The slogan for Bending Oaks High School reads: “Where The Students Choose Us!”
What if all teenagers were able to choose the style and location of their secondary education? What elements would you have incorporated into this selection? Were you completely satisfied with the structure and results of your education?
While our traditional public school system works well for many teenagers, there are students who, for various reasons, seem to fall through the cracks. This is where Bending Oaks steps in, creating an environment designed to foster success for students who have had problems in a traditional classroom environment.
Bending Oaks High School was founded in 1985 by a group of teachers dissatisfied with the public school system, both as a working and learning environment. Specifically, they believed that many students were unable to learn in an increasingly overcrowded classrooms. For this reason, the school was designed to have a limited enrollment and maintains a student-teacher ratio of roughly six-to-one. The school is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and is recognized by the Texas Education Agency.
In 1992, an ownership change took place and Bending Oaks became somewhat of a “family business.” Bending Oaks graduates Doug and Brandi McNamara now share ownership of the school with Doug’s mother Jeanne and Principal Bob Costello.
According to Doug, who serves as business manager for the school, there are many reasons for choosing Bending Oaks over a traditional high school setting.
“We are designed to deal with students who have learning differences, but we are also unique in our ability to accommodate students with special needs of any kind,” he says.
To illustrate this point, he refers to Bending Oaks graduate and recent Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.
“Lance is a good example of someone for whom the traditional high school structure cannot work. Lance needed to be spending many hours a day training and cycling. We are able to provide the flexibility in scheduling that would allow anyone in this type of situation to succeed,” he says.
In addition, the school accommodates foreign students whose English deficiencies would make learning in a public school overwhelming.
Bending Oaks classes are scheduled like college classes, with each student taking six classes split into Monday, Wednesday and Friday courses or Tuesday and Thursday courses.
“This form of class scheduling is particularly helpful for students with learning differences such as Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder,” says Brandi, the school’s admissions counselor.
Each class has built-in study time during which students can begin, and often finish, homework while teachers are present to assist them. Bending Oaks parent Cathy Arnett says this arrangement has been a “blessing” for her daughter, Jaclyn Azzam, whose ADHD coupled with an undiagnosed auditory problem led her to near expulsion at her local public school.
“Jaclyn was floundering in public school,” Cathy says. “She is a highly intelligent girl whose problems were being ignored. She was failing out of school, and nobody was doing anything to help her.”
Since transferring to Bending Oaks, Jaclyn has accelerated so quickly that she is one whole grade ahead of schedule, Cathy says. She currently ranks number three in her senior class, and scored well above the average score of 1260 on the SAT.
At Bending Oaks, lockers don’t have locks, students are free to go off campus for lunch, and everyone is addressed by their first name. Brandi says the success of this relaxed environment is due to the school’s small size – roughly 50 students are enrolled at the school for this academic year.
“In a larger school, kids begin to feel like a number. Everyone knows everyone else here, and that makes it nearly impossible to skip school,” she says.
More information about Bending Oaks can be obtained by visiting their website at www.bohs.com.