Public v. Private: a comparison on preparing for the future

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Whether you talk to educators in the public or private sector of education in the area, you will find administrators who strongly believe in their programs and the unique opportunities each offers for local students.

At Fort Dale Academy, Greenville's largest private school, preparation for life after high school begins early, says Headmaster David Brantley. "We want our students to learn the benefits of responsibility and hard work from an early age," comments Brantley. Rigorous coursework provided by a staff of experienced, creative and caring teachers is one of the keys to future success, he adds.

"We are living in a high-tech age without a doubt and we have elected to expose our children to the world of computers in elementary school," explains Brantley, referring to the school's large state-of-the-art computer lab and the numerous classes allowing students of all ages to learn about and benefit from the hardware and software available.

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The old-fashioned' virtues of attendance, punctuality and mannerly behavior, the headmaster says, are all encouraged at FDA with the goal of instilling "a strong work ethic" at a young age "which will carry on into adulthood."

"We are a college-prep school and we offer many high level, advanced courses annually including calculus, physics, anatomy and physiology among others to our students," Brantley comments.

Honors English and advanced foreign language courses are also available and students are able to earn either a general or advanced diploma when they graduate.

Students routinely participate in math tournaments, Scholar's Bowl and other academic tournaments and often come away with high honors, says Brantley.

"Our varied athletics program-baseball, softball, basketball, tennis, volleyball, golf and football

allows FDA students a chance to develop their physical skills and learn the dynamics of working as part of a team," he adds.

Art and music also are a part of the elementary school curriculum and the new drama department recently staged a production of "A Midsummer's Night's Dream."

"We feel we offer our students ample opportunity to learn, grow and become well-educated, productive, well-rounded members of society," Brantley states.

Just a few blocks away from Fort Dale is Greenville Academy. It is the smaller of the two schools and its size, says Headmaster David Walker, is one of its greatest strengths.

"We do have small classes and that allows every student to receive the individualized instruction he or she needs," Walker comments, adding, "This gives even the most average of students a great advantage in the classroom."

Walker also feels the small size of the school gives students opportunities to develop athletic skills they would not receive in a larger school setting. "We have a full athletic program here, including wrestling, and to my knowledge no other school, public or private in the area has wrestling in its program…our students get a chance to do something unique and they have opportunities to learn about sports, develop skills and become more well-rounded as a result," he comments.

GA, like FDA, has a two-track program offering both a college-prep and general diploma to its graduates.

"We offer both the basic and advanced courses to our students and, again, it's always in a small setting offering extra guidance, and one-on-one assistance, which makes a big difference for all our students…even the general diploma students often earn scholarships due to being so well-prepared," Walker says.

"While we are a small school we get to participate in many activities, like the spelling bees…I truly feel we have a lot to offer the students of this area," he reflects.

Over at Greenville High School Principal John Black is quick to sing the praises of his "outstanding" faculty and staff. "They do a great job and if my own children were still high school age I would be thrilled for them to come get their education at GHS," Black remarks.

Black feels the diversity' found at the school is one of its greatest assets.

"We offer everything from the most basic courses to the most advanced…both our college prep and vocational programs are very strong here," he comments.

The school's goal, according to Black, is to allow every student to pursue the course of study that suits his or her own interests, ability, and strengths.

Advanced placement and honors courses are available in "virtually every curriculum" including math, science, English and the school's well-regarded art program.

"Our students routinely attend math and English tournaments, Scholar's Bowl…and they do well against schools that are well respected academically," Black states.

However, Black says he and his staff recognize that "all students are not created equally."

"We realize that calculus is not for everyone," he comments.

The vocational program at the high school, therefore, offers a range of courses including construction science, auto mechanics, electronics, agriculture and childcare to prepare students for the world of work.

"The children involved in our daycare program [limited to 15 children] put on a performance during our recent band concert…the students had done such a good job in preparation that those children received a standing ovation," Black comments with pride.

"We also offer a wide range of extracurricular activities

all our sports, concert and marching band, drama, fun things like dances and homecoming parades-we truly feel like we have it all. Our students do have the chances to develop their social skills and learn to get along with the kinds of people they will meet out in the real world

that's what it is all about," Black comments.