On Wednesday, October 23, 2019 SRQ MEDIA hosted the Modern Education Symposium, which explored local private and charter schools in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. Representatives from The Out-Of-Door Academy, NewGate School, St. Martha Catholic School, Sarasota Christian School, The Pinnacle Academy and Island Village Montessori School engaged in a lively moderated panel discussion that covered topics ranging from curriculum and educational programming to guidance for parents on how to choose the school that is best for their child.
The evening kicked off with a short presentation by each school representative.
Principals, Educators, and Headmasters provided insight about their school’s mission and values and shared heartwarming stories about students and alumni. The audience learned about the ethos of each private school that was represented–from faith-based education, to brain-based learning, to the Montessori approach.
The evening continued with a moderated panel discussion, where SRQ MEDIA‘s Executive Publisher Wes Roberts asked the MOED Symposium participants a series of questions that delved into education. The panelists discussed how parents can match their child to a school that connects to their best way of learning and opened up a conversation about the value of private education within the community.
When asked about aspects that drive parents to enroll their children in a private or charter school answers ranged from individualized attention, a different way of learning, adaptability, safety, happiness, and a place where their students can feel loved and accepted.
The flexibility to adapt, innovate and change is a big factor for parents to enroll their children in a private education. “We almost never have the same classrooms each year,” remarked Head of School Dr. Kirstina Ordetx from The Pinnacle Academy. “They’re redesigned every year. Next year we’re piloting a classroom specifically designed for twice exceptional learners, who have been duly diagnosed as both gifted and needing remediation. Every one of us can make those types of changes on a needed basis…after all, that’s private school. We can do that!”
When asked about how to adapt to the changing needs of a child, St. Martha Catholic School Principal Siobhan Young described their school’s dedication to individualized education. “Our Pre-K student’s goals change on a weekly basis and are specific to their individualized needs, which is something that we offer to all of our students. As our students grow older we ask them to then set goals for themselves. They should be part of that goal setting process”
“As a Montessori school, we’re very focused on offering a multi-age environment, which works its own magic. Having everyone on one campus together benefits a wide range of students,” said Arts Educator Nancy Clarke from Island Village Montessori, Venice campus.
“Gone are the days when one teacher stands at the front of the room teaching one batch of information and hoping that most kids catch it,” said Christine Bradford, Elementary and Middle School Principal of Sarasota Christian School. “You want to hear the word ‘differentiation’ from educators about how they’re going to approach teaching and learning differently within the classroom to help the varying needs of students.”
The panel also discussed topics like financial aid (with the exception of Island Village Montessori school, which is tuition-free, all schools that were represented do offer tuition assistance through a variety of methods and programs), diversity, STEAM, and the hot topic of how much homework is too much homework? In response, Cindy Hoffman, Principal of Island Village Montessori Sarasota campus shared, “My campus goes through fifth grade and you can find studies that say for younger children, homework is actually quite detrimental. Kids need to be kids and we do work them hard all day. They need to go home and play. Our philosophy is to provide just a little bit of homework to hone time management and responsibility skills.”
Guiding parents on the selection process Tim Seldin, Head of NewGate School commented, “We really encourage you as parents to take your time, get to know us, talk with other parents, spend time with us in the classroom. Each one of us reflects a unique educational choice and it’s so incredible that for a small town, there’s such a rich tapestry of options for children.”
While each school presented their individual missions and pathways to learning, among the panelists there was consensus that ultimately, each educational organization genuinely supports and advocates for the very best education possible for the future generation. “We have a long road to figure out what your child’s passion is going to be and it’s our goal to help them find their passion. It’s a journey, not a race. And, we want your children to love school. We want our students to become life long learners,” remarked Laura Murphy, Admissions Director of Lower School Admissions & Alumni Relations from The Out-Of-Door Academy.
A thank you to our fantastic Modern Education Symposium panelists for their insightful contributions to the conversation and to Mattison’s for catering the evening!
Want to learn more? Check out the SRQ RocketKids Magazine to learn more about the schools represented on the SRQ Modern Education Panel.