion). Terms such as “spirited,” “strong-willed,” “energetic,” and the godforsaken “Indigo child” should be stricken from the application record. Private schools aren’t actively looking for kids who are a pain; they’re looking for kids who will fit in with their program. Stick to a story that demonstrates strength of character. And think about reports you’ve received about your child’s in class behavior. Kids historically always behave worse with their parents, (ostensibly because the parents, unlike non-relatives, won’t leave their badly behaved child by the side of the road), than with their teachers. Use these classroom behavior reports to describe your children; they’re going to be in classrooms at these private schools, not throwing a fit over bedtimes and privileges.


But back to the murkier questions I mentioned, the ones that have NOTHING to do with your child, and everything to do with you. How about this one: To which clubs and organizations does your family belong? (Yes, there is a question on one of the applications that reads along those lines). Now, you might be tempted to write, “Bacon of the Month Club” (a service I heartily recommend). But that’s not what they’re asking. Let’s be brutally honest here. There are only a handful of desirable answers to this question. Places like California Club and Jonathan Club are right up there. Hillcrest Country Club, Wilshire Country Club, L.A. Country Club, and Riveria Country Club are good ones, too. This is a money question. If your family can afford clubs such as these, your family might be able to generously contribute during Annual Giving. No mystery there.


Here’s another one: To which charities and community organizations does your family belong? Again, I’m not sure the schools really care about the fifty bucks you give to Greenpeace. You know what’s really exciting? If you’re on the board of, say, Children’s Hospital. Yes, they’re interested in that type of involvement. That being said, know your audience. If you’re very active in Planned Parenthood, but you’re applying to St. Brendan’s, you might want to avoid that detail.


On the other hand, if you were part of a neighborhood drive to get crime under control, or raise money for Haiti, or were heavily involved in the running of your old school, DO mention it. Private schools want go-getting parents who organize groups and get things done; they want parents to be involved in raising awareness and money. If that’s your skill set, flaunt it for all it’s worth. Even though it has very little to do with your child.


So, don’t be intimidated by those bizarre queries. Not everyone applying to these schools is a millionaire. Not everyone is on a board, or belongs to an exclusive club, or even belongs to the Bacon of the Month Club. Go with what you feel you have to offer, all the while turning anything negative into a positive. And, for goodness sake, use a good pen.

Jenny Heitz has worked as a staff writer for Coast Weekly in Carmel, freelanced in the South Bay, and then switched to advertising copywriting. She has been published in the Daily News.She now writes about gift ideas and products on her blog, Find A Toad.

Applying To John Thomas Dye: Our Guest Blogger Tells Her Story

Do Or Die For John Thomas Dye

Before I begin this tale of very civilized rejection, I should note that my daughter had an ultimately happy ending: she got into a private school for fourth grade. But it wasn’t John Thomas Dye.


When we began the search for a private school, we were very discriminating (if also naïve. Ok, that’s being kind. We were, as I’ve said in my previous post, idiots). We didn’t apply to ten schools, some of which were safety schools; we only applied to two. And one was, of course, John Thomas Dye.


Now, I’m an L.A. native. I went to Crossroads for middle and high school. I should, apparently, know something about all the private schools in the area, right? Well, maybe not. JTD is only for elementary school. When I was in elementary school (in public school, no less), I didn’t know from JTD. No one I knew went there. The only impression I had of the place was that it seemed somehow, at least in my mother’s mind, connected to old money and the L.A. Country Club. In other words, they don’t let “our kind” in there (‘our kind” being residents of Beverlywood?).


My impression of the school only changed when two different families I know from Anna’s* preschool (Montessori Shir-Hashirim), got in. The first lucky entrants were very bright identical twins for kindergarten (a tough and unenviable job, gaining twins entrance anywhere). The second entrant was another girl who got in for third grade. Seemingly, JTD entrance was a breeze, right?


We never did any research on the matter (if I had ever looked at this blog, I would have known that hardly anyone gets into JTD, but instead I was oblivious).We just went along with the admissions process.


The first time I ever saw JTD was at its prospective parents’ night. The locale, up in the Bel Air hills, has the impact of an eagle’s nest, looking down upon the rest of the city in lofty assurance. There was a fire roaring in the auditorium. I couldn’t get much of a read on the other parents, although it seemed far more diverse than I expected. Affluence level? I couldn’t really tell.It had that waspy, money is something we don’t really talk about here attitude.


It began with a short film, much in black and white, telling the story of the school’s beginnings in 1949. The site looked much the same, the demographic was decidedly Anglo (not a shocker), there were some shots of traditional Thanksgiving, during which the founder parceled out turkey sandwiches with mayo (so L.A. Country Club, I could see my mom’s vindicated grimace).


But that was the past. The present seemed refreshingly no nonsense, even mellow compared to other schools we’d toured. The headmaster even stated, “It’s just elementary school, people.” For a person like myself, with limited tolerance for panic or pretension, this was a grand approach. I was sold. And hey, it seemed so friendly! Certainly they’d let Anna in.


There was one aspect that sent alarm bells off for me. There was a huge emphasis put on families, not individual kids. But what does a “family” mean, these days? For example, I’m divorced and have a significant other. We know families with same sex parents, single parents, and intact marriages that no one would want. What kind of “family” did JTD want?It seemed so no nonsense, but so squeaky clean and straight. Polite. Even if we definitely weren’t the type of family JTD wanted, it would never say so on any level.


They introduced a panel of kids, who fielded questions from the parents. The kids seemed awfully nice, well spoken but not precocious. They answered some fairly inane questions in a patient way. They simply sounded like well-educated kids. The only false note for me was the underprivileged Latina girl from Hawthorne, who seemed to be in the position of token scholarship case. She was fabulous. Any school would have loved to have this kid. But she seemed so grateful. And that bothered me. She shouldn’t have to display that for the school’s benefit; everyone knows that every private school has highly qualified scholarship kids.


What struck me, though, was how nice the kids seemed. That was really stressed. There was a solid, long established behavior and honor code that was strictly followed. This was highly appealing.And the academics, of course, were already established as being of the highest caliber. JTD kids go to great middle and upper schools. End of story.


Next, the application. Nothing unusual there. We were fortunate enough to have the head of Montessori Shir-Hashirim, Elena Cielak, write a glowing recommendation. Elena carries a lot of weight at certain private schools, so that was a plus.


The interview itself was, in retrospect, a real mixed bag. At the time, I convinced myself that it went fine. The JTD AD is a very professional yet warm woman. She’s very to the point, yet is so welcoming that you feel like your kid’s already in. All I can say is: ignore this feeling. She started out the interview by saying that they had limited spots for 4th grade (I’ll stick with my previous theme: we were idiots), and that, judging from her scores and recommendations, Anna would be a shoo-in at Archer for 6th grade, thus solving that lost year problem.That sounded nice. And I didn’t hear the message underneath: we have no space, but she’ll be ok.


Then, there was that stress on the family thing. I’ve written regarding this aspect of the interview previously. So I’ll just reiterate that I felt we were being evaluated, as a divorced family, for any signs of discord. Now, we really don’t have any. We work well together. But I got the impression that JTD’s comfort level in this arena leans toward the traditional and intact. But, again, denial is a wonderful thing, so I shook it off.


Anna, naturally, loved the school. Who wouldn’t? It looks like a hybrid of a farm, a country club, and a camp. It has a fireplace. It has lovely white buildings. It doesn’t feel like it’s in the city. It has a comforting vibe.


Of course she didn’t get in. Although she made it onto the wait list, which I guess is an accomplishment on some level. What did we do to ingratiate ourselves? Not much beyond calling and keeping in touch with the AD. It’s not like our unconventional family could buy JTD more land or pay for its new facility.So, we never made it off the wait list. She’s going to Mirman instead.


Since then, I’ve learned a bit more about JTD. I had no idea that Los Angeles was littered with its rejection letters. I didn’t realize that the 3rd grader we know who gained entrance had parents who worked JTD for years, attending school events although their child didn’t even go to the school. Maybe they even gave money, I don’t know.


So if you’re seeking entrance to JTD (and hey, it really is a great school, so I wouldn’t blame you), you’d better seriously work it. Get the family involved early. Go to every event. Charm the AD (although even if you’re not charming her, you’d never know it).Don’t be idiots. And then, cross your fingers and pray to the deity of your choice.


* Name changed for privacy. Thank you to our guest blogger, Jenny Heitz, for sharing her story. Jenny’s daughter Anna attended preschool at Montessori Shir-Hashirim. She attended 3rd St. Elementary School and will enter Mirman School for 4th Grade this fall.


Editor’s Note: For the past few years, my son has played football at Barrington Park in Brentwood with families from JTD. They are super-nice, extremely high net-worth, live in Brentwood and Bel Air. They love JTD. Some of the moms are socialites. They all belong to country clubs like Brentwood, Bel Air and The Jonathan Club. They vacation in Europe and Martha’s Vineyard and other high-end locations.- Christina