Tales of the Defectors: Why Some Choose Private School


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With a public high school that is well-funded (to say the least), staffed with overly-qualified teachers, and offers many extracurricular activities, Westport does not seem likely to be a hub for private schooling.

Well, it isn’t- P.J. Washenko, one of eleven guidance counselors at Staples, estimates that only about five students (at maximum) transfer in or out of Staples to private schools, annually.

Though the number of transfers is small, they do still exist.

According to Washenko, the main reason that a student might leave a large public school like Staples is that it “does not cater to the learning style of the individual”.

However, Washenko pointed out that a public school experience “offers more flexibility over a private education: a larger selection of classes, many extracurriculars for practically every student interest, a more diverse student body, and extensive support programs”.

J.J. Mathewson ’12 attended Greens Farms Academy for five years leading up to middle school. He believes that “the most revered aspect of private schooling is small class sizes, and consequently more individual attention from teacher to student.”

In reference to the quality of education at his private school, Mathewson said “It’s not that the education [at G.F.A.] is necessarily better, it was that when you know a teacher really well, you tend to learn more effectively. It’s all mental.”

When asked why his parents would opt to begin his education at a private school, Mathewson said they thought it was a “safe move” to guarantee a good start.

“After a while, though, it became unnecessary,” said Mathewson.

According to Mathewson, tuition for private academies can exceed $30,000 a year.

Henry Betar ’12 attended Eagle Hill School in the fourth and fifth grades. Like Mathewson, Betar enjoyed the small class sizes his private school had to offer.

“I never had more than ten people in my classes- sometimes it was as little as three or four,” said Betar.

Betar also admitted to enjoying the school’s hands-on approach to science experiments, as well as regularly scheduled field trips.

“Every Friday afternoon we’d go [to the Wakeman Boys and Girls Club] and play sports and other games. You just don’t get that here,” said Betar.

Though the quantitative amenities in public schools are certainly greater, it’s open to interpretation which model of education is more effective- public or private. It seems, though, that after an economic shock, parents are starting to reconsider if the costs of private schooling are truly worth the benefits.