Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Buxton School

Buxton School is a co educational boarding school located in Williamstown, Massachusetts. This is a smaller boarding school, which has internationally recognition for curriculum by consultants. I regularly received the Arts at Buxton newlettter yesteday with information to keep me updated on the school. My touring was about six years ago, however, I do keep in contact with the school from time to time. At the time of tour, Buxton continued to have a good reputiation for being a very good college preparatory small boarding school. The school has a very non traditional approach focusing on both arts and developing individual learning. Student's do have the traditional "Harkness Table in classes, but the motivational level of student's at Buxton is with emphasis on developing types of learning than just collecting data in the traditional learning curve.

My first impression of Buxton was very good. It is a very nuturing school where student and staff can learn differently and still use their talents in a college preparatory program. Even after my tour we placed a student. We found many students returning to Buxton to teach or to mentor other students which is a great sign of sucess.

While many of the past students includingL Dina Jacir are now on the faculty, it is clear the school has had some impact on many students lives.The tour which was back 2004, years after my placement, was with several consultants who had been in practice.

It remains very tailored to student body looking for a small boarding college prepartory program, and its very intimate. Student do know one another and faculty has a good idea what they are doing too! The school has a very long history dating back to the 1700's, priding itself in having a very sucessful college preparatory program, While the school is a very liberal arts focused school some students studying enviromental science would also do well at Buxton.

Many of the students attending Buxton seem to lead a path in media and television as well as theatre and performing and performing arts. The school has a average of 120 or more students during the fall or winter term with sometimes a reported 200 students at maximum.

The fall is the beginng of the school year, with several vacations on holidays taken throughout the year. There is really no summer program at Buxton so this would not be a school to offer summer boarding. The campus is just down the street from Williamstown College, which has a good reputation as a liberal arts school. Williamstown is a very small New England town which has a history with Buxton over 75 years ago. Buxton has very family large kitchen used by students for cooking in a famly style setting. We met in the dinning hall with all the faculty on our tour with other consultants at the time of our visit. We found the school very warm and nuturing.

Buxton has a very nuturing and supportive enviroment for students to achieve sucess. Meals are served in a open dinning room and student do cook meals similarly to the type of enviroment of living with families. There are regular bed checks by staff, with some supervision in the dorms. This seems to be a perfect match for a student to feel comfortable in sharing with faculty as well. Many of the faculty live on campus, and get to know the students quite well.

Most of the students at Buxton are from New York, New Jersey as well as the surrounding New England area. There are work expectations on weekends but student having privelleges do leave campus for town. Buxton thrives on having students of varied ethnic backgrounds, from varied socio-economic and diverse cultural backgrounds, and countries.

Thirty five percent of the students are students of color and fourteen percent are international students. The national average of student on the SAT are indicated on its web site, but there is really no indication of the SAT needed for Buxton. Most student must submit a written essay and transcripts and the SSAT is required.

There is a 1 to 5 student to faculty ratio, so its impossible for staff not to know the students. Classroom size is about 9. We found even smaller classes at Buxton on our tour, with individual instruction in art and theatre.

Some of the noteable alumi at Buxton include: Peter Shummline, Christian Parenti, Journalist and Writer, Phillip Rickey. Sculpor, Frank Wood. Actor . and Marco Williams, Documentary Film Maker. Parents interested in their child attendng a school might be liberal in thinking, but certainly, the student should have well formed ideas about developing meaningful relationships. Buston has a good admission staff, with extra curricular activities.

We worked with a great family a few years ago, looking for a school like Buxton was not hard to find. We believed at the time Buxton as a great fit for the this particular family. The student was having less sucess in a public school, had good leadership ability and attending Buxton was a great opportunity for learning and use of those skills in a unique learning enviroment. We found some of the challenges at the school, for our student, were not engaging in activities or sometimes failing to discuss concerns with faculty or even to move in the direction to increase their interaction with this nuturing small baording school throuthout the semester.

While we believe the student did take some initative, they also did not find their nitch until after the parents concerns were addressed to the consultant. The student was actually not very actively involved with other students, which was problematic of his placement. Buxton, provided the learning enviroment but sometimes, students simply face challenges, much later in the placement which are less problematic or even identified by the consultant or the family. We believe the parents were terrific, but sometimes kids just get stuck in a rut and just don't move until they decide to do things themselves.

A student who is really for free thinking student, might do very well at Buxton, but not having a grading system which is tradition in other schools, might present a challenge for parents. It was difficult for our family to review his progress simply because the student was not informing teachers of his work or sometimes completing work and asking for credit later.

Parents almost always expect some notification from schools about grades, these days. Not having this until the end term was a challenge for any family looking for grades from this school. This loophole, provided this particular student with the opportunity to not take personal responsibility for soem of their work, sometimes blaming the school for his neglect. We realized many students not coming from a boarding school, are not use to being accoutable for their grades. This is usually left up to the parents. This freedom in learning might have also been better with an online grading system, than a narrative report, which was difficult for parents to understand. The schools mission is to develop this type of individual thinking rather than holding parents othe task of accountability.

A student placed at Buxton would be taking college level courses, and in college the expectation is to do the work without much prodding. The curriculum and the grading system are not traditional it is based on a college level direction which students have to be responsible for their own sucess. There is a personal invite each year to the school, which lets the student know they can either be accepted at Buxton or denied. This grading system is not fully explained on the web site, and I had to call to discuss this more in detail with the headmaster.

It might have been better to provide example for parents, during their orientation or tour, enough to explain how grading is performed by faculty. However there also need to be a more clear description on the web site to explain why this grading system is implemented.
In transfering to another private school, our student was accepted at a good private school, but the grading system still left the admission office very unclear about the value of this grading system.

The web site does tell of the grading system, but few parents would understand this coming from a traditional school or public school. In public school grades are not on line and there is daily and even semester to semster grades kept on students.

We asked the admission department several times about grades and we were unable to get the grades, without consent by the parent after sending our agreement to the school before admission of student. This was one issue including the activities, which were clearly not always clear to families.There were however, clearly planned activities and events on campus. We found after calling the school very organized trips to Washington DC and even a graduation party given by a parent.

Our student had good sucess in the off campus activities, took some leadership role in activities but needed more structured activities, and this probably would be very much needed for a student coming to Buxton from another part of the country. A student is active, need ongoing activities, and this needs to be improved at Buxton. While we did determine a student who did not initate interest in an activities might be very challenges too! Buxton, is simply a school for some students who have leadership ability. Because there is no hand-holding for these students. A student must initate the process of learning themselves at Buxton.

Many of the activities on campus included: biking, capoeira, chamber music, chorus, dance, drumming and percussion, horsebackriding, photography, snowboarding, skiing and studio art. Team activities included basketball, track and field, soccer and ultimate frisbee. We found on our tour, great students who seem more interested in the arts and community service. The average tuition at Buxton

Buxton accepts a standarized application with SSAT required for admission with an interview and essay required by the student. The Admission Director is Annie Shuker Haines, is a good Admission Director with a good staff who spend a significant amount of time marketing the school. Margo and Annie are also on staff at the school, and both have been helpful to families. We did find on the financial aid part at Buxton, our parents received regular statements of cost for activities monthly but without some explaination.

Many of the schools charges were not fully explained in detail, and I did find myself calling the school to speak to everyone from the headmaster to the admission to the financial aid department. Many parents were also challenged by the financial statements sent by the financial aid office. While we do have a good relationship with the school, this did present a problem for our parents.

The student we placed at Buxton is now in a public school, and while we spent a significant amount of time working on helping this student, the concern we had was Buxton perhaps liberal in the curriculum. We had difficulty getting transcripts for the family, we had holds placed on grades, when we had requested the grades, not knowing whether the family was up to date in their financial agreement. When we found out they had paid for the school and the amount owing was relatively small, the school insisted payment in full on the account, which made the family uncomfortable in addressing the financial piece with the consultant.

While our tour was very impressive initally, and certainly the school did much to help in coordinating a tour, having lunch on the campus, and explaining the admission processs, there were gaps in the communication with the family and the school. One example: is when the student had not been attending classes the parent were not informed, nor was the consultant. Record keeping of attendance was not based on a attendance book. The student assignments seemed to be unclear, when communication was needed with family which made it difficult for the consultant to obtain this information.

While my belief is Buxton still has a good school, there is clearly some challenges with the communication of departments. Annie was great in getting information completed in the admission process, however we simply did not know if there was any significant challenges in our student until we finally received a call from the parents.

My impression of Buxton, has been mixed. My thoughts are we do need to have greater communication with families. The school is very non traditional in the dress code, but the school has great community services. Fees are high and there clearly needs to be better communication between the consultant and family. We believe, student activities need to be more clearly explained to families at orientation. This simply because, the additional cost which is added to tuition might not seem very cost effective with parents who do not anticiapate this in the tuition. This can be very surprizing to some families and our experience, could be more explained.

Buxton has a great parent committee, and parent are involved with students and alumni. A student which might be a good fit for Buxton, must have the ability to work independently, be creative, focused, not easily distracted, willing to take the challenge of a college preparatory program, have good writing skills, looking for a liberal art college, have interest in theatre or the arts, have a direct link in wanting to learn the arts.

A student in creative arts or theatre might do well since Buxton is clearly interested in the arts or even performing arts. Many of its graduates are now working in the arts, and the maticulation to other colleges seem very good with a large number of student attending very good art progams.