This is a safe place to share your honest opinions of a school, whether good or bad.
Ricks Center for Gifted Children5
Posted December 17, 2014
- a parent
Please beware the negative posts by parents on the way out for whatever reasons. Ricks has had leadership changes and the reasons behind them can be explained to those interested. The leadership in place now is strong, engaged, and actively improving administrative aspects of the school. Ricks' relationship with DU has many more positives than negatives, the dynamics of which can also be explained to those interested. Parents are involved, friendly, and active in a positive way. Ricks doesn't purport to be the right fit for all kids, but there are many families that find it to be an amazing place. If you're interested in learning more, please ask. There are many teachers, faculty, parents and kids that would be happy to speak with you.
My two children have attended Ricks for five years and are very, very, happy there. Personally, I have found the fourteen teachers (and countless paraprofessionals, language teachers, art teachers, etc.) who have taught my kids to be professional, courteous, incredibly nurturing, and responsive to my kids' needs. I have chaperoned numerous field trips and classroom activities and continue to marvel at the degree to which Ricks kids are sweet, creative, funny, and engaged. Any social issues that have arisen have been handled quickly and proficiently by the teachers, usually in a way that engenders constructive conversation and encourages problem solving. One warning: if you are a parent with a strong preference for "drill and skill" learning, this is probably not the best place for you. These parents tend to struggle with the unique, nationally-acclaimed gifted learning model applied by the school (which emphasizes experiential learning through an emergent curriculum over worksheets). In my experience, the Ricks parents who remain tend to be very engaged, nice people who are committed to doing whatever they can to improve the school.
I am a single mom, and frankly the idea of a school community intimidated me. I wasn't sure how I would be treated because I don't have the same kind of time to volunteer at school as other parents, and I was just insecure in general that parents and teachers would think I was disengaged when really I was just trying to survive. Ricks has been a godsend to me and my child. Not only have the Ricks teachers and staff helped me raise my awesome kid and given me 100% support while doing it, but the community is so cool. It's a diverse group, with lots of working moms and working dads, and also lots of stay at home moms and dads. People could not be kinder to me when I sheepishly slip them a $10 because I can't help plan a party, and I honestly feel like I have a community helping me raise my kid. I can't imagine being anywhere else.
I have two children currently attending Ricks, and this is my 5th year as a Ricks parent. I think this school is fabulous. My children get lots of support and individual attention not only from the teachers, but also from the staff and administration. My children are thriving, learning, improving, and having fun. As a parent, I get many, many opportunities to participate in my children's classrooms in a variety of ways. I have helped classes with dissections, planting gardens, field trips, cooking classes, and reading. My whole family feels connected to this wonderful community.
We are now in our 2nd year at Ricks and have two children attending. We looked at other private schools in the area and left feeling underwhelmed. We heard great tales of friendships formed by parents, but we were evaluating schools based on educational benefits and opportunities for our children and ultimately their future. When we found Ricks we knew it would be an ideal fit for our oldest child (our youngest was not in school yet). Feeling nervous about our decision and asking ourselves constantly, "Did we make the right choice? Are we 'those' parents that think our child is gifted? Are we setting her up to fail?" On the 3rd day of her first year, she was walking inside holding her younger sister's hand. With a slight skip and an excited smile on her face, I overheard her say, "This is an exciting place." A great wave of comfort and relief swept over me as I realized that even though I fail daily as a parent, I didn't mess this (school decision) up! We nailed it. If you are an engaged parent, want to be a part of the school community and plan to involve yourself with your child's education journey...then I encourage you to give Ricks an hour of your time and schedule a visit.
We are in our third year of having two children attend Ricks. In those years we have seen many changes to both the school and our children. At all times, our children's progress has been substantial, and the care, dedication, expertise, and excitement shown by the teachers has meant everything to our family. Choosing a school, let alone a private school, is a difficult choice, especially when you find out your child may be in need of a tailored program. This is exactly what the program is, tailored for gifted learned. We have seen the support necessary for our children to learn the basics, and guidance for them to exceed the norm, and we are excited to continue down this road watching their achievement. As this is certainly a different school, we highly recommend new parents speaking with current parents to better understand these differences, and why this school is the right choice for gifted learners.
A couple of things about Ricks. It doesn't sell itself on being a fancy prep school, and if you're a parent who expects special treatment for whatever reason, you may be disappointed. That being said, there is truly no replacement in Denver. My daughter's teachers truly know her and care about HER first and foremost. They have helped her identify her passions, and every kid at Ricks I meet has a similar depth to them that I do not think they would have but for Ricks. It is a highly unique learning environment for special kids where the teachers are truly independent and do what is best for each individual child. Anyone who tells you differently is, well, a parent who is better off in a prep school-type setting where they will have more authority to issue decrees to the school. In my view, if you get into a place where certain parents are calling the shots because they believe that is their entitlement, it's not good for the kids. On a related point, the idea that this school falls under the purview of DU is not surprising to anyone and is the entire point of Ricks. Look at the U. Chicago Lab Schools as another example of this type of model. P.S. - I love Director Dan!
Stay away, at least for now. This formerly great school is spiraling downward quickly. Since the founder left in the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, the school has rapidly fallen apart. Older reviews complain about bad communication with the staff and faculty. They weren't wrong; that's a challenge the school has faced for years. But now things are different. If you're considering Ricks, you MUST ask the following questions of the staff before committing: Ask who controls the school. Unlike other private schools, Ricks is run by DU (Morgridge College) with ZERO parental input. Unilateral fiscal decisions are made without consulting Ricks parents, teachers, or administration. Ask why Ricks is on its 4th director in 18 months (The director has no power at all DU makes the decisions). Ask why Ricks increased some class sizes by 40% while raising student-teacher ratios. Ask why so many families leave Ricks each year. Ask why the school is under capacity. Ask why DU laid off 1/3 of the staff this past summer. It's sad that such a great place has fallen apart so quickly. I hope they get it back together. But for now: run, don't walk, away from Ricks.
Ricks no longer deserves your brilliant, gifted child (or your money). My child and both of us parents loved Ricks until recently. But they ve changed things for the worse this year. My child, who did great her first two years at Ricks, has completely stopped progressing this school year (2014-2015). She is literally doing the same work she did last year, repeated again. The shared concept of having 3rd-4th graders, and 1st-2nd graders together, works when the teachers are consistent and the class sizes small. This is no longer Ricks. Just imagine a school that doesn t allow parents in the classroom except when they need help throwing a party or a student performance. Imagine a school sneaky enough to require parents to sign contracts just a few days before the admission results are mailed from all other private schools to try to keep you from leaving. Imagine a school that pretends to solicit parent feedback and then literally ignores every request and suggestion. Worst of all, imagine paying $18K for a year of private school, and watching your friends kids learning more, enjoying school more, and getting more out of the public school you ve already paid for through your taxes.
Ricks is under the directorship of an amazing leader who relates well to parents and, most importantly, students. This school is a haven for truly gifted kids and the results are magical - our children are so happy, challenged and engaged! We love our teachers and the admin team!!!!