This is a safe place to share your honest opinions of a school, whether good or bad.
St Anne's-Belfield School1
Posted August 13, 2014
- a community member
I went to STAB through middle school and hated it. The teachers were good, but you can get a wonderful education elsewhere without the attitude of the students, families, and administration. I lost so much confidence at STAB and have only recently gained it back. Do not send your child there. I repeat: Do Not Send Your Child There. Unless you want to see your kids' social skills and self-worth crumble before you.
This is more country club than school. The social pressures on both kids and parents are hard. Money, not character or achievement or effort, dictates social standing. There are the "in crowd" and the "rest" (and this applies to both parents and kids), and woe betide if you are not "in". The lip service paid to cultural diversity is just political correctness. There is a specific profile for kids (and parents) who succeed here, and anyone outside that feels a nagging sense of pressure to conform. The self-congratulatory atmosphere is distasteful. The facilities are beautiful, but there is a sense of entitlement here (in both the parents and the kids) that I think sets students up for difficulties later in life.
I have had 4 children at STAB. When they first started attending 16 years ago, this was a charming southern school. The headmaster was gracious, and transparent about the schools finances. Some of the buildings were old, but were well kept up. The teachers were excellent. In the last five years, administration of the school has been taken over by a young headmaster from California, and a hedge fund manager from Texas. Both have worked very hard and very successfully to improve the physical plant and raise money. However, the school has lost its charm and now feels like a corporation selling educational services from new bright-and-shiny facilities. Tuition and fees are skyrocketing. School uniforms were suddenly required for no apparent reason, and so is a mandatory costly school lunch program that neither the students nor parents want, a policy implemented weeks after a new cafeteria was built. STAB is way behind public schools on technology. Having a parental voice is donation dependent. That said, my boys have a reasonable education, but it's not a high end prep school. Few STAB grads go to Ivy League or Stanford or MIT. I am glad my last child is a senior. Bye.
STAB is an amazing school all around. The sense of community at this school is so wonderful, and the student body is all so nice. The teachers are very good at what they do, and the students really bond with them and you feel like they are actually your friends. Which they are. The academics are challenging, but that is how I like it. They have a wide range of arts programs which you can choose, and I am currently in photography, 3d art, and creative writing. STAB is such an amazing school, and I have gone here for over five years. I love it so much, and I am so happy I go here. The sports are also wonderful, and there are so many options, including exemptions for sports you already play. They also provide snacks, and DELICIOUS lunches. I am gluten and dairy free, and they make me my own special lunch every day which is so nice. Overall, STAB is wonderful, and you will make lifelong friends. Everything is wonderful. The teachers, the students, the campus, the food, the arts, the sports, the classes, EVERYTHING! You should definitely visit and hopefully come join our school. -An 8th grader
Our eldest son went to "STAB". A good education is possible there, but there is very little flexibility despite being a private school. Many teachers are straight out of college and teach out of their expertise. Most AP classes are offered only every other year. The tone is vaguely Christian, but really not religious at all. The students are highly affluent, and my son joked that the one phrase you never hear is "I wish I had one of those". Sports are dominant, to the point that classes for all are cancelled for the benefit of the traveling team. I would not have done it in retrospect.
Some outstanding teachers (though not somehow as many as you'd expect), some really talented students, and some really nice students. Many of the parents are open-minded, welcoming, & intelligent, but there's a silly social-climbing attitude among some families that rubs off on some of the kids (St. Barth, Farmington, etc etc). Two kids at St. Anne's, it was right for one and less right for the other; the academics and arts just aren't good enough compared to the outstanding public options to put up with the unpleasant values that do occasionally seem to pervade the school. Fundraising is a real emphasis -- sometimes seemed like there was a quid pro quo for families who gave the most. It's too bad -- this small core of ugliness keeps STAB second-rate.
Having had one child complete Middle School at STAB and one halfway through, I feel I can comment on the quality of education received by my children at STAB during the past 5 years. We are extremely pleased with the curriculum and the quality of the teachers at the Middle School. They are bright, caring, enthusiastic and have taught my children how to think critically and outside the box. Coming from the Albemarle County public school system, we were very disappointed with enormous class size, overworked/unenthusiastic teachers (certainly not all but many) , lack of foreign language and arts options and particularly, the SOL-based curriculum that emphasizes rote memorization and allows little room for creativity. In contrast, we have been thrilled with all aspects of STAB. The student body is quite diverse and socially, my children have thrived and have many friends of different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. It is a place where you can take two languages in middle school, be a jock AND an artist, musician or thespian. And no, we are not rich or connected. We value our children's education more than anything and feel this is the best option despite the hefty price tag.
Sadly, the car analogy and many other analogies already set forth are on point. The curriculum needs a major overhaul. There is an effort underway to further educate present faculty, but the understanding of what it takes to make a great school is just off the mark. The biggest problem is frankly that that a few parents influence and control much of what goes on; and, the school administration operates in fear of offending/angering these parents. Student discipline is lacking; and, the resulting social atmosphere is toxic. Though the facilities are great, more energy needs to go into understanding and supporting students and promoting independent thought and responsibility while assuring the fundamentals of a good education are still the focus of the curriculum.