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Old 10-13-2013, 06:32 PM
 
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Originally Posted by shandonmagnolia View Post
I realize this thread was started sometime back, but I thought I would put in my two cents for anyone who might be looking at private schools.

Here is my take on the schools I toured (I did not tour Cardinal Newman or Ben Lippen so I can not speak to those) Now, I am sure there are going to be some who will say I am completely wrong in my assessment of these two schools. These are my personal observations based on (1) scheduled tours with school admissions counselors (2) interactions with families who send their children to these private schools. My children do not currently attend either school.

Hammond School- a sectarian private school that is obsessed with "being the best". The campus is impressive. 100+ acres that are very close to town (not far from Target on Garner's Ferry Road) in the Old Woodlands area that many who live in Columbia refer to as "behind the V.A." The school has a solid academic reputation and its athletic teams are competitive. In fact, I think competitive might be an apt buzz word for this school. The buildings are pretty, the landscaping is beautiful, every student from 1st-12th grade has a school-issued iPad. The school mantra is diversity and global reach- in fact, the school chooses a different country to study every year. The parking lot is filled with very nice cars and everyone on campus (from the cafeteria workers to the Headmaster) is polite. Very impressive at first, but when you look deeper, I did not see much more. I have to wonder if perhaps the administration may be missing the big picture with regards to certain aspects of the academic experience. Take the iPad for example. The administrators I spoke with were very quick to sell you on how "cutting edge" the school is with its technology. Every classroom has a smartboard and iPads are integrated into all aspects of learning... from the core academic basics to the related arts (like music, art & language). In fact, you rarely see Hammond students without their iPad in tow. But the whole initiative seems forced. I got the impression that teachers had to work their lesson plans around the iPad and find ways to make it fit into what they were teaching in order to justify its existence... versus using it as a tool when appropriate.

The teachers I spoke with ranged from long time educators to relatively young teachers. Some of the more senior seemed to be biding their time until retirement, while the younger teachers appeared more engaged with their students. The administrators (and many parents with whom I spoke) used the term "Hammond Family" a lot. However, I did not get the family feel on this campus.

As for the families who choose Hammond, I can only speak to the ones I have had the opportunity to meet and interact with. For the most part, they are Columbia's "new money". Doctors, lawyers, business leaders who want the best for their children and have the means to pay for it ($15,000+/year). Some might call this elitist, I would not. I have also heard a number of different people comment that the general leaning of Hammond families is more right-wing, conservative (interestingly enough, red is the school color). I have no first hand knowledge of this as the families I know with children at Hammond are not very political... just something I have heard. Given the fact that the school was founded in response to the desegregation of schools in Columbia (for families who did not want their children going to integrated schools), I can see why one might have this impression. But when you tour the school, you will see students of color and the administrators make it clear that they are open-minded and do not discriminate.


Heathwood Hall- an Episcopal School with a good academic reputation. The 100+ acre campus is located off of I-77 in a pastoral setting close to the river and feels much further away from downtown Columbia than it really is. Heathwood has a solid academic program and is competitive in sports. Many of the buildings on campus are dated (built in the 70s) so it may not be the most architecturally appealing school... however the newer buildings are nicer. The administrators are quick to tell you that they are focused on nurturing the whole child... and that includes the spirit of the child. Heathwood prides itself on being inclusive (with a minority of students being Episcopal) and the school accepts students regardless of religion or race, however it is an Episcopal School and all students attend Chapel every week where lessons from the Bible are discussed.

Heathwood is a very "green" school... interestingly enough green is one of the school colors. There is a big emphasis on nature and the outdoors. The school has a pond on its campus, with a boathouse full of canoes. There is a ropes course, zipline and archery course on campus and students do a lot of gardening (individual class garden plots and very large greenhouse also on campus). Lower school students attend PE every day. Technology is incorporated into the classroom (smartboards, iPads, computers), but not to the degree as it is at Hammond. Lower elementary classrooms have sets of iPads, but they are not used every day. Intermediate students have iPads and Upper School students have laptops. However, during my time on campus, I did not see any students using technological devices outside of the library or computer lab. The new dining hall is very appealing and I was told that all food served is organic and/or locally sourced. I saw a number of recycling initiatives on campus as well.

The teachers I spoke with ranged from longtime teachers (who have probably taught several generations of Heathwood students) to relatively new, young teachers. What impressed me about the academic staff is that they did not seem rushed and spent a long time discussing their classes/teaching style/showing me examples of work. The teachers I spoke with seemed very engaged. Now, whether this was the doings of a very adept admissions counselor or indicative of the staff as a whole, I can not say.

Heathwood has been around for a long time and (from what I understand) has had a reputation of being where Columbia's "old money" sends its children to school. The families I had the opportunity to meet (and knew prior to touring the school) are fairly open minded people who come from well-to-do backgrounds. Some might go so far as to say this school is more liberal. That being said, I have also heard people say Heathwood is snobby. I did not experience anything on my tour that would lead me to believe that. Actually, I was somewhat surprised by how down to earth the administrators and staff were. Given the $15,000+ price tag, I was expecting a little more pretentiousness.


after doing some research statistically speaking Hammond is the "whitest" of the 4 biggies in Columbia. followed by ben, newman and last heathwood who has the most statistically diverse student body compared to the others.
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Old 10-15-2013, 04:41 PM
 
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I do not doubt that. The "white" faces definitely outnumbered all others at Hammond (just noting that I did see children of different ethnic backgrounds). I have no idea how their percentages break down when compared with the other schools (as I have not seen any data on that). Interestingly, much of the admissions "sales pitch" was about the schools interest in diversity and global study. Perhaps it was to divert attention...
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Old 10-16-2013, 08:27 AM
 
83 posts, read 162,344 times
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Originally Posted by shandonmagnolia View Post
I do not doubt that. The "white" faces definitely outnumbered all others at Hammond (just noting that I did see children of different ethnic backgrounds). I have no idea how their percentages break down when compared with the other schools (as I have not seen any data on that). Interestingly, much of the admissions "sales pitch" was about the schools interest in diversity and global study. Perhaps it was to divert attention...
I would guess that the demographics of the Hammond student body is pretty similar to the demographics of "households that can afford to send their child(ren) to Hammond."
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