Public vs. Private Open Houses Part 1

I was unexpectedly able to attend an open house for Perelman Jewish Day School-Stern Campus this morning.  [Added 1/14/2010]Perelman is a private school affiliated with the Solomon Schechter Day School Association of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism[end edit].  I will share my reactions to that visit in an upcoming post.  I already mentioned that I plan on attending the Jenks open house tomorrow night.

I got to thinking about the difference between a private an public school open house event.  Private school being largely tuition driven to me naturally organically leads to a more sales-y open house presentation.  For a non-tuition dependent public school, I wonder how the tone of the presentation will differ.  The motivators are a little more hazy.  I wonder whether some public schools may actually be over-enrolled and may be hoping to limit enrollment.  Hmmm…  More on this topic if I notice differences.

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School Visit Advice?

So I have this open house coming up at Jenks in a week.  I am going primarily to learn about the school, obviously.  However, as this will be my first experience, I am also hoping to learn about the process of open houses.  What kinds of questions should I ask?  What should I be looking for?  I will definitely be paying attention to what the other parents are asking so I can get ideas.  I assume that school officials will try to show off their best attributes and that parents will focus on what they might perceive to be the weaknesses of the school or specific needs of there children.  Are there other questions that you suggest?

Similarly, I also want to visit schools during school hours so I can see the schools and teachers in action.  I have the same concerns there about what to ask, but they are magnified because I will not have any peers to look to for guidance.

Does anyone out there have suggestions on questions to ask and things to look for on open houses and school visits?  I am assuming that many of these questions will answer themselves as I visit more schools, but I want to hot the ground running as much as i can.

Our First Open House is Coming Up: Jenks

I will be attending my first open house at our neighborhood public elementary option. The J.S. Jenks open house will be at the school from 5-7 pm on January 13th.  I am mixed about the whole thing–I am excited to visit the school, but I would really like to try to also visit schools during school hours as often as is possible.

Based on the Potential Jenks Parents email list, “Its a great opportunity to meet some of the Jenks staff and principal, tour the school and talk with other Jenks parents. More details to follow as the date gets closer.”

Judge a Book By Its Cover?

I am perusing different school websites to start my research.  I probably shouldn’t pre-judge a school by its site, but the Meredith School website is pretty lame and it bugs me.  Jenks is a little better.  Penn Alexander blows them both away–better design, more information for parents, better secondary resources.  Of course I want a school to pay attention to education first, website second (or third), so I won’t let this influence my decision by much, but it does make me think.  Lower Merion sets the bar even higher, but that is a district site, not an individual school.  For a fair comparison, the Philadelphia school district site is pretty darn good.

Choice Criteria: Diversity

One thing that is important to my wife and I is that our child be in a school that values diversity. To us, that means a balance of race, religion, and socioeconomic status. In general, this points towards public school, but not necessarily. If we send our son to our local public elementary school, Jenks, he may likely be the only Jewish child in his class, or only one of a small cohort.  Of course, if we send him to a private Jewish Day School, he may be the only REFORM Jewish kid in his class, so that may be even less desirable. The Friends School system values diversity on paper, but I need to learn more.  I would be surprised if there was a broad socioeconomic diversity at Friends.  One of the things we’ll be looking at when evaluating schools will be the race breakdown–that information is easy to find. Religious and socioeconomic breakdown will be harder to come by, so we will have to make inferences and assumptions based on the neighborhood and what we observe on school visits.

The information expressed in this post about the schools are assumptions only for illustrative purposes.  I still have to back it up with hard data and research.

Why Blog?

Just what the internet needs, another blog, right?  I am a father of a 4 year old boy (scheduled to start kindergarten in 9/2011) and a 2 year old girl (9/2013). My wife and I live in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia and we love it. There are school choices in Chestnut Hill (JS Jenks Public) , but we are also considering a regional relocation.  The relocation would be for many reasons, most of them distinct from the school situation. Philadelphia’s school district system is astoundingly complex and the number of private school options are so vast that I figure that this blog would serve two purposes.

1.) Document our process and experience to help others navigate the process, if only a little.

2.) Get feedback/validation on our experiences and impressions of schools

I may invite others to blog on this site as well to get different perspectives.  If you are interested or know anyone, please contact me.