Three Important Questions You Never Thought to Ask While Researching Schools

Choosing the right school in the country’s fourth largest city can be daunting. To the indecisive among us, it’s downright overwhelming. Even if you narrowed your search to accredited private schools in the Houston area, you would still have eighty-five options to consider as you research the best match for your child.

For most families, the search narrows as they begin to factor in a school’s proximity to home or work, tuition, curriculum, special programs, affiliations, reputation, and mission.

I hope the following questions will further enhance your research. Admissions offices are rarely asked about these items, but we should be as the answers reveal very important information about the match between a school and a student.

  1. Can you tell me about teacher retention and job satisfaction? While on the surface this may seem more like a question better posed by a job candidate than a researching parent, it’s an important gauge of school culture. Teachers perform at their best when they’re valued. It’s important that they are given the proper support and encouragement to develop professionally so they may have a positive impact on students in the classroom. You may find that some schools are a revolving door for teachers who may stay for only a year, and other schools will have teachers who have been there for decades and are a personification of the school’s mission. Who would you rather have teaching your child?At STE we have outstanding teacher retention and our faculty and staff log hundreds of hours of professional development through organizations such as Padeia, SAES, ERB, NAIS, ISM, CASE, AISAP, HAIS, TACAC, and NACAC.
  2. What events do students (and parents) look most forward to during the school year? When your child enrolls in a school, your family joins a school community. These communities can be as varied as the schools themselves, and you want to make sure you’re making a choice that aligns with your family’s interests and values. It is also important to note the types of events offered during the course of a school year (e.g. fund-raising, community strengthening, religious, patriotic, etc.).As a Pre Kindergarten through 12th grade school, STE holds numerous school-wide events and also has celebrations that are specific to our lower, middle, and upper schools. When you visit campus, be sure to ask us about Spaghetti Dinner, Fall Fair, Grandparents and Friends’ Day, Splash Bash, Sounds of Scotland, Style Show, Book Fair, Parent’s Day Highland Dance Performance, Christmas Choral and Orchestral Concerts, STE Gala, Open Houses, and Founder’s Day!
  3. How accessible and responsive is school leadership? Successful organizations have good leaders. While the protocol for parent to school communication begins with your child’s teacher, it is important to know the guiding hands that are steering the division and the school. Division heads, principals, and headmasters have broad job responsibilities and are able to speak to the big picture of student development at each level. They can also advise parents as to how to best partner with the school to achieve a child’s personal and educational goals.Michael Cusack, the Headmaster at STE, leads a team of three experienced Division Heads. The priority of Mr. Cusack’s leadership team is making decisions that are in the best interests of students. David Browder, Rector of STE’s Church and School, ensures that our mission to form “honorable men and women through a classical education grounded in a Christ-centered worldview” guides school leaders.

It’s worth noting that these three questions are relevant to a school’s people and community. In essence, people—teachers, administrators, parents, and students– drive a school’s inspiration and instruction. People are the school. It’s my contention that families researching schools are conditioned to focus on data such as class size, student/teacher ratios, rankings, and test performance, because it tends to be accessible information and easy to process when making comparisons. While data is important, the overall well-being that follows making the right school choice will largely come from the mentoring, support, and culture of a student’s school community.

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