Q&A: Private Schools
You can research online, visit the open houses, and take the private tours, but to really choose a school, you have to get some inside information. From the top of the faculty to the students and stakeholders, we have collected this exclusive feedback just for you. Find out what our local private schools are doing that sets them apart and makes each one special.
Heads of School
Q. What trend is most influencing education at your school and how does it manifest itself?
A. Don Mayes, Parkview Baptist School
STEAM programs are making a big impact in education, especially in our market where there is a high value in engineering sciences and media arts. These programs are manifest in many ways on our campus, but one of the most visual ways is in our robotics teams that span from 6th-12th grade. As a precursor, we also offer enrichment in Lego robotics for our elementary students. Another manifestation of the Arts part of STEAM is found in our digital arts programs. Under the direction of Mr. Noah Seta, our students participate in a live news program and head up production teams for all our live stream events. Even the robotics team gets in on the visual action and takes care of the “A.” I am not only amazed at the science behind the robots they build, but I am also impressed with the artistic and creative design value that goes into the creations.
A. Steven A. Eagleton, The Dunham School
The pace of technological advancement and the potential application to education, has challenged school leaders all over the world to rethink processes. As a six-time Apple Distinguished School, The Dunham School leads in Baton Rouge and the State of Louisiana in technology application designed to transform student learning. We maximize the student experience and challenge, meet individual needs, and thoroughly prepare students to apply the necessary leadership skills that will prepare them for success in college and in life. We focus on the seamless integration of technology, creative design and innovation in all learning, not just in STEM. Dunham students learn cutting edge research skills, the ability to think critically and problem solve, and they are trained how to communicate the results of their efforts effectively from lower school onward. Students want to collaborate and experience learning that is relevant and has real world application, so that they can design solutions for their own future, serve others and make the world a better place. Students at Dunham experience that opportunity every day.
A. Hugh M. McIntosh, Episcopal School of Baton Rouge
Creating learning environments in which students of all ages can–simultaneously–learn and retain knowledge and life lessons. On a spectrum between traditional and innovative learning, Episcopal is moving steadily toward a better mix of innovative learning opportunities. For example, project-based learning allows each team member to make contributions to the joint effort and to inquire more thoroughly into areas of interest with passion. In the new Academic Commons (to be completed in the summer of 2018), all spaces are designed for student participation, teamwork, and project management. A newly renovated building will become our Lower and Middle School Innovative Learning Center, with learning areas designed to promote both project work and personalized instruction. We are better aligning our physical facilities to allow our teachers to use innovative methods of teaching to which students today respond with high levels of motivation. In addition to the physical re-shaping of our campus buildings, our teachers are eagerly returning to school–in the form of aggressive professional development–to serve today’s bright and motivated students through learning techniques relevant to their lives.
Q. How does your school’s mission impact the daily activities of your students?
A. Claire Willis, Cristo Rey Baton Rouge Franciscan High School
Cristo Rey Baton Rouge Franciscan High School is a Catholic learning community that educates young men and women to become people of faith, purpose and service. Every Cristo Rey student takes a full course load of college-preparatory coursework for four years, while also participating one day each week in a Corporate Work Study Program. Each student works five full days a month at one of our partnering businesses, who employ our students as a means of financing a portion of their tuition. As a result of working in a corporate office environment, students create positive relationships in the business and professional communities, acquire valuable job experience and marketable skills, and gain exposure to a wide range of career opportunities. The integration of the rigorous academic coursework and the relevant work experience prepares our students for success in college and life.
A. Michelle Gardiner, St. Jude the Apostle School
St. Jude the Apostle School’s mission of Faith, Academics and Excellence is at the forefront of impacting the daily activities of our students. We provide a small Catholic family environment for approximately 580 students on our campus. We begin our day together each morning gathered in prayer and song followed by a reciting of our mission statement and the pledge of allegiance. Our students engage in a challenging curriculum that offers leveled math and reading classes for elementary and honors courses for middle school, where a high school algebra credit is offered in eighth grade. Outside of our core academic courses, students are enriched with art, music, physical education, French, and computer classes. Students in 5th-8th grade are active during and after school in one of three service organizations. Our co-curricular offerings include math counts and robotics club, and our extra-curricular options abound from band to altar servers. We have athletic opportunities for students in Pre-Kindergarten thru eighth grade at the intramural, developmental, and CSAA levels. These experiences and more are the reason why we boast a 99 percent acceptance rate to our graduating student’s first choice of high school.
A. Lisa Harvey, Catholic High School
The mission of Catholic High School is comprised of four essential components: religious values, personal attention, friendly discipline, and academic excellence. These four components are a part of the daily life of each of our students. Regardless of the activity: classroom, extracurricular, daily interactions with faculty, staff, and students, or activities that nurture the spiritual development of everyone, the mission of the school is at the core of every experience. It is through the guidance of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart and their belief in the formation of the entire young man–mind, body, and soul–that allows Catholic High students to know the love of God.
Q. What do you most appreciate about teaching in a private school setting, and in particular, at your school?
A. Lauren Tyler, St. James Episcopal Day School, First Grade Teacher
Teaching in an independent school provides both teachers and students with many advantages. My favorite thing about teaching at St. James Episcopal Day School is being able to share and model core Christian values to our students. We spend time in church together twice a week, pray for one another, and work to help our community with our outreach efforts. The extremely talented staff at our school are committed to providing the highest quality of education to our students. We, as teachers, are provided a variety of professional development opportunities, encouraged to write and design our own curriculum centered around the needs of our students, and are provided with all the materials and resources necessary to support our instructional program. We have a robust enrichment and resource program focused on developing and supporting the unique gifts of each student. Our new Pre-K3 program ensures that our students receive the very best start possible. Further, both teachers and students are not only supported by the administration, but by our fantastic parent base, who are always willing to get involved any way.
A. Tracey Barhorst, St. Aloysius Catholic School, Middle School Teacher
I consider myself extremely blessed to have been given the gift to teach at St. Aloysius for the past 11 years. I think it is as close as you can get to an old-fashioned neighborhood school. Everywhere you go, you see your students. Teaching there is not just a job. I feel like I am part of a loving family. The school climate at St. Aloysius also allows me the freedom to be extremely creative in the classroom. I am not burdened with paperwork; my time is spent doing my best to make every lesson relevant and rigorous for my students. Teaching at St. Aloysius also allows me to share my spirituality with my coworkers and students. At St. Aloysius, we have a growth mindset; the entire faculty and staff believe in the ability of all students to grow and learn.
A. Stacy Rennhoff, St. Joseph’s Academy, Art Dept./Chair
I most appreciate the charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph that enriches our daily life here at St. Joseph’s Academy. It is wonderful to interact with the Sisters on a daily basis for both school and non-school related reasons. I consider St. Joseph’s Academy my second family and know that others share the same feeling. I truly believe that it is a combination of the Sisters’ presence, an incredible administration and faculty, a dedication to academic excellence (SJA is only one of nine schools in the country to be named a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence four times) as well as an all-girls’ learning environment that makes St. Joseph’s Academy a rewarding place to work. Our young women speak their minds, express themselves freely, ask questions, and find their passion: academically, in athletics and co-curricular activities, in leadership roles, in the arts, and in their faith life.
Q. How is your school preparing you academically, socially, and spiritually for the future?
A. Alexis Harvey, 8th grade, St. Thomas More Catholic School
St. Thomas More has helped me enhance my academic, social, and spiritual skills. My academic abilities have increased due to amazing teachers and outstanding technology. My social skills sets have become increased because of all of the leadership opportunities, group projects, and prayer partner activities we participate in as a school and community. How St. Thomas More affects my spiritual life is quite extraordinary. We come together as a school every week to celebrate Holy Communion in the Mass. We have grade-level retreats, and we have grade-level Reconciliations to help us grow in our relationship with God. In 8th grade, we participate in Come Lord Jesus, which helps us interpret the gospels and incorporate them into our lives. My school has become like my family, and I can’t imagine what my life would be like without them.
A. Max Sager, Senior, Runnels High School
As I prepare to leave for college, visiting different campuses, exploring new opportunities, and meeting people from various backgrounds, I realize how my years at Runnels have prepared me both academically and socially for what is yet to come. My teachers at Runnels have always known who I am and that made me focus more because I couldn’t hide in the back of the classroom. Small class sizes have allowed me to constantly engage with my teachers and exchange thoughts and ideas with my peers. With only 44 students in my graduating class, it has given me the opportunity to hold many leadership roles and try many different activities that might not have been available to me with a large student body. Overall, my school has gone above and beyond to prepare me for my future. I will have Runnels to thank when I go off to college armed with a unique set of skills to be successful.
A. Margot Frost, Senior, Baton Rouge International School
The Baton Rouge International School (BRIS) is preparing me academically by offering a challenging curriculum, which requires in-depth work in all of the classes as well as a lot of reflection. Additionally, studying foreign languages from such a young age has helped me gain a deep knowledge not only in these languages but also in the cultures where these languages are spoken.
While BRIS is very small, there is a large cultural diversity that has allowed me to interact and make friends with people from countries around the world that I otherwise would never have met. During my time at BRIS, I have learned to understand, respect, and appreciate people who are different from me.
With these skills, I am confident and assured that I am well prepared to go into the study of international business, and succeed.
Q. What made you consider a private school education in general, and enrollment at your chosen school in particular?
A. Dena Balart, St. Michael the Archangel High School
We chose to send our child to a Catholic school because we feel that the academics are excellent, and our child is able to spend her day in an environment in which her faith is nurtured.
We enrolled our child at St. Michael in particular because it is a co-ed Catholic school that nurtures the total child–academically, socially, and spiritually. We feel that the school is large enough to offer a wide range of classes and activities, but small enough to feel like a close-knit community.
A. Katie Chabert, St. Luke’s Episcopal School
Private school made sense for our family, especially for early childhood education, because we wanted to take advantage of the smaller class sizes and teacher to student ratio. As for our decision to enroll our children at St. Luke’s Episcopal Day School, I knew immediately upon walking into the school that I wanted my children to attend. During my tour of the school, I was struck by the close-knit community and the respectful caring energy that radiated from everyone I met at St. Luke’s. The school just felt like a family. Shortly after my initial impression came the realization that St. Luke’s was on the cutting edge of learning by following the Reggio Emilio curriculum which allows for an integrated project-based, creative approach to the classroom. I love the thought of my children learning through play and discovering that there are usually multiple solutions to problems.
A. Lisa Catalanatto, Our Lady of Mercy School
Catholic education is important to our family. We wanted our son to attend a school that has strong Christian values. Catholic faith is the center of Mercy school and is part of all aspects of student life. At Mercy, there is a strong feeling of community within the school and the church.
Our Lady of Mercy School is committed to smaller class sizes, which creates an environment where students can participate and interact more with their teachers. ■