August 31, 2004
Enter the very exclusive world of New York private schools and the desperate and often amusing machinations of the
very wealthy parents who will do just about anything to assure their child’s entry into one of the few coveted spots
which open annually at these schools. Children in this world are often commodities, whose worth depends upon their
pedigrees and stations in life. The child’s wants and needs are secondary to what their parents’ expectations
for them are. Getting into the right kindergarten can make or break any hopes of making it into the Ivy Leagues down
the line. How much money you donate to a particular school can determine your child’s future. From birth,
the activities of these elite children are micromanaged down to the second - in order to gain consideration at the right K-8
school your 5-year-old must already be proficient in dance, music, language and more just to keep up with the other applicants.
As September dawns, Helen Drager is in a frenzy over daughter Zoe’s future. Zoe has spent her formative
years at The School, a very desirable private school where Helen has been an extremely proactive parent. Helen is an
art critic who is happily married to Michael, a TV producer for the Food Network. Now that Zoe is in 8th grade, she
must begin the admissions process for finding the right high school for her station in life. Helen truly loves her daughter
and is trying very hard to hear what Zoe has to say about her own future even when it conflicts with Helen’s own wishes
and dreams for her.
Sara Nash is the admissions director at The School. She is down to earth and she is also Helen’s best friend.
We become familiar with The School through both Sara’s and Helen’s eyes. Sara always tries to do what is
right and cares deeply about the good of the school and the students. But Pamela Rothschild, the imperious and self-serving
director of The School who over-inflates her influence and importance to everyone within earshot, thwarts her at almost every
turn. She demands complete obedience from not only the students, but the parents of the students at The School.
Most of the parents are only too happy to comply, out of fear that one wrong word from Pamela can destroy any hopes they have
for a brilliant future for their offspring.
We are taken inside this rarified world during the crucial September through February period of the admissions process
at both The School and the prospective high schools for the graduating 8th graders. With tongue firmly planted in cheek,
Lieberman helps us get to know the other often neurotic parents and their children, the quirky admissions directors at these
schools, and grants us an inside view of the lifestyles of the Rich and Frantic. This is a witty and enjoyable read
and one that will make you sigh with relief that you have your own kids in public schools!
Reviewed by Nancy Machlis Rechtman