After much debate (mostly on my part), Ellie has been enrolled in the Sewickley Academy for the 2012-2013 school year.
When we first arrived, I visited Edgeworth Elementary School, the local public elementary school, and I was smitten. It was by far the nicest public school I had ever seen. It even made me (almost) wish I were a teacher again so I could teach in a school like that. It was that good.
Sewickley also has a top-notch private school where most people like us (international movers) tend to go. Their system aligns fairly well with the International Baccalaureate, making an easy transition to schools in Europe. They use technology to enhance education, not replace teaching as I woefully observed in other schools. I was so impressed with their high school program (one of the classes is "Modern History of the Middle East"). Family participation is encouraged, and a broad range of skills are requisite (including mandatory dance class for all students--picture 5th grade boys in ballet poses).
The screening was fairly intense with over an hour of testing Ellie for skills (at age 6!), but she was accepted with open arms probably before the screening was over. I kept telling the admissions man that she was ready for Grade 2, and he was insistent on Grade 1...until he tested her. Then, he was all about Grade 2. As much as it annoyed me that he was so dismissive of my assessment, I was equally pleased when he recognised her skill level. The public school was also prepared to put her in Grade 2 just because I asked them to, but at least I know the Academy is putting her there out of recognition. Her age would normally have her in Grade 1 here, but she has already passed the skills they teach for that group. The admissions officer even acknowledged that she already has many of the skills they hope to cover by the second half of Grade 2. She will be well-placed and hopefully well-taught.
The biggest reason we chose the Academy is class size. There is a maximum of 16 students per class, though it may be 14 or 15. Ellie is such a sensitive, tender-hearted girl, and she has yet to be in a non-Montessori classroom. We think she will like the discipline and attention facilitated by a small class. I personally like that the creed of the Academy is "Curiosity, Courage, Compassion". Yes, please.
My worry about sending her to the Academy versus the public school was making her too different from the other kids, especially since all of the remaining 22 girls on our street go to the public school. I really didn't know what I wanted to do since both schools were equally good at this age level, and I debated a lot. There seems to be a touchy-sensitivity in public school kids towards the Academy kids, and Ellie certainly has a finely tuned radar for slights. However, while we were away on our holiday, the choice seemed crystal clear to me. She will go to the Academy, and I'll put in extra effort outside of school to help forge friendships locally.