St. John's School (Texas)

St. John's School (Texas)

Infobox School
name = St. John's School

| motto = "Faith and Virtue"
established = 1946
type = Independent
head_name = Headmaster
head = John Allman
city = Houston
state = Texas
country = United States
campus = Urban
enrollment = 1,225
faculty = 75 (Upper School)
ratio = 7:1 (Upper School)
colors = Scarlet and Black
mascot = Crusaders (1946-1949) Rebels (1949-2004) Mavericks (2004-present)
class = 135 (Upper School) 120 (Middle school) 60 (Lower school) 42 (Kindergarten)
religion = Non-denominational
homepage = []

St. John's School is a coeducational independent school in the Upper Kirby district of Houston, Texas, United States, presenting a 13-year sequence of university preparatory training. A non-profit institution, it was founded in 1946 with the intention of providing the community with a school of exacting standards in the development of individual, spiritual, ethical, intellectual, social, and physical growth. While the means to achieve that purpose may change, it remains the basic mission of the school. The school is a member of the Houston Area Independent Schools and has no religious affiliation. The school has been coeducational since its founding in 1946. On March 23, 2007, the St. John's School students and faculty celebrated the 60th anniversary of the school's founding.

St. John's receives no state or federal funding. Tuition is $15,050 for Upper School students, $14,200 for Middle School students, and $11,975 for Lower School students. Many students receive partial to full need-based scholarships, as the school has a need-blind admissions policy.


The Brown (South) Campus hosts the Lower (K-5) and Georges Middle (6-8) Schools as well as the Virginia Stuller Tatham (VST) Fine Arts Center and the Smith Athletic Center. The Cullen (North) Campus, separated from the South Campus by Westheimer Road, houses the Upper (9-12) School. The Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools each maintain their own libraries. Upper and Middle School students share the Upper School cafeteria, and the Lower School has its own. Two tunnels run underneath Westheimer Road that connect the North and South Campuses. The school also maintains two athletic fields across West Alabama Street for field hockey, soccer, and lacrosse, and a baseball field adjacent to St. Luke's Methodist Church.

The school is located in the Upper Kirby district bordering on River Oaks, an extremely affluent residential neighborhood. While the school draws many students from the Houston neighborhoods of River Oaks, Tanglewood, and Memorial and the cities of West University Place and Bellaire, the school's student body hails from nearly every zip code in Houston and surrounding areas.Fact|date=April 2008

The school is adjacent to St. John the Divine Church and Lamar High School, a public secondary school operated by Houston Independent School District.

The Upper Kirby district plans to establish a "teen center" at Richmond and Wake Forest geared towards students at St. John's, Lamar, Lanier, and other schools in or near Upper Kirby. Funding issues have delayed establishment of the center [" [ Upper Kirby plans flood relief] ," "Houston Chronicle", July 27, 2006] .


History of the area

In the 1800s Michael Louis Westheimer, a German immigrant who arrived in Houston in 1859, bought a convert|640|acre|km2|sing=on farm at an auction for $2.50 United States dollars per acre. On his property Westheimer established a school for local children, including some of his relatives from Germany. The path to the school became "Westheimer's Road," now called Westheimer Road. [" [ Historic Houston Streets: The Stories Behind the Name] "] [" [ Westheimer was a place for learning] ." "Houston Chronicle".] [Handbook of Texas|id=WW/fwets|name=Westheimer, Mitchell Louis]


W. St. John Garwood and Alan Lake Chidsey's dreams of creating a "school of exacting standards" in Houston became a reality at the end of World War II. In January 1946, Alan Lake Chidsey, former Headmaster of both the Pawling School (today the Trinity-Pawling School) and the Arizona Desert School and the post-war Assistant Dean of Students at University of Chicago, was asked to fly to Texas to speak at a gathering of interested members of the Houston community.

Frontrunners of the idea, Mr. and Mrs. W. St. John Garwood, Sr., Mr. and Mrs. Merrick Phelps, Mr. R. E. Smith, Mr. J. O. Winston, Jr. and the Reverend Thomas Sumners of the Church of St. John the Divine Episcopal Church were among those present at the meeting. At Mr. Chidsey’s persuasion, Mrs. William S. Farish immediately committed to her involvement with the school, and many others followed.

A proposal was drafted that entailed combining forces with the St. John the Divine nursery school to create the school. St. John's first 344 students filed into St. John the Divine's chapel on Opening Day, September 27, 1946. The entire campus, located on what used to be Westheimer's farm, was six acres.

Today, SJS covers 28 acres of land and boasts 1,225 students supported by over 200 faculty and staff. Although the school's size has grown, the number of students per classroom remains small. In the words of former Chairman of the Board, Jim Elkins III, the school seeks to "build an inclusive community ethnically, culturally, and socio-economically." Today, the school has no affiliation with the church, although it does provide non-denominational Judeo-Christian Chapel services at the church. In recent years, the Chapel program has branched out to offer more multicultural services, hosting speakers from a diverse range of faiths and non-religious backgrounds.

Notable Events

In 1998, alumnus Wes Anderson filmed the loosely autobiographical "Rushmore" at St. John's, neighboring Lamar High School, and crosstown rival The Kinkaid School. Like protagonist Max Fischer, Mr. Anderson staged numerous action epic plays in the now-demolished Hoodwink auditorium of his alma mater, with titles like "The Five Maseratis" and "The Battle of the Alamo". Anderson co-wrote the movie with Owen Wilson, who attended St. John's competitor and fellow member of the Southwest Preparatory Conference, St. Mark's School of Texas in Dallas.

In 1995, George W. Bush, then the Governor of Texas, served as the commencement speaker. In 2000, while he campaigned for the office of the President of the United States, "Vanity Fair" magazine and "The New York Times" reported that, as a child, Bush had been rejected for admission by St. John's. According to the article, Governor Bush consulted with his parents (the former president George H. W. Bush and his wife, Barbara Bush) on this issue and was able to confirm that he had, in fact, been rejected by St. John's decades before, which had led to his enrollment at Phillips Academy, his father's alma mater.

In 2005, Sandra Day O'Connor, then a current Supreme Court Justice, visited St. John's School. Other notable visitors to St. John's over the years have included former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III and Italian mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli, whose first U.S. performance was at St. John's in 1993.

Also in 2005, St. John's Lower School students had the opportunity to connect to the International Space Station in orbit and ask the astronauts questions.

In 2006, Houston's WB News featured St. John's and physics teacher Erol Turk in a story about ACTIVboards, a new technology being used in classrooms.

In November 2007, the Wall Street Journal featured St. John's in a chart accompanying an article entitled "How to Get Into Harvard." [] The chart reported that 9% of SJS graduates in 2007 went to one of eight highly selective colleges. St. John's and fellow SPC member St. Mark's School of Texas were the only Texas schools to make the list.


The St. John's mascot has a controversial history. The original mascot, "The Crusaders", lasted only three years due to its religious connotations. "The Rebels" was selected as a replacement in 1949, with Confederate symbol "Johnny Reb" as the mascot.

In 1990, the Upper School students voted to discontinue the mascot and nickname, under the leadership of their African-American Head Prefect (student body president). A year later all symbols of the Confederacy were disassociated from the school, although the nickname "The Rebels" was retained with the hopes it could be connected with the American Revolution or more generally as an ambiguous invocation of nonconformity and independent thinking.

In the spring of 2004, by a unanimous vote of the Board of Trustees, St. John's School officially changed its mascot to "The Mavericks" in order to further distance themselves from any Confederate connections. The change was supported by a majority of faculty, though many students and alumni strongly opposed the change. Today, the Maverick mascot is widely used and accepted, though some students and alumni still pine for the old Rebels name.



St. John's Upper School students graduate having completed at least three course credits in mathematics, three course credits in a foreign language, four course credits in English and writing, two course credits in laboratory science, three course credits in history and social studies, two years in physical education or four seasons of sports, and one course credit in the arts (music, visual arts, theater, or dance). []

Foreign Languages progress unconstrained by grade levels; students are placed at the appropriate level of their chosen language based on a variety of factors, including an entrance exam. Unlike in other departments, students may take multiple languages simultaneously. Spanish, French, Chinese, and Latin are offered, and students must complete the III level of one language to graduate.

Spanish I, II, III, and IV are offered, as well as a one-year AP Spanish Language IV course, a two-year AP Spanish Literature IV and V course, and a Spanish V Honors course.

French I, II, and III are offered, as well as AP French Language IV and AP French Literature IV. An Honors Seminar in French is offered for those students who wish to go beyond the French IV level.

Chinese, the most recent addition to the St. John's curriculum, offers levels I, II, and III.

Latin I, II, and III classes are offered, as well as AP Latin: Virgil IV and AP Latin Literature V.

µ Students must take Biology. Students may take either Chemistry or Physics, although it is suggested they take both.

† Junior English classes contain both Honors and non-Honors students; Honors students must complete an extra project each semester to earn the Honors designation.

∂ Every student may take AP Statistics senior year, although it is required of none. Some students take Statistics alongside or in place of a higher level math (e.g. Calculus, Differential Equations, Linear Algebra).

π For those students who thrive in Calculus courses (and who are in the honors track), additional semester-long honors classes above the AP level are offered, entitled Differential Equations, Multivariable Calculus, Linear Algebra, and Partial Differential Equations.

The English department allows Seniors to choose from a variety of semester-long seminar-style classes to complete the fourth year requirement. Topics include Drama, Documentaries, Satire, Sports Literature, and Shakespeare, among others. Seniors may also choose to earn an honors designation by completing an extra project each semester. The English III curriculum prepares students for the AP English Composition exam, and the English IV curriculum prepares students for the AP English Literature exam.

Students are required to fulfill ? Fine Arts credits, which can be completed through a variety of offerings at any time including participation in a choir or classes (e.g. Theater, Design, Photography).

Various electives are also offered, and although these satisfy no required credit, they still factor into a student's grade point average. The technology department offers Computer Hardware and Networking, Intro to Java Programming, and AP Computer Science AB. Other examples include Psychology and Philosophy, both popular classes.

tandardized Testing

St. John's offers Advanced Placement courses in nearly every department. Students enrolled in AP-designated courses are encouraged to take the corresponding AP exams in early May of that year.

The school reports that the median scores for juniors taking the SAT-I in 2006 were 735 Critical Reading, 730 Math, and 720 Writing. [] St. John's encourages students to take two or three SATII tests in preparation for the college application process.

Lower and middle school students take the Educational Record Bureau tests each year. These scores are only used by the school to gauge its success and do not affect students' individual academic careers in any way.


All Upper School classrooms have ActivBoards. The libraries subscribe to a variety of resource databases including LexisNexis and JSTOR. The technology department also maintains the school's own [ Wiki page] , mostly used by AP physics students and Nerd Squad members.

tudent life


St. John's offers a wide variety of sports. Students may participate in cross-country, volleyball, field hockey, or football in the fall season, soccer, basketball, swimming, or wrestling in the winter, and golf, tennis, lacrosse, softball, baseball, or track and field in the spring.

The Maverick football team plays the annual homecoming game against its traditional rival, The Kinkaid School, at Rice Stadium. The contest culminates Kinkaid Week, a week of activities designed to rally school spirit for the big game.

The lacrosse program at St. John's has traditionally been very strong, producing numerous All-American athletes in the sport. In 2006, both the men's and women's lacrosse teams won the Texas High School Lacrosse League Championship.

A variety of student organizations support the sports teams. The cheerleading program features three squads: 8th grade, junior varsity (9th and 10th grades), and varsity (11th and 12th grades). Drum Corps is a musical ensemble that provides spirited entertainment at sporting events, especially football games. Pots and Pans is a recently established group that lends their percussive talents to the sidelines and stands, following in the footsteps of the legendary but now-defunct Lee Field Loonies.

The Arts

Students can participate in the arts either in classes for academic credit, performing ensembles, or extracurricular organizations.

In Upper School, one fine arts credit is required for graduation. Though this technically can be fulfilled with an Independent Study Project, most if not all students opt to participate in performing ensembles or take classes during the academic day to complete their requirement. Visual art (including basic design, photography, painting and drawing, sculpture, and ceramics), theatre, art history, music theory, and even history of rock and roll classes are offered.

The first extracurricular arts organization created was Johnnycake, founded by the original headmaster in 1949. It is one of the oldest organizations at St. John's and originally produced and performed works written by Mr. Chidsey. Open to all Upper School students, Johnnycake provides opportunities in all aspects of theatrical production from technical crew to set and costume design to performance. Once participants dedicate 100 hours of service to Johnnycake, they are eligible to become members of the International Thespian Society. Upon graduation, students may submit an essay to earn lifetime membership to Johnnycake. Johnnycake supports three main theatrical productions, two repertory plays and a musical, each year in the Upper School as well as other smaller student productions. Shortcake, the middle school division of Johnnycake, offers two to three production opportunities in the Middle School each year.

Students can participate in many choral groups. Any male student in 4th through 12th grade may participate in the Boy Choir in addition to their regular choral assignment. In grades 4 and 5, students may participate in the co-ed St. John's Singers. The highlight of the year for the St. John's Singers is the Spring Fling, the annual spring musical production. In Middle School, girls may participate in Cantatores. Upper schoolers have many options, from the all-women Les Chanteuses, mixed Chorale, and the selective chamber choir Kantorei. The Chapel Singers are a small volunteer choir that sings frequently at Upper School chapel services. Every other year, Kantorei makes an international tour to perform across the globe. Recent visits have included Brazil, Canada, Austria, Italy (including a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica), and the Czech Republic. The choir plans to visit Spain in the summer of 2008.

There is no formal marching band at St. John's, but there are many musical ensembles and smaller bands. In Middle School, Beginner Band is open to class seven and eight students who are interested in learning to play a wind instrument. The Middle School Intermediate Band performs a repertoire ranging from standard band to pop and jazz. Students more adept at string instruments (violin, viola, cello, bass) can join the orchestral group, Sinfonia. The Upper School features both a Wind Ensemble and Jazz Band as well as the Chamber Strings. Sporting events are frequently cheered on by the Drum Corps.

Another type of performing ensemble offered is dance. In 7th grade, students may join the Impulse dance ensemble as an extracurricular involvement. In 8th grade, Impulse is offered as a course to fulfill the fine arts requirement. Upper School dance is a co-curricular course taken for credit. The program consists of four levels in ascending order: Caprice I, Caprice II, Caprice III, and Terpsichore. Just for fun, informal tap dance lessons are sponsored by Tap Club for Upper School students.

tudent organizations

" [ The Review] " is the official student newspaper of St. John's School. Established by the first headmaster Alan Lake Chidsey, it is one of the oldest student organizations on campus. Though originally both students and teachers contributed to the publication, now it is an entirely student-driven organization. Unlike the student journalism program at many schools, participation on the newspaper does not earn academic credit. "The Review publishes issues" monthly and produces a full-color magazine issue annually. Six sections comprise each issue: News, Features, BeyondSJS, Sports, Arts and Entertainment, and Opinions. The Editorial Board is the Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor, News Editor, Features Editor, BeyondSJS editor, Arts and Entertainment editor, Opinions Editor, and Copy Editor. A favorite feature in each issue is Word for Word, a collection of recent memorable quotes from members of the SJS community. An informal online newsletter, The Hall Monitor, is created and read by Middle School students.

[ The SJS Academic Challenge Team] , in the past few years, has been a successful quiz bowl team at local, state, and national levels. Also known as the Academic Team or Nerd Squad, the group competes in local, state, regional, and national tournaments of academic, intellectual, and sometimes esoteric topics related to anything from mathematics, science, the humanities, or "trash" (pop culture, sports, etcetera). The team often attends tournaments hosted by the Texas Quizbowl Alliance and other institutions. Most notably, it won the NAQT High School National Championship in 2002, placed third in 2003 and 2004, and advanced to the semifinals of the PACE NSC in 2004.

In the movie "Rushmore", the main character Max Fischer is the president of the following clubs, teams, and organizations: newspaper, yearbook, French Club, debate, lacrosse, golf, drama, the Astronomy Society, Glee Club, student council, Model UN, Stamp & Coin Club, Gun Club, Backgammon Club, Bombardment Society, wrestling, calligraphy, fencing, kung fu, beekeeping, kite flying, pole vaulting, and water polo.

Though St. John's does not have Stamp & Coin Club, Gun Club, Backgammon Club, Bombardment Society, calligraphy, fencing, kung fu, beekeeping, kite flying, or water polo, it does have the following: Kickboxing Club, Rock Climbing Club, Anime Club, FACETS, Student Technical Society, Tap Club, Chess Club, Environmental Club (ECOS), Knitting Club, Stock Market Game Club, Soccer Club, Model UN, Debate Team, Ultimate Frisbee team, Dinosaur Club, Astronomy Club, Paradigm Film Club, Science and Math Club, Book Club, Automotive Enthusiasts' Club, Junior Statesmen of America, and more. Several cultural affinity groups groups exist, including the Jewish Affinity Group, Irish Affinity Group, South Asian Affinity Group, and East Asian Affinity Group.

Community Service

Though St. John's does not technically require community service hours for graduation, the student body boasts almost 100% student participation in community service projects. Service is encouraged by either participation in school-sponsored projects or individual participation in outside-of-school organizations. Many Upper School students receive awards both inside and out of school for their contributions to the community.

Community service is first introduced in Lower School. Weekly canned food drives are held, and classes visit local food banks to see how their contributions are used. The annual drive to provide holiday presents to underprivileged families is a highlight of the year, culminating in a field trip to personally deliver the presents to the families. Many Lower School students choose to donate some of their art projects to Texas Children's Hospital each year.

In Middle School, additional community service projects are introduced. Students may be more involved in planning and helping with the organization of these projects. Each advisory may choose or designs a project to participate in as a group, and each grade completes one large project each year. In addition, there are many projects each month that all students are welcome to join. Examples of Middle School projects include volunteering at Special Olympics athletic events, organizing and dispensing toiletries for the homeless, participating in the annual Galveston Beach Clean-Up, and others. In Middle School and Upper School, personal service is promoted over monetary donations or drives.

Upper School community service is mostly student-driven. Any student may submit a proposal to design and lead their own project and recruit other participants. As a result, a wide variety of projects tailored to every interest develop, ranging from writing letters to troops stationed in Iraq to cleaning up trash from Galveston beach or Buffalo Bayou to escorting athletes at the Special Olympics. Students have worked with organizations including the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, the Flower Foundation, the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, Texas Adopt-a-Beach, the Special Olympics, Texas Children's Hospital, the Seniors' Place, J. Will Jones Elementary, Breakthrough Houston, and more.

chool uniform

St. John's requires that students wear the school uniform at all times. Most uniform pieces must be manufactured by Sue Mills, a school uniform supplier. The St. John's plaid, only available from Sue Mills, is distinctive from any other school.

The uniform for all male students consists of belted khaki shorts or pants, worn with a white or powder blue Oxford shirt or a white, red (Lower School), black (Middle School), or navy (Upper School) polo shirt.

Lower School girls may wear a red or plaid jumper over a white peter pan collar blouse with red piping, khaki shorts or pants with a red or white polo shirt, or a plaid skort with a red or white polo shirt. Middle School girls may wear a red or plaid skirt with a white polo shirt or khaki shorts or pants with a white or black polo shirt. Upper School girls may wear a red or plaid skirt with a white or navy polo shirt or khaki shorts or pants with a white or navy polo shirt.

Grey slacks for both males and females are a previously unpopular uniform option that have gathered a small cult following among students. Sue Mills also offers various non-required but uniform-themed accessories in the trademark plaid, including backpacks and headbands.

Uniform outerwear, including sweatshirts, sweaters, and Boathouse jackets, may be purchased from Sue Mills or the campus bookstore. Upper School teams and clubs may also design their own outerwear with the approval of the Dean of Students.

Upper School students may wear the closed-toe, closed-heel shoes of their choice. Lower and Middle School students have stricter regulations about footwear and must wear shoes with white non-logoed socks visible above the shoe.

Students are required to tuck in shirts, and a 2004 survey conducted by "The Review" found that untucked shirts accounted for the vast majority of detentions and other disciplinary action.


*Alan Lake Chidsey, 1946 - 1966
*Elwood Kimball Salls, 1966 - 1976
*Thomas Read, 1976 - 1981
*James R. Maggart, 1981 - 1991
*E. Philip Cannon, 1991 - 1998 (1991 - 1992 as interim headmaster)
*John Allman, 1998 - present


St. John's seeks to attract qualified individuals of various backgrounds to its student body. Consequently, the School does not discriminate in admissions or educational programs against any individual on the basis of sex, race, color, national or ethnic origin, or religion. Many students receive partial to full need-based scholarships, as the school has a need-blind admissions policy.

St. John's admits 42 students to kindergarten each year. The class grows to 60 at first grade, 120 at sixth grade, and 135 at ninth grade.

New students typically come from a variety of other private and public schools in Houston. For instance, some students of the Presbyterian School [ [ Class of 2004 - Presbyterian School ] ] , River Oaks Baptist School [ [ River Oaks Baptist School ~ Where Do Our Students Go From Here? ] ] , Annunciation Orthodox School [ [ Welcome to AOS - Graduating from AOS ] ] , and The Village School [ [] ] matriculate to St. John's.

Notable alumni

*Wes Anderson, Academy Award-nominated writer, producer, and director of films
*William S. Farish III, former U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom
*Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, anthropologist and primatologist
*Molly Ivins, famed political columnist
*Ken Keeler, comic writer and television producer
*Mike France, senior writer at "Businessweek"
*Peter Roussel, former United Nations ambassador and magazine editor
*Christy Haubegger, founder of Latina magazine and [ movie producer]
* [ Steven A. Owsley] , film actor
*Chip Van Os, Olympic handball athlete
*Susan Bush, current University of Houston Head Women's Soccer Coach, former Women's United Soccer Association player, and Olympic athlete
*Paul Geis, NCAA track champion and Olympic athlete
* [ Katherine Center] , author of " [ The Bright Side of Disaster] "
*Candice Pool, co-founder of [ Finn Jewelry]
*Laura Moser, co-author of the " [ Social Climber] " book trilogy and "Slate" contributor
* [ Eric Garland] , founder of [ Big Champagne] , a market research company
*Janis Relansky, contributor to Elle magaznie.


External links

* [ St. John's School website]
* [ History of SJS]
* [,-95.428373&spn=0.005283,0.006034&t=h&hl=en Satellite photo of campus]
* [ "The Review", the official student newspaper]
* [ SJS uniform]
* [ Houston Association of Independent Schools (HAIS)]
* [ Middle School Handbook, Dress Code pgs. 44-46]

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