Departments Special Features — 01 October 2018
The difference a private education makes

By Patti Roth

City & Shore Magazine

A school in West Palm Beach offers an aviation program with a flight simulator. A barn with pigs and goats is part of a school in Davie. Students at an untraditional school in Fort Lauderdale are free to do what they want each day, with no required lessons, tests or homework.

Private schools in South Florida feature a diverse array of amenities, philosophies and educational styles. These are some examples of the many variations – and how students are learning from them in their own words.


NSU University School, Davie

Students: 1,800

Grades: junior kindergarten to 12th grade

Established: 1971

Noteworthy features: Part of Nova Southeastern University, offering access to university programs, staff and facilities. Upper School fellowship programs in medical education and in writing and communications. Fellows Program, in which high school students teach other students. Robotics Team and Speech and Debate Team.

Student perspective: “The Writing and Communications Fellowship has given me the opportunity not only to experiment in different areas of communication and broadcast journalism, but also to apply skills that will help me in every area of my life and future. It has given me a head start to find my passion and has made me excited about what is to come,” says Camilla Maionica, 11th grade. “Journalism is now something I am aspiring to professionally, I hope to major in journalism or something related once I get in to college.”

 Address & information: 3375 SW 75th Ave., Davie, 954-262-4506,

St. Mark’s Episcopal School, Oakland Park

Students: 400

Grades: Pre-kindergarten to 8th grade

Established: 1959

Noteworthy features: Focus on academics, athletics, arts and spirituality. STEM Program, technology and robotics courses, Spanish classes begin in kindergarten, 17 junior varsity and varsity athletic teams.

Former student perspective: “In 4th grade, I ran for president of the Lower School student council. Although I was young, this position gave me a taste of responsibility allowing me to experience leadership…” says Tatiana Silva, now 19. “From that point on, I sought out leadership roles within St. Mark’s, whether it be auditioning for a role in the spring musical, trying out for the soccer team, or running for president of National Junior Honor Society. St. Mark’s helped me escape my comfort zone and seek new opportunities to discover what I was passionate about. St. Mark’s provides a wealth of leadership opportunities for their students…”

Address & information: 1750 E. Oakland Park Blvd., Oakland Park, 954-563-4508

St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Fort Lauderdale

Students: 2,125

Grades: 9th to 12th

Established: 1936

Noteworthy features: ClearTouch technology in classrooms, Anatomage dissection lab; virtual reality lab and augmented reality technology; biology, physics and chemistry labs; Bienes Center for the Arts; Forensics, Marching Band, Model United Nations, drama and other activities; athletic program with state and national championships

Former student experience: “STA has given me the opportunity to explore and develop my love for music, love of knowledge and love of God,” says Christopher Dixon, who graduated this year. “The administration and faculty are committed to making the best opportunities available for every student in every facet of STA life.”

Address and information: 2801 SW 12th St., Fort Lauderdale, 954-581-0700,

The Sagemont School, Weston

Students: 650

Grades: Pre-kindergarten 3 to 12th grade

Established: 1996

Noteworthy features: Includes International Entrepreneurship Program, International Marketing & Communications Program, Computer Science Program, Pre-Medical & Dental Program, Engineering Program and International Pre-Law Program. Offers student internships. Touts a 100 percent college acceptance rate.

Student perspective: “I like how personable the school is. It’s fairly easy to start your projects and clubs,’’ says Maggie Roach, a senior, who attended Sagemont School since fourth grade. Maggie is manager of Pride Rock, a café run by students from the DECA club. “We had submitted a proposal and gotten approved for a loan. Everything was student created and student driven … [Pride Rock] is such a valuable experience for students because it teaches them food safety, management and customer service skills. They earn service hours for their hard work, and have a creative outlet to express themselves through over-the-top milkshake creations and art on our bulletin boards.”

Addresses & Information: Upper School, 2585 Glades Circle, Weston; Lower School, 1570 Sagemont Way, Weston, 954-389-2454,

Summit-Questa Montessori School, Davie

Students: About 485

Ages: 18 months to 8th grade

Established: 1991

Noteworthy features: Students work at their own pace with individualized curriculums and hands-on activities.

Ten-acre campus includes two pools. Gardens and a barn with animals offer opportunities for students to interact with nature. Each room features a class pet. Includes sports teams, fine arts department and experiential learning projects off campus.

Former student perspective: Alexia Davis, who attended the school from before kindergarten to 8th grade, recalls a sense of empowerment. “Your age never defined what you can do,” she says. Teachers spoke to her at eye level. “I always felt respected as a student,” she says. That strong emphasis on respect, as routinely demonstrated by teachers and staff, stuck with her and serves her well, she says, in personal and professional interactions with others. Davis is now working at the school and studying to become a Montessori toddler teacher.

Address & information: 5451 SW 64th Ave., Davie, 954-584-3466,

Sunset Sudbury School, Fort Lauderdale

Students: About 20 to 30

Grades: Kindergarten to 12th grade

Established: 2010

Noteworthy features: Emphasis on self-directed education, with students free to follow their own interests in a supportive community environment. No required classes, curriculums or course work. Social responsibility is emphasized, including a student-led justice system and democratic system in which all students and staff participate in all decisions. Campus includes garden, forest and a resource center is being established.

Address & information: 2300 SW 15th Ave., Fort Lauderdale, 954-404-7785,

Palm Beach

Oxbridge Academy, West Palm Beach

Students: About 500

Grades: 9 to 12

Established: 2011

Noteworthy features: Aviation program, which includes a full-motion flight simulator. Average class is 16 students. Students are provided laptop computers. Signature programs include Cambridge Scholars, which includes a stay at University of Cambridge in England; College and Career Readiness Curriculum in an online format, and Independent Research and Study. Service activities with Habitat for Humanity & others. 24 varsity athletic teams.

Student perspective: “At Oxbridge Academy, I have the freedom to learn what I am passionate about. At the end of my junior year, I realized that I had exceeded [her run of] French courses, yet I did not want to stop my French education. Therefore, my French teacher, Dr. Sheilagh Riordan, acknowledged my desire to take another year of French and, along with the Oxbridge administration, created a whole new course specifically designed for students like me so I would not have to stop taking French,” says Sarah Sadati, a senior. Sarah also participated in the Cambridge Scholars Program. “I grew as a student by learning how to time manage, write a college paper, take notes during a seminar, defend a paper in front of a professor and learn about the ‘behind the scenes’ that happens in the English government. Through this unforgettable trip, I not only grew as a student, but as a person, forming connections between professors, teachers and other classmates that I never thought were possible.”

Address & Information: 3151 N. Military Trail, West Palm Beach, 561-972-9600,

Saint Andrews School, Boca Raton

Students: 1,280

Grades: Pre-kindergarten to 12th grade

Established: 1962

Noteworthy features: Private day school and boarding school. Member of Round Square network of schools. Recently added an entrepreneurial center, which includes design technology, media arts and entrepreneurial studies. Offers honors program, advanced placement courses, the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, Singapore math program. Two full-time teachers per class in Lower School.

 Student perspective: Lucia Martin, a senior, says teachers are interested in students academically as well as personally. Teacher Lisa Winer encouraged Lucia to sign up for TED-Ed Student Talks, and assisted her in determining a topic. “For me it was incredible to explore what I like and what I want to talk about,” Lucia says. She selected the science of learning as a topic, and it sparked a passion that may influence her professional pursuits. Lucia says she is now thinking of majoring in education.

Address & Information: 3900 Jog Road, Boca Raton, 561-210-2000,

The Open Doorway, West Palm Beach

Grades: Kindergarten to 12th grade

Students: 50 to 70

Noteworthy features: Academic and behavior programs tailored for students with autism and behavioral issues. Focus is on graduating with a standard diploma and going to college. Activities include a youth outreach community service group.

Student perspective: “This school gives us recognition and respect, by teaching students like myself, with Special Needs, to get a regular diploma,” says Ethan, 15. “They change the way they teach us, so we can be successful. They have helped me learn more, and have given me life skills experiences that I can use in the future.”

Address & Information: 561-434-2788,

The Weiss School, Palm Beach Gardens

Students: 271

Grades: Pre-kindergarten to 8th grade

Established: 1989

Noteworthy features: Education focusing exclusively on gifted students, with a customized course of study for each student. MakerSpace Lab for robotics and Mechatronics, art studio, music studio, taekwondo facility, tennis courts.

Address & Information: 4176 Burns Road, Palm Beach Gardens, 561-627-0740,

Schools with campuses in Broward & Palm Beach

 Pine Crest School, Fort Lauderdale & Boca Raton

Students: 2,626

Grades: Pre-kindergarten to 12th grade

Established: 1934

Noteworthy features: Innovation labs, computer science curriculum, competitive robotics teams, Technology Student Association competitive teams, performing arts, rowing program, 44 honors and 31 advanced placement courses for Upper School students.

Addresses & information: 1501 NE 62nd St., Fort Lauderdale; 2700 St. Andrews Blvd., Boca Raton, 954-492-4100,

American Heritage School, Plantation and Delray Beach

Students: 4,300

Grades: Pre-kindergarten 3 to 12th grade

Established: 1965

Noteworthy features: Pre-professional programs include pre-law, pre-med, computer science, pre-engineering, biomedical engineering; Science Research Institute; science & engineering and innovation labs, math team, football, bowling, golf, volleyball and other sports teams.

 Former student’s perspective: “American Heritage has such diverse opportunities with so many different pursuits you can choose that finding your potential is almost guaranteed,” says Kyle Robinson, who earned a medical degree after graduating from American Heritage. “AHS alumni are notable leaders in their chosen fields who are generating positive differences in the world. They repeatedly attribute their successes to the strong education they received at American Heritage. My professors at Columbia were thoroughly impressed with the subjects and books with which I was conversant and complimented American Heritage on the quality of my education.”

Addresses & Information: 12200 W. Broward Blvd., Plantation, 954-472-0022; 6200 Linton Blvd., Delray Beach, 561-495-7272

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Resources for families interested in Private Schools

Private school directory,

Accreditation information:

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