The 2020 school year has just begun and Noozhawk’s Private & Independent School Guide is sure to make things easy when planning for your child’s education! Our school guide provides you and your child with all the necessary information about private schools in Santa Barbara County.

To give parents the tools to help make informed decisions about which school is the best fit for their kids in Santa Barbara, Noozhawk has conducted a series of interviews with representatives of local private & independent schools for this year’s school guide.

In this interview, Noozhawk spoke with Shona McCarthy, Marketing & Communications Lead at Midland School to learn more about what they offer at their school.

Midland School

Question: What is the name of your school and what grade levels do you offer?

Answer: Midland School is a coed boarding school offering grades 9-12.

Q: How is your school operated or governed?

A: Midland is a non-profit organization led by a Head of School and administrative team, with oversight from a Board of Trustees. Our Head of School and admin team partner closely with the Senior Class, who serve as Prefects and Job heads, to run the day-to-day of the school.

Q: Describe what the typical model student looks like to your school?

A: There is no “typical model Midlander” because we’re looking for students (and parents) who are ready for more. We seek to find students who want more than just college prep, but want life prep (and admissions into a great fit college too!). Midland provides a holistic path through adolescence, helping them to learn more about themselves and, in doing so, to thrive. Midlanders are ready to take on a challenge, immerse themselves in a community, and make a difference.

Q: Describe the typical day in the life of a student at your school.

A: A typical day at Midland starts with a delicious home-cooked meal in Stillman Hall. After breakfast, students contribute to the community through our jobs program, by helping to clean classrooms or wash dishes, among many other things, before heading into their first class of the day. Depending on the day of the week, classes end at lunch time or in the later afternoon, and are typically followed by Sports & Activities — featuring many of the extracurriculars detailed below — or a free afternoon to hang with friends, finish homework or head out on the 35+ miles of trails for a horseback ride, bike ride, hike, or swim in the reservoir with friends. 

On Mondays and Thursdays, dinner is preceded by non-denominational Chapel, a community gathering in which a Senior or Faculty member shares a story or lesson with the community. Evenings are dedicated either to study hall or “Club Night” — time for movies and games, roasting marshmallows around a fire, or another student-planned activity. Then, students begin heading back to their cabins, checking in with their prefects, and a hearty night’s sleep!

Q: What extracurricular activities does your school offer?

Midland School photo.Click to view larger

(Midland School photo.)

A: Midland offers an incredible array of extracurricular activities, including Natural Horsemanship, Outdoor Leadership (hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, wilderness skills), Arts & Ceramics, Farm & Garden, as well as many of your more traditional competitive sports (Volleyball, Basketball, Soccer, etc.). We also have a diverse array of clubs and activities offered in the afternoons, evenings and weekends, including an incredibly active LGBTQ+Ally Club, Latinx Club, Environmental Club, drive-in movies, ping-pong tournaments, beekeeping, overnight camping trips and more!

Q: What curriculum is available and taught at your school?

A: Midland teaches a place-based, experiential, UC-approved curriculum. With courses ranging from Algebra 1 to Calculus 3 and English 9 to Honors British Literature, Midland meets students where they are and challenges them to think critically and problem solve resourcefully. 

Q: What sets your school apart from others?

A: Our differences make our students stand out. To put it simply: colleges love Midland graduates. By choosing to come to Midland, students distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack — where else can you talk about learning to use an ax and nailing your essay-writing skills in the same breath? We’re proud that our comprehensive program empowers our students to go on to top-tier colleges and universities across the country each year. Students live, study and work on a 2,860 acre campus alongside a herd of horses, cattle, cows, grow their own food, all while embracing rigorous, hands-on college preparatory academics. As a recent graduate once put it, “We are doing what everyone else is learning about in the classroom.” Our distinction goes beyond the realm of academics and extends into our tight-knit community. We are unplugged and connected at Midland; our intentional technology policy focuses our technology use on learning, including technology literacy and skills like coding and 3D printing, and spending time together as a community.

Q: Can you describe your student to teacher ratio?

A: Midland offers a 4:1 student to teacher ratio, and our class sizes range from 8-10 students per class.

Q: How does your school select/hire teachers? In what ways have these teachers either prepared or trained for distance learning?

A: At Midland, we believe that the key to education is a student, a teacher, and an idea. We thoughtfully select teachers to join our team, looking for bright, passionate, well-educated individuals who are ready to become an integral part of our community. More than 65% of our faculty hold advanced degrees, and each of them brings a wealth of life experiences that empower them to teach with excitement and knowledge. As a flexible group who knows their students well, our faculty were able to shift into distance learning while still providing a robust, holistic program before using the summer for professional development to grow their online teaching tool kits and refine curriculum to fit the distance model. 

Q: Why should a family consider boarding schools? Midland specifically?

A: Boarding school is an incredible opportunity for teenagers to expand the horizon of their education and growing-up process. Being a boarding school enables Midland to offer students opportunities they might never have elsewhere: heading out for a two-day backpacking trip to study the waterflow and riverbed ecosystems in the Los Padres National forest, making pottery with friends and classmates on a Tuesday evening in the Ceramics studio, working on a group homework project in your teacher’s living room over cups of tea and homemade cookies, to offer just a few examples. Our immersive and integrative learning environment pairs with a live-in support system and community; living and learning with your friends, teachers and their families all right next door. By choosing boarding, students open themselves up to chances to make mistakes, and even more chances to succeed.

Additionally, students who attend boarding school are truly ready for college. High academic rigor, small class sizes, access to support helps them advocate for themselves, which transfers to college success. Midland students graduate with an increased intellectual curiosity, a developed sense of self, and a desire to contribute to and lead within the communities they go onto next.

Q:  Does your school measure student progress? If so, how do you measure this individual achievement?

A: Beyond simply teaching our students geometry and the merits of the 5-paragraph-essay (both of which we do very well), our mission pushes us to measure individual achievement based on our foundational goals: to create graduates who can care deeply for themselves and others, have a lifelong love of learning and who are good stewards of the earth. Our transcripts and college recommendations reflect these goals by prioritizing our core competencies and taking a holistic approach to tracking and describing student achievement. Throughout a students’ four years, students and their families will be able to understand and work towards well-rounded, Midland-style growth with the help of competency-based grading, advisor letters and conversations with faculty and staff.

Q: How does your school support students who have academic, social, or emotional difficulties?

A: As a boarding school, supporting students is a foundational part of our program. Academically, Midland students have access to invaluable resources including after-hours time with faculty, as well as the support of a dedicated learning specialist and access to peer and adult tutors. Socially and emotionally, our program fosters a tight-knit community where students feel seen, heard, and valued; each Midland student knows that they are a crucial part of our community and that their unique talents and passions contribute greatly to our school. Students also have emotional and social support from a live-in nurse and health practitioner, a school counsellor, in addition to our Faculty advisors (each student is placed in an advisor “family” and the advisor serves as a pseudo-parent while the student is at Midland) and prefects (seniors who check the students in each evening and provide support to students as they navigate the ins-and-outs of growing up at Midland). 

Q: For parents who are concerned about sending their students away to boarding for high school, what advice do you have?

A: We know that choosing a boarding school for your child can feel scary — many of our current families had never contemplated boarding for their child prior to learning about Midland! For most of our families, they’re choosing Midland because we offer an educational experience like no other, and, though they know they’ll miss their child, they feel this is an opportunity they simply can’t pass up. And, many are surprised by how much more they actually get to see of their teenager when they’re enrolled at Midland as opposed to a local day school; students head home every six weeks, completely homework free, for a full week of time to spend with their family and friends back home. You get all the good times together: making pancakes on a Sunday morning, heading out for hikes together or enjoying a family game night, and we’ll tackle the homework supervision and “did you remember to clean your room” conversations. Essentially, Midland engages in partnership with our parents to help their children grow into the greatest version of themselves.

Q: As a boarding school, what are the living accommodations like for students?

A: Midland students live in cabins with one roommate, surrounded by cabins of students in their own grade level as well as a senior Prefect who acts as a big sibling and guide. Our rustic campus is reminiscent of your favorite summer camp — log cabins with cozy interiors, wood burning stoves and outdoor courtyards to hang hammocks in and ride bikes through.

Q:What is the cost or tuition to attend your school?

A: ​Tuition for the 2020-21 academic year is $62,100, and more than 50% of Midland’s families receive financial aid. We strive to meet each family where they are at, financially, in order to ensure that students of all backgrounds have access to a Midland education. 

Click here for more information about Midland School

Midland School photo.Click to view larger

(Midland School photo.)

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