Deciding where your children go to school should involve a lot of research and visits to various schools around town. For some parents, the choice is made by their own experience and fond memories for the school that they attended. For other parents, they look at the sports activities and extracurriculars that are built into their child’s day, including drama and art. Tampa Bay METRO found three families who chose private school for their children and they shared their thoughts and passion for their school.
The Malizia Family
St. John’s Episcopal Day School
The Malizia Family: Cole (21, Senior at Washington & Lee University), Anna Peyton (18, Freshman at the University of Pennsylvania), David, Victoria, Maggie (11, 6th grade at SJE), Kent (16, Junior at Plant)
David and Victoria Malizia have four children who have all attended St. John’s Episcopal Day School. Their three older children – Cole, Anna Peyton, and Kent attended St. John’s for 10 years. Their youngest daughter, Maggie, is currently in 6th grade at St. John’s. David Malizia is an Investor and Managing Partner at Westshore Capital Partners and is the Treasurer and member of the Board of Trustees at St. John’s Episcopal Day School, and Victoria is Clerk of the Vestry at St. John’s Episcopal Church.
“St. John’s has been and continues to be a place where our students’ academic achievement is second to none, the Christian environment permeates all that we do, and the neighborhood location allows our students to feel engaged with their community and surrounding,” says St. John’s Head of School, Robert Stephens. “The Malizias are excellent examples of the kind of outstanding students of strong character that St. John’s graduates each year.”
“We looked at all of our school options (public and private) in 1998, and found St. John’s Episcopal to have a superior focus on the core curriculum in grammar, reading, math and language arts,” says David and Victoria Malizia. “The Christian environment is very loving and compassionate with an emphasis on morals and respect of others. We appreciate the self discipline and work ethic that is instilled in students at St. John’s. Students are taught good study habits and organizational skills essential to success in high school and beyond.”
The strong academic focus, as well as sports activities, help students once they leave St. John’s and enter high school and college. “St. John’s prepared me well for my AP classes in high school,” says Kent Malizia, a junior at Plant High School. “The smaller class sizes at St. John’s allowed for teachers to know each student personally and keep their best interests in mind.”
“Aside from academics, St. John’s taught me how to balance my extracurricular activities and to always leave room for my faith,” says Anna Peyton, a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania and member of the Varsity Track and Field team as a high jumper. “I am very thankful for the ten years I was able to spend in such a loving environment and would do it all over again.”
“My time at St. John’s significantly shaped me into who I am today,” says Cole Malizia, who is now a college senior at Washington & Lee University. “I made lifelong friends, learned important life skills, and discovered many passions and interests that remain today. St. John’s provided a nurturing environment to grow as an individual. It was important to learn how to interact with my classmates, learning God’s love, and learning how to care about others. These are important skills because knowing oneself and how to empathize, forgive, and interact with others, has helped me to mature and interact with new people everyday.”
A sense of community is a common thread among the families. “St. John’s Episcopal has been more than a school to our family over the past two decades,” says David and Victoria Malizia. “We treasure the relationships and friends that we have established with the teachers and the parents in the community. We value the teachers’ dedication and commitment to students and the rich traditions at St. John’s.”
The Politis Family
Saint Paul’s School
As a family of five with busy careers as doctors, Chris and Effie Politis needed a school that provided plenty of activities for their three boys. Chris Politis, a Urologist, is self employed at St. Pete Urology and Effie Politis is a Plastic Surgeon at USF Physician’s Group, and Assistant Professor and Florida Hospital Affiliate. “We were interested in a quaint, nurturing school where the children would have the opportunity to make long lasting friendships with fellow peers that shared similar family values,” says Chris and Effie Politis. “We also were looking for a school with a strong academic base and various enrichment programs to help develop character, leadership, and confidence.”
“Saint Paul’s – Clearwater’s Independent School – is the only FCIS and SAIS accredited school in Clearwater,” says Katie Sibson, Director of Admissions at Saint Paul’s. “Saint Paul’s offers a premier academic experience for students in PK3 – 8th. Students enjoy a safe and beautiful ten-acre campus along Allen’s Creek, a 7:1 student-teacher ratio, and an outstanding arts program.”
The couple really did their homework when they began their search for an education for their oldest son, Gregory, now a 4th grader. “We did a tremendous amount of research to ensure we would find a school that would be the right fit for our children,” says Chris and Effie. “We realize that children end up spending more time at school than at home, so we were looking for a safe, nurturing, and stimulating environment. After touring many facilities and attending many open houses, we attended a new family orientation at St. Paul’s School which really solidified our decision. We spoke with the parents of children ranging from early childhood to middle school, who shared a genuine enthusiasm about the school and its overall philosophy. We also met students who had moved on to various high schools in the area, who stated that their St. Paul’s years were the best years of their life. It is apparent through the younger alumni that their experiences at St. Paul’s School positions them for success in high school and college.”
“We were able to visit various classes and could immediately see the enjoyment and camaraderie amongst the students,” says Chris and Effie Politis. “The class sizes are small and promote a child centered environment which allows for each child to grow individually.”
The school has an affiliation with Ruth Eckerd Hall for music and drama. Effie says her boys love the opportunity to participate in music and theatre. They also like the library time, art classes and buddy programs. The school pairs the older students with the younger ones for chapel and reading time. “This fosters a community feel to the school and promotes school spirit,” says Effie.
“We are confident that our children will create many memories and solid friendships at St.Paul’s School while preparing our children to meet the challenges of the future,” says Chris and Effie Politis.
The Gerardi Family
Tampa Preparatory School
Phillip and Missy Gerardi have six boys and have been at Tampa Preparatory School for seven years. With five of their six sons at the school, it feels like their second home. Phillip is owner of Gerardi Construction and Missy, with her large family, can keep her finger on the pulse of her brood, with the boys at one school. When the search for schools began, it was their oldest son, Connor, who led the charge. The Gerardis had friends, whose son attended Tampa Prep, so they had their son shadow for a day. Connor felt comfortable and when Missy drove onto the campus, she felt a sense of community.
“The decision to send your children to private school is very personal,” says Missy Gerardi. “Tampa Prep is special to our family, because we feel it meets the needs of each of our boys’ personalities and plays to their strengths. Ultimately, it comes down to a gut feeling. When I drop my boys off and pick them up every day, their faces say it all. They are happy, content and love the learning environment at Tampa Prep. That is priceless! It feels like a second home and that is the way school should feel, considering the amount of time they spend there each day.”
Right now Tampa Preparatory School is excited to be leading the way in education with the focus on what’s best for students. In the past few years, Tampa Prep has implemented a later start time for school each day, iPad one-to-one programs and has renovated the Middle School to Active Learning Environments. The School has been recognized as an Apple Distinguished School for innovation leadership and educational excellence. This designation is reserved for schools that meet criteria for innovation, leadership and educational excellence, and demonstrate a clear vision of exemplary learning environments.
“I could not be more proud of our school. The entire Tampa Prep community – faculty, parents, students and the Board of Trustees – has worked hard to create an environment of innovation and creativity that in the end, places the school on the cutting edge of the use of technology as a tool for learning. The 21st century skills are alive and well at Prep and Apple has recognized our efforts,” says Kevin M. Plummer, Head of School. “We strive to provide students the tools they will need for their ever-changing future.”
“The school just exudes positivity, which starts with the administration and trickles down to the faculty and student body,” says Missy Gerardi. “It’s a happy place.”
In addition to strong academics, parents want to provide values and instill life skills to their children. “We were looking for a school that not only helps them learn, but also builds character. Tampa Prep accomplishes both,” says Phillip and Missy Gerardi.
© Tampa Bay Metro Magazine & Blog | A Metro Life Media, Inc. Publication