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Old 09-21-2010, 12:53 PM
 
Location: Bellevue, WA
1,487 posts, read 3,751,756 times
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As we look to buy in the next year before our youngest enters K, we are innundated by advice regarding the 'best' school district to buy into. Outside of SAT scores (crap), how do you really discover what is 'best' for your child when you don't yet know what you don't know (having never been the parent of a school-age kid myself). There is a different 'best school' for every child, I am sure. Is there some kind of school consultant out here that can recommend the best schools based on the individual?

We are focusing on Rye, Mamamroneck and Eastchester, but have heard good things about Edgemont, Rye Neck and Tuckahoe as well, although we are concerned that they are tiny (but how does that affect kids learning experience, really?) We've ruled out the River Towns because we just can't justify their tax rates. Harrison we like, but we've just heard too many bad things about their schools (although we still can't figure out why).

We want superior teachers, great supports for kids with ADHD, solid academics in a nurturing environment, no tolerance for bullying and other nonsense, and a close-knit community. I've seen greatschools rankings and such, but the parent reviews strike me as too sparse to be particularly objective or useful. Feel free to PM me if you'd like.
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Old 09-21-2010, 05:36 PM
 
258 posts, read 775,879 times
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I think most school districts are good and you have to look for individual needs. I personally do not like big districts. I worked in a big suburban middle school in Rockland and I think 6th grade is very young and the kids were terrified going into such a big school. However, the school had great academics and tons of great extracurricular opportunities. It just didn't feel right to me. I would love a k-8 school but that doesn't exist so I wanted one school per level. Others might find that bigger districts have more opportunities for kids. I am sure that can be true. Everybody is different and has different wants and needs. I wanted a small district with smaller schools because that is what I like and feel comfortable with.

I also have a son with autism. I am not sure if he will need a self-contained class. Many school districts only have inclusion. I didn't want him bussed to another district if he needs self contained. I also didn't want the district to put him in general ed with an aide because they didn't want to pay for him to go to another school.

I also wanted a town pool because I figure if I am paying exorbitant taxes, I want a pool because that is something I would pay for.
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Old 09-22-2010, 08:19 AM
 
Location: New York
86 posts, read 241,030 times
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It sounds like you are being pretty thoughtful jjinla. I am with you on not judging by SATs solely. When we moved here from LA the only part SATs played was if they were poor. There are several schools in Westchester districts with excellent SAT scores - but if they are in a high income area those scores are almost moot because you know SAT tutors are a key factor in those high scores. The students, teachers and academics cannot take sole credit for a school's SATs if there is a high% of tutoring involved as I see it.

You noted your priorities as "superior teachers, great supports for kids with ADHD, solid academics in a nurturing environment, no tolerance for bullying and other nonsense, and a close-knit community." When researching where to move we had a similar criteria, sans the need for support for adhd, but we had also wanted to ensure our school had a diverse population of students, both racially and socioeconomically. With this in mind, we chose Tuckahoe.

I cannot speak for other districts, but I can speak for Tuckahoe - because that is where my kids go. They meet all of your requirements quite well. The principal for Cottle (Tuckahoe's elementary), Anthony DiCarlo, actually just took on the position to head up their special education dept. - you should give him a call and discuss their specific support for kids with ADHD. Tuckahoe is indeed small. There are around 4 classes per grade, and total enrollment is around 1,100 (most class sizes are between 20-22). I personally see no issue with a smaller school. I like that when my kids return to a new school year, many of the kids in their class are familiar faces; that the faculty know them by name and school events are populated by people we have come to know. IMHO a smaller school means that kids get more individual attention that they need. I think this is important because for me, academics at grade school level means more than just great curriculum...it also means school staff are able to get to know your child personally enough to know their strengths and weaknesses and help them with any course-correction that is necessary. No matter how good a school is, if it is too large kids can indeed get lost in the shuffle. Since we are still elementary level I cannot speak to this in great detail - but it looks to me that Tuckahoe doesn't have all of the HS sports you will find in a larger school. They have football, cheerleading, baseball/softball, soccer, tennis, golf, hockey, volleyball. But I don't believe they have lacrosse or track/field.

Last edited by tammy42; 09-22-2010 at 08:57 AM..
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Old 09-26-2010, 08:16 PM
 
42 posts, read 95,106 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jjinla View Post
. Harrison we like, but we've just heard too many bad things about their schools (although we still can't figure out why).
Just out of curiosity, what have you heard about Harrison schools that was not good?
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Old 09-27-2010, 07:13 AM
 
Location: Bellevue, WA
1,487 posts, read 3,751,756 times
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A mix of things...their SAT's aren't very high (not a huge deal by itself) and they only rank 4 out of 10 on Great Schools. My flailing district in LA even ranked higher than that, and our property taxes were only 1.1%.

I've also heard that there is a big drinking problem in the HS, but again, it's all relative. I do know that if I were a teenager, I would probably be bored there...particularly in the West Harrison area.

For us at least, considering that the schools aren't phenomenal, the houses seem a bit too expensive. Plus, I get no sense of real community there since it's so all over the place (geographically speaking).
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Old 09-28-2010, 09:53 PM
 
Location: Washington, DC & New York
10,831 posts, read 26,431,825 times
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Are you sure you have the right Harrison District? Greatschools ranks Harrison at a 9, and the district is well-regarded academically by people I know in education. Some of the Harrison schools are even rated at a 10, which is comparable to other top districts.

The drinking issue can be a problem, especially with the large properties and absentee parents in Harrison, but it's not just a phenomenon of Harrison; rather, it's a function of many places where there are wealthy families with large houses that have a bit of land as people are isolated from the neighbors and reports to the police about parties are rare.

Harrison Schools - Harrison New York School Ratings - Public and Private
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Old 09-29-2010, 07:21 AM
 
Location: Bellevue, WA
1,487 posts, read 3,751,756 times
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Elementary and middle are indeed ranked high, but up until a few weeks ago, it's HS had a 4 out of 10 ranking on GS. It never made sense to me, either. I get it when they are feeding into one HS from a variety of schools but all of the lower schools rank well, so why it falls apart in HS is beyond me.

Any insight into the special ed. program? Someone commented negatively on that, but you never know the source and circumstances.
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Old 09-29-2010, 01:39 PM
 
258 posts, read 775,879 times
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I spoke to many people in the Harrison special ed dept and I heard a lot of great things about the elementary schools. One thing that I liked was that if a certain school was better for our special needs child, we could send all of our children to that elementary school. I didn't know anyone in the ms or hs. I thought the schools were fine and the taxes were much lower than the other towns I was looking into (Ardsley and Pleasantville). I thought the town was a bit dumpy but the houses were nice and their were many nice playgrounds and two town pools.
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