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Unsolicited advice for privately owned pre schools, directors, and their boards

Dear Private School Owners & Directors:

Having been in the public sector for 24 years and in educational leadership for 15 of those years, I know a few things about quality education for kids. Yes, I am considered an expert around my professional work in Manhattan. However, I'm beginning to uncover how NYC is wildly more progressive and cutting edge than where I am raising my boys. BUT, this is my new home, and by this, I mean Monmouth County NJ. Needless to say, I love it here. But the jury is still out on the quality of private institutions here. I'm hoping to be proven wrong; believe me.

My kids are in private school for now. It is possible they will enter the public school system in September but in the interim, we are weighing all options. So for what it is worth, here are a few tips from parents to the owners and directors of private schools serving 3,4, and 5 year olds.

Consider these thoughts:

  1. Live by your mission statement. Don't have one? Create one. But I mean really live by it. If the term "nature" is anywhere in your title or literature, be able to define it with accessible curriculum for parents and the larger community to see. If we are going to pride ourselves on learning through nature, let's showcase some curriculum highlighting our kids learning science through the natural world around them. Utilize Sandy Hook; rent a bus to get there. I'm pretty sure parents would actually even pay for it. Marine biologists all over the world come here to study our shores. Go to the fossil beds in Middletown. Entire units can be covered over the course of two visits.

  2. Consider inviting parents in as thought partners. Not for show, but as actual thought partners. It's a game changer once you do. A group of parents who want to help you? Why not? I certainly didn't get this far making decisions in a vacuum. In highly sought after schools, all constituents play a part in decision-making. However to do so, remember that it does require one secret ingredient on the part of leadership: confidence.

  3. If a parent asks a question or makes a suggestion, it is designed to push the work forward. If you can't hear it or wish to dismiss it, please reconsider the values within you that brought you into education in the first place. I clearly want the best for my boys so why would I sabotage that relationship? I'm your ally, not your enemy.

  4. Spell check communication sent home. I have my colleagues look over my communications first; not every written correspondence is our best. However, it is our duty to ensure that they are. If you're teaching my child reading and writing, I need to know you have a strong command of of the subject.

  5. Host a curriculum night 2-3 times a year. Ask that kids act as docents to show visitors their artifacts.

Things to Reconsider:

  1. Owners: When prospective families tour your facility, please LOSE the whole "I'm not into this for the money" preface to the convo. First, it sends a terrible message. Second, everyone's pretty sure it's isn't lucrative. We chose education, not hedge fund management.

  2. Consider a robust professional development plan focused on your mission. Post the work of your staff on your website. My child's teachers are engaging in purposeful development? I'm sold.

  3. Communicate regularly with parents. It is developmentally appropriate to do so. One paragraph a week about the learning. Imagine our dinner table convos if you did this? We can actually help YOU by extending the learning into the home. Lastly, it shows you care. Our kids are little.

  4. Assess kids regularly and keep notes on those assessments. In a meeting I should be able to review those assessments to determine progress. Without an assessment of my child's progress to anchor our conversation, what are we even here to discuss? 🤷‍♀️

  5. Choose one social media channel and use it. Hire someone to stay on top of it.

This is simply food for thought. If you're doing all of this, GREAT! Consider me sold on your establishment. But if you're not, maybe reassess what's working and what isn't. We are in the business of kids; schools are more than merely an employment agency for adults.



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