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The Great Debate: Public School vs Private School

Local moms share their views on why their chose to send their children to public or private school.

Recently our Moms Council has discussed issues like  , and tips on .

This week our moms talked about why they chose to send their kids to either public or private school.

In case you haven't met them yet, let us introduce you to our Moms Council:

  • Abby Rowe: Abby is married and has a two-year-old daughter. She and her husband are expecting a second child this spring. Abby is the owner of Stroller Strides of Newport, a fitness program that moms can do with their babies. She is also currently serving as President of the Newport/Middletown MOMS Club.
  • Naomi Neville: Naomi is married and has two girls, one who attends Underwood School and one who is in preschool. She is a member of the Newport City Council and also a registered architect in Rhode Island, running a local practice on Thames Street. Naomi has also served as Chair of Newport's Planning Board and was on the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission. She has a bachelor's from Yale University and a master's in Architecture from Columbia University.
  • Lynn Ceglie: Lynne is married and has two children at Rogers High School, a daughter who is a junior and a son who is a sophomore. Lynn works for East Bay Community Action Program as a child outreach screener at Sullivan School. She is also a board member and secretary of the Newport Public Education Foundation.
  • Nikki Vazquez: is married and has two children. She has been involved in a number of local initiatives, including serving as co-founder of the Newport Community Garden and chairperson for Newport in Bloom. She is also the owner of Ladies Who Lunch, a full service personal chef and events management company. Her son attends St. Michael's Country Day School.

This week's question: 

How do you make the decision on whether to send your children to public or private school?

Abby: Even though Adelaide is young, this is definitely a topic my husband and I have discussed.  In all honesty, despite the development of the new Pell School, I think we are both leaning towards private education for our kids.  Both my husband and I went to private schools growing up.  Looking back, I really appreciate the quality of the education.  However, I have an even greater appreciation for the flexibility that the teachers and school had in regards to curriculum, managing social issues, and working with the students.  

We certainly plan to objectively evaluate all the options for Adelaide as the time for her to enter school approaches.  Our goal is to find the school that will allow her to grow the most, both intellectually and socially.  Despite our initial leanings, my husband and I are actively following the developments at Pell and are excited to have a great public school option in the mix when making the decision about elementary school.

Nikki: Vic and I explored all the options available to us for Waylon's education.  I spent many years volunteering in the public school and myself come from a mixed bag of Catholic schools, public high school and a private Catholic university.  I think that it is important for each family to assess the needs of their child and explore all the opportunities that are available for education on this Island.

 We are fortunate to have private, Catholic and public education available to us in Newport and it affords parents the chance to investigate which will be the best for their child.  Waylon attended Twice As Nice at the Newport YMCA for pre-k and had a wonderful experience.  We are also happy with the education he is receiving now (at ) and also think it is important to stay involved in his experiences to ensure he is in the best possible situation for his growth and development.

Naomi: I think it's interesting that both Nikki and Abigail, who favor the private school option, do not address the fundamental difference between public and private schools, which is public school is free and private school costs money. Perhaps coming up with the money will not be a problem for them.  For our family, each year that the girls are in public school is another year our family can stay on track with our finances.

That being said, I also toured all the elementary school options offered to the girls prior to making the decision to send Gwendolyn to .  Clearly Underwood's facilities are not as nice as St. Michael's or; but I also met with the teachers, watched the classes in action and checked into the average class size.  Gwendolyn's class of 19 kids and has a teacher, teacher's aid, and a student teacher.  That's a 6 to 1 ratio.

We take the school environment on a day to day basis, always asking how Gwendolyn's day went, looking and helping with her homework, watching her interact with kids in the school yard.  If something comes up, I bring it up with her teacher or the principal. I try not to sit back and complain, but actively get involved to make the public school option work for us.  And so far, we have been happy.

Lynn: I have a daughter and son who currently attend Rogers High School.  They attended , Carey, and where they received excellent instruction by dedicated teachers and staff.  We have encountered caring teachers who stay after school to tutor children, and who have made every attempt to ensure that my children are successful in school.   My son, a budding musician has had music teachers who have become dedicated mentors since he started playing the saxophone in the fifth grade.

My office is at and I see first hand the dedication and of the teachers and principal at that school.  

I believe, however, that the public schools do not communicate effectively with the community on the accomplishments of the staff and students.  The administration and school committee must be vigilant in providing accurate information and need to dispel rumors that can run rampant. 

From the day my children were born, I wanted them to be part of their community.  They now have friends from all walks of life, have learned acceptance, empathy, and an understanding of and an appreciation for this diverse, vibrant, world-class city.  

Check back in next Wednesday for another edition of Moms Talk. Have an issue you want our moms to tackle? Send suggestions to cara.kenefick@patch.com.

Lynn Ceglie May 03, 2011 at 12:05 PM
The notion that public school children are unruly and rude is nonsense and comments here are meant to incite and insult the public school population. There is ABSOLUTELY ZERO reason to feel afraid to put their children the Newport Public Schools. ZERO. Visit the schools, talk to the principals, teachers, and kids. Once again, lack of information and distortion are at work here in these negative comments from people who have no idea what they are talking about.
Lynn Ceglie May 03, 2011 at 01:59 PM
My comment about the lack of communication has to do with the fact that public schools do not adequately inform the general public on staff and student achievements, programs, events, etc. Only until recently has the NPS developed a website that is easy to update and navigate. This is a huge achievement. I have seen first hand accomplishments that take place and no one knows about them. I am very involved in the public schools and I miss the opportunity to partake in events because I don't know about them. I have heard first hand blatant rumors and distortions concerning activities in the schools. We as the public school population need to combat it. The public schools have to learn the art of public relations in order attract families that would otherwise unnecessarily send their kids to private/parochial schools. Without a proactive approach in educating the naysayers (like the ones here hiding behind screen names), the public schools will always be disparaged. This is not acceptable. Newport Patch is a wonderful outlet for school news. We need to tap this resource as much as possible in order to inform the public.
bosstaxes May 03, 2011 at 04:31 PM
Nothing to incite or inflame but 2008 NECAP Sullivan School reading proficiency = 37% Rogers High graduation per cent = 67%! We need more money and benefits quickly. More sick leave and more medical benefits will solve this according to the NEA. . Portsmouth, Middletown and Little Compton are in the 80 - 90 percentile. Little Compton has strict budget control and NO federal funds.
tiff May 03, 2011 at 05:19 PM
The responses to this thread are very interesting. What do teachers in Barrington and Portsmouth know that they don't know in Newport? Obviously, Barrington and Portsmouth do not deal with the higher poverty levels that a city like Newport does. But don't even start with how the kids in poverty are inferior because they are not. The numbers do not tell the whole story of a school district. Just trying to spread negative information? Private schools are not tested to death like public schools. So how do you know how well the school is doing? Because all of the kids come from the same backgrounds? Same color?? Same sameness. I guess that makes some people more comfortable. Again, ignorance rules the day in this debate.
Lynn Ceglie May 03, 2011 at 05:45 PM
Students at Rogers are accepted into competitive colleges just like students from other schools. Once again, how would you know? Where is the information? There are many, many student at Rogers who deserve recognition. The Whiz kid who I NOMINATED a few weeks ago is headed to Brown next year. He is a brilliant kid and a great citizen. Kids from Rogers attend schools like Brown, the Naval Academy, top engineering schools, design schools, etc. Who would know otherwise? Once again, information is key. I loathe to engage in conversations that are filled with predisposed notions but here I go.... Bosstaxes - where were you on Thursday night when the Newport Public Education Foundation hosted its annual Student Showcase? Were you there to talk to teachers who apply for grants to provide extra enrichment programs and after school programs? Did you see the Island Moving Company's work with the Sullivan School 3rd grade dancers? Did you meet members of the community who participate constructively in the schools? Did you see the art projects done by students in collaboration with the Newport Restoration Foundation? Salve Regina?? Were you there to see the Rogers High School Jazz Ensemble or the Rogers Orchestra? They just won gold medals for their performances in NYC. I chaired the event and I put ads in every newspapers, I wrote editorials, you name it.....and where were you? It's time to demand respect that the schools deserve.
bosstaxes May 03, 2011 at 08:37 PM
Poverty Smoverty. If you are poor you can still learn to read. I grew up eating baked bean sandwiches. If I brought them to school today my parents would be arrested for neglect. I always had a sandwich and an apple, ten cents for a milk and I did fine. Rich kids brought Fritos. You are trying to revert to the social justice solution which is not the purpose of schools. We attend schools to learn! Also, the teachers need to work more with children who fall behind. If you are defending a 37% literacy rate at Sullivan then you must be one of the teachers. No one was ever more poor than Abraham Lincoln or Justice Thomas growing up. If you do not like the NECAP results just change the subject I guess or say that they don't matter.
Jack May 04, 2011 at 01:07 AM
Ahh bosstaxes as soon as you referenced Justice Thomas I can see where you are coming from......the wonderful world of Rush and O'Reilly and the total inability to think for yourself.....say no more as your opinions are bogus
tiff May 04, 2011 at 01:40 AM
I bet those baked bean sandwiches made you very popular in school!! Full of hot air...
tiff May 04, 2011 at 01:41 AM
Right on, Jack!
Bulgood May 04, 2011 at 09:20 AM
That is a racist intolerant statement to make against someone. Is Rush a fan of Frederick Douglas also? How much money did that great American have for his schooling? Wait, the dems elect the teachers, the teachers give them millions and then they "bargain" hard with the teachers and bankrupt the system. If you are losing, change the subject!
Jack May 04, 2011 at 12:13 PM
You must have a reading deficiency as I see no reference to race only to intelligence and the ability to form ones own opinion without being told what is true by phony news reporters and talk show millionaires who gladly take your monies for books that would not be pamphlets in the real world.
Sandra J. Flowers, PhD May 04, 2011 at 01:46 PM
Fortunately for the children of Patch’s panel of mothers, their parents have not allowed their discussion of issues to fall to the depths of some respondents’ comments. Researching definitions and explanations of “civil discourse,” which can be found in legitimate websites, might restore some sense of decorum to this section of Patch. The accusations and borderline libelous remarks that have been evident here would not have been allowed in my fifth grade classroom or many others, for the right to free speech was never intended to crumble into the mire to which these (anonymous) responses have become. Furthermore, this reader thought that the comments were supposed to stay “on topic.” That’s another skill our young people are taught.
Cara Kenefick (Editor) May 04, 2011 at 02:01 PM
I'd like to remind everyone who is part of this discussion to keep it at that: a lively and engaging discussion and debate. Remember to keep all tones, however passionate, civil, non-accusatory and please, no name calling! It is very much appreciated here at Patch.
Natasha van Doren May 04, 2011 at 04:02 PM
I have had 2 children in Newport public schools. One of tem had to be pulled out because the powers tat be at Cranston-Calvert school refused to do anything about her being bullied. Their father and I do not have money and it was difficult for us, but we found a home at All Saint's Academy. My other daughter has had a great education at the East Bay Met School. Te community there is fantastic. I can't say enough about the way the advisors work with all students to explore their interests. This is a hard topic and there is no easy awnser. It is different for everyone. Thank goodness that there are options. I did see Waiting for Superman and was brought to tears when the kids did not get the school of their dreams. Being taught to pass a test is not an education. For anyone. It's easy to sit back call names and critisize, and another to work toward a solution.
Elizabeth Rosenthal May 05, 2011 at 11:06 AM
I also attended Newport Schools, received a solid education, and now teach in Newport as well. My experience is unique because I started my career as a teacher at St. Michaels and chose to leave to teach in Newport Public Schools. It is a much more challenging job to teach in the public schools, but the rewards are therefore doubly sweet. Teachers in Newport also do not receive as much positive reinforcement as I remember experiencing at St. Michaels, so it's great to see positive exposure for all the quiet daily, often unseen wonderful things that are happening in the public schools. It's great to see Lynn, Kathy L. and others being part of the village it takes to educate a child as well as being part of the solution instead of sitting back and lamenting the problems. We are always a work in progress!
Broadway Joe Newport May 05, 2011 at 11:55 PM
PhD = phony doctorate. How many lives have you ruined? Just what kind of liberal mindset do you have that entitles you to limit free speech? How great is the system of education whereby NECAPS reveal low literacy rates and the school systems are penniless? Ask Phoebe from Hadley if our schools are safe! Parents will sue the school at the drop of a hat and teachers no longer give a good one. It is about one thing: THE MONEY!
Sandra J. Flowers, PhD May 06, 2011 at 03:25 AM
Unfortunately, some folks don't heed your request. However, many of us are so pleased to have the opportunity to exchange thoughts and ideas in a mutually civilized manner. Thanks for the opportunity.
bosstaxes May 07, 2011 at 04:35 AM
More money -- that's the ticket for the Doc! Don't worry about the kids medical care as long as the teachers get free medical care for life, 30 days sick leave and 180 days a year at seven hours a day to work. No nights, weekends or snow days. Just the opposite of working America. Retire at 64,000 a year for life after all of those 180 day years. If anyone should dare to ask for more, strike and protest. Don't be concerned with test scores, just get the new contract.
Jack May 07, 2011 at 05:06 PM
bosstaxes you are either ignorant or intentionally trying to agitate the posters who are actually trying to solve problems.....you cannot really believe that the teaching day ends when the student goes home and that they get a 64,000 dollar a year pension.....they do pay into their medical in an amount negotiated at contract time and it is not lifetime, most teachers spend 2-3 hours per night going over their lessons.......why don't you start on the judges and the State Police as neither group pay a nickel into the pension fund they draw from when they retire......you really think cops, firefighters and teachers caused this financial mess ?
Bulgood May 08, 2011 at 11:00 PM
Money for liberals! "Members of Ohio's largest teachers' union have agreed to a one-time, $54 dues increase to pay for the fight against Ohio's new collective bargaining law. A spokeswoman for the Ohio Education Association says 111,000 active union members would pay the extra dollars under a proposal overwhelmingly approved Friday. School support staff would pay $25. Student and retired members were exempted. The dues change could mean an additional $5.5 million for the union."
Jack May 09, 2011 at 12:04 AM
When did we move ?????
Bulgood May 09, 2011 at 01:13 AM
We moved our kids back when the schools failed we all moved our kids to private school. Now the leeches can get our tax money and suck it up but they cannot ruin our children's lives. No more butts hanging out of pants. No more weird clubs and agendas. There are schools where kids actually respect teachers and teachers actually show up for work. They are called private schools. We moved there a long time ago. About four million of us.
tiff May 09, 2011 at 02:04 AM
Well, goody for you. Who cares. Some of the contributors are so ignorant that they think personal attacks and nonsensical statements actually make an impact. They don't. Anybody who has a brain can see that you and the other hateful commenter have an axe to grind and you don't want to pay taxes. I get that. Who cares. Go back to your utopia, your own private Idaho. Go back to your small world. Who cares.
Bulgood May 09, 2011 at 11:41 AM
The high school is broken and the unions are left with the money needed to fix it. The school budget is deeply in the red. What are they cutting? Benefits? NO! Of course not. There will be demonstrations. Should all the parents come in after school to teach the kids and get the literacy rate up and the graduation rate up to normal standards? Should we continue to feel sorry for teachers when they take 64,000 a year for life on retiring at 54 years of age? They are somehow a "wronged" party for the 180 days a year and thirty days of sick leave. How much sick leave do the people at Home Depot have? How about Raytheon? Who needs sick leave with a 180 day work year? When they are out sick who pays for the substitutes? We do!
Len May 23, 2011 at 06:16 PM
I believe you can get a great education in the public school system... but only in the elementary schools. I agree with the other post here. The kids in the public/middle school have no interest in learning. The schools in RI are filled with gangs, violence, drugs, etc! It's a safety issue for me. Like one responded..why is there a police officer at out local public high schools and not the private? I have my child enrolled in the public schools now, and she is receiving an excellent education! But I will not send her to the local public middle/high schools next year...because of the lack of safety!
lori May 24, 2011 at 07:53 PM
Natasha van Doren: Good point! Does your daughter continue her education at this school? Are there still issues like this? Just wondering... I have debated this issue over the last few years with everyone. It still seems, though, that the public high schols have more problems than the private high schools. I would appreciate anyones thoughts on this...thanks!
Sam 'Ace' Rothstein August 24, 2011 at 11:48 PM
You know Cara, when you love someone, you've gotta trust them. There's no other way. You've got to give them the key to everything that's yours. Otherwise, what's the point? And for a while, I believed, that's the kind of love I had.
Robert Trager September 06, 2011 at 12:54 PM
I would just like to point out to Naomi that public schools are not free. In fact, many public schools cost more than some private schools. In South Kingstown, we are spending about $17k/student. Bishop Hendricken costs about $11k.
bosstaxes September 06, 2011 at 03:36 PM
The high schools are filled with radical, tattooed, long haired, leftists who bully others. These are the administrators. Think of the effect this is having on the students.
I<3NPT September 09, 2011 at 07:09 AM
I couldn't sleep and came across this discussion. I had to throw my two cents in. I was a student in the Newport Public School system from Kindergarten through 9th grade. I had no problems in elementary school. But when I got to Thompson and 9th grade at Rogers, the bullying was SO bad I would come home every day in tears. The schools response to this? I was "too sensitive." I went from being a good student, to barely passing 9th grade. Mainly because the idea of going to Rogers made me wish I could have a root canal instead. That's how unbearable it was. The Rogers Special Ed department didn't know how to do their job. Had they known how to read, they would have seen what my learning disability was on my IEP, and addressed it. Instead, my parents were informed that my teachers "didn't even know I had ADD." And that I was so quiet, they didn't even know I was in the room. Needless to say, my future children WILL NOT be attending Rogers. I graduated from a private school, and the almost failing 9th grader ended up on the honor roll on numerous occasions. It cost my parents my college fund, so I had to settle for graduating from CCRI. Now I'll be going to RIC (majoring in Elementary Education), and I have not one faculty member at Rogers to thank for that, with the exception of Mrs. Hermes. She actually inspired me to have a passion for political science. If more teachers at Rogers could be like her, Newport Public Schools wouldn't see such a decline in enrollment.

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