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Conducting a savvy school search

During your school search, you may gather many opinions on which schools are best. That's fine, said Ann Piccard, "as long as you remember that what they want isn't necessarily what you want." And just because a school is good for one of your children doesn't mean it's a nice fit for another.

Piccard and her husband, Charles Reischmann, can volunteer that wisdom after conducting searches for each of their two daughters. Beth, 8, and Mary, 5, attend Pasadena Community Church School. Beth also takes gifted classes at Tyrone Elementary School.

When the time comes, the parents intend to go on a third search for their youngest, 22-month-old Paul.

Piccard, 42, and Reischmann, 39, say they have gotten more sophisticated with the experience. With first daughter Beth, Ann Piccard said she didn't know enough to ask about the curriculum. Now the couple requests that information and even private schools' test scores.

"Most will volunteer (that), but you have to know to ask that," Ann Piccard said. After each search, "I learned more about what's important."

Piccard and Reischmann consider reputation, location and class size among the most important criteria. They wanted a class that had no more than 20 students and a school that was close to home.

It also is important to visit the school. Piccard has sometimes scheduled a tour and sometimes she dropped in unannounced. If administrators refused to allow a spontaneous tour, she scratched that school off her list.

After visiting the school and talking to teachers and administrators, they thought about whether their child would fit in at the school.

"It's such a personal decision," Piccard said. "It is easy to get yourself in a panic. You just have to do what's best."