Are Private Schools the Best Choice?

Are private schools better than public schools? This question is one many parents, especially parents of teens, ask. The answer is yes and no. It depends on the child and the particular school. Just as not all public schools are bad for your child, not all private schools will be good.

Overall, private schools do have certain advantages. Class sizes are usually smaller so each child gets more individual attention. Academic standards in most private schools are higher than those at public schools for the same grade so students are often ahead of their peers attending public schools. Sometimes, like cases involving troubled teens, programs like Elk River Treatment make sense.

With today’s trend to bolster students’ self-esteem taking precedence over achievement, public school students who excel become less motivated since their achievements often go unrecognized. Students who lack such achievements also are less motivated since they know they will get recognition anyway. Most private schools recognize the achievements of students who excel while encouraging and helping all students to do their best academically.

Some public schools buck the current trend and award the top students for their excellence. They and many of the private schools recognize that students will face competition throughout life and try to prepare them for this inevitability. They also understand that children’s self-esteem is raised best by achievements rather than underplaying the achievements of others. The earnest efforts put forth should be and are recognized without diminishing the achievements of others.

Choosing a private school involves finding one that meets the criteria that is most important for the child and for the family. If certain religious principles are important, find a school that fits those principles. If discipline is important, check schools discipline policies and select one that follows the policies that best fit the child’s needs. Some private schools focus strongly on academics and this may be what is most important to you.

Many parents look at the advantages and disadvantages of both public and private schools, and don’t find a school that matches. When this is the case, checking into charter schools is an option. Joining with other parents who are also looking for alternative schools and starting a charter school that meets the needs of your children is another option.

The answer to the question of which is better, public or private schools, might be a hybrid of the two. Charter schools usually have higher academic standards than traditional public schools, cost less than private schools and usually require more parental involvement than either public or private schools.

Your Reaction to Bad Grades

parenting-schoolThe day is going well and then your child gets home from school and produces an important math test requiring your signature. The red ‘X’s by answers and the large F at the top of the page draw your attention. Avoid a kneejerk reaction by taking a deep breath and reviewing the paper to identify the problem. Then decide the best way to talk with your child so the two of you can work out a way to remedy the matter. Your reaction is going to set the stage for how your kid resolves this and future issues.

Bad Grades Happen

A bad grade is not a reflection on the parent or on the student’s ability; they occur now and then. Perhaps the essay topic was uninspiring and their paper reflected their attitude. Not understanding a particular idea, in grammar and math, is another reason for getting a C, D, or F. Part of the learning is finding the right way to learn. Overreaction to a bad grade might quell any attempt to understand.


Your son might need a few minutes before he is ready to talk about the bad grade, especially if this is a first. The shock of not getting an A might be more upsetting than discovering the reason. Gently dig for information so you better understand the situation. Certain subjects get tougher over the years and the rational conclusions of addition and subtraction fall by the wayside as abstract concepts are introduced. Some assistance with homework or new challenges might resolve the situation.

Take into consideration is outside influence. Friends might be distracting him or her from paying attention in class or studying as much as needed. A hearing or seeing problem interferes with schoolwork. When discussing with your child, you might discover the teacher has higher expectations than teachers in the past.

Meet the Teacher for a Discussion

It’s easy to conclude that your child is responsible for bad grades. Avoid taking that route by requesting an appointment with the teacher, particularly if there are no notes to signal why a bad grade was assigned. Perhaps homework is not being turned in or your child is not paying attention in class. The instructor may be able to shed some light on the situation and offer suggestions about how to fix the problem. Taking time to talk it over with the teacher is an important step in resolving the matter.

Teachers learn a few tricks of the trade during college and while teaching different subjects. Ask for tips so you can help your child learn the new subject matter. Your kid may require professional tutoring on a specific skill or perhaps will benefit from family participation in quizzes about geography, spelling, and other subjects.

Balance Your Focus

Avoid focusing strictly on areas of concern. Review the overall picture and comment on each area. The A in History deserves recognition and might be a clue towards understanding the D in Language Arts. Compliment your child about good results and use them to find ways to motivate good performance in other subjects.

The Academy for Academics and Arts

Located in Huntsville, Alabama, The Academy for Academics and Arts is a magnet school which provides students with a well rounded education which includes more in-depth instruction in a variety of the arts, including music and dance as well as the visual arts. Enrollment is open to elementary and middle school students.

Musical education begins in second grade with an introduction to string instruments. Students are given the opportunity to continue pursuing music throughout their time at The Academy for Academics and Arts. Drama is also a regular feature, with courses interspersed throughout the curriculum to allow every student a chance to be exposed to the art.

At The Academy for Academics and Arts, the arts are integrated into a traditional academic curriculum. Art is also regularly used to help students learn other subjects. It is this integration of academics and the arts which makes the Academy’s arts and academic programs so successful. The combination of the two encourages students to develop their creative potential while increasing learning retention in non-arts subjects.

Middle school students at The Academy for Academics and Arts have the chance to pursue more specialized study in the art forms which they are most interested in. Students may audition for dance, theater, choirs, musical ensembles and other performance groups, with their work being featured at school performances. The emphasis on performance helps to boost students’ self-confidence and builds interpersonal skills even as it develops their creative faculties.

It’s well known that taking part in the arts can broaden students’ interests, increase their self esteem and confidence and give them a lifelong appreciation of the arts. The Academy for Academics and Arts has also shown that its students also get a deeper understanding of their academic studies. The arts and academics merge into a seamless whole at this school and give every student an education which combines the best of both worlds.

If you’d like to learn more about The Academy for Academics and Arts and its programs, please visit us at : or call us 256-428-7600 for more information.

Penny Baker Joins Elk River Treatment Program Clinical Team

Karen Lee, President and CEO of the (ERTP) in North Alabama, announced that Penny Baker recently accepted a position on the ERTP clinical team. Ms. Baker joins Program Director Zachary Turner, Clinical Director Dr. Wayne Wilson, Family Services Coordinator Jane Baker and Therapist Paul Bakke.

Ms. Baker is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), a Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor (LPC-S) and a National Certified Counselor (NCC). She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from Auburn University and a Master’s Degree in Professional Counseling from Liberty University.

Highlights of her professional work experience include:
– Director of Adolescent Services for acute psychiatric adolescent unit
– Program Director for residential mental health facility for girls
– Group Administrator for multiple mental health facilities
– Adjunct Professor in Psychology for community college
– LPC in private practice
– Military Family Life Consultant

“We are fortunate to have someone with such comprehensive education and experience to join our professional staff,” Ms. Lee said. “Twenty-two years of leadership experience in adolescent and family services is impressive,” Ms. Lee continued, “but just as important is the extensive list of professional affiliations, activities and recognition from her peers for her service, skills and genuine love and concern for children.”

When asked why rejoin adolescent treatment in a rural outdoor environment, Ms. Baker said, “After working for years in a variety of treatment settings, I felt the need to return to the most rewarding and effective type of treatment I have ever experienced – helping teenagers find themselves while living in the woods.”

An alternative to wilderness programs, the Elk River Treatment Program (ERTP) is a residential program that blends the therapeutic qualities of the outdoors with the benefits of indoor facilities such as a medical clinic, gymnasium, climbing rock wall, commercial kitchen, cabins, shower houses, laundry house and a large school building with an underground shelter for inclement weather. This unique combination allows ERTP to meet the therapeutic, medical and educational needs of teens who are struggling with behavior and/or substance abuse issues. ERTP accepts boys and girls ages 12 to 18.

ERTP is accredited in behavioral health care by The Joint Commission and licensed by the State of Alabama Department of Youth Services as an Outdoor Adventure-Based Treatment Program.

In addition to the therapeutic residential program, ERTP provides a year-round, fully accredited academic program for its residents in grades 6 – 12.

For more information about ERTP, visit or contact the home office at 866-906-TEEN.

Academy for Science & Foreign Language

The Academy for Science and Foreign Language is an Intl Baccalaureate academy that is in Huntsville, AL. The school teaches children from preschool to the eighth grade. In addition to general subjects such as math and reading, the Academy for Science & Foreign Language teaches science, foreign languages and other electives.

The world is constantly evolving, and the Academy wants to teach its students how to connect globally and become adults that are resourceful, successful, admired and accountable. The staff and faculty believe that the ability to nurture each child makes them compassionate, intelligent and curious students. This in turn helps to make the world a better place because these students will be more respectful of diverse cultures that exist around the world.

Students can participate in numerous clubs. For example, there is the Math Club and various Academic Teams. Parents are encouraged to become active members of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA). The Academy has learning sections for both elementary and middle school aged children. This allows them to learn in a holistic environment that caters to their success.

You can find out more information by visiting the school website at You can access school enrollment forms there as well. There are also extracurricular activities that parents and students may be interested in such as Home Connect, One to One Huntsville, Success Net Plus, Renaissance Place, Pearson SuccessNet and Fine Arts.

If you plan to enroll your child into the Academy, don’t forget to get information about orientation and classroom schedules first. If you have any other questions or concerns that are not addressed on the school’s website, please call Mrs. Jeanne Greer. She is the school principal and can be reached via phone or email. You can also email the Administrative Assistant, Carolyn Maples. She can also help answer questions that you may have. If you would like to speak with various teachers during the school year, there is a Faculty Email Directory on the school’s website as well.

Once your child is enrolled in Academy for Science & Foreign Language, it is recommended that you get a copy of the student handbook. This is so that both you and your child know what to expect and are fully knowledgeable about all rules and regulations before classes begin.

All in all, this will be a great school year filled with plenty of wonderful learning opportunities. But things work out better when students, parents, faculty and staff put in a team effort to make the year a successful one.

Ed White Middle School

Ed White Middle School is located at 4800 Sparkman Dr. in Huntsville, AL. For questions or more information about the school, parents may call or email the principal, Jo Stafford.

Jo Stafford is a hands on principal with an active newsletter available on the school’s website. It can be used to keep up with interesting happenings for both parents and students. The newsletter makes an informative and interesting read. The web site also has a book blog available through a link on the library page. The highlights page contains information and announcements of activities and events that have taken place at the school or have had students participate in. This is a good page to check regularly to keep up with special events. The Spotlight page is another page worth keeping tabs on for events.

At the start of each school year as well as periodically throughout the year is the Latest News page. Some important resources to helpful information can be found here. In general, the web site is a good place to keep informed about the school, its goals and other important details such as the yearly calendar and class schedules.

Ed White Middle School works to provide a cooperative learning environment for students that involves not just the faculty and staff of the school but also the families of the students and the surrounding community. The goal is to provide students with the necessary skills to be learners throughout life and productive citizens. Excellence is the goal for all aspects of each student’s educational experience.

The school does have a dress code that is adhered to strictly for at least four days a week. When students follow the dress code Monday through Friday, a message will be sent out on Thursday evening by robo call to let students know that Friday will be a ‘free uniform’ day. This proves to be a good incentive for students to stick to the approved polo shirts and khaki pants during the week. For further details on the dress code and other important issues, it is advisible to download a copy of the student handbook.

Jones Valley Elementary School

As schools become more up to date with current technology, you can expect to find that more schools will include registration of students as part of this dynamic. Jones Valley Elementary now has student registration through InfoSnap online. Parents will be able to register their children at their own convenience from home rather than try to get to the school during specific hours of specific weekdays.

Jones Valley School was originally built in the 1960s but after it was destroyed in a tornado, it was rebuilt in 1990. It is located in Southeast Huntsville, AL where it has a view of the Jones Farm from its position on a scenic hillside. Jones Valley School has an enrollment of about 500 students in grades K through 5. The largest class size is 24 students, which is in each of the 4th and 5th grades. Family participation in school programs is welcomed and encouraged. In addition to PTA for parents, there is a GrandParents Club as well.

The school offers Special Education classes as well as a large program for gifted students. Students may also participate in such after school programs and clubs as Student Council, Chess Club, Math Club, Geography Club, Habitat Club and Book Club. Student activities has the support of a very active PTA. Academic excellence is very important in this school, particularly in reading, so many programs that facilitate reading progress are made available to students and their families.

Jones Valley Elementary’s web site has links to many programs of interest to both students and parents. Among them are Renaissance Place, AR Home Connect, IXL Math, Edmundo, BrainPop, Book Finder, Atrium, AVL – Alabama Virtual Library and Write to Learn. Also on the web site are pages giving more information of clubs and organizations for students and information about the PTA for parents. The school calendar, class schedule and many other pieces of information can be found on the site, making it convenient for parents to keep up to date with what is going on in the school.

Chaffee Elementary School

Chaffee Elementary,  located at 7900 Whittier Road, Huntsville, AL, is currently headed by principal Bradley Scott. The curriculum Chaffee uses is a digital/online curriculum. At the beginning of each year, electronic devices such as netbooks, laptops or iPads are distributed to students. Each student is responsible to make sure they have the device with them, fully charged, at the start of class each day. Teachers will discuss any applicable penalties for failure to have the devices with them and/or uncharged with their classes.

Though teachers are expected to schedule at least one parent/teacher conference during the school year, parents may request additional conferences throughout the year. Conferences can be arranged with teachers by email.

Chaffee’s stated mission is to have an environment where all students can strive to meet high academic expectations through participatory learning and common goals. Exceptional students receive recognition and all students experience a nurturing, safe environment.

As part of creating a safe place for students to learn, all visitors must sign in at the office and obtain a visitor’s badge. Parents are welcome to have lunch with their child but are asked to notify the school of that intention by 9:00am to receive a hot lunch with their child. Parents and children are to meet in the lunchroom at the child’s designated lunchtime so instructional time is not disrupted. Instructional time is considered of such importance that students will not be taken out of class for visits or messages from drop-in parents or relatives.

The school has a supply store for the convenience of students who may need to replenish needed supplies. The store is open in the mornings before classes begin. Students needing to make purchases do need to arrive at school during the time the store is open. The store is open from 7:35 am to 7:55 am.

Chaffee students are known as the Eagles. Each letter carries a meaning to form the school motto. E stands for “Expectations high for”, a stands for “All”, g stands for “Goals shared by all”, l stands for “Learning that is active”, e standards for “Excellence celebrated” and s represents “Safe, nurturing environment”. The staff at Chaffee endeavors to make the motto more than just words.

Huntsville City School System Recognized for Efforts to Combat Bullying

Huntsville, AL – The Huntsville City school system has been recognized for system-wide efforts to combat bullying and improve overall school environments.

The Anti-Defamation League recognized Huntsville City Schools for implementing No Place For Hate programs at each school in the district during a celebration ceremony at Lee High School last week. The Seminole Boys and Girls Club was also honored for earning the certification.

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The Pinnacle Schools Learning Retreats

Leadership, problem solving and critical thinking skills are all developed at The Pinnacle Schools learning retreats in Huntsville, Alabama. America’s leading businesses will find employees refreshed, motivated and up-skilled after attending one of our corporate retreats.

Situated in pristine countryside, The Pinnacle Schools provides a unique approach to interpersonal relationship skills with an Equine Assisted Learning Program. Teams participating in the program will find that the skills necessary to get on with a stubborn horse aren’t that far removed from dealing with difficult relationships in the office.

Vanessa Lombardo heads the Equine Assisted Learning Program at Elk River. She’s a specialist who knows the importance of social dynamics in horses, and how they can be applied to human relationships. With techniques first proven on at-risk teens, the program has now been adapted, allowing professionals from any industry to gain from our training retreats.

Vanessa is a certified member of the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA). Her experience spans across positions in both Alabama and Georgia, where she has proven her abilities as a successful direct care counselor and supervisor of treatment programs for the past seven years. The EAGALA association is a group of professionals who study, design, and promote health therapy and corporate development sessions with horses. The group has members in over 45 countries.

Lombardo has spoken at events promoting our courses and Equine Assisted Learning, most recently at the April 12 meeting of the Southeast Association for Experience Education in North Carolina.

Pinnacle Schools offers a number of courses and workshops for your business. In our popular half-day workshop, participants can develop the skills necessary to succeed in business. Skills like communication, patient needs, and interpersonal techniques that develop harmony between co-workers. In these workshops, attendees work within groups to interact with horses. Group work helps to promote confidence, reinforces the need for strong communication skills, and aids in developing the abilities needed to understand and follow directions.

Professionals who can get the most from our courses are those requiring ‘soft skills’ in their line of work. This can include managers and team leaders, youth workers, and health care professionals who provide hands on patient care. Business recruiters have also utilized our workshops to identify individuals who display outstanding leadership abilities, creative problem solving skills, or stress management while performing under pressure.

Equine assisted learning relies a lot on suggestion and physical metaphors that draw parallels to our own experiences. Take for example the two minis in our stable, Cooper and Diesel. At less than 34 inches tall, the lesson we can learn from these horses is that nothing should be judged rashly, or at face value. Although diminutive in appearance, these horses can be just as aggressive and difficult to handle as the full sized breeds in our program.

Communication between humans and horses is primarily based on nonverbal cues. This type of non-verbal communication is essential for humans in recognizing conflicts and emotions in interpersonal relationships. Take for example a group activity where a bridle needs to be put on the horse, but the horse is un-cooperative. The group then needs to rely on visual clues to understand the horse, and work together as a team to solve the problem creatively.

Horses are much like humans. Their social groups are based on hierarchies and defined roles, and every horse has its own personality and quirks. Every horse requires a different approach, and you can draw parallels here to life in the workplace. Horses have a lot to teach us, and through the Equine Assisted Learning programs at Pinnacle Schools, you’ll get to experience these important lessons first hand.

For information on the EAL program offered to businesses, civic groups and medical professionals, call 866-906-8336.