POWER OF PARTNERSHIP
By Mitch Hurst
By Mitch Hurst
Research shows the children of parents who are actively involved in their children’s education have a much better chance of success in school. A recent study conducted by the American Psychological Association found that not only do strong partnerships between parents and schools improve academic performance, but they also have a positive impact on social and emotional learning.
For this week’s special private schools issue of The North Shore Weekend, we surveyed school administrators on the North Shore and asked them to share their own strategies for ensuring those valuable parent and family partnerships.
Alex Sheridan, Director of Enrollment, Marketing, and Financial Aid at Lake Forest Country Day School (LFCDS), says parent partnership is really the foundation for a child’s learning. He tells every family he meets that everything that happens at school is only as good as what’s getting reinforced at home and vice versa.
“We want to be sure that we can support a student and provide them a meaningful learning experience,” Sheridan says. “We want to be sure that the spirit of partnership is there because the relationship we have with families during the time their kid is in school is paramount.”
LFCDS had built a strong culture of communication, being responsive and timely, and being thoughtful, Sheridan says. The school is lucky to only have 15 kids in its classrooms, which means teachers can put a lot of time into attention, not only into the kids but into their parents.
“When families come in it’s something that will become clear to them as they’re going through their journey,” says Sheridan. “The argument we’re laying forth for families is when your kids are coming through LFCDS, your role is central.”
At Lake Forest Academy (LFA), which educates students grades 9 through 12, about 50 percent of the students are boarding students and 25 percent are international, coming from as far as Asia. Logistically, this requires that the school take a unique approach to ensure parents stay involved in their child’s education.
Carolyn Gorowski, LFA’s Dean of Admission, says partnerships with parents and families is part of the school’s environment. LFA has a number of programs in place to ensure parents stay involved. Parents of local students who are new to the school are paired with a parent of a current student, a Parent Ambassador.
“It’s really helpful just to answer some of the initial questions. I think with the anxiety of starting in a new environment, they really help in that transition,” Gorowski says. “When new families are on campus, they will also connect with a Faculty Advisor, who will be the family’s point of contact throughout their high schoolers time at LFA.”
For boarding students, LFA utilizes technology keep parents connected to the school and to their child’s education. The school utilizes both video conferencing and in-person meetings with parents who are out of state or out of the country. It also streams athletic events so parents can watch their child participate in sports.
“We had our family weekend a few weeks ago and a number of events on campus, but we also had some virtual events just to make sure that we’re able to stay connected with parents who can’t always come to campus for everything,” says Gorowski.
Woodlands Academy of the Society of the Sacred Heart in Lake Forest draws on its religious traditions to shape its philosophy about parental inclusion in a child’s education, says Christine Schmidt, Associate Head of School at Woodlands.
“Madeleine Sophie Barat was foundress of the Society of the Sacred Heart, and she believed the vision of education is at its core relational. At our freshman parent orientation, we invite the parents to partner with us as we support their student throughout their high school years,” Schmidt says. “The parent community is always invited to the school masses, speaker series events, and we encourage them to participate in the events sponsored by our local community organization.”
This coming week, Woodlands sophomores will receive their Mater medals signifying their continued growth as a member of the Sacred Heart community, and their parents are invited to the mass and the parent reception. A similar type of activity takes place annually for each class. This includes the senior breakfast, the junior ring ceremony, and the new student welcome prayer service. Parents also enjoy monthly coffees at the school and an annual fundraiser, Conge.
“Each student is assigned an advisor for their four years of high school and that advisor is also a point person for the parents to contact if needed,” says Schmidt. “Parents have access to their student’s grades, weekly teacher comments, and our school calendar through our student data system portal. We also hold virtual parent/ teacher conferences so that we can accommodate our parent’s schedule, as well as our international parents.”
Jodi Reuter, Principal at Sacred Heart School (SHS) in Winnetka, says Sacred Heart has always encouraged parent engagement on many levels.
“Members of this school community are dedicated to enriching and educating the hearts and minds of students from three years old through 8th grade,” Reuters says. “We proudly believe that our time together matters and that we are one, big family.”
SHS offers many special programs and traditions that parents are invited to throughout the year that showcase what the students learn and how it benefits them (socially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually).
“It can be the sacraments in 2nd and 8th grades, Prayer Families, Open Houses, classroom parties, sports, fine arts, fundraisers for the whole school, or outside events that bring the whole community together,” she says.
For the most part schools and parents want the same outcomes for their kids, and ideally should work together with the aim of creating leaders, and to be kind and gracious to other kids, says Tom Meagher, Principal of the School of Saints Faith Hope & Charity in Winnetka,
“In the Catholic sense we’re following love one another as you would yourself. Then we also want the students to do service and do well in school,” Meagher says. “We feel we can do that quite well when we team with our parents because then the kids learn and understand that school and parents are on the same page.”
An active Parents Association is one of the keys to maintaining strong partnerships with parents at North Shore Country Day (NCCDS). Tom Flemma, Head of School at NSCDS, says the Parent’s Association is engaged at every level of the school.
“Parents collaborate with teachers and administrators to facilitate communication, build strong connections within the parent community, and offer educational opportunities for parents,” Flemma says. “Several times a year we will bring speakers that work with both teachers and parents on a range of topics.”
Topics have included how the adolescent brain works, what the impact of social media is on learning and wellness, and how parents can best support kids in a rapidly changing world.
“We believe that helping to answer those questions for parents leads to better educational and social-emotional outcomes for kids, says Flemma. “To me, all of this is more important now than ever. I’m not sure there has ever been a harder time to be a parent and we believe that strong partnerships with parents is one of the best tools we have at NSCDS to educate kids.”
NUMBER OF STUDENTS: 400
GRADES: Age 2 to Grade 8
DEAN/HEAD TEACHER: John Melton, Head of School
RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: None
ADMISSIONS: The LFCDS admission process seeks to identify families who value the spirit of partnership with their school and are drawn to a program that develops the whole child. For additional information, prospective families should contact the admission office at 847-615-6151.
CONTACT: Alex Sheridan, Director of Enrollment, Marketing & Financial Aid
EMAIL: [email protected]
ABOUT US: For over 130 years, LFCDS has offered a program that is rich in tradition and honors the progressive roots of the Country Day school movement. Students benefit from an experience that blends philosophies and pedagogical approaches, strikes a balance in academic and social-emotional development, and nurtures palpable feelings of belonging.
ACADEMICS: A blended approach to learning allows LFCDS to subscribe to best practice while offering a curriculum that meets each child where they are. Small by design, with classes between 12 to 15 students and 7:1 student-teacher ratio across the school, size enables LFCDS the ability to individualize and differentiate based on student interest and need.
CO-CURRICULAR ENRICHMENT/ARTS & ATHLETICS: The LFCDS program builds participation in the arts and athletics directly into the school day. Students participate in visual arts and music at every grade level, and drama is added for students in the Upper School (Grades 5-8). The athletic program is also a requirement for Upper School students, who are able to participate on three different teams during the course of the year. Teams meet at the end of the school day before dismissal, which not only gives students the opportunity to develop their skills and hone their sense of sportsmanship, but also to appreciate the value of participation and inclusion.
CULTURE AND COMMUNITY: There is a strong sense of connectedness that lives across the school’s 33-acre campus and 150,000 sq. foot building that binds the entire LFCDS community. Relationships among students, parents, and teachers live at the center of the LFCDS experience and carry on long after graduation.
OUTSTANDING CHARACTERISTICS: LFCDS has families from over 30 zip codes, commuting from as far south as Willowbrook and as far north as Lake Villa.
NUMBER OF STUDENTS: 130
TUITION: $31,900 tuition (day student)
DEAN/HEAD TEACHER: Susan Tyree Dempf, Ph.D.
RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: Catholic
ENTRANCE PROCEDURE: Prospective students and their families start the process by filling out an Admission Inquiry form on the school’s website. They can then schedule a personal tour and student visit day, allowing the prospective student to experience the spirit and energy Woodlands Academy students possess in the classroom. The next steps are to fill out an online application, apply for financial aid, and register for an entrance exam. All these steps can be completed by clicking on “Admission” at the top of school’s homepage, and then selecting “Visit and Apply.”
CONTACT: Greg Lobe
OPEN HOUSE/TOURS: Woodlands Academy will be hosting an Open House on Sunday, Nov. 12, from noon to 2:00 p.m. Personal tours of the school are also available most days classes are in session. Contact [email protected] to schedule a visit.
CURRICULUM: Consistent with the Goals and Criteria for Sacred Heart education, Woodlands Academy’s Academic Program instills a deep respect for intellectual values, allowing students to engage in challenging experiences that inspire intellectual curiosity, a global mindset, and a life-long love of learning.
ENRICHMENT: The Woodlands Academy Center for Global Studies is a comprehensive academic and experiential program that provides EVERY student with a global education during her time at Woodlands. Students will have multiple opportunities to become culturally competent, globally minded citizens by exploring their world through group and individual exchange programs, group trips, and a locally based global-focused curriculum.
Woodlands’ beautiful 41-acre Lake Forest campus is dotted with trees and green spaces, along with five newly constructed tennis courts and an enhanced athletic field. Extracurricular opportunities include a wide range of sports, two dozen student-run clubs—including competitive engineering and math clubs—multiple choirs, a theater program, and a full orchestra.
CULTURE & COMMUNITY: Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart is a Catholic, independent, college-preparatory, day and boarding high school designed to cultivate the gifts of each student and to allow intelligent, interested, and energetic young women to thrive. It is part of a network of 25 Sacred Heart schools in the U.S. and Canada and more than 155 schools worldwide. Woodlands is a place where young women can find a learning environment that is demanding, comfortable, joyful, and inspiring.
OUTSTANDING CHARACTERISTICS: Woodlands Academy has once again been named Illinois’ top all-girls high school in the 2023 report by Niche, an independent research company, which additionally ranks Woodlands #1 Best Catholic High School in Illinois and among the top 10 of all private high schools in the state. Woodlands was also recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a 2020 National Blue Ribbon School.
NUMBER OF STUDENTS: 280
GRADES: Pre-k (ages 3 and 4), K-8
DEAN/HEAD TEACHER: Tom Meagher Ed.D., Principal
RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: Roman Catholic, Saints Faith, Hope & Charity Catholic Parish
ADMISSIONS: New families are invited to schedule a tour of the school and campus. Inquiries and applications may be made via the school website.
CONTACT: Linda Ransford, Recruitment Manager
EMAIL: [email protected]
ABOUT US: At Saints Faith, Hope & Charity, we guide our students as they begin their journey of lifelong learning. We do this by delivering an exceptional academic experience, grounded in faith. A multiple National Blue Ribbon Award recipient (2014 & 2023), FHC offers leading edge curriculum, advanced classes for middle school, a Learning Lab to meet the needs of students at all levels, a school counselor, and more.
ACADEMICS: Beginning in kindergarten, we follow the Science of Reading approach to Reading, Writing and Phonics. Math classes are vertically aligned through all grades with a focus on students having the ability to master Algebra 1 prior to graduating. iReady Assessments are utilized to measure students’ academic attainment and growth. Faith is woven into each school day, and a school mass is celebrated once a week.
ENRICHMENT/ARTS & ATHLETICS: We offer both Intramural sports and interscholastic sports in competition with other catholic schools. Sports include football, basketball, volleyball, track & field, and cross country. Our after school enrichment program provides options such as art, chess, drama and technology. We also offer students high quality music, art, and french language instruction.
CULTURE AND COMMUNITY: We’re supported by an extremely dedicated and caring community of families; and we connect new families with current families in similar grades. Events such as the Bulldog Ball, Field Day, May Crowning and Hope Ceremonies help bring our community together.
NUMBER OF STUDENTS: 540
HEAD TEACHER: Tom Flemma, Head of School
RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: N/A
ENTRANCE PROCEDURE: As part of the admission process, all families submit an application, fee and letters of recommendation, and participate in a student/parent interview. The application and information collected varies by the grade of the student’s entry.
CONTACT: Mullery Doar, Director of Admissions and Financial Aid
EMAIL: [email protected]
In-person tours and visits by appointment only. Please contact the Admissions Office to schedule.
CURRICULUM: At North Shore Country Day, we take pride in offering a well-rounded, skills-based education to students in junior kindergarten through 12th grade. Students are asked to apply their knowledge through a range of assessments and projects, developing strong analytical thinking, communication and creative problem-solving skills. While our program is challenging and college preparatory in nature, an emphasis on co-curricular participation in the arts, athletics and service to others ensures students explore their full selves.
ENRICHMENT: By participating in arts, athletics and co-curricular activities, NSCD students gain poise and confidence, as well as forge lifelong friendships. Our lower school offers a number of after-school enrichment programs, and the middle and upper schools offer more than 28 student-led clubs. North Shore has always had a strong, diverse athletic program. Students play sports every school day throughout the year. Participation in athletics is required from sixth through 11th grades.
CULTURE & COMMUNITY: NSCD boasts a school community founded out of the progressive education movement, guided by our mission and core values, and supported by generations of alumni, families, faculty and staff. We take tremendous pride in the community ethos and vibrant school culture we have cultivated for more than a century.
NEW TO YOUR SCHOOL: Founded in 1919, NSCD was the visionary answer to a fundamental question: What matters most when educating a child? Since then, we have continually refined our answer to propel our educational model forward with purpose and passion, building a transformative JK-12 community on four essential pillars: Connecting, Challenging, Engaging and Exploring.
OUTSTANDING CHARACTERISTICS: Student-centered education for 540 students in junior kindergarten through 12th grade; students are from 47 ZIP codes around the Chicagoland area, and 43 percent are students of color; 8 to 1 student/teacher ratio and 2 to 54 college counselor/student ratio; $2.5 million in financial aid allocated to 20 percent of the student body. Our school motto is “Live and Serve.”
NUMBER OF STUDENTS: 430
GRADES: PreK 2-through 8th Grade
TUITION: Tuition varies within the range of $4,000 – $13,000. Multiple siblings, military, and parishioner discounts are available.
DEAN/HEAD TEACHER: Mrs. Kathy Thompson
RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: Catholic
ADMISSIONS: Online applications open in November (see website)
CONTACT: Mandy Castle, Director of Admissions
EMAIL: [email protected]
TOURS: Call to schedule or complete the online inquiry form on our website.
CURRICULUM: From the youngest Primary Grade Center preschooler to the most mature 8th-grader at the Upper Grade Center, a School of St. Mary (SOSM) Crusader demonstrates genuine school pride, a sense of community, personal confidence, Catholic values, and a deep commitment to serving others. Since 1917, SOSM has remained committed to educating the whole child within and beyond the classroom.
ENRICHMENT: Accelerated reading and math programs in middle school allow students to move beyond grade level as they prepare for high school. Extracurricular activities allow students to further their education and focus on their non-academic interests, forming well-rounded individuals.
CULTURE & COMMUNITY: The School of St. Mary partners with parents, parishioners, and staff to form a vibrant school community that engages, motivates, and supports students to be the best they can be! An active Parents Association and leadership team coordinates special events to engage students, build relationships, and broaden the community. Teachers pair Upper Grade Center students with buddies from our Primary Grade Center to mentor and assist them at school-related activities, including praying together at Mass, socializing at lunch, and sharing service projects.
LEADERSHIP: Mrs. Kathy Thompson, the principal, has served in many capacities at the school for twenty-six years. In April of 2022, she received the prestigious Lead, Learn, Program Award from the National Catholic Education Association. Overseeing two age-appropriate campuses, Mrs. Thompson regularly collaborates with a strong administrative team to focus on the development of the whole child, assuring faith formation, academic excellence, service learning, social and emotional wellness, as well as values for life.
NUMBER OF STUDENTS: Approximately 175
GRADES: 3-year-old Preschool through 8th Grade
TUITION: $7,750 before new family incentives and sibling discounts. Financial aid also available.
DEAN/HEAD TEACHER: Mrs. Jodi Reuter, Principal
RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: Catholic
ENTRANCE PROCEDURE: Schedule a tour and apply online.
CONTACT: Mrs. Jennifer Sullivan, Vice Principal
EMAIL: [email protected]
OPEN HOUSE & TOURS: Open Houses: Sunday, November 5, 11:00-2:00 OR Monday, November 6 9:00-12:00.OR schedule a tour online at www.shwschool.org or by calling (847) 446-0005.
CURRICULUM: Sacred Heart provides children with a premier, values-based educational experience where teachers and parents work together to help students in PreK-8th grade discover the joys of learning. All students experience music, PE, library, STEAM, and Spanish as a part of the school day with fully-certified teachers. We guide students as they grow to develop kindness, compassion, and self-control. Our goal is to develop life-long learners who are well prepared to be successful in high school and beyond.
ENRICHMENT: Sacred Heart students thrive academically, but there is so much more to their day—we offer year-round, no-cut sports, a highly regarded drama program, numerous after-school enrichment programs (beginning in 3-year-old Preschool), and a teacher-staffed Homework Lab.
CULTURE & COMMUNITY: Sacred Heart is a community where friendships for life are made amongst the children and the parents. We are a family who is always learning and growing together. We value our time together and believe that we are called to live the core values of love, service, perseverance, discovery, and engagement. The Root Beliefs of the entire community of Sacred Heart are: we believe that we are all made in the image and likeness of God & we accept challenges as opportunities. Everyone is important, has dignity, and contributes to the greater whole. And while we are a catholic school, we welcome students of all faiths with open arms.
NEW TO YOUR SCHOOL: Families have the option of either 1:30 p.m. or 3:00 p.m. dismissal as part of the robust JK program that prepares our students to succeed in our Kindergarten classes and beyond.
OUTSTANDING CHARACTERISTICS: As a National Blue Ribbon Award-winning school, Sacred Heart School continues its long tradition of educating children’s hearts and minds. Strong academics, meaningful service, and innovative technology are at the core of the Sacred Heart student experience.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Sacred Heart Northshore is a welcoming, faith-based school for children from preschool to 8th grade. We believe in developing the whole, unique student; and we do this by offering a safe and supportive community, personalizing the academic experience and teaching faith-inspired values in everyday moments.
NUMBER OF STUDENTS: 445
GRADES: 9-12 grades
TUITION: Day Student: $50,675 Boarding Student: $69,575
DEAN/HEAD TEACHER: Chris Tennyson, Head of School
RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: N/A
ADMISSIONS: Application requirements are on the Apply Page at www.lfanet.org. We require standardized testing including the SSAT or ISEE, a student interview, transcripts, teacher recommendations and essays from the students and parents. Application deadline is Jan. 15, 2024.
CONTACT: Carolyn Gorowski, Dean of Admissions
EMAIL: [email protected]
ABOUT US: Founded in 1857, Lake Forest Academy is a coed boarding high school serving academically bright and motivated students from across the globe. The school’s mission of educational excellence is founded on the four pillars of character, scholarship, citizenship, and responsibility.
ACADEMICS: LFA’s academic program is individualized for our students’ development and prepares them for college-level courses. In addition to regular graduation requirements, all students must participate in Health, Wellness & Community courses with members of their class.
ARTS & ATHLETICS: Instrumental artists can join Orchestra, Jazz Band, and chamber groups while singers perform in an a capella group and Choir. Theater Tech runs the logistics behind every performance, Morning Meeting, All-School Meeting, and special events as well as the fall play, winter musical, and spring student showcase. Visual arts courses include ceramics, design, glass, photography, and woodworking.
LFA’s athletics program promotes sportsmanship and participation. Student-athletes come from a wide variety of backgrounds and skill levels and can participate in one of the 27 varsity teams or 10 physical education options.
CULTURE & COMMUNITY LFA fosters a vibrant culture and close-knit community that values inclusivity and encourages global perspectives. Faculty engage students in small classes, nurturing individual potential. LFA’s culture celebrates diversity, fosters academic rigor, and cultivates lifelong connections.
OUTSTANDING CHARACTERISTICS: LFA welcomes students from diverse backgrounds that include 43 local communities, 16 states, and 41 countries. The Academy offers rigorous college-preparatory education with dedicated faculty, small class sizes, and advanced courses, preparing students for success in higher education. LFA values inclusivity and fosters a close-knit community where students feel supported and connected and also focuses on instilling values like integrity, respect, and responsibility, nurturing well-rounded individuals.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Average class sizes of 12 students and a 6:1 student/faculty ratio with 23 AP courses and 62 percent of faculty live on campus to provide support before, during, and after the school day.