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  1. #11
    Thanks for the articulate (and to me, spot on) observations about why MCDS is one of the top co-eds in the Bay Area, brbla!It is one of our top two choices as well, the other being SFDay.

    We are undecided but these are our top two. They are, however, quite different in that SF Day does not have the fabulous campus that MCDS has. Additionally, their academic programs seem quite different. As I mentioned earlier, I have found SF Day to be a polarizing school as we know some families that are not applying there at all, while we have found each experience on campus and interaction with the faculty, staff, and students to be absolutely impressive.

    If you don't mind me asking, can you let us know your thinking on why you prioritize SF Day over MCDS, as you noted in your order of preference?

  2. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by brbla View Post
    There are several things I like about MCDS for our family and our daughter:

    1. the fabulous campus and location - our daughter is very physically active and loves being outdoors.

    2. the impressive teaching staff - our feeling is that while the leadership and vision of any school is important to set the tone, the reality of our child's school experience is going to be almost completely determined by the teachers. The teachers we saw on our tour and heard speak at other events seemed so thoughtful, professional, knowledgeable about pedagogy, and really engaged with the kids. The kids themselves were also completely engaged in all the classes we visited - nobody was bored, left out, or lost-looking.

    3. the seriousness with which the faculty approach curriculum development - even though their approach is progressive in many ways, they do not seem to have lost focus on academics. We got the sense that they've critically examined and refined that curriculum not just up and down, but horizontally across subjects and through grade levels, and that every decision they make is grounded in real research.

    4. Even though the curriculum is rigorous, they have so many creative approaches to teaching topics, and they let kids do so much independent learning and experimentation. We like their progressive/traditional mix because we want our daughter to have a firm command of the subject matter and the confidence that goes along with that, but she's also the kind of kid who would benefit from alternative and open-ended approaches rather than in a traditional environment where you do just enough work to get an A and then stop trying.

    You didn't mention any specifics about where you were getting the weird vibe from - was it the teachers, the school leaders, the kids, parent community or something else? Our experiences have been pretty positive in all our interactions with people from the school so far.
    I think the weird vibe comes from my perception of the parent community, whether from knowing people who send their kids there as well as others' feeling similarly. I understand that some of that comes with the territory of being part of the independent school environment but get the sense that the wealth is more in your face at MCDS than at other schools. The other piece that bugs me as well is that the administration or maybe the admissions staff seems to give off a holier-than-thou attitude. Sure, MCDS is one of the most sought after schools but I don't get the same air from any of the independents in the city. I do agree with you on the curriculum, the teachers, etc. though.

  3. #13
    @sfmomsfmom: The thing that really stood out about SF Day for us is the academics - we saw some amazing classroom interactions, especially in the middle school, that just blew us away. In one 8th grade class we saw, the level of discourse between teacher and students was equal to what I would expect to see in a senior level high school course, maybe even college. We were also really impressed by their art program. That said, I have to admit it's really close for me between SF Day and MCDS - they are each terrific in their own ways. We live in San Francisco, so the fact that SF Day is an easy bus/car/taxi ride from where we live and work is a factor that weighs in its favor. In fact, my partner has a slight preference for SF Day for this reason. They are also pretty serious about being active participants in the local SF community through service learning and otherwise; as an SF resident, I appreciate that. Your comment about SF Day being polarizing is interesting - I hadn't heard that before, and our experiences at the school during this process haven't made us feel that way. To the contrary, it seemed one of the most "normal" schools in terms of mix of different kinds of families who are part of the community - I could see our family fitting in and finding some new friends who we genuinely could like. And I suppose that, plus the outstanding academics, are the reasons why SF Day is slightly higher on our list than MCDS. I also really liked Dr. Jackson and his approach - he seems like a pragmatic, focused, down-to-earth, no-nonsense problem solver. I really liked him. Honestly, though, I would count us extraordinarily lucky if our daughter is able to attend either of these schools - they're both amazing. So, for that matter, are all the rest of the schools on our list - I wish I could've gone to any one of these schools when I was a kid!

  4. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by brbla View Post
    @sfmomsfmom: The thing that really stood out about SF Day for us is the academics - we saw some amazing classroom interactions, especially in the middle school, that just blew us away. In one 8th grade class we saw, the level of discourse between teacher and students was equal to what I would expect to see in a senior level high school course, maybe even college. We were also really impressed by their art program. That said, I have to admit it's really close for me between SF Day and MCDS - they are each terrific in their own ways. We live in San Francisco, so the fact that SF Day is an easy bus/car/taxi ride from where we live and work is a factor that weighs in its favor. In fact, my partner has a slight preference for SF Day for this reason. They are also pretty serious about being active participants in the local SF community through service learning and otherwise; as an SF resident, I appreciate that. Your comment about SF Day being polarizing is interesting - I hadn't heard that before, and our experiences at the school during this process haven't made us feel that way. To the contrary, it seemed one of the most "normal" schools in terms of mix of different kinds of families who are part of the community - I could see our family fitting in and finding some new friends who we genuinely could like. And I suppose that, plus the outstanding academics, are the reasons why SF Day is slightly higher on our list than MCDS. I also really liked Dr. Jackson and his approach - he seems like a pragmatic, focused, down-to-earth, no-nonsense problem solver. I really liked him. Honestly, though, I would count us extraordinarily lucky if our daughter is able to attend either of these schools - they're both amazing. So, for that matter, are all the rest of the schools on our list - I wish I could've gone to any one of these schools when I was a kid!
    @brbla - I so agree with you that all these schools all great schools! The differences are kind of subtle and would be happy to have a choice, if at all. We too are impressed with Dr. Jackson. I think he and Ms. Holland-Greene are two that really stood out for me as heads of schools. Good luck to everyone here!

  5. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by brbla View Post
    @sfmomsfmom: The thing that really stood out about SF Day for us is the academics - we saw some amazing classroom interactions, especially in the middle school, that just blew us away. In one 8th grade class we saw, the level of discourse between teacher and students was equal to what I would expect to see in a senior level high school course, maybe even college. We were also really impressed by their art program. That said, I have to admit it's really close for me between SF Day and MCDS - they are each terrific in their own ways. We live in San Francisco, so the fact that SF Day is an easy bus/car/taxi ride from where we live and work is a factor that weighs in its favor. In fact, my partner has a slight preference for SF Day for this reason. They are also pretty serious about being active participants in the local SF community through service learning and otherwise; as an SF resident, I appreciate that. Your comment about SF Day being polarizing is interesting - I hadn't heard that before, and our experiences at the school during this process haven't made us feel that way. To the contrary, it seemed one of the most "normal" schools in terms of mix of different kinds of families who are part of the community - I could see our family fitting in and finding some new friends who we genuinely could like. And I suppose that, plus the outstanding academics, are the reasons why SF Day is slightly higher on our list than MCDS. I also really liked Dr. Jackson and his approach - he seems like a pragmatic, focused, down-to-earth, no-nonsense problem solver. I really liked him. Honestly, though, I would count us extraordinarily lucky if our daughter is able to attend either of these schools - they're both amazing. So, for that matter, are all the rest of the schools on our list - I wish I could've gone to any one of these schools when I was a kid!
    Thanks for your honest and thoughtful response to my question brbla! Yes, I agree, all of these schools are absolutely amazing, and we know families who have each chosen different ones as their top choice. It really comes down to fit for the child and for the family. For us, academics, parent community, and location in SF are the standout reasons to go for SFDay, and campus and progressive approach are the standout reasons to choose MCDS (although I would consider ourselves _extremely_ lucky if we are in a position to choose between these two schools!) I do take omooner's point about the parent community at MCDS. Lots of Tory Burch and air kissing at some of the events we've been to, but then again we are choosing the school for our child, not the parent community. And I have to admit I admire the polish that these parents have brought to many of the campus events. However "in your face" the level of wealth, it does seem to be a very involved parent body. But the academics are SFDay are just amazing. I was so impressed by the 8th grade teacher's presentation on the math program, and the level of care they put into their curriculum across various subjects. I also got a sense from the tours that the SFDay classroom interactions were the most involved and deep from any of the schools that we'd toured. Dr. Jackson seems down-to-earth and a truly great educator.

    By the way, just read on this board that Jeff Escabar has been hired by Marin Prep to be its Head of School! Very interesting news. Wonder who will replace him as gatekeeper at MCDS?

  6. #16
    From talking to parents and knowing families at both SFDS and MCDS, I find the observations about the families at these schools to be much different than what we have experienced. SFDS definitely has in your face wealthy families but I can see how this would not be super obvious at first glance. It will become more apparent with fund raising activities, discussions of second homes and family vacations, etc. MCDS also has its share of very wealthy families. At both schools, there are also a number of upper middle class families.

  7. #17
    Every independent school will have its share of wealthy parents - there's no escaping that. Considering how much time you do spend interacting with other parents at a school, from fund raisers to soccer/basketball practices, you do want to feel comfortable in the environment. When we made our decision a couple years back, we were so focused on the "best fit" for our child. We definitely feel lucky about how her grade turned out since we love the other parents in her class and have made wonderful friends.

    Good luck to all of you applying this year!

  8. #18
    hello. Can anyone comment about the academics at Convent, Hamlin and Burkes?

  9. #19
    I doubt anybody would have a good perspective on all three schools since you kind of have to be in it to really know. That said, based on my observations during the tours and anecdotes from my friends, I would say Hamlin, Burkes, Convent in that order for academic rigor. They'll all great schools so we're really really splitting hair..

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