A Question of Value

Leaders discuss why independent schools are worth it
Rate this item
(0 votes)

Pittsburgh Quarterly invited the heads of the region’s top independent schools to address, in 150 words or less, the following question: What is your value proposition for students and families?

Winchester Thurston is recognized for innovative teaching that combines rigor and relevance. After visiting WT this year, National Association of Independent Schools interim president Donna Orem wrote in Independent School magazine, “[WT’s City as Our CampusSM] ties into much of the recent brain-​science research… [It] amplifies student engagement by creating authentic learning… It also acknowledges that schools are no longer the sole source of learning.” Integrating foundational academics with City as Our Campus, we partner with nearly 100 “co-​educators” from industry, academia, government and nonprofits, who challenge students to apply knowledge to real-​world problems. Our young alumni, many attending the most selective colleges in the U.S., reported in a recent survey that their WT experience set them apart in doing research with professors, contributing to class discussions, leading, collaborating, innovating and empathizing. This rigor and relevance prepares students to achieve at the highest levels — in all aspects of their lives. — Gary J. Niels, Head of School

For 100 years, The Ellis School has provided an excellent education to girls and young women. In this girl-​centered, immersive environment, tailored specifically to the development and empowerment of girls, students push the limits of their potential, pursuing a rigorous curriculum that offers a breadth and depth of study that meets their individual interests, talents and goals. Girls hold every leadership position — they captain every team, are the lead in every play, and sit at the head of every class. Guided by expert faculty, Ellis girls are uniquely equipped with the confidence and authority to be well prepared, personally empowered and intellectually inspired to succeed in school and in life. Supported within a diverse community and by an enduring alumnae network of talented and successful women, every Ellis girl develops the skills and sense of self that will propel her ongoing success as a life-​long learner. — Robin O. Newham, Head of School

At St. Edmund’s Academy, we are educating children to boldly and compassionately take the lead in a world transformed by technology and social change — where new opportunities require a solid moral foundation and even greater analytical, creative and collaborative skills. We prepare students to set high standards, assume personal responsibility, appreciate differences and respect the needs of others — timeless values for transformational times. St. Edmund’s Academy offers time and space for children to play, learn, grow and establish their identities in an environment where our Core Values unite our diverse community. This diversity enriches our students’ education and makes them kinder and more perceptive — ideal training to stand for civility in the world. As a preschool-​to-​8th-​grade independent school, we proudly collaborate with parents who share with us their hopes and dreams for their children. — Chad Barnett, Head of School

When Sister Mary Paul Hickey founded The Campus School of Carlow University in 1963, she envisioned a unique school that would embody the spirit and bold vision of the Sisters of Mercy. She created a Catholic, independent, laboratory school located in the heart of Oakland in the middle of the Carlow University campus. We provide our students with a nurturing environment inspired by the Mercy tradition of faith, love and service. As an independent school, our collaboration with other independent schools enhances our robust commitment to educational excellence exemplified by the integration of creativity, collaboration and critical thinking in every classroom. As a laboratory school, we develop innovative instructional strategies as we strive to create an environment of joyful learning. The value of our wonderful school is rooted in Sister Mary Paul’s bold vision as our students and parents enjoy the benefits that come of the richness of this unique identity. — Michelle Peduto, Head of School

The Linsly School promises the education you need to be a leader and a responsible global citizen in high school, in college and in life. Our approach at both the middle school and high school is to develop leaders and well-​rounded global citizens in an environment where academic excellence and character development are emphasized in every facet of student life. Our unique curriculum and focus on character development means your child will benefit from a holistic educational experience. As a nearby boarding school, Pittsburgh families have the best of both worlds; allow your child to experience and grow from the many advantages that boarding schools offer while remaining close to home. In addition, The Linsly School is one of the most affordable independent schools in the country. At Linsly, students will: learn to love learning; develop skills to lead; and will have amazing opportunities to live life to their fullest potential. — Justin Zimmerman, Headmaster

The value-​added elements of a private school education are well known: small class sizes, individual attention and successful college placement. At The Kiski School, we meet all these expectations, but what truly distinguishes us is being a school devoted to the educational needs of boys. Over the past decade, Kiski has energetically established itself as a leader in boys’ education, with a renewed emphasis on this objective following a comprehensive audit of our academic program a few years ago. New courses like our Entrepreneurship Elective and our Freshmen STEAM (Science-​Technology-​Engineering-​Arts-​Mathematics) class, together with other recent initiatives like Kiski’s Leadership Institute for Boys, have helped to shape a dynamic educational experience, thoughtfully conceived around “best teaching practices” for boys. The key to our success is that we never lose sight of our priority to know each boy as an individual and to guide all of our students towards lives as successful men. — Christopher A. Brueningsen, Headmaster

The value at Shady Side Academy begins with the environment: three age-​specific campuses with faculty who truly know their students, understand their needs and are dedicated to their personal growth. This environment is supported by a commitment to small class sizes and a low student-​to-​teacher ratio allowing for detailed, regular feedback, which leads to tremendous progress in important skills such as writing, critical thinking and participation in discussions. Students are surrounded by academically talented and highly motivated peers who encourage each other in positive, organic ways. Students expand their horizons through academic choices and opportunities in the arts, athletics and extracurricular options, which serve them well in the college search. Upon graduation, SSA students join a connected and supportive network of 7,000 alumni all over the world in a vast range of professions. Our students and young alumni regularly use this network to learn about further educational and career opportunities. — Tom Cangiano, President

Other nationally ranked boarding and day schools will tell you why they are different. Western Reserve Academy asks why you are. We are proud of the accolades our school has earned regionally and nationally, but we are more interested in the dreams and aspirations of our students, today’s Pioneers. Nearly two centuries old, WRA today offers a more distinctive and dynamic curriculum in a more supportive environment than other schools. 100 percent of our graduates attend four-​year colleges and universities regarded as the best in the U.S. In a beautiful and historic town less than two hours west of Pittsburgh, we cultivate a global mindset, attracting top students from across the country and around the world. Small classrooms are filled with big thinking. At WRA, the unique preparation students receive for social, cultural and academic success goes beyond what they learn. It becomes who they are. — Christopher D. Burner, Head of School

Mercersburg Academy is a vibrant boarding-​school community with a rich and deep history that anchors us to our mission, while boldly embracing the opportunities of the future. Whether it’s the tradition of our Marshall and Irving Societies that date back to our founding, Step Songs each fall that bring current students and alumni together to celebrate our shared history, or our commitment to interdisciplinary study that prepares students for a future we cannot predict, Mercersburg is a school that respects its history and its future. We cultivate in our students an individual humility with an unapologetic collective pride. Our actions and words are guided by the basic principle of seeking ways to be your best self, helping others to be their best selves and making our shared experience here a positive and life-​changing one for all. Come and visit us and learn more about what makes Mercersburg like no other. — Katherine M. Titus, Head of School

Aquinas Academy provides a faith-​based, college-​prep curriculum, under the direction of faculty members who are not only passionate about their subjects, but who serve as models of Christian living. The Academy draws on the classical curriculum, enriched by the great Catholic intellectual tradition. The faculty seeks to support parents, who are the primary educators, in the intellectual and spiritual formation of their children. The spiritual formation of students is fostered by Mass four days each week, the virtue of the month and the integration of faith within the classroom. Students are formed in an academic environment that reinforces the complementary nature of faith and reason. Academic expectations are high, and student success is fostered through strong student-​faculty relationships from pre-​K through 12th grade. With a broad selection of Honors Classes and Advanced Placement offerings, students are well-​prepared for undergraduate studies in the humanities and sciences, and are accepted at many top-​tier colleges and universities. Among Aquinas Academy graduates are successful physicians, lawyers, engineers, teachers, nurses, financial analysts, service providers, as well as faithful spouses and parents. — Leslie Mitros, Head of School

Central Catholic High School is an all-​boys college preparatory diocesan high school under the leadership of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. From its opening in 1927, Central Catholic continues to develop men of faith, men of scholarship and men of service who graduate to become leaders in their communities, parishes and professions. Central Catholic is a place where excellence is celebrated and provides a full range of academic, performing arts, community service, athletic and extracurricular activities where students are encouraged to explore their interests and passions. We provide an environment where everyone can succeed and have an extensive academic support program, guidance and college placement counselors, Lasallian ministry, and an active student support team. Central Catholic is a brotherhood that extends beyond the four years of high school. Our 14,000 alumni are an invaluable resource to our students as they explore professions and during their careers. — Brother Anthony Baginski, Principal

Falk is a progressive K – 8 school at the University of Pittsburgh. Vibrant and joyous, we are a dynamic learning community where children and adults come together to authentically question, interpret, build relationships, and play. Since our inception in 1931, Falk’s educational mission has remained remarkably consistent: the nurturing of innovation, self-​reflection, curiosity, and critical thinking. At Falk, children come to understand their worlds through rich and meaningful collaborations, and are encouraged to express their thinking in multimodal ways, among them — the stories, poems, and plays they write; the mechanical and digital machines they create; the woodworking and sewing projects they encounter; and the deep and robust dialogue they engage in with their classmates and teachers. Critical to all of us at Falk is our long-​standing emphasis on diversity and inclusion in all that we do, and our collective commitment to honoring both children and childhood. — Jeff Suzik, Director

I believe every Jewish child in Pittsburgh deserves the gift of a Community Day School education. Why? The research on Jewish day school education is compelling, and 45 years of alumni data tell the same story: CDS transforms the lives of students, families, the Jewish community and the greater society in which our graduates live and work. Like their peers at other independent schools, our alumni demonstrate the highest levels of academic success through a forward-​thinking curriculum that stresses intellectual inquiry, personal attention and handson discovery. What sets CDS apart is our joyous, vibrant community where children from across the Jewish spectrum come together to not only learn and practice Judaism, but to live it. Our students are given the lifelong tools to engage in the broader world with the confidence of knowing who they are and from where they have come. What more could you want for your child? — Avi Baran Munro, Head of School

Our world changes in profound ways on a regular basis. Education must prepare students to navigate this evolving world with intelligence, competence, poise and grace. Oakland Catholic High School serves this purpose by providing the highest level of excellence for young women in an atmosphere that develops more than mere academic performance. Spirituality, Scholarship, and Service are the building blocks of the educational experience at Oakland Catholic, where a diverse group of young women from across western Pennsylvania come together as one community to broaden their minds, grow in leadership skills, develop athletically, seek ways to impact the world, and pursue higher education. Different ethnicities, different neighborhoods, different religions, different socioeconomic backgrounds blend in the joint effort of becoming intelligent, competent, ethical, global leaders of tomorrow who will serve as their generation’s agents of change. For a minimal investment, Oakland Catholic offers a world-​class education that prepares for the future. — Mary Claire Kasunic, President

Sewickley Academy, the only coeducational independent school in the area with students in pre-​K – 12 on one campus, is proud to support students in their achievement of amazingly high standards in academics, athletics and the arts in an environment that promotes positive collaboration and support. Faculty care about their students, and students in turn support and care for one another. Our nurturing environment inspires extraordinary achievement, including this year alone: 17 percent of the Class of 2016 being accepted to a college or university ranking in the top ten by U.S. News & World Report and 21 percent being recognized by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation; three Pennsylvania State Championships — golf, soccer, and tennis; and an amazing performance of “Les Misèrables” starring some of these same scholar-​athletes! At Sewickley Academy, we — students, faculty, staff and administrators — strive to be a little bit better tomorrow than we are today. Sewickley Academy: For who you are; for who you will become. — Kolia O’Connor, Head of School


PQ Staff

Questions or corrections? Contact us at .

Explore Related Stories:

Other stories in this category: « The STEM Gap Path to Delinquency »
Welcome to Pittsburgh Quarterly
Keep up with the latest

Sign up for our enewsletter, Pittsburgh Quarterly This Week.

We’ll keep in touch, but only when we think there’s something worth sharing. To receive exclusive Pittsburgh Quarterly news and stories, please fill out the form below. Be sure to check your email for a link to confirm your subscription!

View past newsletters here.

Keep up with the latest from Pittsburgh Quarterly.

Enter your email address to receive exclusive Pittsburgh Quarterly news and updates via our enewsletter, Pittsburgh Quarterly This Week. We’ll keep in touch, but only when we think there’s something worth sharing — and worth your time.

Already signed up? Please click the “Don’t Show This Again” button below

First Name(*)
Please let us know your name.

Last Name(*)
Invalid Input

Your Email(*)
Please let us know your email address.

Please check the box for security purposes.
Invalid Input

Don't have an account yet? Register Now!

Sign in to your account.