In the LA Times: “To Donald Trump, from the undocumented immigrant who graduated alongside your daughter” (at Viewpoint School)


My kids attend Viewpoint School, as I’ve mentioned previously. They co-exist among students who are Democrats and Republicans, Independents and Libertarians. They discuss politics, sometimes. A few weeks ago, the Upper School held an assembly to help students understand how to talk about politics with respect toward each other. Barry and I are lifelong Democrats. He might be slightly more liberal than I am, although I’m not even sure why he even thinks that. My kids are also Democrats, in 7th and 10th grade.




The Patriot, Viewpoint’s school newspaper, came out with an edition on election day. In it, my daughter interviewed Scott Baio, one of President-elect Trump’s celebrity convention speakers. Many of us will remember Scott Baio as “Chachi” on the hit show Happy Days. My daughter’s politics are different than Baio’s. That doesn’t matter. She had a chance to interview a dad at her school who’d spoken at the Republican National Convention. She said he was accessible, funny and of course, serious.

Diana Delgado Cornejo’s opinion piece in the LA Times will stay with me for a long time. The writer’s brutal, unflinching honesty–and hope–stunned me. It is one of the reasons Viewpoint is the kind of school I want my kids to attend. They are fortunate to be there, to be around people who don’t share their beliefs and those who are like-minded. I know that. I hope they do too.

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L.A. Admissions Directors: Waiting For Admissions Letters by Janis Adams


Here’s a piece with great insight from a few of L.A.’s top admissions directors, interviewed by Janis Adams of Academic Achievers.


After months of researching, preparing, applying, testing, and interviewing, there is nothing left to do now but wait.

We want to give families some behind-the-scenes insight about what is going on as final decisions are being made. Despite this being crunch time for the admissions directors, several top ADs and experts took the time to talk with us about the admissions process.

Laurel Baker Tew, Director of Admissions at Viewpoint School, reminds us that “the student isn’t the only part of the admissions decision. The family as well has to fit into the school community.”

“I used to be in college admissions,” adds Tew, “and admissions to an independent school is very different from admissions to college. In college we’re looking to admit a student; in independent school, we are looking to admit a family.”

Independent schools agree that the family has to be supportive of the school and its philosophies. Viewpoint likes parents who take the time to do the research and can articulate what it is they are looking for in their families. “Make sure the school is a good fit before going in for the interview,” suggests Laurel Baker Tew. Be sure to have specific examples and questions that align with the mission and values of the school.

Dr. Amy Horton, a prominent clinical psychologist who works with many families from independent schools, cautions, “Don’t go into the school admission process holding back relevant information about your child. It’s not necessary for them to have that perfect ISEE score. Admissions directors are looking at the whole child.” Her advice is, “The best school fit for a child is where they will thrive and feel supported even on their worst day.”

Jeanette Woo Chitjian, Director of Enrollment Management at Marlborough School, reminds us of the reality of the numbers for seats available for every applicant. “There are approximately 3-4 applicants for every one spot in 7th grade, and 10-12 applicants for every spot in 9th grade.”

Jeannette is quick to add, “We are looking for different things in different grades. In 7th grade we are looking to put a class together. In 9th grade, we are looking to add to an established class.”

Of course, each situation would have a different need. When you are putting a class together you want to have students who will balance the group as a whole. Neither an entire group of introverts nor an entire group of extroverts would make for a well-rounded class. Jeanette Woo Chitjian puts it into perspective, “Remember, it isn’t just about what the student can contribute to the class, it is also about what the student will gain from the experience.”

Like other top schools, Marlborough wants to see the academic record (grades, ISEE, ERB scores) and also importantly, the comments from the teachers. “Our girls are much more than numbers to us. We take a great deal of time in reviewing each girl’s application. We encourage parents to send additional information about the child if they feel it will help us to make a more informed decision,” says Jeannette Woo Chijian.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but especially during the stressful waiting period, it is important to remember that regardless of where your child goes to school, they will still bloom.

To this point, Admissions Consultant Rob Stone had this to say: “One thing families can do during that terrible limbo of waiting for the decision is to embrace the premise that everything is going to be okay. The biggest trap is thinking that a child’s whole future hinges on getting into a certain school. The second-biggest trap is allowing the stakes of the admissions decision to create so much pressure in the home that it begins to trickle down to the child. The worst case scenario is that a child feels like a complete failure if they don’t get in.”

You have no control whether the orchestra does or does not need a double-bass player at this time. You give it your best shot but you have no ultimate power over which candidate is accepted. Being a top contender is what matters most.

Stone adds, “It is about positivity and perspective. Getting into a school does not make, or break, the success of a kid.”

The application process is part of a bigger picture in the investment of your child’s education. The skills they develop during this preparation will serve them for a lifetime.


Janis Adams is the Founder/CEO of Academic Achievers, a full-services educational agency headquartered in Santa Monica. Academic Achievers provides customized ISEE, SAT, and ACT prep, application assistance and consulting. KinderPrep: Learning to Love Learning, KinderPrep Camp, as well as elementary and high school remediation and enrichment.


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Weekend Links: Happy 4th of July!

Washington Monument, D.C.
Washington Monument, D.C. July, 2015

Happy July 4th weekend! This is my favorite holiday because it reminds me of what it means to be American. It’s also perfect for a long, lazy summer weekend where we can host friends for a BBQ and swimming. We visited family and friends last earlier this week in Washington D.C. on what has become an annual trip. What a fun city…so many things to see and do.


Here are some interesting links to browse from around the Web:

This is one of the most powerful pieces I’ve read about one mom’s search for a school in L.A. Wow. Definitely a must-read! (Dame Magazine)

Why would a New York school application ask how the kid was delivered? I would refuse to answer the question. Whatever happened to privacy? (NYT Motherlode)

To trust your ‘parenting instincts’ or not…two pieces with different perspectives tackle this issue. I’ve always relied on a combination of my own maternal instincts and the advice of parents I respect. In the spring, I definitely relied more heavily on friends and family more than ever before to get me through a rough parenting year–I mean really rough– like make me cry and knock me flat–kind of year.  (Brain, Child)

If you’re hearing terms like ‘project based learning’ on L.A. private school tours, but need more information check out Educopia. Also, tons of interesting articles on education trends and what’s happening in the classroom. (Edutopia)

A nice shout-out to Viewpoint Basketball. Coach Prince and his team are well-deserving of the accolades. (Los Angeles Times)


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Viewpoint School Selects New Headmaster

Mark McKee, Viewpoint School's new headmaster with his family
Mark McKee, Viewpoint School’s new headmaster with his family

I’m so excited to welcome our school’s new headmaster! Of course, we’re glad Dr. Dworkoski isn’t going too far…after 28 years as headmaster, he’s been named the president of the Viewpoint Educational Foundation).–Christina


Following an international Search, Viewpoint School’s Board of Trustees unanimously selected Mark McKee as Viewpoint’s next Head of School. Mark is currently Head of School at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Day School in San Mateo, California, and is a recognized educator of national repute. Mark will assume his role at Viewpoint on July 1, 2015.


Mark brings impressive leadership skills to Viewpoint, but as he pointed out to us many times during the search process, his first and most important role is that of an educator. After graduating from Harvard College, Mark joined Polytechnic School in Pasadena as an English teacher. While teaching at Poly, he completed a Master’s program and further graduate study in English from U.C. Irvine. He also became Poly’s Director of Technology and Director of Summer School. He next served as Head of Upper School at Chase Collegiate School, a PK-12 school in Waterbury, Connecticut, for seven years, where he fostered collaboration and built the academic reputation of the program. He was named Head of School at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Day School in 2007.


During his time at St. Matthews, Mark has revitalized curricular and program development while focusing on the critical skills of a 21st century education. He has led the development and substantial completion of the school’s strategic plan, including its first-ever capital campaign and the addition of $22 million worth of construction. Mark is currently completing his Ed.D. dissertation for a doctorate in Education Leadership from Columbia University’s Teachers College.


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Here We Go, Together: 2014-15

Santa Barbara Summer Cup Tournament. Champs!
My son in the final game at Santa Barbara Summer Cup Tournament. FCLA team 2014 champs!

My kids started their second year at Viewpoint School last week, my son in 5th grade and my daughter in 8th grade (I know!). It seems like everything is already in full swing with football practice, back-to-school night, homework, tryouts, auditions and volunteering mode. As the kids get older, juggling their schedules becomes more challenging, but it’s exciting to watch them tackle new classes and activities with excitement and enthusiasm


For those of you who are new here, I haven’t forgotten about my own first application process for kindergarten. It is the reason I keep writing this blog and speaking at preschools. I strongly believe every parent who wants a private school education in L.A. should have as much information available to him or her as possible. The notion that every year parents all across this city have to reinvent the wheel every September by spending hours researching information about schools, but coming up almost empty handed, bothers me. The information is there, it just isn’t as easily accessible as it should be. Most schools give very limited information on their websites. A few offer a solid admissions roadmap. Overall, websites have improved since we applied for kindergarten in 2006. Other parents can be a wealth of knowledge, but are often not willing to share with people they don’t know well (this has definitely been my experience).  Some preschool directors are a great information source (ours definitely was). Educational consultants can help those families who need assistance navigating the entire process or a few hours with an expert.


One of my favorite pics of the kids, 2012. Photo: Joy Smallwood
One of my favorite pics of the kids, 2012. Photo: Joy Smallwood

What this all adds up to is the “insider” information is there for those who are “insiders” when it should be available to anyone who wants it. Why should a mom who has a friend at a private school have better, more accurate information about applying then a family without connections? This is a rhetorical question, but its also one that I faced when we first applied. Generally, I found most parents to be tight-lipped about the admissions process, but occasionally I’d encounter a generous person who’d share really good advice. We also had a preschool director who was both well-connected and experienced with all things admissions. And, we had Anne Simon, my co-author and step-mom who helped us tremendously.


Summer in San Francisco
A fun weekend trip this summer to San Francisco with our extended family

Now that I’ve been a mom at two different private schools, I know how much “insider” information and contacts help applicant families.  Being able to say you know a current family can help your application. I’ve written recommendation letters for friends and lobbied for their kids to be accepted. Trust me when I say it can move the application from the bottom of the pile to the top.


So, for those who are new to the blog, just starting the admissions process, welcome. I hope you find this blog a good source of information as you proceed through tours, interviews and visiting days. The pressure can be intense and exhausting. Most of the process is highly subjective, with a few objective aspects like application deadlines or tour dates. I also hope you find the funny in it (as we try to do) every once in a while. After all, private schools can be shrouded in secrecy, much like country clubs (actually, the two go hand in hand at a few elite schools where parents refer their friends from the country club to the school and conversely, parents join specific country clubs with the hope of getting help from members who are parents at a particular school). These are the kind of things that will always surprise me, no matter how many years we’re at private school. The private airplane hanger and soccer field in the back yard also cause my eyes to widen. The idea of community at private schools is one I’ve struggled with. If I were starting over, I’d have focused more on whether the school was a fit for our entire family, not just the kids. I’d pay closer attention to the subtle things that make a school what it is (or is not). I’ve made a few good friends during these years, but my biggest challenge has been finding a true sense of community. Thankfully, I see that beginning to happen at Viewpoint.


Barry's birthday dinner at Madeo
Barry’s birthday dinner at Madeo

Beyond The Brochure was started in 2010, after the First Edition of our book (the Second Edition was released in Oct. 2013). Most of the writing on this blog is mine, with help my co-authors and from amazing guest bloggers. I post about 1-2 times per week and I spend about 30 hours/week on the blog, marketing the book and related events and activities. Anne and I respond to every reader email (csimon2007 at gmail dot com) and I love meeting you at events, putting faces to names and being able to share information.  I also use the blog’s Facebook page as a place to share our blog posts and interesting stuff I find online related to events, education, parenting, books, etc. Yesterday, I posted a blurb about Elon Musk (Tesla, Paypal founder) who has started a new invite-only private school, after he left Mirman School.  If you want to know more about me personally, you can find it in the “About The Authors” or the “Find Us Here Too” sections across the blog header.


Barry and I didn’t apply to schools as “insiders” but rather as parents who wanted our kids to go to private school. Now that its been more than 7 years as private school parents, I guess you could say that we are firmly on the inside, although writing this blog and my husband’s rather sarcastic sense of humor will probably always keep us from being deep insiders who serve on the board or that sort of thing. And that suits us perfectly.


Cheers to a fantastic 2014-15! –Christina