The Hollywood Insider's Guide to L.A. Private Schools

6:00 AM 8/17/2017

by THR Staff, Edited by Jeanie Pyun

Status off the studio lot means landing an A-list institution for your kids as THR surveys the 29 top K-12 campuses best-suited for famous families and moguls in the making.

"They are preparing these young women to reach their full potential and to be leaders in the new world,” says 'Jurassic World' producer Frank Marshall, photographed Aug. 10 at the Archer School for Girls in Brentwood with head of school Elizabeth English. In the background: Students from Archer's Student Council Executive Board, Grade Level Representatives and the Ambassador Leadership Team.
"They are preparing these young women to reach their full potential and to be leaders in the new world,” says 'Jurassic World' producer Frank Marshall, photographed Aug. 10 at the Archer School for Girls in Brentwood with head of school Elizabeth English. In the background: Students from Archer's Student Council Executive Board, Grade Level Representatives and the Ambassador Leadership Team.
Ramona Rosales

Where else but in Hollywood would elementary school fundraisers feature Beyonce and Chris Martin as performers or Tom Hanks as a live auctioneer? These days, industry moms and dads are just as likely to obsess over which institutions are right for their kids (and how to get them in) as they are over the weekend box office or Nielsen live-plus-3s — if not more. According to Private School Review, which analyzes private-school data from all U.S. markets, there are more than 1,000 private schools in Los Angeles County serving more than 200,000 students, with high school tuitions in the city running 56 percent higher than the national average. "Getting into private school is no walk in the park — the application process can be draining," says top school consultant Betsy Brown Braun. "The uneven nature of public schools, the size of their classrooms and our growing school-age population has put private schools in great demand." As many kids head back to school in late August (and with parent tours beginning for the 2018-19 school year), THR offers its first insider's guide to the best private institutions in L.A. (as well as schools both public and religious) that the entertainment industry clamors to get their kids into. Just don't send the nanny to any pre-admissions events or think making a fat donation will help your chances. Says education consultant Harriett Bay: "When I hear, 'Tell them I can buy a library,' I say, 'There are so many people that could do that, stand in line.' "

Written by Scott Johnson, Amanda Eberstein and Degen Pener 

This story first appeared in the Aug. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

  • Westside

    By Scott Johnson

  • The Archer School for Girls

    A dance student in front of The Archer School for Girls.
    A dance student in front of The Archer School for Girls.
    Courtesy of Subject

    LOCATION Brentwood

    TUITION $37,025; plus up to $8,550 in additional fees

    STUDENT-TEACHER RATIO 8-to-1

    ACCEPTING Grades 6-12

    Kennedy/Marshall Co. founders Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy sent their two daughters to this A-list all-girls campus popular with industry parents. "The curriculum is looking forward rather than back," says Marshall. "There's a terrific STEM [Science, Tech, Engineering, Math] program and Chinese and coding classes." Adds Kennedy (who was the keynote speaker at this year's Archer Film Festival; J.J. Abrams served last year): "The idea of single sex education is really important — that option needs to be available, certainly in a community as large as Los Angeles." Kennedy and Marshall also serve on the board along with Grey's Anatomy executive vp Mark Gordon, Ann Gianopulos (wife of Paramount's Jim) and CBS senior vp entertainment diversity Tiffany Smith-Anoa'i. Located in the former Eastern Star building erected in 1931 by architect William Mooser and featured in the 1974 film Chinatown, the picturesque Archer has admitted students from 155 feeder schools across 81 ZIP codes. Thirty-nine percent of Archer girls are students of color, and more than 80 percent of the kids take the bus, as did Marshall and Kennedy's daughters; everyone else carpools. Archer, which was founded in 1995 and requires uniforms, brought in $3.8 million for its flexible tuition program last year alone. The average grant per aid student covers about 80 percent of tuition. In December, construction will begin on campus improvements — including a gym, which has caused some friction (students now have to change in the hallways). Says head of school Elizabeth English of the structure (which will be named after late Archer co-founder Gary David Goldberg, creator of the television series Family Ties): "It has become a legal issue, but we think it could be finished by winter."

  • Brentwood School

    LOCATION Brentwood (both campuses)

    TUITION $34,460 (K-6); $40,760 (7-12); plus up to $5,750 in fees

    STUDENT-TEACHER RATIOS 7-to-1 (K); 11-to-1 (grades 1-6); 8-to-1 (7-12)

    "My son says that college is easier than Brentwood," says Irena Medavoy, wife of producer Mike Medavoy. Brentwood is "academically strong, but there's not as much pressure" as at other schools. Competition to get in is fierce; Arnold Schwarzenegger's kids and The Voice coach Adam Levine attended. Character education is emphasized, and Brentwood students give an average of 6,000 hours annually to veteran-centric services. Last year, Brentwood received some unwanted attention when a group of mostly white students partying aboard an L.A. billionaire's yacht made a video of themselves singing "Dump Dump," a song by rapper A$AP Ferg that featured more than two dozen instances of the N-word. A scholarship student posted the video on social media, where it went viral. Former baseball slugger Barry Bonds, whose daughter attended the school in 2016, demanded that the students be expelled, while other parents were more measured. "It was not representative of who these kids are," says Medavoy. "I can only say that parents and kids there are terrific." Brentwood, known for annually hosting a renowned lecture series that has included such speakers as Margaret Atwood, Kurt Vonnegut and Maya Angelou, is moving ahead with a long-planned expansion of its east campus that it says will help increase diversity by leading to a modest increase in overall students for grades 7-12. Members of the board include Calista Flockhart, Lifetime senior vp original movies Tanya Lopez and David Nathanson, head of business operations at Fox Sports Media Group.

  • Carlthorp School

    LOCATION Santa Monica

    TUITION $27,400; with a one-time $1,000 new-student fee

    STUDENT-TEACHER RATIO 6-to-1

    ACCEPTING Grades K-6

    One of two secular private schools to have ranked in the top 10 percent of standardized testing in the U.S., and a feeder to L.A.'s top middle and high schools, Carlthorp, which is home to the offspring of a current network head and a superhero and where school functions can feel like red-carpet affairs, offers a rigorous, traditional, athletic achievement-oriented environment. Mothers who've been through the admissions process advise not letting your kid show up to the interview in a superhero costume: "That's the kind of thing you can get away with at Crossroads," says one. A senior partner at a top talent agency says, "The teachers were spectacular. It's really good for a kid who thrives with structure." Although 11 percent of the 280 students receive financial aid and 46 percent identified as minority, the uniforms-required school, founded in 1939, may not always seem so multi-culti: "It is filled with people who are country-club rich," says another parent. Carlthorp hopefuls must have two letters of recommendation; siblings are given priority access.

  • Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences

    LOCATION Santa Monica

    TUITION $33,227 (K-5); $39,389 (6-12); plus $2,800 new-student fee

    STUDENT-TEACHER RATIO 8-to-1

    A home for Hollywood — Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Bay, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tobey Maguire, Jack Black and attorney Robert Offer all have attended — Crossroads, where drama and dance are part of the regular curriculum and perks include grad-night screenings at CAA, is known for having a starry, artsy and progressive culture. But don't underestimate its academic values, says Sari Ehrenreich, a former Showtime exec whose son, actor Alden Ehrenreich, attended Crossroads before landing the role of the young Han Solo in the upcoming Star Wars spinoff. "Their academic standing means a great deal to them, and they're very conscientious about math and science," says Ehrenreich. "If your kid's an actor, they don't let them leave to do an acting gig, which is surprising." A $20 million, 25,000- square-foot Science Education & Research Facility was added in 2015 where students can take organic chemistry and other advanced courses. In 2016-17, the school awarded a staggering $8 million in tuition aid — generated by last year's fundraiser, which Black and Kate Hudson emceed — to 25 per­cent of the student body. Says Ehrenreich, "They work very hard to get money, and all of it goes to financial aid."

  • Curtis School

    LOCATION Mulholland Corridor

    TUITION $28,760

    STUDENT-TEACHER RATIO 9-to-1 (pre-K); 11-to-1 (K-2); 16-to-1 (3-6)

    In 1983, this exclusive, traditional elementary school moved to its current 27-acre campus in the Santa Monica Mountains. Likened to a "mini Harvard-Westlake" by some parents, Curtis is known for its rigorous curriculum and no-nonsense attitude that lets serious scholars shine. The faculty places great importance on children's and parents' privacy, making it a prime place for celebrities such as Victoria and David Beckham to send their kids. Newly minted TMP Entertainment chairman Rob Friedman serves on the board of trustees.

  • Geffen Academy at UCLA

    LOCATION Westwood

    TUITION $29,500

    ACCEPTING Grades 6, 7, 9 (by 2020, 6-12)

    "It's one of the most buzzed-about schools this year among parents," says Christina Simon, a school expert and author of Beyond the Brochure. David Geffen's foray into education, with its private-school structure, its association with UCLA and the promise of cutting-edge educational approaches, $100 million in funding and a prime Westside location, attracts industry folk eager for more options. Set to open its doors in September, the Geffen Academy will begin with 160 students in sixth, seventh and ninth grades, building toward a student body of 620 students by year four. Up to 50 percent of families will be drawn from UCLA staff and faculty; 45 percent overall can expect financial aid. The tuition includes all expenses, field trips and meals, which will be provided by the UCLA dining services. Perks include extended hours, a makers space, robotics and potential access to UCLA's research facilities.

  • Harvard-Westlake School

    LOCATION Bel Air

    TUITION $37,100; plus up to $4,000 in additional fees

    STUDENT-TEACHER RATIO 8-to-1

    ACCEPTING Grades 7-9 and, in unusual cases, 11 and 12

    Call Harvard-Westlake — which occupies campuses in Holmby Hills and Studio City — the titan of L.A.'s private schools: 65 of 290 graduates in 2016 were admitted into an Ivy League school, and over the past five years, 22 percent were accepted into Ivies or Stanford. Some of the Katzenberg, Spielberg and Moonves kids attended; actors Lily Collins, Ben Platt and the Gyllenhaal siblings are alumni. (HWS also has two Trump-y alumni: Julia Hahn, a 25-year-old ex-Breitbart reporter and now "special assistant to the president," and Alex Marlow, Breitbart editor-in-chief.) In a class, you may have "a national Scrabble champion, top-ranked tennis players, the children of immigrants who will outsmart your Westside kids and chess champions," jokes one mom. The academics are top-notch, but so are the sports: Jarron and Jason Collins, who both went on to the NBA, once competed in a dunk contest with schoolmate Jason Segel. Three to four applicants compete for every spot, and if your kid gets in, say parents and consultants, expect up to four hours of homework a night (the school says up to two and a half) and stress and anxiety among some students. "Harvard-Westlake is doing damage control for being so high-pressure these past two years," says one school consultant to the stars. Adds Gotham Group CEO Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, "I think they're trying to make life easier," noting that HWS appears to be cutting back on workload. With about $11 million in financial aid, HWS offers roughly 300 students per grade an average of $27,000 in grants each year.

  • The John Thomas Dye School

    LOCATION Bel Air

    TUITION $29,700; plus a $2,000 one-time new-student fee

    STUDENT-TEACHER RATIO 7-to-1 (K); 12-to-1 (1-6)

    This traditional "school on the hill" with 336 students on 11 acres has a stellar record as a feeder to L.A.'s top high schools. The three most important priorities, says director of admissions Judy Hirsch: "Academic excellence, [we're a] family school, and character development." Real family participation is key: "Every week was three hours of library duty," says former JTD mom and ex-Good Morning America anchor Lisa McRee, "and nobody would dream of swanning in and having their nanny do it." JTD, which opened its doors in 1929, has offered more than $500,000 in assistance for the 2017-18 year, but, like any number of private schools, has had to keep an eye on such displays as $25,000 Disney princess birthday parties for kindergarteners. "Not cool," says McRee, an opinion shared by the school's longtime (now deceased) headmaster Ray Michaud, who declared that birthday fetes during the academic year should be held at the school gym. For a first-day breakfast for first-graders, parents once opted for a florist truck, a balloon arch that costs several thousand dollars and Edible Arrangements for every table, which "makes middle-income and scholarship parents not want to join a committee," says McRee, whose husband, Don Granger, is president of production at Skydance. Last year's head of school was replaced by Rose Helm on July 1; she worked at JTD as an English teacher 14 years ago and at San Francisco's Hamlin School for girls.

  • Mirman School for Highly Gifted Children

    LOCATION Bel Air

    TUITION $30,136 (K-5); $33,370 (6-8)

    STUDENT-TEACHER RATIO 6-to-1

    Hollywood connections are only going to get you so far: Your little one has to hit the 99th percentile with a score of 138 or above on an approved psychologist-administered IQ test. Those who have made the grade: Crispin Glover, Heroes actor Masi Oka and the sons of Walter Matthau and Carl Sagan. Donors include Jeff Robinov, Ben Sherwood, and Michael and Jamie Lynton. "Mirman means education of the whole child," says head of school Dan Vorenberg. "Giftedness exists in varied forms, and that means educating in the classroom, on the field, in the library and at the lunch table." Design thinking and programming classes start in kindergarten; Mandarin is offered alongside Spanish and Latin classes; and upper-school students recently were treated to a guest lecture about the stock market. "You would have thought we were talking about fantasy football stats," says Vorenberg. "The kids were eating it up." Also offered is MirmanX, a middle-school startup accelerator to help students achieve their "moonshot" dreams at an early age. Mirman, which schools 330 students, also provides specialists in robotics and choral music, among other areas. "There is some intimidation and misconceptions that exist with the term 'highly gifted,' " says Vorenberg. "But 'highly gifted' is not a buzzword for elite. It's not synonymous with exclusive." Thirty-five percent of the student body self-reports as culturally or racially diverse.

  • New Roads

    New Roads offers theatrically inclined students the Moss Theater, a performance space with acoustics designed by Disney Hall's Yasuhisa Toyota.
    New Roads offers theatrically inclined students the Moss Theater, a performance space with acoustics designed by Disney Hall's Yasuhisa Toyota.
    Courtesy of Subject

    LOCATION Santa Monica

    TUITION $30,540 (K-5); $37,770 (6-12)

    STUDENT-TEACHER RATIO 11-to-1

    It's new (since 1995), but Hollywood already is taking note. Attending industry families lean more toward "creatives than talent," says one school consultant, "and quite a few executives, too." Sometimes described as Crossroads 2.0, New Roads emphasizes alternative methods, says Zahir Robb, director of admissions outreach: "We believe that students learn by doing, not just by accumulating facts." One child developed a robotics-club curriculum later adopted by the Compton Unified School District; the theatrically inclined will benefit from the Moss Theater, with acoustics designed by Walt Disney Concert Hall's Yasuhisa Toyota. New Roads broke ground by creating Spectrum, a school within a school for kids on the autism spectrum. "This is the only [private] school that is looking after kids on the spectrum, and that's commendable," says Fiona Whitney, consultant and author of the school guide series The Whitney Guide. For all students, says Participant Media CEO David Linde, whose son went on to Brandeis from New Roads, "The school rightfully prides itself in being the first step in a truly supportive and honestly diverse liberal arts education — think Sarah Lawrence to UCLA to, yes, Harvard. When they say the school is centered on compassion, social justice, environmental sanity and a student body reflective of our diverse society, they mean it."

  • PS1 Pluralistic Schools

    LOCATION Santa Monica

    TUITION $30,150; plus $2,750 in fees

    STUDENT-TEACHER RATIO 10-to-1

    ACCEPTING Grades K-6

    Extant executive producer Greg Walker's two boys spent 14 years at PS1 and emerged with the two qualities he cherishes most: curiosity and kindness. "PS1 kids have individuality, they're engaged and confident," says the PS1 board member. "The way that the kids comport themselves makes them do very well in both progressive and nonprogressive environments." Other board members include former Participant Media executive vp Meredith Blake, and Christina Aguilera is a donor. But "it doesn't matter who you are when applying," says Joel Pelcyger, who co-founded the school in 1971. "Some schools boast of families with notoriety, but there is no formula for success in raising good, strong, successful, fulfilled, happy kids." No letter grades are given at PS1, though academic progress is documented with "narrative report cards" and standardized tests are administered in later grades; graduates move on to some of L.A.'s top schools and national elite universities. PS1 is a "noncompetitive" school, and there are no organized sports teams. Instead, the school has poured energy into building an award-winning sustainable campus. PS1 gives over $1.1 million in aid each year to 23 percent of its students. "Financial aid benefits the wealthy as much as the kids who receive it," says Pelcyger, "Kids wind up poorer if they only go to school with people exactly like them."

  • UCLA Lab School

    LOCATION Westwood

    TUITION $14,000 (ages 4-5); $21,000 (ages 5-12)

    STUDENT-TEACHER RATIO From 13-to-1, with three teachers for every two classrooms

    Yes, alums include Leonardo DiCaprio, and at the school's 135th birthday spectacular last year, which brought in $350,000 in scholarship funds, Amy Poehler emceed and Idina Menzel sang the Frozen hit "Let It Go" with members of the school choir. But in most other ways, the Richard Neutra-designed campus, nestled amid old-growth redwoods, is antithetical to Hollywood. Every aspect of the school, which teaches 444 students and is part of UCLA's Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, is a laboratory for the latest in child development research. UCLA academics love it, leading one Hollywood mom to joke that the intellectualism might leave entertainment folks feeling lonely. With no admissions interview, applications are stripped of any opportunity to peddle influence. "There's no gaming the system, which is refreshing," says Danielle Gelber, a producer at NBC whose daughter has attended. "They're mandated to mirror the racial, cultural and socioeconomic makeup of L.A. in percentages, so it's a pure lottery system." High-net-worth "development families" often are designated to pay K-6 tuition for diversity families. Endowments from the likes of Jeffrey and Marilyn Katzenberg, Matt and Deborah Caplan Groening and the Dern family support nearly 4 percent of the operating budget.

  • Westland School

    LOCATION Bel Air

    TUITION $26,745

    STUDENT-TEACHER RATIO 11-to-1

    ACCEPTING Grades K-6

    Westland parents are a devoted bunch. Says Barbara DeSantis, whose son with Curb Your Enthusiasm exec producer Larry Charles matriculated from a Westside private school: "We were a transfer family, and the acceptance, the appropriate boundaries were the antithesis of the parent-infested uniform school culture we had come from." Active since 1949, Westland moves, starting with the 2017-18 school year, to a flexible tuition model with a goal of making the school more financially accessible. "Affordability is a huge issue for a lot of families," says Marcia Capparela, assistant head director of admissions. Last year, 27 percent of families received flexible tuition, reducing cost by roughly half, with nearly a quarter of the students being children of color. The outdoors is a big part of the school ethos, and Westland kids can work in the organic edible community garden or collect eggs from the chicken coop. Parental involvement is required. Parents, who say the food is excellent, with a restaurant-quality kitchen, are on rotation for making hot, home-cooked meals for events. "It's key to who we are," says Capparela of the volunteering that can range from field-trip driving to committee work. Multi-age classrooms are the norm; graduates have gone on to every top private middle and high school in L.A.

  • Wildwood School

    The library at Wildwood School.
    The library at Wildwood School.
    Courtesy of Subject

    LOCATION Mar Vista/Marina del Rey

    TUITION $31,500-$37,250; plus up to $4,225 in fees

    STUDENT-TEACHER RATIOS 9-to-1 (K-8); 15-to-1 (6-12)

    Wildwood is a mecca for Hollywood's heavy hitters, as some of the Spielberg kids, two of Dustin Hoffman's kids and all of Demi Moore's brood went; Rob Reiner's kids and a Meryl Streep daughter also are alums. American Crime Story exec producer Nina Jacobson, Stranger Things exec producer Shawn Levy and Illumination Entertainment's Ashley Kramer are on the board. And when it came time for a class to embark on its annual video montage, a director of one of the biggest tentpole franchises was seen shooting around campus with a $400,000 camera. On Grandparents and Special Friends Day, a parent brought DiCaprio and some of the attendees were "starstruck — the situation made all the other kids' grandpas seem so very ordinary," says a school expert. "That situation epitomizes Hollywood at private schools." Some rival-school parents say "it's all just play and engage" and a "feelings are first" type of place, but juniors and seniors benefit from an internship program with connections to more than 200 organizations, including the Cannes Film Festival's American Pavilion. "My eldest daughter recently graduated, and her goal in life is to have some impact in terms of social justice. I attribute that passion to Wildwood," says Columbia Pictures president Sanford Panitch. "Some schools get very stuck in traditional ways. Wildwood is constantly searching for best practices, even if it might be unpopular. It's a unique place."

  • Windward School

    The Leichtman-Levine Bridge at Windward School.
    The Leichtman-Levine Bridge at Windward School.
    Courtesy of Subject

    LOCATION Mar Vista

    TUITION $38,965

    STUDENT-TEACHER RATIO 8-to-1

    ACCEPTING Grades 7-12

    Although low-key compared to some of the other L.A. schools, Windward has produced notable alumni, including Anna Paquin, Zoe Kazan, Jason Schwartzman and musician Jakob Dylan, son of Bob. Hollywood donors include Paramount CEO Jim Gianopulos and FX president John Landgraf. Founded in 1971, Windward combines a challenging college-prep program with a nurturing vibe. The 9.5-acre site is only 3 miles from the ocean. Head of school Tom Gilder is credited with significantly increasing Windward's competitiveness. Says WME agent Adam Venit: "I have five children who have gone to a number of schools, and Windward has far and away been my favorite experience. And in the past few years, it's become a school that everyone wants to go to." The school also is known for its strong sports program, particularly basketball, with the boys' and girls' teams consistently winning state titles and graduates going on to prominent Division 1 teams.

  • Central L.A.

    By Amanda Eberstein

  • The Center for Early Education

    LOCATION West Hollywood

    TUITION $20,710 (pre-K); $29,480 (K-5); $31,520 (grade 6)

    STUDENT-TEACHER RATIO 8-to-1

    Considered the 800-pound Hollywood gorilla of L.A. pre- and elementary schools, CEE combines a unique mix of serious star power with a diverse student body and secure urban campus. The school offers a developmental curriculum — emphasis is placed on play; a nurturing, inclusive environment; and student readiness — that gets increasingly challenging over time. Alumni include Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jonah Hill as well as children of Jack Nicholson, Denzel Washington, Leslie Moonves, Bob Iger and Michael Eisner. Former Disney COO Thomas Staggs and Will Ferrell's wife, Viveca Paulin-Ferrell, serve on the board of trustees. But perhaps the biggest names are Beyonce and Jay Z, whose daughter attends. Queen Bey performed at the 2016 gala, which was held at L.A.'s Shrine Auditorium and emceed by Ferrell and Billy Crystal. "The kids who come out of the Center have a special sparkle," says manager-producer Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, whose children were students. Although spectacularly difficult to get into — "there are thousands of applicants for 30 spots," laments a former parent — CEE prides itself on diversity. More than 50 percent are students of color and about 17 percent are on aid, totaling $2.4 million each year. Next up, the school is undergoing construction to add classrooms and sports facilities by 2020.

  • Echo Horizon School

    LOCATION Culver City

    TUITION $22,259 (pre-K); $29,538 (K-6)

    STUDENT-TEACHER RATIO 7-to-1 (pre-K); 10-to-1 (K-6)

    Echo Horizon's unique mission of educating deaf and hard of hearing children alongside hearing peers began in 1983. Today, 10 percent of students are DHH and use hearing devices to optimize success both in and out of the classroom. Yet "many of the techniques are invaluable for the larger school," says film writer-producer Joshua Oppenheimer, from "learning to self-advocate, speak up when you don't understand something or managing the playground. Detailed thought, over decades, has been put in." This approach, coupled with a strong feeder program to L.A.'s most competitive high schools, has attracted such parents as Shonda Rhimes, Natasha Gregson Wagner and Barry Watson and Marti Noxon. "The majority of parents were great to work with," says Holly Bolton, daughter of singer Michael Bolton, who worked in admin there for four years. "The kids were sweet, funny and really well-mannered." Also of note: the legendary Halloween carnival and the Pie and Burger truck that reportedly visits the campus for lunch once a month.

  • Hollywood Schoolhouse

    The iconic facade of the Hollywood Schoolhouse.
    The iconic facade of the Hollywood Schoolhouse.
    Courtesy of Subject

    LOCATION Hollywood

    TUITION $18,800 (pre-K); $21,050 (K-3); $22,550 (4-5); $22,700 (6)

    STUDENT-TEACHER RATIO 6-to-1 (pre-K); 10-to-1 (K-2); 14-to-1 (3-6)

    "When children leave here, they know exactly who they are, how they learn and their place in the world," says Ilise Faye, head of the school with a front entrance marked by an iconic red schoolhouse facade overlooking Highland Avenue. And although there have been plenty of star offspring — such as Johnny Depp's daughter, Lily-Rose Depp, and her friend Harley, daughter of filmmaker Kevin Smith — the school of 307 students that opened in 1945 also offers financial aid to a large percentage of neighborhood children. "I'm a public school kid whose mother was a teacher, so sending my son to a private school was a concept that had to be overcome," says Grey's Anatomy actor Jason George. "Not only was HSH better academically, but I was paying for an extra level of diversity." (Donors include Al Pacino and Sam and Aaron Taylor-Johnson.) The school's proximity to studios and filming locations makes it popular with busy actors and executives. "There are a lot of parents involved in production, and that sometimes entails being on location for a long time with their children," says Siren Studios CEO Dean Gavoni. "The school does an amazing job of prepping kids and accepting that this is part of our lives."

  • Le Lycee Francais de Los Angeles

    LOCATIONS There are three: L.A. (with three campuses, including Raymond & Esther Kabbaz High School), Century City (K-1) and Pacific Palisades (pre-K-2)

    TUITION $17,500 (pre-K); $19,800 (K-1); $20,500 (2-5); $22,400 (6-8); $28,000 (9-12)

    STUDENT-TEACHER RATIO 10-to-1

    Le Lycee is known for classes taught in both French and English, students hailing from nearly 50 countries and the fact that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt sent four kids there. It long has attracted parents valuing a sophisticated curriculum and distinctly European discretion. The school's first Hollywood parent was Agnes Moorehead, quickly followed by Marlon Brando, Tony Curtis, French icon Roger Vadim and eventually Elvis Presley; Madonna, who sent both Lola Leon and Rocco Ritchie; and the former Jolie-Pitts, who transferred their children among different Lycees worldwide. Meanwhile, bold-faced alumni include Kate Hudson (who attended as a child) and graduates Claire Danes and Jodie Foster, who was named valedictorian in 1980. "One of my greatest joys in life is speaking another language fluently," says Foster. "Le Lycee is where that started for me." The annual gala is a Hollywood affair, featuring performers like Robbie Williams and honorees like Quincy Jones, whose daughter, model Kenya Kinski Jones, recently graduated. But the real magic can be found on any of the five campuses that house nearly 700 students. "It was love at first visit. The atmosphere was personal, with a special kind of warmth," says Cameron Crowe, whose twin sons attend. "As we happily tell any interested party, 'Do yourself a favor: Walk the campus, feel the unique energy and make sure you meet [head of school] Madame Kabbaz.'"

  • Marlborough School

    Students celebrated the $27 million Marlborough sports complex and field in 2016.
    Students celebrated the $27 million Marlborough sports complex and field in 2016.
    Courtesy of Subject

    LOCATION Hancock Park

    TUITION $39,750

    STUDENT-TEACHER RATIO 8-to-1

    ACCEPTING Grades 7-12

    Widely considered to be one of the best girls schools in the U.S., with rigorous academics and a strong sports program, Marlborough, founded in 1889, is the oldest private all-girls school in SoCal. Early alumni include Betsy Bloomingdale and Richard Nixon's daughters; more recently, actresses Camilla Belle and Zoe Kazan have attended. Marlborough has a rep for being a feeder for Ivy Leagues with an environment that allows confidence to flourish. Writer-producer Maria Arena Bell, whose daughter attended and now is at Harvard University, says: "Though Marlborough is competitive academically, there is a real feeling of support that makes a tight knit group. My son went to Brentwood, which is a different co-ed culture, but there is something very special about a single sex education for empowering young women." Bell served on the board during Marlborough's darkest chapter — a 2015 sex scandal involving English teacher Joseph Thomas Koetters and two former students that resulted in his prison sentence and the resignation of beloved head of school Barbara Wagner. Koetters allegedly was allowed to quietly transfer to Polytechnic School, a practice that victim Chelsea Burkett, who appeared on Nightline on April 6, referred to as "passing the trash" in a Facebook post. Wagner's replacement, Dr. Priscilla Sands, stepped in and restored confidence and recently debuted Marlborough's $27 million sports complex. "Every school will face a crisis," says Helene Henderson, owner of Malibu Farm, whose daughter was a valedictorian. "Hopefully schools will learn from these experiences to be a leader of advancing women."

  • Pilgrim School

    Holidays at the Hogwarts-like Pilgrim School.
    Holidays at the Hogwarts-like Pilgrim School.
    Sean Twomey/Courtesy of Subject

    LOCATION Wilshire Center

    TUITION $20,000 (pre-K); $22,000 (K-5); $26,000 (6-8); $30,000 (9-11); $33,000 (12)

    STUDENT-TEACHER RATIO 6-to-1

    Pilgrim's urban location — 10 minutes from downtown — makes it popular among busy parents who want a tight- knit community (there are only 400 students) without the culture of exclusivity of some top schools. "The school has a very Ivy League, back East feel. It feels like you are walking into Hogwarts," says parent Siri Garber, president of Platform PR, referring to the gothic-style buildings. "Traditional structure with progressive education ideas reflects how we want to raise our kids," says Brad Simpson, executive producer of American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson. "Most importantly, there is so much warmth from the staff and teachers. Our children love going to school every day." A new head, Paul Barsky, who worked at New York City's Spence, has just begun, and a $12 million sports facility is underway. Pilgrim employs an "everybody plays" policy for sports, art, music and community service, regardless of skill.

  • The Willows Community School

    LOCATION Culver City

    TUITION $28,305 (pre-K-5); $32,320 (6-8)

    STUDENT-TEACHER RATIO 9-to-1 (K-1); 12-to-1 (2-5); 13-to-1 (6-8)

    The Willows has grown from serving 90 students in a leased Hayden Tract warehouse into a 2.86-acre campus educating 460 children. The school is popular for its progressive environment that feels softer than L.A.'s more cutthroat schools. "The open house for prospective parents felt like a pocket of warmth," says David M. Israel, co-executive producer of UnREAL. "It is a humble school, very open and friendly. There is a vibe of connecting with the kids, not talking down to them." With its emphasis on EQ, or social-emotional quotient, the school is popular among artists and musicians, including Courtney Love, who sent Frances Bean Cobain there for elementary school. Victoria and David Beckham's eldest son, Brooklyn, attended. Parents are very involved. "You will always see a lot of parents volunteering in the library, gardening, participating in classroom projects and photographing the kids and staff," says Chris Williams, founder of kids entertainment company pocket.watch.

  • The Valley and East

    By Degen Pener

  • The Buckley School

    LOCATION Sherman Oaks, San Fernando Valley

    TUITION $33,935 (K-5); $39,915 (6-12)

    STUDENT-TEACHER RATIO 8-to-1

    While Buckley, founded in 1933, is known for being a place where the mothers are "perfect" and you need to "carry the right bag," as several moms put it, Melanie Fields, wife of TV and film producer Simon Fields, thinks that rep is overplayed. "I don't find it to be snobby, and the people like that are gone now," says Fields. Both she and her daughter, who just graduated, attended. Some things haven't changed. "Buckley is probably stricter than most schools. The kids come out as ladies and gentlemen with great values and work ethics," says Fields. The 830-student school is known for its top-notch academics, with particular strength in writing, and the computer science department offers a mobile app development course. The Heartwork program, which teaches kids how to be good people, didn't exist when students and eventual sex-tape makers Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian attended together. Other graduates include Nicole Richie, Susan Disney Lord, Laura Dern, Bret Easton Ellis, Transparent star Gaby Hoffmann, producer Jennifer Todd and Rashida Jones, and all three of Michael Jackson's children have attended. The Big Bang Theory creator Bill Prady serves on the board; donors include Sandra Bullock as well as Bridgette and Pete Sampras.

  • Campbell Hall

    The campus at Campbell Hall.
    The campus at Campbell Hall.
    Courtesy of Subject

    LOCATION Studio City, San Fernando Valley

    TUITION $33,295 (K-6); $38,490 (7-11); $39,090 (12)

    STUDENT-TEACHER RATIO 9-to-1

    Campbell Hall feels like a family, say admirers. "It's a very nurturing, loving community in the middle of the big city," says Slate PR co-founder Simon Halls, who, along with husband Matt Bomer, are school parents. Halls praises the family involvement, "very chill" atmosphere, emphasis on manners and respect, "really great" sports program and academic rigor. An Episcopal institution, it accepts students of all faiths. The uniform-only school of approximately 1,100 students provides a traditional curriculum (75-minute classes are meant to help increase engagement for grades K-12) with opportunities to study theater, TV and music production, engineering and animation. Famous alumni include all three Olsen sisters, Dakota and Elle Fanning and Modern Family's Ariel Winter; Denzel Washington has sent his kids there. "There are famous people, but they are treated just like everybody else," says Access Hollywood supervising producer Ryan Patterson, who loves the "pal" program that pairs incoming kindergartners with sixth grade students. "I haven't seen star behavior from one person."

  • Flintridge Preparatory School

    The AC Martin Bridge at Flintridge Prep.
    The AC Martin Bridge at Flintridge Prep.
    Courtesy of Subject

    LOCATION La Canada Flintridge, San Gabriel Valley

    TUITION $34,800 (7-8); $35,400 (9-12)

    STUDENT-TEACHER RATIO 8-to-1

    Prep, as it's known, draws Pasadena-based doctors, lawyers and financial advisers as well as entertainment industry names, some of whom do the commute for its nationally acclaimed program (including strong STEAM, or Science, Tech, Engineering, Arts and Math classes) and focus on leadership skills. "The bar is high," says an industry mom of the school with about a 500-member student body that's 55 percent diverse. "And it felt very wholesome. We had looked at a lot of the Westside schools, where the teenage girls were a little daunting in how they were dressed." Prep is known for its 13 varsity teams; two-thirds of students participate in sports. The school, whose graduates include defense attorney Mark Geragos, Haley Joel Osment and John C. Reilly's son, has plans to add creation and lab spaces. In 2017, 60 students applied to universities with an admissions rate of 15 percent or less; 30 percent of those students were admitted.

  • Laurence School

    The entrance to the edible garden at Laurence.
    The entrance to the edible garden at Laurence.
    Courtesy of Subject

    LOCATION Valley Glen, San Fernando Valley

    TUITION $27,965

    STUDENT-TEACHER RATIO 8-to-1

    ACCEPTING Grades K-6

    "There's a Mayberry feel to Laurence," says Allison Shearmur, producer of the untitled Han Solo movie, of this elementary school, which recently has become popular with Hollywood, running bus services to Hancock Park, Los Feliz and Beverly Hills. Founder Marvin Jacobson created an innovative "Total Child" philosophy that current head Laurie Wolke, his daughter, keeps alive. "They are very focused on helping each child find their special gifts and acknowledge their challenges," says Good Universe co-founder and parent Nathan Kahane. That focus includes a character-education program, a weekly assembly at which kids who perform community service are recognized, an edible garden and a farmers market that raises money for two sister schools in Africa. Parents who have sent kids there include David Fincher, WME's Brandt Joel, Peter Guber, Ben Stiller and Amblin president of production Holly Bario. Many such parents, along with donors Gwen Stefani, Dave Grohl, Julie Bowen and Jeff Probst, helped fund capital campaigns that have grown the campus from 1 to 5 acres (though some parents bemoan a lack of parking). Top advisers say Laurence excels in STEM classes, athletics and visual and performing arts; it even fields a nationally competitive chess team. The 300-student school, which requires uniforms, has an excellent record as a feeder, with students receiving 22 acceptances to Harvard-Westlake and 21 to Campbell Hall this year. While it gets big star power at its annual fundraiser (Gavin Rossdale, Stefani, Paul Stanley, Foo Fighters), "there are no points for fancy at Laurence," says Kahane. "There are points for being present and active in the community."


  • Oakwood School

    LOCATIONS Studio City and North Hollywood

    TUITION $33,195 (K-8); $38,925 (9-12)

    STUDENT-TEACHER RATIO 9-to-1

    Founded by a group of parents in a North Hollywood backyard in 1951, Oakwood, which has an elementary campus in Studio City and high school in North Hollywood, follows a progressive approach with an emphasis on the visual and performing arts (there are eight jazz bands at the school). "It was the cool school where artists sent their kids way back in the day," says an L.A. education adviser. "Later, it got nicknamed Cokewood because of a druggy/hippie phase. In recent years, it's become much more Hollywood-y." That's clear from its board of directors, which includes TV producer Marta Kauffman, film execs Adam Goodman, Adam Fogelson and Greg Silverman, and divorce attorney Laura Wasser. Chris Pine and Lily-Rose Depp are graduates, and Jason Alexander, Steve Carell and Danny DeVito have sent kids there. Awards strategist Lisa Taback says her daughter, who just graduated, "is very driven, but she's driven toward compassion." The school, which has 784 students, has a full-time director of diversity programs, Friday town meetings for upper-class students to express opinions and concerns, and a robust community-service program. Laughs a parent, "There's always a petition going around at Oakwood."

  • Polytechnic School

    A courtyard at Polytechnic.
    A courtyard at Polytechnic.
    Courtesy of Subject

    LOCATION Pasadena, San Gabriel Valley

    TUITION $27,500 (K-5); $32,100 (6-8); $36,100 (9-12)

    STUDENT-TEACHER RATIO 9-to-1

    Polytechnic is the oldest nonprofit private school in SoCal, founded in 1907. Since then, its graduates have included Howard Hawks, Julia Child, Disney Studios president of production Sean Bailey, Masterpiece Theatre exec producer Rebecca Eaton and actor-filmmaker Mike White. Fox Media Networks chairman and CEO Peter Rice serves on the board. Parents who are in the biz make up no more than 10 percent of the community, estimates Matthew Bickell, vp business affairs, strategy and analysis at Sony Pictures. "It's nice to step out and see a different group of folks than I would encounter through work," says Bickell. The campus covers 15 acres and 27 buildings, many of which are open-air and designed by Myron Hunt, the architect behind the Huntington Library. The educational approach for the approximately 860 students veers traditional, and the rigor shows stellar results: Between 2012 and 2016, the school sent 18 students to Harvard, 29 to Stanford and 42 to USC.

  • Viewpoint School

    LOCATION Calabasas

    TUITION $31,757 (K-2); $33,078 (3-5); $35,744 (6-8); $37,804 (9-12)

    STUDENT-TEACHER RATIO 8-to-1

    "My kids leap out of the car to get to school. If they could board, they would live at Viewpoint," says Nickelodeon executive vp talent, music and events Shelly Sumpter Gillyard, who has kids at the 1,215-student school nestled on a 40-acre campus at the base of the Santa Monica Mountains. Parents can expect an academics-focused education, supplemented with electives such as robotics, filmmaking, mock trial and oceanography. "Your child gets a well-rounded experience, and there's a lot of individual attention," says one powerful industry dad. While the one percent is well-represented (in one recent upper class, four students came from families with private jets) and industry names including television executive Steve Mosko, Tom Cruise, producer David Hoberman, Heather Locklear and even Donald Trump send or have sent children there (Tiffany Trump graduated in 2012), school advisers say the school feels relatively heterogeneous. Students of color make up one-third of the student body. "Affluence is not worn on people's sleeves. It feels like a very nonpressured environment for the kids to not be caught up in the L.A. of it all," says Sumpter Gillyard. A building spree has added a performing arts center, a new library and modern athletic facilities.

     

    •••

     

    NO KIDS WERE HARMED IN MAKING THIS STORY

    A comprehensive list of K-12 schools for Hollywood parents: Good idea, right? Not necessarily. For THR's first Guide to L.A. Schools, editors took care to balance service with privacy concerns, checking with each of the private schools that no child currently enrolled is identifiable unless a parent has given permission in an interview or their presence has been widely reported. THR also polled Hollywood insiders for favorites and convened experts to advise on the schools that most appeal to L.A.'s entertainment industry: Education consultants Jamie Bakal and Harriett Bay; child development specialist, author and school consultant Betsy Brown Braun; admissions counselor Kat Cohen of IvyWise; admissions expert Sandy Eiges; child psychologist, author and school consultant Fay Van Der Kar-Levinson; Christina Simon, co-author of Beyond the Brochure: An Insider's Guide to Private Elementary Schools in Los Angeles; and The Whitney Guide's Fiona Whitney.

comments powered by Disqus