We’re happy to be the best private school in San Antonio, but we’re most proud of our students

Oct 17 2023

We’re happy to be the best private school in San Antonio, but we’re most proud of our students

“The human animal differs from the lesser primates in his passion for lists.”
-H. Allen Smith

When I was growing up, the only list that mattered in my family was where Louisville basketball ranked in the Top 25. These days, we see websites vying for clicks by releasing their own lists, such as best places for families to live, best tacos, best cities for biking, and many, many more.

So when Niche published its 2024 rankings for private schools in San Antonio, we took them with humility and appreciation. Keystone was named the:

  • Best Private High School
  • Best Private K-12 School
  • Best College Prep Private High School
  • Best High School for STEM
  • Most Diverse Private High School

Following the publication of these rankings and a story about them in the Express-News, we heard parents, grandparents, and alumni express their pride in Keystone and that was gratifying. Having been in the independent school world for a while now has taught me to approach these lists with a grain of salt since they can change from one year to the next just because of a change in an algorithm. Still, if there are going to be rankings, I would rather we be at the top, and considered the best private school in San Antonio.

Perhaps one benefit of rankings like these is the fact that they compel us to ask what makes a good school. For example, Keystone’s reputation as an academically challenging school is continually reaffirmed. In the past few weeks, Director of Development and Alumni Relations Adriana Villafranca and I have been meeting with new Keystone families, and all have expressed their appreciation and in some cases surprise at the difference between Keystone’s academic program and their children’s previous school. They related that they knew our curriculum was advanced, but it was only when their children began actual coursework that they realized the difference in the degree of challenge between Keystone and other schools.

In addition, they have been struck by the kind and compassionate way that Keystone students welcome new students. Like all children, our Cobras are works in progress and they stumble or do things that in retrospect they wish they had done differently, but all in all, new students have been pleasantly surprised at the way Keystone students accept “newbies.”

I witnessed this myself at this year’s first Upper School Literary Magazine Stone Soul. (Stone Soul is a once-a-quarter curated open-mic event where students share their creative sides by performing music, spoken word poetry, and engaging in silly games.) While the performances are outstanding, what’s even more impressive is the way students support one another in moments of vulnerability. At this year’s first Stone Soul, some new students and 9th graders displayed bravery by playing piano or violin, reciting original poems, and in one instance, juggling. The roar of approval coming from their schoolmates was a beautiful thing to behold.

Great schools also teach students that they exist in a larger context and have an opportunity and responsibility to give back and help others. Keystone students, with the encouragement and support of teachers, administrators, and parents, continually devise ways to practice our pillars of community involvement and responsible leadership. They work long and hard to benefit other people who experience hardship.

Schools like Keystone also provide students with opportunities to stretch themselves in a variety of ways beyond the classroom. Whether it’s performing in the arts or competing in athletics, our Cobras receive excellent teaching and coaching, and in the process, discover skills they may never realize they had. Whether they’re competing in soccer or volleyball in the fall, performing a monologue from Shakespeare, or creating a stunning piece of pottery, students at Keystone have numerous chances to grow as artists, athletes, and as people.

Ultimately, we wish for the children at Keystone to be well-rounded human beings who excel in the classroom and beyond and demonstrate integrity and compassion. In the words of one parent, “We came to Keystone for the academics; we stayed for the community.” Maybe this is what it ultimately means to be a top-ranked school.

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