The Grosse Pointe area is abuzz with conversation and excitement over the news of a classical public school opening in September 2023 for grades K – 5. What is the back story?
In spring 2021 in the midst of Covid issues across the country, Biz Williamson and Jeni Sales were discussing possibilities of finding educational opportunities that differed from what was being offered by their local school district. Their own combined eight children had attended the local district school system, yet they were beginning to notice a growing need for an affordable but different educational option for those who wanted it. Were there any alternatives other than high-priced private and parochial schools for parents who sought an academic-focused education that would fit the needs of many families?
Thus was born the idea of The Hill Pointe School, a tuition-free public charter school founded on classical education with its significant focus on virtues and values. The inspiration was to create a school open to all students which would offer a rigorous education much like the once-traditional public education their own generation had received. A subsequent tour of Ivywood Classical Academy in Plymouth, Michigan, solidified their ambitions. They desired to replicate the classical school model that was successfully fostering excited learners and independent thinkers on the path to becoming the moral citizens of the future.
Williamson and Sales reached out to John Polizzi, Mary Shafer, Kelly Boll, and Neal Cole to join their endeavor, and appointed Jeni’s husband, Murray Sales, as president. They formed a founding project board, and the work of establishing The Hill Pointe School began.
The Hill Pointe School founding board is united in their admiration of the mission and vision of Hillsdale College, which is devoted to the revitalization of public education through the launch and support of classical K-12 charter schools. Hill Pointe will implement the Hillsdale K- 12 curriculum with its focus on nurturing citizens who will go on to lead in our communities.
“Classical schools are unique among school choice options,” says Mary Shafer, who attended Hillsdale. “They provide a traditional classroom environment, enriched content, and a virtuous education.”
The academic philosophy of The Hill Pointe School is rooted in a firm belief in the potential of the individual, and in the timeless virtues of responsibility, courage, gratitude, honesty, humility, respect, and wonder. These values are integrated into the daily rhythm of the school. It is the expectation that students, teachers, and school leaders live them out. The school looks to instill in all its students the honest pride and self-esteem that derive from true achievement.
“I am excited for young students to be immersed in a robust academic program where they learn language and literature, history and geography, math and science, music and art — all in a coherent and orderly manner,” says Boll. “This classical program is brilliant in how it spans the rudiments of basic literacy and math skills to higher orders of thought and expression.”
At Hill Pointe, classroom instruction is knowledge-based and teacher-led, incorporating the Socratic method of engaging dialogue between the student and the teacher without the distraction of technology. Students are instructed in study skills, such as organization, time management, and note taking, which are essential in building a foundation for further academic pursuits.
“We desire to provide an education for these students that will reawaken wonder and bring back truth, beauty, and goodness to the classrooms,” Williamson adds.
Parent involvement will be embraced and relied upon to coordinate extracurricular activities like chess club, forensics, the school newspaper, family fun nights, and more.
“As parents, we have a solemn responsibility to raise our children in such a way that they become young men and women of intelligence and character,” says Murray Sales. “These young people are being prepared to lead and contribute to our country. No one knows your own child the way you do, and at The Hill Pointe School, we will work with you to develop the true potential of your child both academically and as a human being.”
The school will open for students in grades K-5 in September 2023, with planned expansion to K-12 over the course of several years.
Many collaborating partners have helped lay the foundation for the school. The school is in receipt of a Letter of Intent from Central Michigan University to serve as the authorizer, whose charter allows The Hill Pointe School its ability to be a tuition-free public school. Hillsdale College is the architect of the classical curriculum, and Hillsdale provides enrichment training to the faculty and staff throughout the school year. The school has also teamed up with Choice Schools Associates which serves as the district office.
The board members of The Hill Pointe School are dedicated to the success of the school. As a nonprofit entity, the school is held to a high degree of transparency and accountability.
“We are working to ensure that the financial underpinnings of the school are solid,” says John Polizzi.
Neal Cole sums it up, “The classical curriculum and methods of teaching offered at The Hill Pointe School will build knowledge, develop critical reasoning, and form the moral character of our students. This is a timeless model for public education, and I am grateful to the many people who are making this available to the parents and students who desire it.”
Please go to our website (thehillpointeschool.org) if you are interested in supporting the endeavor, volunteering, donating, or interested in enrolling your children. Look for upcoming notifications on Hill Pointe community forums on classical education and school choice. While the school’s location has yet to be announced, there is no zip code requirement for students who attend. The Hill Pointe School is open to all students.