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From the Headmaster's Desk


Why Not a St. Timothy's High School?

We’re regularly asked if we have any plans to add a St. Timothy’s High School in the future. I’m always thrilled to know that we have families who love St. Timothy’s School so much that they wish their children could continue here beyond 8th grade—we appreciate the requests!

So, why no immediate plans for a high school? Because right now, we firmly believe our current pre-K to 8th grade model is best for our students and families. As a middle and high school teacher and administrator for nine years before coming to St. Timothy’s School, I can offer an informed perspective on why I believe a pre-K to 8th grade model works best. Here are my thoughts:

1. A narrower grade range offers us an opportunity for focused expertise on early childhood-through-early adolescent education. At a pre-K-to-12th grade school, the school nurse or guidance counselor must balance the needs of a 4 year-old one moment and an 18 year-old the next. As a teacher, I used to teach my seniors in AP U.S. History first period and then immediately cover a study hall of 10 year-olds the next. While a 4 year-old and a 13 year-old are still very different developmentally, limiting our STS spectrum to those ages provides us a lot more opportunities for specialized focus and expertise. We know our children well, and we understand how they think and work better as a result.

2. Running a high school is expensive. With sophisticated science labs, AP classes, SAT preparation, driver’s education, college placement offices, college tours, official transcripts, school profile mailings, and more, high schools have many expensive moving parts. The lower school and middle school students’ tuition at every pre-K-to-12 private school helps offset the costs of the high school. St. Timothy’s School tuition requires a financial sacrifice from our families, but it is still between $3,000 and $8,000 more affordable than many of our academic peers who also must fund high school programs.  We'd lose that if we added a high school.

3. There’s a reason why younger children often learn of “taboo subjects” from their older brothers and sisters. My high school students were bright, engaging and fun to work with. However, the culture of even the best high school brings with it mature themes, humor and language, “complicated” male-female relationships, and more sophisticated familiarity with topics like drugs and alcohol. I’ll deal with these topics with my own sons as they get older. However, there’s far less chance for them to come home asking me about something inappropriate that they saw or overheard when our oldest students are in 8th grade instead of 12th. I value that as a parent and administrator.

4. As our “elder statesmen”, our middle schoolers are able to shine far more than if they were our “middle children.” It’s the “Marcia-vs.-Jan” Brady Bunch phenomenon in full effect. Our middle schoolers—particularly our seventh and eighth graders—much more readily assume the role of leaders and exemplars at St. Timothy’s School than do their peers at places with an attached high school component. Our graduates enter high school with a higher level of self-awareness, personal responsibility and maturity as a result.

5. The most important lessons I ever learned came from moments where I faced a challenge and moved out of my comfort zone. Introducing a major 8th-grade-to-9th-grade transition does that, and is good for our students, long term, socially/emotionally.  Having a STS High School could allow our children to keep the friendships and avoid the difficulties that come with an 8th-to-9th school transition. That may seem like a short-term gain, but it’s a potential long-term loss. Four very short years later, those students will be faced with a far more significant and consequential transition of not just change in scenery and social groups, but leaving the safety of home and family, as they go to college. I believe they are far better prepared for that monumental change if they’ve already experienced one on a safer and smaller scale under the more direct watchful eye of nurturing parents a few years earlier.  Plus, listen to our alumni--they most certainly maintain their STS friendships in high school, college and beyond!

6. Introducing a major 8th-grade-to-9th-grade transition is good for our students academically. As a former pre-K-to-12th administrator, I often told prospective middle school families considering us for high school that it was beneficial to join us immediately, since our middle school was specifically geared to our high school curriculum. That was true. However, in my experience at St. Timothy’s School, I’ve come to see major benefits of not having only one particular school for which our children are prepared. With graduates each year going to Sanderson, Broughton, Leesville, St. Mary’s, Cardinal Gibbons, Ravenscroft, St. David’s, Cary Academy and more, we’re obligated to offer an academic program that is far richer and broader than if we only had one high school preparatory curriculum to worry about. It’s a challenge for us—it’d be much simpler to just pick one school, one curriculum, or to just align to public schools instead of each individual private school, too—but it’s something that gives our students a richer, deeper, superior education in the end.

So will there ever be a St. Timothy’s High School? Never say never! However, I would first need to be able to offer our families a compelling counter-argument to each of these points before we could ever do so.

It’s a great day to be a (pre-K to 8th grade) Titan!

Posted by Tim Tinnesz on Thursday October, 24, 2013

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