I’ve visited ten private schools that charge more than $40K per year. And they have a lot of impressive similarities like the interior design (kid-friendly Barneys with a splash of Ikea) and the students (friendly confidence with ballet-lesson poise). So I started interviewing the headmasters (rich-kid word for principal).
I thought I might learn about new trends in education since most limits on my own ideas for education seem purely financial. I ended up really liking the people I met, but I learned very little. Until one (who has now been properly disguised to be one of ten) took me out for
lunch and Apricot Sours and started spewing advice she wants to give to private-school parents.
1. Don’t treat me like household help. I am not your employee. My job isn’t to be at your beck and call like a nanny, or to validate your opinion like a designer. Please do not bring
My take: This is not to say that the headmaster would not like these parents as friends. But parents do not want to be friends with the headmaster because they are not in the same social circle. The headmaster, on the other hand, took this job because it’s fun to hang out with rich people. What else is the benefit to helping rich kids preserve their spot in the elite?
2. Perks from parents are a necessity. There’s a huge economic gap between the parents and the headmaster. Even the headmasters in NYC who make seven figures don’t earn enough money to put their kids through their school. There are no bonuses, IPOs or bitcoin windfalls in the life of a headmaster, so parents should find other ways to compensate the headmaster.
My take: If you have the money, show it at gift-giving times. But also, enterprising parents treat headmasters like politicians and offer non-financial compensation. And that photo up top? Gold-plated Lego purses. Which should be on someone’s list of top-ten gifts for the millionaire headmaster.
3. Don’t get attached to teachers. Get attached to the school. Its impossible to deliver innovative, trendsetting education with sub-par teachers. Trust the headmaster to know who to fire. Just because staff has been there since your kid was in first grade doesn’t mean your kid cares. And don’t defend a staff member from getting the ax until you know what it’s like to manage them. Every time I fired someone I have to deal with a long line of parents complaining. Which means that if I’m actually firing someone, they really suck. So just let it go.
My take: If you want to be part of an institution where people with a lot of experience never get fired, then go to public school.
4. Don’t give me your list of colleges. Tell me where you are an alumni, that’s fine. Tell me where there’s a building named after you. That will help us map out which seniors are applying where.
You pay exorbitant tuition so your kid can go to an elite college. This does not mean you can pick the elite college. We have a class of 60 kids, and most could hold their own at Harvard; Jared Kushner graduated from Harvard, it only takes money.
Therefore our school will tell you which college is the best fit for your kid, and the school will tell the college which kid to take, and we will look at what’s best as a whole: for all the seniors and for the on-going reputation of our school. We will not say this to you directly. But you hurt your kid’s prospects when you bother me and my staff incessantly by pretending you don’t know how this system works.
My take: To say top private schools collude with top private colleges would not be right. But there is some word that has a colluding nuance, which may or may not exist in the English language, that would be appropriate.
5. Go ahead and sue me. I get that threat at least once a semester. Few people follow through, and those who do always lose. Keep in mind that the school is prepared for your threats, and if it does come down to court filings, you as a parent paying tuition will fund the defense against you as a parent acting like an entitled jerk.
My take: If you want to control your kid’s education, you can’t do it with money. Private school means giving up control of your child’s future to someone else. No amount of money will change that once you put your kid in school.