Thursday, November 17, 2005

Investing in the Future - School Visit #1

When I was about to enter high school, or maybe it was just after my freshman year, my parents asked me if I would rather go to a private school, specifically Choate Rosemary Hall. As far as prep schools in Connecticut go, it’s pretty damn good. I declined the offer. I had joined the football team, the baseball team, student council, and a plethora of other activities. I was deeply entrenched in my little corner of the globe.

Sometimes, while playing the “I wonder . . .” game, this juncture of my life comes into play. If I had attended a prep school, would I have been accepted at or even applied to the Air Force Academy? Probably not. Would I have still gone on to major in engineering? Probably. Would I have the same friends I do today? Definitely not.

It seemed to me back then that private school changes you. Not usually for the better or worse, just different. Your perspective on life and society are just a little bit skewed from the majority of the world, mainly due to the fact that you are transported into a microcosm of, for lack of a better word, privilege, which most people never experience.

I had quite a few friends move on to private schools. Let’s face it, I lived in Connecticut. If I didn’t know someone attending private school, then I should have known someone who owned one. Some people I stayed in touch with, some dropped off the face of the earth and are living in a tiki hut in Borneo for all I know. But in the end, they were all changed for having been exposed to a different world. Sarah, if you are reading this, you seem to be the lone exception to this observation.

That being said, with the sad state of public education in Buffalo, we are exploring all of our options for Sam’s future. He’s 3 ½ years old. This week alone, he has counted to 100, taught his brothers what the color yellow is and how to say it, and learned to spell at least twenty more words. To say that we are interested in his future is the understatement of the year.

This morning we met with the director of admissions for The Park School, a private pre-K – 12 school in Snyder, a suburb just north of the city. Driving onto the campus, I felt as if I was being transported into another world. The buildings reminded me of a summer camp on the lake.

The Park School is not the most expensive school in Buffalo, but it ranks pretty high. And for all the money people pay to send their children here, neither Leah nor I could figure out where it was spent.

The class sizes are small, and the pre-K building was laid out well. But the campus buildings were falling apart from the inside out. We walked through the brand new dining hall and were shown the space for the future greenhouse, but were appalled by the active water leaks and peeling paint in the existing buildings.

Nothing about the educational program made either of us jump up and say, “Wow!” For $7,000 per year, I expect Wow. Cross that one off the list.