EducationPrivate Schools

Relocating Parents Discuss Atlanta’s Private Schools

At KNOWAtlanta, we understand that for parents relocating to Atlanta, finding the right school for their child is a top priority. We profiled parents whose children attend several of the metro area’s best private schools to share their family’s relocation experiences to help make your own search a little easier when finding the perfect independent school for your child.

The Durham family relocated to Atlanta from Connecticut when Mikel Durham accepted a job as chief commercial officer with a new company, CMS Bakery Solutions. Moving their global headquarters from Amsterdam to Atlanta, Durham became very busy sorting out where to live and where the kids should go to school. They settled on Buckhead for their new home and were thrilled to be accepted into The Galloway School in Atlanta. The Durhams were looking for a school where their kids, 9-year-old Arden who was starting fourth grade and 11-year-old Burkit who was starting sixth, could choose topics they love and wallow in their passions.

“I was looking for a place where the children would form a love of learning. A great education will be the outcome of a love of learning, and that love lasts longer than school,” Durham says. “We were in public school in Greenwich, Connecticut, and it was a good one. But there were many, many tests, and preparation for tests, and it was getting worse. Plus, there is a regimen that just doesn’t enable focus. It’s funny that they say kids have trouble focusing, when, in fact, it is often the schedule which inhibits them from focusing.” In the midst of a home and company move, the Durhams were devoted to finding a school that would nurture their children’s sense of progress and accomplishment without stifling their interests.

After visiting seven different schools, Durham felt like Galloway would help the children grow and explore their interests and provide a community of teachers with more diversity and attention. “There are many good schools in Atlanta, but at Galloway, I felt it was all about the kids,” Durham says. “It wasn’t about the sports facilities, or how big it was — they were all about the kids. They asked about what the kids are like and what they like to do, rather than sharing schedules and requirements.”

When it comes to finding the perfect school for your children, Durham says he was lucky to be able to use a network and speak to many parents in Atlanta. “Everyone was so kind to speak with me. They rightly told me that there are many good schools, and they told me to be careful. Not every school fits every child,” Durham says. “There were many parents who have different choices for different kids, so I tried to look at each school from the perspective of each child. One school I loved, and then realized that I loved it for me! My son would have been miserable there.” As for Arden and Burkit, they like the fun, social side of school and being intellectually stimulated — neither enjoys being lectured. “I think we have found one school that both of my children will love, but I will always keep in mind that they are different, with different needs,” she concludes.

After the senior-parent coffee meeting at Mount Pisgah Christian School in Johns Creek, John and Rose Katsianis were more sure than ever that this was the right fit for their 17-year-old daughter Alexis. The youngest of three, Alexis attended the same large public school in Missouri that her siblings graduated from and got “lost in the crowd” at a large school. “Her father and I knew we needed to make a change and enrolled Alexis in a small private school. She did better academically and because it was a small, Christian-based environment she was being better prepared to succeed after high school,” Rose Katsianis says. “The decision to research private Christian high schools in and around Atlanta was a big part of our relocation.”

The Norcross and John’s Creek areas were the focus of the Katsianis family’s search, due to closer proximity to John Katsianis’ work. Alexis also played a big role in deciding which school to attend, and she knew the same day they interviewed at Mount Pisgah that it was the right school for her. The Katsianis family was able to check off the most important items on their list: college-preparatory academics, teachers who really cared, a nurturing environment, small classes, integrity and a Christ-based education.

“Mount Pisgah really does fit everything we want for Alexis,” Katsianis says. “Academically, there are great public schools. Independent schools such as Mount Pisgah are, in our opinion, academically better for college-prep and they offer so much more. The teachers, coaches, administration, in addition to being strong role models, all develop individual relationships with their students. These are very important building blocks teens need for success after high school. Alexis will be much more ‘life-ready’ thanks to Mount Pisgah.”

In searching for which private school is best for your family, don’t be afraid to ask questions and get input from your child. “Ask yourself, ‘What do I want in a school for my child? What does my child need to succeed? How can this school achieve my goals for my child and how will they help my child achieve their goals?’ We asked a lot of questions of our friends, neighbors and community. In the end, for our family, the decision was easy,” Katsianis says.

Relocating to Buckhead from Bal Harbour, Florida, in February, Lisa Orkin Emmanual and her daughter Isabella, grade five, were looking for a new school and settling into a position at work. “Some of my priorities were to pick a school with high academic standards and a curriculum taught in a manner that would help my child excel,” Orkin Emmanuel says. “Extracurricular activities and special classes offered were also very important to me.” She also wanted a school that would offer a high level of communication between parents and teaching staff, in addition to lots of attention for the children to ensure an interactive collaboration for her daughter’s education.

Orkin Emmanuel was deeply impressed with the kindness and availability of Woodward Academy’s Vice President for Admission Rebecca Eckstein and her staff. A tour of the school, which has a main campus located in College Park and a second in Johns Creek, conversations with administration and interviews reinforced that the school’s focus was on the totality of the child’s experience. “The interest, help and support they have given us has been and continues to be truly unique,” she says. “This also extended to all the people we met once my daughter was accepted and enrolled at the school, including the lower school principal and teachers. They really did everything they could to ensure that my daughter was integrated into the school in such a way as to make friends and be able to excel academically, which she has done.”

Woodward also offers after-school activities throughout the year, which helps the child explore his or her interests. Among these are a variety of sports, yoga and theater. The student population is large and diverse. Isabella is enjoying the intramural sports offered after school throughout the year and looks forward to trying new sports and meeting other children along the way. Art, another one of her interests, has a strong emphasis in the curriculum and opportunities at Woodward as well.

To other parents, Orkin Emmanuel says, “I would pay attention to the plan of how the school will integrate a new child into the student body. Ask what extracurricular activities are offered and if those fit the needs of your child. Also, to find out about what the curriculum is like as the children progress through the different grades. What kind of help is offered if your child needs extra help? In what manner, and how often, does the school communicate with parents, and does that fit your needs?” Know ahead of time if you are able to be as involved as you’d like to when looking for the right school.

The Hoyos family relocated to Alpharetta from Houston, Texas, last July. For Carlos and Olga Hoyos, continuing a Christian education for 13-year-old Nicholas in the eight grade and 8-year-old Sofia in the third grade was a priority. “We wanted a school with different extracurricular activities because our kids are very active and love sports,” Olga Hoyos says. “We also wanted a school close to my husband’s office, which was going to be in Alpharetta. We didn’t have a house yet, so we decided that the most important thing was to find the right school and then look for a house close by.”

After lots of online research and help from the admissions director at their previous school, they found that King’s Ridge Christian School in Alpharetta had a similar mission and doctrine. The accreditations, curriculum and extracurricular activities were on point with what they wanted for their children. “When we visited KRCS and met the wonderful admissions team and the school facilities, we felt that our kids belong there,” Hoyos says. “The hospitality was amazing. We visited the classrooms and the kids and teachers were very friendly and polite. KRCS provided a full package of information about the school, activities, doctors, real estate, etc. We really felt impressed by the school’s organization.”

The Hoyos family is enjoying the fact that they were able to meet the students, teachers and school back in May to get acclimated. The sports atmosphere and hospitality at KRCS are also well-received. “We came 10 days before the school started in order to meet some kids and it was wonderful. The families called and emailed us and we got the kids together before school started,” Hoyos says. “The families made us feel at home!”

The Hoyos recommend to parents relocating with school-age children that they check the mission statements for schools they’re considering and make sure it echoes your own goals for your child’s education. Always be aware of the schools’ accreditations and academics and ask about the curriculum and extracurricular activities available for students.

Moving can be an opportunity to better tailor you children’s education, and Atlanta independent schools are designed with quality education in mind.