bds social studies eighth 1 03.26.19hero
Brendan Largay, Head of School

Best Fit

As we near the day of the fourth grade Greek Festival, I have been doing my homework on the Greek myths. One, in particular, always catches my interest: the story of Sisyphus, the king who is forced to push a boulder up a mountain only to watch it roll down the other side and have to begin again.

Whenever I think of this myth, I am left to wonder what Sisyphus feels right at the tipping point? Is it relief for those few moments before the rock rolls down the other side? Frustration at the prospect of having to start over again? Is there any sense of accomplishment? After all, pushing a boulder up a mountain is no small feat.

In some ways, the myth is a metaphor for the work of Sarah Merrill, as she leads our eighth grade students and families through the process of high school placement from late spring of seventh grade through mid-April of eighth grade. Along the way, she employs the help of countless teachers, advisors, and administrators to help guide each family along their journey towards the school that best fits each child as a scholar, an artist, an athlete, and a citizen. To be sure, Sisyphus could have used this kind of help with his boulder.

The placement process is as thorough as you can imagine. In seventh grade, a practice SSAT test is followed by a panel of high school admissions officers from a variety of high schools—single gender, co-ed, boarding, and day—each with a unique mission and philosophy. The panel is representative of the relationships that are well-nurtured over years of dialogue and open feedback between Belmont Day and the schools that receive our students.

With Sarah’s guidance, each student and family shape a list of ‘right fit’ schools to explore through open houses and campus visits. For families who know their child will attend public school, the process offers critical conversation and support around navigating the transition. As a student visit schools, what starts out as an expansive list begins to winnow down to include their right fit schools for application. Teachers and the placement team write recommendation letters and applications are submitted in January.

On March 10, just as Belmont Day announces admissions decisions, so, too, do our eighth graders hear the news from the schools to which they have applied. Students revisit prospective schools, and by April 10, most have decided which high school they will attend. The process is an arduous, yet joyous journey as students mature into young adulthood and experience their agency. As parents we celebrate their growth, sometimes taking shape in ways we might never have expected along the way.  

The covenant between school, parent, and student is strengthened with each milestone reached. This is no accident. Your child makes important discoveries about him or herself, and the process itself is designed to continually pressure-test the idea of best fit. We are fortunate to live where school choices are abundant. Our students really can find a school that fits them without the need to compromise something fundamental to them.  

This year, we celebrate a banner placement season where our students saw the highest percentage of acceptances and the lowest percentage of denials in school history! This success is a testament to the hard work of our students, the support of their families, and the excellence of our faculty. [See the list of school acceptances and matriculation for the Class of 2019.]

As hard as it will be to bid this the Class of 2019 farewell, we will do so knowing that where they are each headed to their right fit school. And as the boulder rolls down the backside of the mountain to begin the process for the Class of 2020, unlike Sisyphus who did not stop for a moment to mark a job well done, we have 33 very good reasons to celebrate.

Have a great weekend, and congratulations to the Class of 2019.

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