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Old 12-28-2010, 11:13 AM
6 posts, read 23,008 times
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As a parent who risked it all to move to Chappaqua in 2003 to make sure my then 11 year old had the best education "in the nation," I would like to offer the following comments for those of you wondering about a move like this.

Moderator cut: No advertising

From a schools standpoint, it was extremely tough on my son and I, coming in to Chappaqua. As it turns out, it is much easier to make the move when kids are at the nursery school age, since there is an extreme sense of bonding when they "come up" together and not so much later on (coming in, in 7th grade, as my son did).

For a boy, 7th grade is an essential turning point and developmental time. He left his old friends and school as the most popular kid, president of his class, firmly grounded with a strong network.

In Chappaqua, at the time, the school was extremely overcrowded and so 7th and 8th grade (albeit at the gorgeous Harvard-looking school, Robert E. Bell) were really challenging. Now, an amazing brand-new school has been built.

Then, famous Horace Greeley High School was being literally reconstructed and revitalized -- you guessed it, just in time to for my son to enter 9th grade. For a long period of time, he went to school in a construction site but nonetheless, this is what we came for. Now, Horace Greeley is completely rehabbed and beautiful.

By 2006 when he was graduating, I was able to finally start to look at what I had done and whether it was "worth it." By now, he had been accepted to several top schools (I feel in large part due to the "Chappaqua/Horace Greeley" brand and the effective in-school counseling).

I had kept in constant contact with the friends we left behind and sadly, many of them were not college-bound and had never been "transformed" the way my son had, by virtue of his surroundings, to consider a four-year degree a mandatory part of life.

We accomplished what we came here for, since he now has a set of blood brothers and sisters -- the bond here runs extremely deep -- and the fathers and mothers of this crew, me included, have made permanent connections that will remain with us the rest of our lives.

In truth, even though I can hold my own and look pretty good, I'm sure I was viewed by a few typical women as an outsider, a single 40 year old mother with 50 extra pounds and not a Prada pocketbook in sight, a bit too outspoken. I guess I'm lucky no NY Housewives burned my house down but there were some close calls!

Fortunately, there are many of us, real, down to earth, who value our children and don't care about appearances, and we find each other. And the kids find each other, usually on the very first day. In the end, they end up being "the" popular kids, with the most opportunities and the happiest lives.

So, in closing, I say, this journey, it's not at all for the timid. It's for the mother and father tigers who want the very best education for their kids and would do whatever it takes to get it. In the late nineties all you read about was schools-schools-schools, and if you were a "good parent" you would go towards the good schools. Then the "media" turned its attention away from the subject, but it's as real as ever, especially now when there are no more jobs and a four-year degree is the getting in price even for a clerk's job.

Good luck to everyone ...

Last edited by bmwguydc; 01-01-2011 at 09:57 AM.. Reason: No advertising
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Old 12-29-2010, 08:30 AM
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Overall, what was your observation with the quality of the academics in the entire system aside from high school? Where there many opportunities for bright, hardworking and motivated elementary and middle school students to do even better class? If so, what was the nature of these opportunities (ie, honors classes? activities? etc.)? How about the faculty? Were they challenging the students to reach their academic potential?

Another thing I've read in some websites is that enrollment in Chappaqua and other good Westchester districts is declining because of fewer young families moving into these suburbs.

Last edited by Forest_Hills_Daddy; 12-29-2010 at 08:51 AM..
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Old 12-29-2010, 08:16 PM
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I'll try to answer your questions here but would highly recommend that you also interview the school admins who would be glad to speak with you (I visited the schools a year before we moved). There's also a wealth of information on the Web.

Frankly, you must know that Chappaqua and one or two other Westchester school districts are known as "the" best districts for all the reasons you mention. That distinction comes from the quality of the academics throughout the entire school experience.

I would find it hard to believe that "enrollment is declining due to fewer young families moving to these suburbs." If you recall just a few short years ago it was "build schools," "overcrowding," "build more schools." Most suburbs did. We have a huge brand new state of the art school that didn't exist before. If anything, that means even smaller class sizes and more focused instruction.

I have a rental house in a nearby town, and since year 2000 I have rented to at least 11 different young families that were moving here from NYC, using "renting for a year or two" as a way to ease into it. I laugh when they say they are going to commute to NYC; I tell them, you'll do that for a year before you end up taking jobs here in Westchester. I have watched it happen over and over again. The commute's not bad, but it only takes a year or so to look around at "the life" and say, let's bring it all to Westchester and when our kids are grown we'll go back to the city. That's what everyone does, and I don't see any change whatsoever in that pattern. In fact, I see more migration because the house prices have fallen more than 30 percent (in my opinion).

As far as opportunities ... challenges ... the biggest problem may be that there's too much of everything. It can get stressful ... kids taking AP courses in what, eighth grade? Anyway, take a look at this great page it fills in some of the blanks for you. And thanks for your nice reply and nice questions!

About the District
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Old 12-30-2010, 08:34 AM
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Thanks chappaqua. I got the info. on declinging enrollment from websites like this:


There are others around the web. The budget presentation in the website of Briarcliff Manor also points to declining enrollment.

I actually find the 8th grade AP very interesting. Would you know what they have for kids in 4th or 5th grade?

I tried surfing through the Bell website but it seems like they don't post a curriculum document. They only post the curriculum atlas but I'm not sure if it lists all the middle school subjects that they offer.

Middle school Latin that they offer is also a big incentive.

Last edited by Forest_Hills_Daddy; 12-30-2010 at 08:43 AM..
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Old 12-30-2010, 02:33 PM
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Ah, but even at that link, if you read on you would see this has to do with exactly what I said, there are more schools now. So if you read the reply to that article (below). A happy accident of all this is that class sizes are smaller, richer opportunities, more staff. I really don't think you can draw a line to "less families coming to the area." There are really factual numbers on that, i suggest picking one of the better known realtors in Chappaqua, they would have the demographics.

Anyway, this is a false dilemma. Everyone comes to Westchester for the schools, and of the towns, certain ones are known for the best schools. And before you worry about the taxes too much, you should know that Putnam Valley is $23.00 per $1,000 of house, so a millino dollar house is $23,000 in taxes, which can be higher than even Chappaqua. I read the other day there's like 250 tax grievances in process ... folks are getting their taxes lowered all the time and in big numbers. So it's time to take a fresh look at all the fundamentals!

From your link:
"... Just as predicted. School enrollment continues to decline. Thanks in large part to our current school board president we have 2 middle schools. Had she listened to many in our town and listened to demographers and other experts we would be in far better financial shape. She was determined years ago to build Seven Bridges and got the $50million budget to build it. Now we have twice as many middle school teachers as we need. We have duplicate support and maintenance staffs. We have buses doing double shifts to get middle school kids to 2 separate schools on opposite sides of town. We have many cases of double extracurricular activities ... "
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Old 01-01-2011, 08:46 AM
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Moderator cut: Orphaned comment: link removed

Second, no matter what the schooling chappaqua offers, real estate in the area is in bubble territory. People have to stretch their budget to afford a house that they could buy ten years ago for half price. Not only that but real estate taxes have doubled due to lavish expenses like the school you mention.

Third, young families cannot afford the house they could afford ten years ago that's why they are not moving in those areas

Fourth, salaries from a job in Westchester are not enough to support life in Westchester, one needs the city job and commute.

Everyone who buys a house now at those prices is a moron.


Last edited by bmwguydc; 01-01-2011 at 09:55 AM..
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Old 01-01-2011, 01:19 PM
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You're pretty wrong! You'd have to try really hard to be more wrong than you are. The prices in Chappaqua are through the floor. Not sure where you get your "10 years" yardstick from, but the prices at times are lower than they were in 2003. In my opinion, it has never been easier to afford a house not only in Chappaqua but ANYWHERE. And as I stated earlier, the taxes are associated with the sales price, so now they are pretty low, too. You're just, wrong.
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Old 01-01-2011, 02:33 PM
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We purchased our house in Chappaqua last April and paid less than the sellers did when they bought it in 2007, if this is any indication. I think there are pretty good deals to be had right now - you may have to grieve taxes but in general I think you get more for your $$ in Chap than in other parts of Westchester, certainly more than in the river towns or sound towns. And if you can use express trains the commute is not that much further.
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Old 01-01-2011, 03:01 PM
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Originally Posted by chappaqua View Post
In my opinion, it has never been easier to afford a house not only in Chappaqua but ANYWHERE. And as I stated earlier, the taxes are associated with the sales price, so now they are pretty low, too. You're just, wrong.
How am I wrong?

In 1998 you could buy a house in westchester at half price of what it costs today with half the tax you pay today. Isn't this more affordable, in fact *really* affordable not the kind of today's "affordability" (which is not affordability as noone bites).

Also, taxes get lower when the price falls ONLY if one grieves which can be tedious and not successful. HOWEVER if enough people do that then the town will not have enough income and will increase the TAX RATE effectively raising tax again. Towns now have huge expenses and taxes will be high even if sale price is low because the tax rate will go up if house prices go down.
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Old 01-01-2011, 07:35 PM
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What's the alternative then? High taxes are a given in the suburbs surrounding NYC. You can live in the boroughs, but you'll also get borough-caliber services in addition to paying even higher real estate prices. Maybe if you moved to Scottsdale or Dayton, you'll get really affordable houses and lower taxes there.
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