I feel terrible writing this review about the upper school because the upper school teachers for the most part are outstanding! We have been at the school for many years, but unfortunately we feel like the school is sinking quickly, and its all due to the administration. The head of the school and most specifically the head of the Upper School Lisa Culbertson definitely do not convey that they care about our kids. It seems like they ask for $$ every time we turn around, and that they are just padding their fundraising on their resumes so they can apply for jobs back east. Ms. Culbertson in particular is known for her inability to respond quickly or even bother getting back to parents and students when they have issues. In addition, she has shown an inability to actually solve issues. She appears professional and says all the right things, but then doesn't do anything or put solutions in place. She doesn't seem compassionate or to even like the kids (or parents). We don't know a single family who respects her or thinks she is doing a good job. They are getting rid of a lot of good teachers (ie. 9th grade English legend - gone). If you are in 9th grade or below, look out, you will not get the good teachers that have been here the past decade. It has gone from a very homey, personal neighborhood feel school to a rigid, rules oriented, no exceptions, stifling atmosphere. Its unfortunate, because it was a special place.
My review is in regards to the Lower School. I will be pulling my student out of PCDS. We chose PCDS because we were seeking a top private school that resembled the rigor and committment to academics found in private schools back East. That has not been our experience. My child has relatively little to no homework. My child was far ahead of his/her peers and learned more from Kumon. Our impression of the school is that it is an average school for wealthy students in the PV/Arcadia area. I did not get the sense the other children in the class were particularly gifted nor were their parents dedicated to academics. It was shocking to see how many parents were not educated and had inherited wealth. Most of the mothers were homemakers. They would set up socials and happy hours at local bars and cafes in the morning after school. For those of us mothers who work, we don't have time for that.
When we looked at BASIS schools and some of the other private schools in the Valley, their curriculum was advanced and the students in the school were ahead. Their families were educated and dedicated to academics.
Nearly all of the kids seem to live in Paradise Valley, and Arcadia. I feel that my child gets left off a lot of activities and invitations because of this. Like most of the families at PCDS, we are an educated upper middle class family who lives elsewhere due to work. We feel that you are at a large disadvantage if you are not proximal to the school. Socializing has been challenging because of this. If you hold parties or sleepovers, kids are less likely to come if you don't live in the area. So this is not like most private schools in large metropolitan areas that attracts the best students from all over the Valley. It has a local feel.
Finally, there is very little diversity if any at this school in our opinion. Some of the private schools in other cities offer much more diversity. We were really shocked by how little diversity there was in classes. Some of the other charter and private schools in the Valley offer much more diversity and we will be transferring to one of those schools for this reason.
It's truly a shame. I like the administrators, teachers and facilities. However, I feel like we are paying a lot of money to send our child to a glorified public school for Paradise Valley and Arcadia students.
i didn't really see values being taught or emphasized. It didn't seem like there was any structured teaching toward this in any real way. At the same time, I don't think the students are lacking in this.
I do not feel supported by this school and wish I had attended another school. This year we did not get into any schools we wanted (some of my classmates only got into 1 or 2 schools out of the 12 or so they applied to). Many of my classmates are going in-state. While there is nothing wrong with going in-state, I feel bad that my parents had to spend more money on private education than they will for my college. This school is not worth the price, especially with the attitude and lack of support. The facilities are nice, but if you don't feel supported, cared for, or looked after by your school I don't think anything else really matters.
This school is amazing, every time I walk through the entrance, I am greeted by the Head of the Middle School and by the Headmaster. This entire school is overflowing with positivity. Even though there is no dress code in high school, the high schoolers dress themselves with respect and poise. They have common sense and are very responsible. They wear appropriate clothes. For the middle schoolers, there is a dress code, no short clothing that doesn't reach the fingertip point, and no inappropriate slogans on tops, and no sleeveless tops. This school is very involved and has some of the best facilities. Schools come over to use their facilities just because they are top-notch. If you want to send your child here, I deeply recommend doing so. I love it here, I made many new friends on the first day of school even though I am a very quiet person, everyone in this school is friendly so over time, you eventually open up. We have excellent teachers and a great summer program. This school is fantastic and over-the-top.
This is the best school in the state in our opinion. It is expensive but you get what you pay for. What separates PCDS from other local private and top charter schools is its environment. This is important because when your child is applying to Ivy League schools, it's important that their social circle involves like-minded students with similar goals. This isn't necessarily the case at other area private schools. PCDS is not known for wild parties. There is no football team. You don't have a lot of inflated pep rallies. You don't find many low income students being recruited to PCDS for their athletic skills and given "scholarships" If your child is having to distance themselves from their classmates to succeed, that is probably not the best environment for them. There are not a lot of distractions at PCDS. The student body is small. There are no preppy uniforms. It's not a unisex school (all boys; all girls). It is not religious or faith based. There are no class ranks in the upper school which benefits all students applying to competitive schools. It minimizes competition and helps those students who have high GPA's but may be ranked lower.
I am a parent with a daughter in first grade and a son going to be joining pre K next year. PCDS is a rare school mostly because of it's small size(less than 60 students per year) and top notch facilities. It has an indoor gym(priceless in scorching hot Arizona), 2 swimming pools, several sports fields, an auditorium complete with aerial props and lights and 4 tennis courts. All facilities are available for use from elementary school. There are few schools that have those kind of facilities available to elementary school students. But mainly why we're here is the education. They have between 6 and 9 students out of a class of 60 going to Ivy League schools yearly. Apart from that they routinely have kids entering other top 20 colleges like Northwestern, U of Chicago, Rice, Duke amongst others. It needs belt tightening from our family because it is expensive, but if you can offer your kids a well rounded experience with great facilities throughout their school years as well as almost guarantee entrance into a good college at the end of their high school education I think it is worth the price.
Since our child started at PCDS we have witnessed a complete transformation. Before, school was a dreaded chore. Now she has actually learned.. to love learning! She get's up early excited to go to school & comes home raving about her day (both socially & academically). PCDS has done an amazing job of attracting & retaining the highest quality educators & administrators. The Admissions Department set the tone of the school with incredible individualized attention. To see an example of the unique culture at PCDS; come & watch the Middle School students arrive each morning where the Heads of school are in front greeting EVERY CHILD BY NAME, shaking their hand, looking them in the eye & giving them the respect & encouragement they deserve as they start their day. It s remarkable, it s genuine & it s just the beginning of what continues inside every classroom throughout the day. This is one of many great examples that makes PCDS so special. I do feel proud knowing that my daughter is going to what I believe to be the best school in the West. Phoenix was a temporary stop for us, but after finding PCDS, we re adjusting our lives to stay here until she finishes. It really is that good!