Monday, August 16, 2010

St. Luke Catholic School in Indianapolis: A Cautionary Recommendation

Both of my children have attended St. Luke Catholic School in Indianapolis, and received a decent education there for a pretty reasonable price. My daughter started there about 12 years ago. My son will start his final year there this week. So we have a long association with the school.

Nearly all of St. Luke's teachers are excellent; and that, of course, is the most important feature of any school. The administration, on the other hand, has long concerned me. With the singular exception of former Vice Principal Ms. Russo, who was always very helpful, the attitude of St. Luke's administrators has always struck me as more than a little sanctimonious and condescending (perhaps reflecting the larger institutional edifice of which they are a part). 

More specifically, school administrators seem either oblivious to or uncaring about the sometimes ridiculous amount of homework piled on younger students - by the fourth grade, my kids were drowning under several hours of homework each day - and classroom assignments that completely ignored the social concerns of students.

When our daughter started exhibiting physical symptoms from stresses related to school, we consulted Dr. Morris Green, a pioneer in the field of pediatric neurodevelopment, a founder of the Child Development Center at Riley Children's Hospital in Indianapolis, and one of the most remarkable humans I've ever met - a unique blend of intelligence and empathy (see a brief profile of him here). After many hours of  observation, discussions, and examination of our daughter's regular homework assignments, Dr. Green reached the following conclusion: our daughter was perfectly fine, but the school had a problem. The stress she felt, and the accompanying physical symptoms, were, in his view, a rational response to an overloading of work that, in Dr. Green's opinion, was simply too much for elementary school students. He send a detailed letter to the school saying as much. In response, Ms. Russo worked hard to accommodate our daughter's needs, but otherwise the school continued business as usual. In other words, believing they knew better than Dr. Green, they continued to identify the problem in our daughter, rather than in the school. 

This year, our son is feeling single-out by being assigned to a different homeroom from every single one of his friends. In response to our inquiries about this, the administration line is that they are "trying something different this year," and that he will have plenty of time with his friends in other classes during the day. I'm confident this is all true, but it does little to assuage the concerns of a 13-year-old who wonders why he's the only one to have no friends in his homeroom. Whether or not the school's strategy is a good one, they have failed to take into account and take action to ameliorate, how students might respond to it.

These are not the only issues we've had over the years with the St. Luke administration, but they are emblematic. I cannot speak for the experiences of other families. 

Bottom line: the generally high quality of teaching at St. Luke probably makes up for what is, in my opinion, a lack of responsiveness among administrators to the needs of students and parents, borne out of an over-confident sense  that they (the administrators) always know best. St. Luke will prepare your kids reasonably well for high school (and beyond). If, however, you are like me, and fairly intolerant of sanctimony and condescension, then you might want to look elsewhere. Indeed, were it up to me (though, in my house, I've never had much of a say in the matter) neither of my kids would have started, let alone finished, their primary educations at St. Luke. 


  1. where would you have sent your children to school? we are possibly being re-located to this area and are seriously considering st. lukes?

  2. Even though they would be more costly, I would certainly prefer Sycamore or the Orchard School.

  3. I have attended St. Luke for many years and never once had a problem with it. The homework load is definitely not too much, sometimes I think that there is too little, but sometimes we do get a lot(NEVER too much). As a school we are one and always have friends in every classroom no matter where you are placed, if you don't have friends in your class then that is a good way to make new ones. As the staff goes, NO ONE IS PERFECT!!! St. Luke is an excellent school and everyone who is anyone should attend the most excellent school there is. I am graduating from St. Luke, and I am glad I had the chance to attend it.


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