It is important for all of us to place a high priority on the education of our young children. St. John has three major providers of institutionalized educational training, Julius Sprauve School (public), Guy Benjamin School (public), and Gifft Hill School (private). The Department of Education funds all operations of both public schools and the private school funds all its operations through tuition, fund raising, and loans. Both public schools have an active fund raising event that contributes generously to each schools needs. The private school has a more active fund raising profile, with many events and mechanisms to contribute to its operational and scholarship requirements.
Private education has existed on St. John for over twenty years and has grown from a small pre-school of five children to a pre-school through high school with a current enrollment of 160 students. All of this growth has come as a result of some very hard working parents and supporters of private education. Private education on St. John has served to augment our educational opportunities and in no way tries to compete with public school education.
The amount spent per child in the public school system is far larger than that of the private schools, salaries and benefits also way heavily in favor of the public schools. Parental participation in school activities weighs more heavily in favor of the private schools, and is a necessity for the survival of private paid education. Tuition will never carry the cost of providing operational cash flow, and certainly never provide the capital for the growth and expansion of the facilities. Private education is a parental choice that comes with an obligation to pay tuition and donate time or money to carry the costs of operating the school.
Although St. John may appear to be a wealthy community it is also a very expensive place to live. Young families struggle to pay for private education along with high rent, food, and transportation costs. As a community we must recognize how important it is to have the choice of private education available to those who support our infrastructure, by providing their skills to all segments of our economy. We are totally dependent on an educated and skilled work force to provide the goods and services that are necessary for the development of a strong economy. A strong economy supports government mandates, provides funds for public education, and develops career opportunities for both public and private school graduates. Therefore it is important that we support our private schools financially, whether you have children in the school or not, we cannot afford to lose our private school option.
The Gifft Hill School is 29 years of hard work and vision, from its early days of Pine Peace School to the eventual merging of the Coral Bay School, into today’s pre-k to 12th grade campus at Gift Hill. Janet and I are on our second generation of students in private school, as parents we sent our children to Pine Peace School, and now their children (our grand children) attend the Gifft Hill School.
Young men and women who attended Pine Peace School have now returned from college and are teaching at the school or hold other professional jobs in the community, with more on the way. This is a success story that will make our community stronger and more able to cope with the social stresses that have recently surfaced on St. John. I visited the school recently and was so taken by the optimism that permeates the school’s environment, and the potential that waits to be realized with the infusion of capital.
I therefore make a plea to all those who have given in the past and to those that have not yet given, that we must raise up the ante, and soon. This is a practical matter of survival, not only for the school, but the community.
There has been a lot accomplished by a lot of good people, but more needs to be done to insure the future of the school and its students. A capital campaign is being organized by the school’s Board of Directors, fundraisers are being held, and direct solicitations are being sent via the mail. Do not miss this opportunity to support education and insure a stable community, give generously.
Former Board Member and Chairman
Pine Peace School