This is a safe place to share your honest opinions of a school, whether good or bad.
Posted April 18, 2014
- a parent
My 7th grade son is not a great fit for public schools but is a perfect fit for TD. He is very bright, but needs a small class size and excellent teachers in order to engage. He also is not savvy enough to thrive in the public schools' social pecking order. He attended a well respected Blue Ribbon public school through 6th grade where he was an honor student. Academically, TD is significantly more challenging. The faculty expect the children to work hard - 2 hours per night + 4 hours per weekend typical homework -- and to behave. The structure, workload, and challenging academic environment have been a huge challenge for my son, but HE LOVES THIS SCHOOL. After 3 quarters, he finally made honor roll, an accomplishment that required hard work rather than coasting. The school is beautiful and eclectic - small class sizes, excellent and respected teachers, and a headmaster who knows every child and supports every teacher. This year, I've had to work with my child to teach him organizational skills and study strategies. I was much more involved in my son's public school and have yet to become involved in TD's PTO, so I cannot comment on parental involvement at the school.
My child spent a year here. The teachers were mostly good. Some were very good. The headmaster was problematic, and that's a theme you'll see in reviews. My child had problems with bullies. Unfortunately one of the bully's parents were on the board, so we got no support. The headmaster seemed to believe that my child was at fault for being different, and that "kids will do that". This was despite multiple other children reporting bullying. You couldn't pay me to send my child back. I appreciate that others may be happy with the school, but I cannot tolerate bullies, nor administrators who ignore (and seemingly support) bullying.
My son has been going to Thorton Donovan since 2004. I love this school and so does my son. Tuition is affordable and reasonable. The school caters to all families of various socioeconomic backgrounds who wants the best for their child(ren). TD is home away from home. The staff are awesome. They work hard and dedicate their time to teach the students. There were some teachers who came and left for whatever reason, TD continued to move on as well as the students. For those who meet Mr. Flemming for the first time, don't feel offended, upset or puzzled. Get to know Mr. Flemming first and you will find out how terrific he is. Good behavior and respect is a must. Its true that the school does not have a traditional PE but do have areas for kids to play sports due to an updated field. As for travel, I am glad to allow my son to travel internationally to connect his studies. TD may not be for everyone because it is different from all other private schools.
I don't want to sound repetitve, but the previous comments by parents seem to hit the nail on the head, or at least, are perfectly consistent with my experiences. That is, T-D is a unique school for kids who: don't fit it elsewhere, are unique, or march to the beat of their own drummer. I think this is especially true of the high school. Which certainly is an appropriate description of my child. There is no beaucracy at T-D. Most functions are handled by the school secretary. The teachers, like any school, are hit or miss, with probably more good than bad. Contrary to what other parents have said, I don't see a large turnover in teachers. The heart and passion of the school is driven by the most colorful headmaster, Mr. Fleming. Parents, in general, are viewed as an obstruction to Mr. Fleming, so please try not to annoy him. On the other hand, he has amassed impressive wisdom through his decades of experience in edcation. His personality is synonomous with the school, which is (probably) a good thing.
Teachers seem to be brilliant enough though extremely "cliquey". Lower school director has her favorites (which is quite evident in the hallways) and this seems to be the cas with the students as well. Glad my child is graduating and moving on to a more mature atmosphere!
Several have remarked that T-D has very high teacher turnover. This is probably because you can't live in NYS on the salaries they offer teachers, and the school offers no health insurance for employees. Not a good way to treat your teachers. To put it kindly, the headmaster is an "odd bird." Plus, from my research, the school is not accredited by any reputable governing body like NAIS or NYSAIS.
I went to Thornton Donovan, grades 7-12. It may have been some 24 years ago but some of the most inspirational teachers that I ever had are STILL THERE! Mr Griffin and Mrs Petrosino! After Thornton Donovan I went to a good college, got my BA in 4 years flat, and have enjoyed a very successful career. The great people at Thornton Donovan helped to prepare and build the foundations of MY LIFE.
My children both attended the Lower School and one left after 8th grade to attend a larger high school. They both felt like they were part of a family and enjoyed the fun projects, including international travel, linked to the country of study each year. They knew my kids very well, understood how they learned and seemed to really care about them. For this, I consider their time at TD to have been a gift. The kids are diverse, some brilliant and unusual. No cliques or other typical school issues. An eclectic group with an assortment of interests. As for the lack of gym, my kids ran around every day at recess and were more active than ever there. That constant exercise was much more important to me than a structured gym class at their ages. Kids can still participate in their local sports programs, which one of my kids did. It's a special place but not for everyone. Great for a child who is smart and travels to the beat of his own drummer. It doesn't offer the full programs of a larger school, but what it does offer is very special.
I like Thornton-Donovan. However, one should understand that it is an iconoclastic school for iconoclastic children. If you have a child who marches to his or her own drummer, this might be the school for you. There is no large institutional bureaucracy with which to deal as the headmaster runs the school unilaterally. This can be either a good or bad thing depending on whether the headmaster likes or dislikes your child. The headmaster understands children with unusual talents and will go out of his way to accommodate them as long as they behave reasonably. He's not particularly fund of parents although he'll put up with them as long as THEY behave reasonably. if you want a place where a child can learn without school getting in his or her way, take a look at TD.