Going public about private school

Terry Roberts
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Veteran educator speaks about first year as head of Lakecrest Independent School

It's a weekday morning and the halls and classrooms at Lakecrest school are unusually quiet. It's Easter vacation time for the 133 students from kindergarten to Grade 9 who attend classes here.

For a first-time visitor, this grand concrete building on Patrick Street in downtown St. John's has all the trappings of a typical school - walls covered in photos of graduating classes, hallways lined with lockers, classrooms filled with desks, computers and music equipment, and a cavernous gymnasium with dazzling sporting logos painted on the walls.

Len White is the head of school at Lakecrest Independent School. - Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

It's a weekday morning and the halls and classrooms at Lakecrest school are unusually quiet. It's Easter vacation time for the 133 students from kindergarten to Grade 9 who attend classes here.

For a first-time visitor, this grand concrete building on Patrick Street in downtown St. John's has all the trappings of a typical school - walls covered in photos of graduating classes, hallways lined with lockers, classrooms filled with desks, computers and music equipment, and a cavernous gymnasium with dazzling sporting logos painted on the walls.

But look closer and differences emerge.

The beaming students in the photos are wearing uniforms. The sign at the entrance to an oversized office reads "Head of School" instead of principal. There are only a small number of desks in each classroom. There are no areas reserved for bus parking. And the school is clean and well-maintained, free of any signs of vandalism or neglect.

This is a private school, where students who are accepted pay $7,500 each year to attend. Unlike the public system, there are waiting lists, and student enrolment is on the increase. There's a full-day kindergarten program, an extra 30 minutes of instruction time each day, and students spend more time in music and physical education classes than their public school peers.

Students here generally achieve higher academic scores and parental involvement is widespread.

On this day, head of school Len White takes time from his Easter break to open the doors to Lakecrest and speak about his first year as an administrator in a private school, one of two in the capital city. The other is St. Bonaventure's College, an all-grade Catholic school on Bonaventure Avenue.

After 29 years as a teacher and administrator, you might think White has seen and done it all. But his previous experience at St. John Bosco in Shea Heights and at Gonzaga Regional High were in the public system. He acknowledges his first year at Lakecrest has been a learning experience.

He has many of the traditional roles of a principal, but with the added responsibly of operating a top-rate school without any public funding. In order to attract quality staff, increase enrolment and continue to provide programming that meets and exceeds the provincial curriculum, White has had to become somewhat of a marketing agent for the school.

"It's a new challenge for me, which in many ways I have never faced before," White said.

But he's no stranger to challenges. He was part of an effort that helped instil a culture of success at St. John Bosco, and he took the helm at Gonzaga, a former Catholic school, at a time when the province was eliminating denominational education.

"Change always kind of exhilarates and excites you. Change is healthy, and I like moving on after I put my mark on a place and allow someone else to build on what I've done," he said.

Lakecrest opened in 1993 in a building near Quidi Vidi Lake, which is how it got its name. The school moved to its current premises - the former St. Patrick's girls' school - earlier this decade.

The idea of a private school grew from frustrations among some parents - mainly those with above-average means - about the large class sizes in public schools and the demands on teachers to meet the different learning needs of students.

There is a distinct international flavour at Lakecrest, since a significant portion of the students are from families in the medical profession or the offshore oil industry whose parents have moved here from away.

Lakecrest students generally complete their high school education at Gonzaga, which is among the top-performing schools in the province.

There's a prevailing stereotype that private schools are elitist institutions populated by snobs who are isolated from the realities of their environment.

White said that's a myth, at least at Lakecrest.

"I have not sensed that one iota since I've come here - at all," said White, who succeeded Ron Pellerin as head of school.

"What I've sensed here are people of average means and, in some cases, above-average means who just have their children here because they want to provide them with every opportunity and the best education possible."

White works closely with a board of directors and a home and school executive board. The school has 12 teachers, many of whom are longtime employees. It has an average class size of 14 students, about half that of public schools.

White said the school is growing, and enrolment is expected to surpass 140 in September, the highest in its history.

But Despite Lakecrest's successes, you won't hear White bashing the public system.

He said he's worked with wonderful teachers at every stage of his career and has nothing but praise for the thousands of students he's encountered.

But he repeatedly refers to an "eagerness and enthusiasm for learning" at Lakecrest.

"It's quite safe to do well here. It's something that's expected of you, and not something that would be (frowned) upon by peers at all," he noted.

White chooses his words very carefully when asked to compare the two systems.

"It's a wonderful atmosphere to put your child in so that they receive a lot of personal attention, and are encouraged and challenged to really achieve beyond.

"That's not to say that doesn't happen in other schools, but there's probably more of an opportunity in this school for that to happen."

When asked about the difference in salaries between the two systems, White said that's a private matter, but stressed that the turnover rate for staff is low and teachers appreciate the small class sizes at Lakecrest.

White is on leave from his principal's job at Gonzaga and plans to return to Lakecrest next year. His four-year-old son, Jack, will be one of those entering kindergarten.

troberts@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Lakecrest Independent School, Catholic school, Gonzaga

Geographic location: Lakecrest, Patrick Street, St. John's Bonaventure Avenue Shea Heights Quidi Vidi Lake

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Recent comments

  • Son of Educators
    July 02, 2010 - 13:35

    The public school system is lacking in grades K-9 because they have very few oppurtunities to nuture a child's or gifted child's development with additonal challenges outside of the general course workload.

    The minute you get to Grade 10-12, there are course offerings for all walks of life and intelligence, aptitude and expression from remeidal to advanced placement. Until that time, gifted students are thrown into the general mix of courses and sometimes are the victims because teachers are forced to spend time with either problem children or those with special needs holding back a class.

    What lakecrest does is it allows children to be challenged and to advance over a longer period of time (9 years in K-9versus 3 in high school), what is the problem with that? By the time the child reaches high school, he or she maybe fluent in music, the arts, language, match, etc. and can excel at the high school course offerings and eventually university level courses.

    As for Duh-Waynes comments about real life, yes, I want my children exposed to other children who are victims of abuse, messy divorce, drugs, alcohol and teen pregnancy because that's the real world. Please, that's the talk from a working class hero.

    Duh-wane, maybe we should enroll you in lakecrest....

  • Sue
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    This notion that children whose parents have the means to enroll them in a private school are not vulnerable to abuse, divorce drugs and alcohol is ridicules. A friend of mine has 2 kids attending this school, she's an alcoholic and abuses prescription drugs. Her ex husband is a sleaze ball.

  • Steve
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    I notice the word ''money'' being thrown around a lot.

    A famous quote, who I unfortunately can't remember who said it was,

    ''It's impossible to save when my next door neighbor keeps buying things I can't afford. ''

    Those who are making this debate a money issue are only doing so because they don't have any.

    Nuff Said.

  • shizzle
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    Duh-Wayne do u really think that snobs only come from private schools? Do u remember high school? Hell the kid of the bus driver was a snob in my high school.I cant believe ppl are fooled into thinking that the drugs etc. is not in the private schools. Its everywhere its called society.

    NO problem with parents/teachers doing more for kids who are gifted and when i say gifted I mean matt damon good will hunting gifted(ok maybe not that gifted) but u get the point. go bruins

  • Dot
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    To Duane Scott:
    I agree with you that parents need to be more involved in their children's education. My issue is that a gifted child needs/is entitled to an appropriate education Just like every other child. This is not an elite statement just a fact.
    A child who has been identified as gifted is as different (depending on IQ) from the average learner as a child with mild to severe mental delay and should have as equal access to special education as that child with mental delay has in order to develop to his/her full potential. What I am saying is that the system, as it stands currently, is doing more harm than good for these children.
    Yes, it would be foolish to expect the schools to do it all, however, many parents do not have the money or the necessary education themselves to help their children if they are not getting what they need at school.
    On a brighter note, I am glad people are talking even if we don't all agree. It shows that we are interested and want the best from our educators.

  • Responsible Parent
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    By sending my children to private school, I know that they will get the attention they deserve, and will take their rightful places as hard-working leaders in business and society. It would be negligent of me to send them to a state school where they would be dragged down by children of people who have achieved nothing. I dont think they will miss the drugs and the booze.

  • Duane
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    To: Responsible Parent from AB:

    Your comment proves one of my points, you are an elitist and secondly, please read my comment again. It is parents like you who think only drugs and alcohol are in public schools. Take off your blinders, they are in your private school as well.

    To: Educator from NL:

    How can you sincerely doubt that I know if parents of this school are elitist? I am talking about people io specifically know. Secondly, While elitism is not just a private school phenomenon it is certainly more prevalent in a school where people send their kids because they are wealthy or in a lot of cases because they want other people to THINK they are wealthy.

    To: Dot from NL:

    There are above average, average, and below average students in both public and private school. Both systems have a curriculum that is to be taught and it's impossible to give each and every student the exact level of teaching they need in any system. A big problem is too many parents are not involved enough with their chlidren's education. They want the school to do everything and complain if little Johnny or Jane underpeforms. They should get off their butt and get interested in their child's education.

    Everybody has a choice and I don't begrudge any parent from deciding between private vs. public or fench immersion vs. english stream for that matter. It is their choice. I just despise that attitude I get from a private school parent or a french immersion school parent when I tell them my kids are in a public school and not french immersion.

  • Private
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    Oh my! I see we have a discrepancy in the way we see each other, and how we feel about those attending private over public education. I attended both Albert College in Belleville Ontario as well as the Banff Mountain Academy. What this provided me later in life was offered acceptance to all post secondary institutions that I applied to, with the winner being Queens University in Kingston.

    I will say the elitist attitude is entrenched the first day you step through the gates whether it is entitled or not is up for debate. I will say that the quality of education and extra curricular activities was at the time far superior to those found in the public system.

    What I also found, was that I was lead to believe that (I) was better then those outsiders (common folk) that were unable to achieve the financial status in life to properly provide for quality education. This I was able to learn later in life was to be as far from the truth as anything. We are all equal no matter our upbringing or educational choices. Most and I will say most are able to see the value in not only a quality education, but in properly taught values which we all are able to obtain at no cost.

    It matters little where you went to school, but rather what you are able to learn from life and the people you interact with on a daily basis. No matter what your paperwork tells others, they will judge you more by your actions, humility and humanity. These are the lessons that no formal education can provide. These are the lessons we learn from life and the values instilled by family and friends.

  • Duane
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    Seems like a nice man but my experience with many of the parents of this school is they ARE elitist not that I would expect Mr. White to admit that. Many of these parents think all the kids who attend this school are great kids and there will no problems i.e. bullying or drugs that only occur in public schools. That is certainly a myth. They say low class size means they get more attention. Well, guess what? That is not the real world. When many of these kids leave Lakecrest and and enter High School and university with larger classes and less attention, they struggle.

    There is a fine line between protecting your kids and giving them real world experience that will help them later in life.

    By the way, this comment is not sour grapes. I have the means to send my children to private school, I just don't want them growing up with snobby kids; I WANT them to get the experiences that come with public school and I would rather spend the nearly $15000 per year for 2 kids on things they can't get in school.

  • P
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    To Parent from NL..you've got to be kidding, right? Trying to boil some blood with your devil's advocate comments? I can't believe there would actually be someone who would think, let alone, say soemthing like that. Did you know, a large number of criminals are intelligent, well educated people? And these high end, high class kids can get the expensive drugs nowadays...and raid the liquor-lined cabinets when mom and dad are off on hiatus down south somewhere..Give me a break!

  • Paradise
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    I don't pass judgment on many people, but who in the hell does this parent from nl think they are? Don't want their children to be raised in a riffraff society and doesnt want their children to turn out to be on social assistance or be a jailhouse kid. If you think that is what comes out of a public school system, YOU ARE WRONG!!!!! I attended a public school system all throughout my education, and even went to one of the hardest Elementary schools there was around, BUT I turned out to be a successful DOCTOR!!!!!!! So don't give me that crap. In the end the success of your child stems from THEIR parents. It doesnt matter what school they go to....its the involvement and input you have in your childs education. I can tell you something else to, Public schools give children the real world . Not this fake world where you are perfect and everyone is perfect and I am better because I go to a private school, because my parents have money. I have heard this many of times throughout my education. I have a 5 year old daughter starting Kindergarden in September, and she will be attending a Public School , and despite my high level of education and success in my career, my daughter will be educated in a place where real people and real issues in life happen. Thank you!!!!

  • Dot
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    To Sophie:
    Your comments make so much sense. Our schools have become far too rigid and are being run too much like businesses. The system could be offering so much more!

  • Loyola
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    This article appears to be well researched and well written. You can sense the author noted many positives about Lakecrest. Journalists aren't known to be pushovers - they try to work with facts. There are more than enough positives to make it worth anyone's while to actually go to the school and check out what's inside firsthand.

    Some of the negative comments posted here are not well researched or thought out. It fact there is a definite lack of facts.

    Duane seems to think that he knows some Lakecrest parents and knows they are elitist. I question that. What would a non-elitist person like Duane be doing associating with elitist parents trying to give their children an enriched education. Sounds more like the logic of the Salem Witch trials. Point at someone, call them a witch, therefore they are a witch.

    Doug writes that his sister is a teacher at Gonzaga and we should follow her opinion. Well I don't know Doug and I know his sister even less. I know a number of the teachers and administration people at Gonzaga and they speak very highly of Lakecrest and welcome their graduates every year with open arms.

    Sophie writes that if she were looking for a school for her child it would be something different from Lakecrest. She said she checked out the website and it looked stuffy. She is looking for something different. She openly admits she hasn't set foot inside the door nor spoken with a single soul there. Maybe she will grow with time and teach her children not to judge a book by it's cover. By the way school uniforms are not a sign of elitism and some public schools make use of some uniform pieces. Back in the 1960's we were all poor and we all wore uniforms - go figure. I'd guess it costs less to have a unifrom than to buy all new clothes for your child. Uniforms also cut down on class distinction or as some would call it elitism.

    Perhaps if either of these three bloggers had paid attention while they read the article they would have noticed the tidbit about Mr White's experience in being one of the people responsible for turning St. John Bosco into a great school with a positive community spirit.

    Any school that would choose a leader with such a varied and distinguished background weren't playing to elitism. At time's like this when I see negative comments I am reminded of the line from Shakespeare. I believe it was from MacBeth Methinks the lady doth protest too much!

    I have a funny feeling that if you step inside of Lakecrest you will find happy well adjusted students, dedicated teachers, a positive forward thinking administration and a lot of hard working parent volunteers.

  • Doug
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    My sister is a teacher at Gonzaga. From her experience, while a few students from Lakecrest are strong, for the most part they tend to be average at best and struggle to keep up with their peers in high school. The general feeling is that they are coddled at Lakecrest and perhaps their parents put them there to protect them from having to compete with everyone else in larger public school classes where they will end up being less than average.

    I'm not knocking anyone for wanting to put his or her child in a more laid back environment. If I had children, I'd do the same thing but let's not suggest that it's a foregone conclusion that everyone at Lakecrest is destined to be an engineer, doctor, lawyer etc.

  • Dot
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    I think that many parents are just looking for something different from the one size fits all education system that we have at present. I am not sure that Lakecrest is that different from the current system. What I do know is that the present system is teaching our children to become sheep who cannot think for themselves.
    The children who have higher intelligence (and believe me this exists just as children of lower intelligence exist) are not encouraged or guided in the development of their skills/gifts.
    Instead they are forced into mindless repetition and spitting back verbatim what they have been told by their teachers. They watch the children who are able to do this gain praise and recognition while those who cannot are maligned.
    So what happens to these children?
    They sit idle in our classrooms under-challenged and under-stimulated often with faltering self esteems. They may become problem students or even school drop outs.
    Many of the children who have the ability to achieve high beyond their peers never have the opportunity to achieve their potential. Many come from low socio-economic backgrounds and cannot afford any education other than what the public system provides.
    So why is it that other provinces have schools and teachers dedicated to the education of these children (gifted) but not Newfoundland?
    Newfoundland, where we are crying out for the best and brightest!
    These children could be the future inventors, engineers, scientists, great artists yet we are leaving them to languish in a system.
    I hope someone will make some noise on their behalf. They are not elitest but they do require and deserve special education.

  • Tom
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    The point being missed in all this is the under funding and supports for public education. Whether its Alberta or BC, I am not sure of Newfoundland, the government subsidizes prviate education with public tax dollars. The Fraser institute makes hay of achievments in private schools that happen with smaller class sizes but one only has to understand that these same governments support low class sizes and recognize the positive impact of 14-20 students per class as they subsidize that model while choking off the public system that I and many others already paid for. As for comments regarding children languishing in the public system and being future leaders etc, what are you doing with your kids at home? My 7 year old is reading well beyond his age, is socially mature and emphathetic and eager to learn. In the public school he goes to the parents are engaged in their childrens learning. I am of the opinion that if you want private delivery of publically funded services then you can pay the whole shot whether that is health care, education etc. However not one penny of tax dollars should subsidize those with above average means Before you who fit that category say but we pay taxes, let me be the first to say thank you so does everyone else who makes over 20,000 K per year but the majority cannot send their kids to private school and bleeding off financially public funds from the public education system lessens the ability for those of less then and average means to have quality education for their kids.
    When will people realize that creating a society where money puts you to the head of the line only serves those with money. This world is soon going to have to classes rich and poor. Those of you who believe you are in the former will soon be in the latter. I prefer a society where my vote in the ballot box is equal to everyone elses regardless of socio-economic status. Public policy in education, health etc implemented by governments should reflect democratic pragmatic values not investor based principles.

  • Rob
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    The public schools would be just as good or better if every parent took on some kind of volunteer role at the school. Most parents work but others have the time to help. If the workplace supported this everybody could help one or two hours per week or per month. Every kid no matter what economic background they come from deserves a good education. The best thing we can do for our kids is spend time with them and help the teachers in any way we can.

  • Eugene
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    Cudos to Sophie from NL! The public system could have much more relevance to the lives of students, teachers and parents by exploring alternatives, not the throwbacks that St. Bons and Lakecrest represent. I'm glad that primary schools are less regimented than when I was a school kid (yes, we wore uniforms); my memories of school are fresh and I know that I'll pay close attention to the environment my child is educated in along with everyone else who decides that they are part of the majority. Our society is stratified economically, it is sad when parent's attempt to divorce their own kids from those on the other side of that divide and then hold their results up as shining examples of what money can buy. Elitism is elitism, we like those who succeed or are best at things, I'll grant that, but Lakecrest (St. Bon's, to a lesser degree because they have scholarships) represent elitism based on privilege not merit.

  • parent
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    My child attends Lakecrest and I'm just glad that they don't have to interact with the riffraff of society. Lets face it if they go to a regular school they might end up in jail or on social assistance like the rest of the children there.

  • Private School
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    Duane from NL.

    I agree with you 100% The most messed up kids in private schools come from families of Doctors (me) and lawyers. We had the funds to purchase what we wanted be it drugs or anything else. I was trying to convey the fact that education is more what the student make of it, not what the parents want others to think of them.

    Some go on to be no better then the rest of us, while others in both sectors of education go onto be great contributors to society in general.

    I for one agree that if more parents became involved with the education process we would have a far better society. For some involvement is a matter of time and resources that are limited. But to say the one sector over the other is better, can be debated without end. It comes down to what people make if it.

    As far as private education being funded with public funds then augmented with private funds, I feel that it should not be criticized. But on the same note, do we not wish to have the best education for all children? Should only those that can afford it be entitled to it, or do we open the doors and force all parents to foot the bill to enable equal education. Seems the socialist system might be better for some then a free market where those that can do, and those that can not do not. I remember this debate before. Either we have a free market or we revert to socialism and the communistic way of life. Just what is it people really are looking for?

    I would like to see free quality education for everyone, but I fear that day has long past unfortunately.

  • sophie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    You can tell from its website that Lakecrest is drawing on elitism as a way of marketing itself. It markets like a posh English 'public' school so as to differentiate from the 'filthy masses' of society. Ironically, the amount of drugs in private schools often surpasses that in public schools...why? because private school kids have $$ to buy drugs, and cars to go get stuff.

    That said, the bigger issue is this: why is public education chronically underfunded? This is the case in every province in which I've lived. Public education exists to provide a grounding for the future citizens and voters and taxpayers of society - what on earth are we skimping for? And public education can offer variety - NL has french immersion and english streams, but other provinces offer other kinds of programs through the public system: montessori, fine arts, mini-schools, alternative programs....there is no reason a public system can't offer those things. There's also no reason a public school can't offer smaller class sizes. But what that means is more public investment and we need government that is willing to make those choices - and citizens who are willing to pay for it through their tax dollars (ironically, those tax dollars might be able to be siphoned away from law/order measures - if students are better supported, and if there is more funding around for everyone, then the playing field has a chance to level out.

    Lakecrest? Honesty, it looks old fashioned and stuffy. If I want something different for my child, there's no way I'd choose lakecrest (except, maybe for the convenience of full day kindergarten). If I'm looking for a private school, then I want something alternative -an experiential centre that allows children to work and learn to the beat of their own drummer. Lakecrest, with uniforms? no way.

  • Educator
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    Sorry Duane, I disagree with your comments. I do not know if many of the parents of the children of this school are elitist and sincerely doubt that you do either. I have been an Educator and Principal for many years and do know that children who attended schools where class size is smaller have a greater opportunity for success in University and College.

    There is no benefit, in the real world as you call it, of crowded classroom and overworked Teachers. If schools like Lakecrest provide small class sizes with more one on one attention for students then those students have a better chance for success in your real world .

    As for elitist they exist in every school and in every realm of life. There will always be students in every school who come from wealther families and/or whose families believe they are or have more than others, that is NOT just a private school philosophy.

    What is being offered to every student at these private schools is the chance for every student to succeed which is more than is happening at our public institutuions right now.

  • Pam
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    I read the Telegram almost daily to keep up with news back home. This story touched my heart because I attended St. Patrick's Girls School from kindergarten through grade nine. I was sad to hear the school system had changed to public several years ago. I am always proud to tell of my schooling in Newfoundland. Mr. White's picture standing in a hallway that I walked many times, brought back happy memories for me. My daughter now attends college and is planning on becoming a teacher. She has a passion for teaching others. As a mother who has had both her children attend public schools I can honestly say most kids want to learn no matter where they go to school. It does matter what they are greeted with on a daily basis at home. Parents need to take the responsibility of their children in what they do. Parents need to know who their children are with, what they are doing and where they are spending time. Constant participation on your part as parents is crucial to their well being as individuals who one day will be adults. I know many parents who have children attend private and public schools. It doesn't seem to matter which one they attend, some children find trouble and others continue with their education. As for more funding for public schools in Newfoundland as tax payers you should be speaking out. Attend PTA meetings, pressure your members of government. Didn't you vote for this change? Seek ways to raise money for books, extra classes, special educators, after school activities. Don't just sit there and take it do something about it. Be a mentor for kids. Don't take no for an answer. YOU can make a difference.

  • Duane
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    To: Son of Educators from Mount Pearl, NL:

    At least you gave me a chuckle. So, you don't think Lakecrest kids are subject to any abuse, messy divorce, drugs, alcohol and teen pregnancy? Give a break, time for you to wake up and smell the coffee. These things happen to all walks of life, in fact drug and alcohol abuse is higher among kids with money.

    And as for your other comments read Doug from NL who says:

    My sister is a teacher at Gonzaga. From her experience, while a few students from Lakecrest are strong, for the most part they tend to be average at best and struggle to keep up with their peers in high school. The general feeling is that they are coddled at Lakecrest and perhaps their parents put them there to protect them from having to compete with everyone else in larger public school classes where they will end up being less than average.

  • WDC
    July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    We put our child in Lakecrest when we moved to St. John's. We had high expectations, but for her, it was not a good fit (she was bored and would read at her desk most of the day - the teacher told us it was a problem only when child laughed out loud at something she was reading - not that she wasn't engaged in the class). After one year, we put her back into the public schools in the French Immersion program. She found the French Immersion program more challenging and she was much happier.

    Again, education is an individual effort, and your mileage may vary.

  • Clyde
    July 02, 2010 - 13:08

    Wow, what an interesting insight into people by reading these posts. I wonder how many speak from experience or from ignorance?

    One of my children begins at the other private school in St. John's this coming year. And, when my youngest is old enough, she will be too. Here's why: the public school they are streamed to attend looks like it comes straight from a war zone. It's crumbing and decrepit. The staff are wonderful and work very hard, and no fault of theirs that their school is the way it is. It's governments fault. There are a lot of children who come from challenging home environments with less than ideal family situations, and this is the norm for this area. I do not want this to be the norm for my children.

    As for elitist, maybe that's partly true, but one thing is for sure, the people that put their children in private schools are all motivated by the desire for a superior education. Whether they get it or not is a separate matter. I want my children to become used to the idea that Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers, Businessmen, etc... are the lowest they should hope to attain. I want them to accept as normal this level of education and achievement. These are parents with common interests and motivation regarding their children. The other school my children will be attending has a very strong bursary program and there are many socio-economic groups that are represented. Also, the focus on the older children interacting with the younger is something attractive to us, and this is not done in the public schools.

    I am not so naive to expect that standard issue problems of today's society don't exist in private schools, you bet they do, so we'll have to handle them the best we can. In that case it doesn't matter which environment you find yourself in, but it matters the type of parenting we provide. That's life.

    Bottom line for me is this: my public school experience was a disaster! It was horrible and I left without completing high school. I had to work twice as hard to succeed in life and now that I am in a position to provide an alternative for my children, I am going to do it. To those who think it's elitist, I couldn't care less what you think. It's only important what I think is best for my children.

    Life isn't fair, but we're not going to fix it on the backs of my children. I have only once chance to do this right, and I'm going for it. If it was a priority for people, it is achievable. You just might have to sacrifice your snow machine, or a few night's at the pub with your friends. But, a lot of people don't seem to want to do that. It's all about priorities. I know where mine are. Do you?

  • Son of Educators
    July 01, 2010 - 20:25

    The public school system is lacking in grades K-9 because they have very few oppurtunities to nuture a child's or gifted child's development with additonal challenges outside of the general course workload.

    The minute you get to Grade 10-12, there are course offerings for all walks of life and intelligence, aptitude and expression from remeidal to advanced placement. Until that time, gifted students are thrown into the general mix of courses and sometimes are the victims because teachers are forced to spend time with either problem children or those with special needs holding back a class.

    What lakecrest does is it allows children to be challenged and to advance over a longer period of time (9 years in K-9versus 3 in high school), what is the problem with that? By the time the child reaches high school, he or she maybe fluent in music, the arts, language, match, etc. and can excel at the high school course offerings and eventually university level courses.

    As for Duh-Waynes comments about real life, yes, I want my children exposed to other children who are victims of abuse, messy divorce, drugs, alcohol and teen pregnancy because that's the real world. Please, that's the talk from a working class hero.

    Duh-wane, maybe we should enroll you in lakecrest....

  • Sue
    July 01, 2010 - 20:24

    This notion that children whose parents have the means to enroll them in a private school are not vulnerable to abuse, divorce drugs and alcohol is ridicules. A friend of mine has 2 kids attending this school, she's an alcoholic and abuses prescription drugs. Her ex husband is a sleaze ball.

  • Steve
    July 01, 2010 - 20:23

    I notice the word ''money'' being thrown around a lot.

    A famous quote, who I unfortunately can't remember who said it was,

    ''It's impossible to save when my next door neighbor keeps buying things I can't afford. ''

    Those who are making this debate a money issue are only doing so because they don't have any.

    Nuff Said.

  • shizzle
    July 01, 2010 - 20:21

    Duh-Wayne do u really think that snobs only come from private schools? Do u remember high school? Hell the kid of the bus driver was a snob in my high school.I cant believe ppl are fooled into thinking that the drugs etc. is not in the private schools. Its everywhere its called society.

    NO problem with parents/teachers doing more for kids who are gifted and when i say gifted I mean matt damon good will hunting gifted(ok maybe not that gifted) but u get the point. go bruins

  • Dot
    July 01, 2010 - 20:21

    To Duane Scott:
    I agree with you that parents need to be more involved in their children's education. My issue is that a gifted child needs/is entitled to an appropriate education Just like every other child. This is not an elite statement just a fact.
    A child who has been identified as gifted is as different (depending on IQ) from the average learner as a child with mild to severe mental delay and should have as equal access to special education as that child with mental delay has in order to develop to his/her full potential. What I am saying is that the system, as it stands currently, is doing more harm than good for these children.
    Yes, it would be foolish to expect the schools to do it all, however, many parents do not have the money or the necessary education themselves to help their children if they are not getting what they need at school.
    On a brighter note, I am glad people are talking even if we don't all agree. It shows that we are interested and want the best from our educators.

  • Responsible Parent
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    By sending my children to private school, I know that they will get the attention they deserve, and will take their rightful places as hard-working leaders in business and society. It would be negligent of me to send them to a state school where they would be dragged down by children of people who have achieved nothing. I dont think they will miss the drugs and the booze.

  • Duane
    July 01, 2010 - 20:14

    To: Responsible Parent from AB:

    Your comment proves one of my points, you are an elitist and secondly, please read my comment again. It is parents like you who think only drugs and alcohol are in public schools. Take off your blinders, they are in your private school as well.

    To: Educator from NL:

    How can you sincerely doubt that I know if parents of this school are elitist? I am talking about people io specifically know. Secondly, While elitism is not just a private school phenomenon it is certainly more prevalent in a school where people send their kids because they are wealthy or in a lot of cases because they want other people to THINK they are wealthy.

    To: Dot from NL:

    There are above average, average, and below average students in both public and private school. Both systems have a curriculum that is to be taught and it's impossible to give each and every student the exact level of teaching they need in any system. A big problem is too many parents are not involved enough with their chlidren's education. They want the school to do everything and complain if little Johnny or Jane underpeforms. They should get off their butt and get interested in their child's education.

    Everybody has a choice and I don't begrudge any parent from deciding between private vs. public or fench immersion vs. english stream for that matter. It is their choice. I just despise that attitude I get from a private school parent or a french immersion school parent when I tell them my kids are in a public school and not french immersion.

  • Private
    July 01, 2010 - 20:13

    Oh my! I see we have a discrepancy in the way we see each other, and how we feel about those attending private over public education. I attended both Albert College in Belleville Ontario as well as the Banff Mountain Academy. What this provided me later in life was offered acceptance to all post secondary institutions that I applied to, with the winner being Queens University in Kingston.

    I will say the elitist attitude is entrenched the first day you step through the gates whether it is entitled or not is up for debate. I will say that the quality of education and extra curricular activities was at the time far superior to those found in the public system.

    What I also found, was that I was lead to believe that (I) was better then those outsiders (common folk) that were unable to achieve the financial status in life to properly provide for quality education. This I was able to learn later in life was to be as far from the truth as anything. We are all equal no matter our upbringing or educational choices. Most and I will say most are able to see the value in not only a quality education, but in properly taught values which we all are able to obtain at no cost.

    It matters little where you went to school, but rather what you are able to learn from life and the people you interact with on a daily basis. No matter what your paperwork tells others, they will judge you more by your actions, humility and humanity. These are the lessons that no formal education can provide. These are the lessons we learn from life and the values instilled by family and friends.

  • Duane
    July 01, 2010 - 20:13

    Seems like a nice man but my experience with many of the parents of this school is they ARE elitist not that I would expect Mr. White to admit that. Many of these parents think all the kids who attend this school are great kids and there will no problems i.e. bullying or drugs that only occur in public schools. That is certainly a myth. They say low class size means they get more attention. Well, guess what? That is not the real world. When many of these kids leave Lakecrest and and enter High School and university with larger classes and less attention, they struggle.

    There is a fine line between protecting your kids and giving them real world experience that will help them later in life.

    By the way, this comment is not sour grapes. I have the means to send my children to private school, I just don't want them growing up with snobby kids; I WANT them to get the experiences that come with public school and I would rather spend the nearly $15000 per year for 2 kids on things they can't get in school.

  • P
    July 01, 2010 - 20:12

    To Parent from NL..you've got to be kidding, right? Trying to boil some blood with your devil's advocate comments? I can't believe there would actually be someone who would think, let alone, say soemthing like that. Did you know, a large number of criminals are intelligent, well educated people? And these high end, high class kids can get the expensive drugs nowadays...and raid the liquor-lined cabinets when mom and dad are off on hiatus down south somewhere..Give me a break!

  • Paradise
    July 01, 2010 - 20:11

    I don't pass judgment on many people, but who in the hell does this parent from nl think they are? Don't want their children to be raised in a riffraff society and doesnt want their children to turn out to be on social assistance or be a jailhouse kid. If you think that is what comes out of a public school system, YOU ARE WRONG!!!!! I attended a public school system all throughout my education, and even went to one of the hardest Elementary schools there was around, BUT I turned out to be a successful DOCTOR!!!!!!! So don't give me that crap. In the end the success of your child stems from THEIR parents. It doesnt matter what school they go to....its the involvement and input you have in your childs education. I can tell you something else to, Public schools give children the real world . Not this fake world where you are perfect and everyone is perfect and I am better because I go to a private school, because my parents have money. I have heard this many of times throughout my education. I have a 5 year old daughter starting Kindergarden in September, and she will be attending a Public School , and despite my high level of education and success in my career, my daughter will be educated in a place where real people and real issues in life happen. Thank you!!!!

  • Dot
    July 01, 2010 - 20:09

    To Sophie:
    Your comments make so much sense. Our schools have become far too rigid and are being run too much like businesses. The system could be offering so much more!

  • Loyola
    July 01, 2010 - 20:05

    This article appears to be well researched and well written. You can sense the author noted many positives about Lakecrest. Journalists aren't known to be pushovers - they try to work with facts. There are more than enough positives to make it worth anyone's while to actually go to the school and check out what's inside firsthand.

    Some of the negative comments posted here are not well researched or thought out. It fact there is a definite lack of facts.

    Duane seems to think that he knows some Lakecrest parents and knows they are elitist. I question that. What would a non-elitist person like Duane be doing associating with elitist parents trying to give their children an enriched education. Sounds more like the logic of the Salem Witch trials. Point at someone, call them a witch, therefore they are a witch.

    Doug writes that his sister is a teacher at Gonzaga and we should follow her opinion. Well I don't know Doug and I know his sister even less. I know a number of the teachers and administration people at Gonzaga and they speak very highly of Lakecrest and welcome their graduates every year with open arms.

    Sophie writes that if she were looking for a school for her child it would be something different from Lakecrest. She said she checked out the website and it looked stuffy. She is looking for something different. She openly admits she hasn't set foot inside the door nor spoken with a single soul there. Maybe she will grow with time and teach her children not to judge a book by it's cover. By the way school uniforms are not a sign of elitism and some public schools make use of some uniform pieces. Back in the 1960's we were all poor and we all wore uniforms - go figure. I'd guess it costs less to have a unifrom than to buy all new clothes for your child. Uniforms also cut down on class distinction or as some would call it elitism.

    Perhaps if either of these three bloggers had paid attention while they read the article they would have noticed the tidbit about Mr White's experience in being one of the people responsible for turning St. John Bosco into a great school with a positive community spirit.

    Any school that would choose a leader with such a varied and distinguished background weren't playing to elitism. At time's like this when I see negative comments I am reminded of the line from Shakespeare. I believe it was from MacBeth Methinks the lady doth protest too much!

    I have a funny feeling that if you step inside of Lakecrest you will find happy well adjusted students, dedicated teachers, a positive forward thinking administration and a lot of hard working parent volunteers.

  • Doug
    July 01, 2010 - 20:03

    My sister is a teacher at Gonzaga. From her experience, while a few students from Lakecrest are strong, for the most part they tend to be average at best and struggle to keep up with their peers in high school. The general feeling is that they are coddled at Lakecrest and perhaps their parents put them there to protect them from having to compete with everyone else in larger public school classes where they will end up being less than average.

    I'm not knocking anyone for wanting to put his or her child in a more laid back environment. If I had children, I'd do the same thing but let's not suggest that it's a foregone conclusion that everyone at Lakecrest is destined to be an engineer, doctor, lawyer etc.

  • Dot
    July 01, 2010 - 20:00

    I think that many parents are just looking for something different from the one size fits all education system that we have at present. I am not sure that Lakecrest is that different from the current system. What I do know is that the present system is teaching our children to become sheep who cannot think for themselves.
    The children who have higher intelligence (and believe me this exists just as children of lower intelligence exist) are not encouraged or guided in the development of their skills/gifts.
    Instead they are forced into mindless repetition and spitting back verbatim what they have been told by their teachers. They watch the children who are able to do this gain praise and recognition while those who cannot are maligned.
    So what happens to these children?
    They sit idle in our classrooms under-challenged and under-stimulated often with faltering self esteems. They may become problem students or even school drop outs.
    Many of the children who have the ability to achieve high beyond their peers never have the opportunity to achieve their potential. Many come from low socio-economic backgrounds and cannot afford any education other than what the public system provides.
    So why is it that other provinces have schools and teachers dedicated to the education of these children (gifted) but not Newfoundland?
    Newfoundland, where we are crying out for the best and brightest!
    These children could be the future inventors, engineers, scientists, great artists yet we are leaving them to languish in a system.
    I hope someone will make some noise on their behalf. They are not elitest but they do require and deserve special education.

  • Tom
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    The point being missed in all this is the under funding and supports for public education. Whether its Alberta or BC, I am not sure of Newfoundland, the government subsidizes prviate education with public tax dollars. The Fraser institute makes hay of achievments in private schools that happen with smaller class sizes but one only has to understand that these same governments support low class sizes and recognize the positive impact of 14-20 students per class as they subsidize that model while choking off the public system that I and many others already paid for. As for comments regarding children languishing in the public system and being future leaders etc, what are you doing with your kids at home? My 7 year old is reading well beyond his age, is socially mature and emphathetic and eager to learn. In the public school he goes to the parents are engaged in their childrens learning. I am of the opinion that if you want private delivery of publically funded services then you can pay the whole shot whether that is health care, education etc. However not one penny of tax dollars should subsidize those with above average means Before you who fit that category say but we pay taxes, let me be the first to say thank you so does everyone else who makes over 20,000 K per year but the majority cannot send their kids to private school and bleeding off financially public funds from the public education system lessens the ability for those of less then and average means to have quality education for their kids.
    When will people realize that creating a society where money puts you to the head of the line only serves those with money. This world is soon going to have to classes rich and poor. Those of you who believe you are in the former will soon be in the latter. I prefer a society where my vote in the ballot box is equal to everyone elses regardless of socio-economic status. Public policy in education, health etc implemented by governments should reflect democratic pragmatic values not investor based principles.

  • Rob
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    The public schools would be just as good or better if every parent took on some kind of volunteer role at the school. Most parents work but others have the time to help. If the workplace supported this everybody could help one or two hours per week or per month. Every kid no matter what economic background they come from deserves a good education. The best thing we can do for our kids is spend time with them and help the teachers in any way we can.

  • Eugene
    July 01, 2010 - 19:58

    Cudos to Sophie from NL! The public system could have much more relevance to the lives of students, teachers and parents by exploring alternatives, not the throwbacks that St. Bons and Lakecrest represent. I'm glad that primary schools are less regimented than when I was a school kid (yes, we wore uniforms); my memories of school are fresh and I know that I'll pay close attention to the environment my child is educated in along with everyone else who decides that they are part of the majority. Our society is stratified economically, it is sad when parent's attempt to divorce their own kids from those on the other side of that divide and then hold their results up as shining examples of what money can buy. Elitism is elitism, we like those who succeed or are best at things, I'll grant that, but Lakecrest (St. Bon's, to a lesser degree because they have scholarships) represent elitism based on privilege not merit.

  • parent
    July 01, 2010 - 19:58

    My child attends Lakecrest and I'm just glad that they don't have to interact with the riffraff of society. Lets face it if they go to a regular school they might end up in jail or on social assistance like the rest of the children there.

  • Private School
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    Duane from NL.

    I agree with you 100% The most messed up kids in private schools come from families of Doctors (me) and lawyers. We had the funds to purchase what we wanted be it drugs or anything else. I was trying to convey the fact that education is more what the student make of it, not what the parents want others to think of them.

    Some go on to be no better then the rest of us, while others in both sectors of education go onto be great contributors to society in general.

    I for one agree that if more parents became involved with the education process we would have a far better society. For some involvement is a matter of time and resources that are limited. But to say the one sector over the other is better, can be debated without end. It comes down to what people make if it.

    As far as private education being funded with public funds then augmented with private funds, I feel that it should not be criticized. But on the same note, do we not wish to have the best education for all children? Should only those that can afford it be entitled to it, or do we open the doors and force all parents to foot the bill to enable equal education. Seems the socialist system might be better for some then a free market where those that can do, and those that can not do not. I remember this debate before. Either we have a free market or we revert to socialism and the communistic way of life. Just what is it people really are looking for?

    I would like to see free quality education for everyone, but I fear that day has long past unfortunately.

  • sophie
    July 01, 2010 - 19:54

    You can tell from its website that Lakecrest is drawing on elitism as a way of marketing itself. It markets like a posh English 'public' school so as to differentiate from the 'filthy masses' of society. Ironically, the amount of drugs in private schools often surpasses that in public schools...why? because private school kids have $$ to buy drugs, and cars to go get stuff.

    That said, the bigger issue is this: why is public education chronically underfunded? This is the case in every province in which I've lived. Public education exists to provide a grounding for the future citizens and voters and taxpayers of society - what on earth are we skimping for? And public education can offer variety - NL has french immersion and english streams, but other provinces offer other kinds of programs through the public system: montessori, fine arts, mini-schools, alternative programs....there is no reason a public system can't offer those things. There's also no reason a public school can't offer smaller class sizes. But what that means is more public investment and we need government that is willing to make those choices - and citizens who are willing to pay for it through their tax dollars (ironically, those tax dollars might be able to be siphoned away from law/order measures - if students are better supported, and if there is more funding around for everyone, then the playing field has a chance to level out.

    Lakecrest? Honesty, it looks old fashioned and stuffy. If I want something different for my child, there's no way I'd choose lakecrest (except, maybe for the convenience of full day kindergarten). If I'm looking for a private school, then I want something alternative -an experiential centre that allows children to work and learn to the beat of their own drummer. Lakecrest, with uniforms? no way.

  • Educator
    July 01, 2010 - 19:51

    Sorry Duane, I disagree with your comments. I do not know if many of the parents of the children of this school are elitist and sincerely doubt that you do either. I have been an Educator and Principal for many years and do know that children who attended schools where class size is smaller have a greater opportunity for success in University and College.

    There is no benefit, in the real world as you call it, of crowded classroom and overworked Teachers. If schools like Lakecrest provide small class sizes with more one on one attention for students then those students have a better chance for success in your real world .

    As for elitist they exist in every school and in every realm of life. There will always be students in every school who come from wealther families and/or whose families believe they are or have more than others, that is NOT just a private school philosophy.

    What is being offered to every student at these private schools is the chance for every student to succeed which is more than is happening at our public institutuions right now.

  • Pam
    July 01, 2010 - 19:50

    I read the Telegram almost daily to keep up with news back home. This story touched my heart because I attended St. Patrick's Girls School from kindergarten through grade nine. I was sad to hear the school system had changed to public several years ago. I am always proud to tell of my schooling in Newfoundland. Mr. White's picture standing in a hallway that I walked many times, brought back happy memories for me. My daughter now attends college and is planning on becoming a teacher. She has a passion for teaching others. As a mother who has had both her children attend public schools I can honestly say most kids want to learn no matter where they go to school. It does matter what they are greeted with on a daily basis at home. Parents need to take the responsibility of their children in what they do. Parents need to know who their children are with, what they are doing and where they are spending time. Constant participation on your part as parents is crucial to their well being as individuals who one day will be adults. I know many parents who have children attend private and public schools. It doesn't seem to matter which one they attend, some children find trouble and others continue with their education. As for more funding for public schools in Newfoundland as tax payers you should be speaking out. Attend PTA meetings, pressure your members of government. Didn't you vote for this change? Seek ways to raise money for books, extra classes, special educators, after school activities. Don't just sit there and take it do something about it. Be a mentor for kids. Don't take no for an answer. YOU can make a difference.

  • Duane
    July 01, 2010 - 19:47

    To: Son of Educators from Mount Pearl, NL:

    At least you gave me a chuckle. So, you don't think Lakecrest kids are subject to any abuse, messy divorce, drugs, alcohol and teen pregnancy? Give a break, time for you to wake up and smell the coffee. These things happen to all walks of life, in fact drug and alcohol abuse is higher among kids with money.

    And as for your other comments read Doug from NL who says:

    My sister is a teacher at Gonzaga. From her experience, while a few students from Lakecrest are strong, for the most part they tend to be average at best and struggle to keep up with their peers in high school. The general feeling is that they are coddled at Lakecrest and perhaps their parents put them there to protect them from having to compete with everyone else in larger public school classes where they will end up being less than average.

  • WDC
    July 01, 2010 - 19:45

    We put our child in Lakecrest when we moved to St. John's. We had high expectations, but for her, it was not a good fit (she was bored and would read at her desk most of the day - the teacher told us it was a problem only when child laughed out loud at something she was reading - not that she wasn't engaged in the class). After one year, we put her back into the public schools in the French Immersion program. She found the French Immersion program more challenging and she was much happier.

    Again, education is an individual effort, and your mileage may vary.

  • Clyde
    July 01, 2010 - 19:43

    Wow, what an interesting insight into people by reading these posts. I wonder how many speak from experience or from ignorance?

    One of my children begins at the other private school in St. John's this coming year. And, when my youngest is old enough, she will be too. Here's why: the public school they are streamed to attend looks like it comes straight from a war zone. It's crumbing and decrepit. The staff are wonderful and work very hard, and no fault of theirs that their school is the way it is. It's governments fault. There are a lot of children who come from challenging home environments with less than ideal family situations, and this is the norm for this area. I do not want this to be the norm for my children.

    As for elitist, maybe that's partly true, but one thing is for sure, the people that put their children in private schools are all motivated by the desire for a superior education. Whether they get it or not is a separate matter. I want my children to become used to the idea that Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers, Businessmen, etc... are the lowest they should hope to attain. I want them to accept as normal this level of education and achievement. These are parents with common interests and motivation regarding their children. The other school my children will be attending has a very strong bursary program and there are many socio-economic groups that are represented. Also, the focus on the older children interacting with the younger is something attractive to us, and this is not done in the public schools.

    I am not so naive to expect that standard issue problems of today's society don't exist in private schools, you bet they do, so we'll have to handle them the best we can. In that case it doesn't matter which environment you find yourself in, but it matters the type of parenting we provide. That's life.

    Bottom line for me is this: my public school experience was a disaster! It was horrible and I left without completing high school. I had to work twice as hard to succeed in life and now that I am in a position to provide an alternative for my children, I am going to do it. To those who think it's elitist, I couldn't care less what you think. It's only important what I think is best for my children.

    Life isn't fair, but we're not going to fix it on the backs of my children. I have only once chance to do this right, and I'm going for it. If it was a priority for people, it is achievable. You just might have to sacrifice your snow machine, or a few night's at the pub with your friends. But, a lot of people don't seem to want to do that. It's all about priorities. I know where mine are. Do you?