Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education. – Martin Luther King, Jr.
As parents, we are especially concerned about the quality of our children’s educations. After all, school is a place where they will spend a good portion of their lives. This concern means we carefully scrutinize many factors in deciding what school is best for their needs.
Most obvious concerns involve academics; faculty and staff; available resources such as research facilities and technology. Science, mathematics, reading and writing — these are the time-tested foundations of learning that will ensure our children the best chance at success. In our zeal regarding these fundamentals, however, let us not overlook other areas just as vital to a student’s development, areas like the arts, community involvement, spirituality.
The programs and attributes of our public schools are well-documented. But the benefits of private and parochial schools aren’t as much a part of public discourse. In addition to academic excellence, many have a strong commitment to providing a liberal arts education, to ensure well-rounded students.
Subjects such as philosophy, foreign language and current events encourage problem-solving and tolerance. Arts, music and dance stimulate self-expression and creativity. Exposure to classical literature, drama and music create an appreciation of the past. Providing opportunities for spiritual reflection and growth, for participation in the community — even the world.
The Rockford area offers several high-quality private schools that successfully combine college-preparatory academics with an emphasis on liberal learning, a focus on individual abilities and strengths, on developing the whole person.
In our 3rd Annual Guide to Private Schools, Northwest Quarterly profiles some of these fine institutions. All welcome inquiries and visits.
Christian Life Schools
5950 Spring Creek Road, Rockford, Ill. (815) 877-2600, clschools.org
At Christian Life Schools, faculty, staff and parents are committed to providing a quality education while cultivating an atmosphere where Christian principles are taught, modeled and encouraged. It is an environment that provides a sense of security, constancy and spiritual relevance.
Christian Life has a strong history of excellent curriculum, caring faculty, competitive sports and exceptional learning environments, Christ-centered faith and students that continually test well beyond their grade levels.
The diversified student body comes from more than 140 different churches and 36 different denominations. At Christian Life Schools, 90 percent of graduates attend college.
The school is accredited by the Association of Christian Schools International, North Central Accreditation and the Commission on International and Trans-Regional Accreditation, and is recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education.
The Christian Life campus accommodates all grades at one location. Of the thousands of square feet of academic space, there are six technology labs, computers within classrooms and an Apple Computer Graphics art lab. There are two gymnasiums, a weight room, and labs for life science, chemistry and language. Of the faculty, 20 percent have Masters degrees and an average of 14 years’ experience.
Academic offerings include Honors classes and dual credits college courses. Along with athletics, students can participate in Student Government, National Honor Society, Key Club, International Club and Writer’s Club and perform in concert band, jazz band, choir and Limited Edition Select Choir.
The elementary, middle and high schools each put on a spring musical. Trips abroad, community outreach programs and fall retreats are offered in both middle school and high school. All students attend powerful weekly chapel services, and during Spiritual Emphasis Week, they hear motivational speakers offering relevant Biblical lessons.
The Christian Life philosophy is that education must be a cooperative effort between schools and parents, so that learning can take place outside as well as inside the classroom.
The rigorous college-preparatory academics are complemented with strong spiritual training and promotion of a positive self-image. All subjects are taught to prepare students to grow into responsible adult citizens of the world and God’s kingdom.
Roger Beary, Middle/High School Principal
Christine Golembiesky, Elementary Principal
Larry “Spike” Goodrich, Middle Principal
Grades: Pre-K through 12
Student/Teacher Ratio: 20:1
Church Affiliation: Rockford First
Tuition: $5,120 Elementary School; $5,560 Middle School; $5,869 High School
Tuition Assistance: Program Available
Dress Code: Coordinated Attire
School Mascot: Eagles
Athletics: Northeastern Athletic Conference
Sports: Boys & Girls: Basketball, Bowling, Volleyball, Golf, Cross Country, Bowling, Track, Soccer; Boys: Football, Baseball; Girls: Softball, Cheerleading
6413 Forest Hills Road, Rockford, Ill. (815) 877-1489, allegroacademy.org
The Allegro Academy, a non-denominational Christian elementary and middle school and childcare center, has been providing educational service to the Rockford area for over 30 years. By setting high expectations, yet allowing students to progress according to ability rather than age, it creates young scholars who are excited about learning.
Allegro Academy offers arts, music, theatre; athletics; accelerated/gifted programs; after-school programs; clubs and extra-curricular activities.
“We’re small, which allows us to be versatile and stay on top of current trends and technology,” says JeanMarie McCormack, principal.
“We’ve implemented technological upgrades in both the buildings and curriculum,” says Dale McCormack, director of facilitites. “We’ve increased our fine arts offerings and added several dozen more laptops and computer-based resources, to reflect the changes in academics and social media.”
Other improvements include an updated science/art lab, computer-integrated classrooms and SMART Board technology.
“What sets us apart is the way we’ve integrated fine arts instruction for all students,” says JeanMarie. “We offer movement and music, art, piano, tap and ballet starting at age 4. We have also received a grant this year from the American Harp Society. It will fund harp instruction classes for older children. We offer a classical education that is committed to teaching fine arts and facilitating academic mastery.”
Also onsite is the Allegro Learning Center, with six classrooms and three fenced play areas. It accepts children ages six weeks to five years, with an enrollment of about 90.
Phonics and reading are taught from early day care through 8th grade. “More than 50 percent of our students test two grade-levels ahead of their age group,” says Dale.
Allegro Academy has added an online math curriculum for middle & upper grades. This curriculum allows students to progress at their own pace. With more than 2,000 modules, teachers can fine tune and continuously assess each student’s math track.
“Teachers and students log on at the same time, allowing each student to work at his or her own pace, and teachers to track progress,” explains JeanMarie. “It’s much more individualized and engaging. We’ve got kids asking to skip recess so that they can work on math.”
A Christian perspective is part of the academic program, including daily prayer, Friday chapel and Bible curriculum taught four days of the week.
“We emphasize diversity on all levels,” says Dale. “Each child is a unique creation of God, blessed with a special set of talents and gifts. Each child deserves to approach life with a sense of self-worth, respect for others, and a sense of his or her own personal relationship with God.”
JeanMarie McCormack, Principal
Dale McCormack, Director of Facilities
Cora Richter, Director of Admissions
Grades: Pre-K through 8th
Student/Teacher ratio: 10:1
Church Affiliation: Non-denominational
Tuition: Varies by grade level
Tuition Assistance: Available
School Mascot: The AllStars
Boylan Catholic High School
4000 St. Francis Dr., Rockford, Ill. (815) 877-0531, boylan.org
Boylan Catholic High School is a comprehensive, co-educational high school in the diocese of Rockford. Teachers stimulate and guide students in their spiritual, intellectual, moral, emotional, social and physical development, through example, industry, prayer and invitation. They’re available before and after school to help students in all areas, and also attend and run student retreats.
The school’s teaching mission is based on the existence of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as proclaimed by the Roman Catholic Church.
Parents are involved in every aspect of student life. “They are most supportive of faculty, staff, as well as the students’ scholarship and extra-curricular events,” says The Rev. Paul Lipinski, principal. “Our students are parent-driven to succeed.”
Boylan is accredited by North Central Association and recognized by the Illinois State Office of Education. Of its faculty, 67 percent hold masters degrees or above; two members are Golden Apple recipients. Boylan is a three-time winner of the U.S. Dept. of Education Exemplary School Award, and a two-time winner of the Catholic High School Honor Roll.
With an Academic Support Center, 10 Advanced Placement courses and an honors program, Boylan provides excellent collegiate preparation; 97 percent of Boylan graduates attend college. Three challenge levels – honors, academic and general – ensure that each student is properly placed academically.
The school’s state-of-the-art technology, national recognition and innovative academic, co-curricular and athletic programs combine to provide students with a place to learn and grow that is firmly planted in the 21st century and grounded in spiritual tradition.
“When I observe the interaction between the students themselves, and between students and faculty, I see respect, attentive listening and a genuine friendliness,” says Lipinski.
The main building has three computer labs and a business education lab; the Arts and Science Complex has seven science labs, three art classrooms with kiln and a 175-seat lecture hall/auditorium. There’s a Music Complex and a 5,400-seat stadium with track, baseball diamonds, practice fields, indoor tennis courts and a swim complex.
Boylan offers 22 interscholastic junior varsity and varsity sports, and 24 extra-curricular activities that include foreign language, scholastic and service clubs, theater/music and special interest groups.
All students complete 120 service hours before graduating. Students help others through the Christmas food basket drive; the Haitian Project; and as ministers to hospitals, nursing homes and social agencies.
In a community of care, vigilance and challenge, Boylan students discover what it means to be women and men of faith, honor and integrity. They are inspired to become their best and truest selves – persons of intellect, vigor, compassion and vision.
The Rev. Paul Lipinski, Principal
Student/Teacher ratio: 14:1
Church Affiliation: Roman Catholic
Tuition: $5,100 for members of participating parishes; $5900 for non-participating parishes
Tuition Assistance: Scholarships, Student Aid, Student Work Program
Dress Code: Uniforms
School Mascot: Titans
Athletics: NIC-10 Conference
Sports: Boys & Girls: Basketball, Swimming, Tennis, Track, Bowling, Swimming, Soccer, Golf; Boys: Baseball, Wrestling, Football; Girls: Cheerleading, Dance/Poms, Volleyball
Rockford Christian Schools
Elementary: 220 Hemlock Lane; Jr/Sr High: 1401 Bell School Road
Rockford, Ill. (815) 399-3465, rockfordchristian.org
Rockford Christian Schools is the largest independent, non-denominational Christian school in the region, with enrollment representing close to 130 area churches and 23 denominations. Its challenging college preparatory academics include gifted enrichment and honors programs, Advanced Placement courses, dual-credit college courses, and many academic and extra-curricular programs. It recently added Mandarin Chinese to its foreign language program.
It is fully accredited by the Association of Christian Schools Int’l., the North Central Association, the Commission on International and Trans-regional Accreditation, and recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education.
Rockford Christian elementary students test 2 to 3 levels above their grade level; middle schoolers 3 to 5 above; and high schoolers at post-secondary in most learning disciplines, with an average Honors ACT score of 28.3. Of graduates, 99 percent attend college.
Students have access to state-of-the-art classrooms and technology, with three computer labs, two libraries, three science labs, two art studios, a performance stage, three gymnasiums and athletic fields.
Through Biblical integration in its Christ-centered academics and activities, Rockford Christian prepares students for responsibility to themselves, others and their community. This goal is achieved with gifted, motivated faculty and parents committed to the school’s mission.
Randy K. Taylor, Superintendent
Grade: PreK through12
Church Affiliation: Non-denominational
Tuition: From $1,175 (pre) to $5,975 (H.S.)
Tuition Assistance: Program available
Dress Code: Uniforms
School Mascot: Royal Lions
Athletics: Northeastern Conference
Sports: Boys & Girls: Basketball, Soccer, Golf, Cross Country, Track, Bowling, Swimming, Bass Fishing, Tennis; Boys: Baseball, Football; Girls: Dance Team, Cheerleading, Softball, Volleyball, Diving
Montessori Learning Path
200 N. 1st St., Rockford (815) 964-1700, montessorilearningpath.com
“At Montessori Learning Path, students develop a sense of ownership of materials and a willingness to assist each other when needed,” says Esmeralda Penney, Educational Program Coordinator. “Our teachers realize the importance of following and working on behalf of the child, fostering independence and autonomy, rather than doing for the child what he or she is capable of doing.”
The Montessori classroom is comprised of five interrelated areas to provide a well-rounded educational experience. Each is equipped with materials that support the student’s natural development and encourage his or her learning and self-confidence. Teachers strive to create an atmosphere of order, concentration, independence and cooperative learning.
Parents are encouraged to observe or volunteer in the classroom, to see the process first-hand. “Volunteering also provides parents with a deeper understanding of how capable their children are, and how to incorporate similar processes at home,” says Penney.
The school provides full- and half-day programming, with five-, three- and two-day and extended care options. In the Montessori Based Art program, ages 3-6 explore with a variety of art materials and processes. All-day students express themselves with the Drawing Board curriculum. Children are exposed to the multicultural world through song, story, cultural expression and object/language association.
For over 25 years, Montessori Learning Path, located in the heart of downtown Rockford, has been educating children for a better tomorrow.
“The support between staff and parents speaks to the pride they have for their school, and to the team spirit that extends beyond our campus and reaches into our community, touching the lives of people in many ways,” says Penney.
Esmeralda Penney, Educational Program Coordinator
Grade: Ages 2½ through K
Church Affiliation: N/A
Tuition: Age 2½: $3,650; Ages 3-6: ½-day program, $3,140; full-day program, $5,830
Tuition assistance: N/A
Dress Code: N/A