SMH is an amazing school that's found a way to strike that difficult balance between pushing kids hard to get a top-notch education and being a warm, welcoming place to go to school. Most schools that are this good are a little aloof, but SMH is as nurturing as it can be. We love it.
I am a student at Saint Mary's Hall and it is by far one of the best schools in Texas. I have been to several other schools, and none quite compare to Saint Mary's Hall. They prepare you extremely well for college with the way teachers run classes, the kind of work given out, and the college counseling. The teachers take time to explain things to you, and they are always available to help you understand your assignments. There is a completely fair amount of homework, only about 2 hours a night, which can be expected from most high schools; however, if you use your time wisely during school (free periods, before sports practice, etc.) you can get it done more quickly. It's a great school and I highly recommend it.
I have 2 children at SMH and we have been there several years. First, let me start with the Middle School administration head....not impressed at all. She has no connection with the kids and disciplines very unfairly and it is obvious to all. Most of the MS teachers are passionate and awesome teachers although they pile on an outrageous amount of homework for 6-8 graders. On the Upper School...very rigorous curriculum and lots of homework every night and on weekends. Most teachers are great and always accessible to the students. Main feedback to give..not impressed with middle school ..would rather have just sent my kids starting at 9th grade. Also, not much of a family feel...seems like they are only concerned with how smart the kids are and how many they can get in to the top tier schools. Bottom line...good school but is an academic machine and you have to fit into that type of student or your child and your family will be very stressed out!
Our daughter started at SMH her freshman year. She has made great friends and her classes are challenging. The school has an eighth period where all the teachers are available. The educators are supportive, encouraging, and positive. The Head of School knows all the Upper School students names. She loves getting up in the morning and going to school. Fine Arts is a big deal at SMH.
The BEST school in SA, bar none! I just graduated, and in my 4 years (9-12) at SMH, I found the teachers wonderful (willing to work after school with students who care enough to go to them), the administration fine (if trying to please too many groups at once), and my fellow students outstanding. It's a trend among students to try to get high grades with little work, but teachers control this better here than anywhere else. Yes, 75% of the high schoolers have iPhones, and some kids can be snobby, but any kid can fit in as long as s/he is willing to learn a few social graces. I come from the lowest 2% of SMH incomes, but I have found a group of friends I've come to love (even though they live in the Dominion and drive audis and corvettes). I've learned a lot academically (going to Harvard in the fall) but I've also learned to appreciate what I do have in the face of my friends' financial superiority. Overall, SMH has given me more than I could ever have asked for in a high school experience. Note: Racial diversity is low. Ideological diversity is good. Whoever said AHHS is on par with SMH is flat-out lying. Keystone comes close, not TMI, not SACS, not any catholic school. Go Barons!
I went to Saint Mary's Hall several years back. Yes, the education is great and coursework is extremely challenging. However, the students and parents, as well as much of the administration have horrible character. In addition, people of low SES are looked down upon at this "elite" school, and I agree with a previous comment that the students have lived in a privileged bubble for too long (included myself until I had to transfer to a public high school because of lack of financial aid). I was lucky enough to have parents who worked overtime as waitstaff and bartenders just so I could go to this great school. Because of them, I received a wonderful education and have had the opportunity to continue my education beyond undergraduate college. Yet when they came to pick me up in their run-down car, other students would laugh and make fun, jokingly asking what it was that my parents do. When I went there, I would have said that it was great, and that the students were great (I had a great group of friends). But after having experienced other communities and schools, I would say that the families here soak in their privilege.
Until last year (2009-2010), the modern language department was great, this year the level leaves much to be desired. Their standards have been lowered, mainly due to some changes at upper level. It's starting to go downhill, hopefully they wake up and make the necessary changes to stop the problem. Also be aware that the middle school administration trustworthiness might not be as expected.
I am both a teacher at Saint Mary's Hall and a parent of a student. Despite the high tuition, I firmly believe that this wonderful school is worth every penny. My son is in the Lower School, and I have been so impressed with the caring attention of his teachers, the rigor of the curriculum, and the amazing opportunities for extra enrichment that you just can't get anywhere else. As a teacher in the high school here -- and a former college instructor--, I see my teenage students being remarkably well-prepared for college. Speaking as both teacher & parent, I know first hand that the administration and staff love the school and the kids. Although expensive, this is an ideal place for chidlren of all ages. If you want the best for your kids, this is probably it.
I have not been impressed with the St. Mary's Hall graduates. Please don't misunderstand, they are bright and capable, well-mannered to a degree, but are privileged and I have witnessed them place judgement too easily, particularly on those who are in a lower socio-economic bracket. Yes, they are great performers, but I have not been impressed with their character. It seems as if they lived lived in a affluent bubble for too long.