Monthly’s Guide to Lowcountry Private Schools

Sure, everyone’s just getting back into classes after winter break, but it’s never too early to start thinking about the next step in your child’s education. If you’re considering private school, the Lowcountry has no shortage of options. Read on:

Hannah FultonWhy I went to private school

A writing assignment by Hannah Fulton

When I was in eighth grade, my parents took me to visit the boarding school in St. Louis that my father had attended. There was no pressure, no pushing — it was just a simple visit. Having lived in Hilton Head for quite a while, my parents wanted me to experience a different part of the country. Plus, my dad loved his experience at the school in St. Louis, and my mom had attended boarding school as well, so the concept wasn’t foreign to either of them.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, of course, but what I found appealed to me: the chance to learn and live in a setting that encouraged independent thinking and inspired students to become responsible leaders — all while surrounded by peers in search of the same experience.

Looking back now, what I loved most about my boarding school experience were the opportunities to grow as a person every day. Trying new things was easy; because I lived in campus, I could take advantage of any of the activities literally happening in my backyard. Girls in my dorm would gather to play tennis, then walk over to the football field to support our team. We could watch movies on a big screen, or head over to take in our school’s latest production in our performing arts center.

Academically, I felt supported at all times. There were amazing educators and study groups everywhere I turned on campus, but the school also offered the opportunity to travel and learn in different environments; I took classes, for instance, at the Teton Science School in Jackson Hole, Wyo. As a senior in high school, I was able to put together an independent study in interior design, which allowed me to focus strictly on that topic for an entire semester. During that time I had the chance once again to travel, and took two design internships — one in Corrales, N.M., and one in Kansas City.

Throughout my education, I had amazing teachers and coaches who supported and encouraged my interests. I feel that because I was exposed to such a variety of activities and academic opportunities at all times, I was able to really find my true passion early on. There are scores of different schools and wonderful experiences to be had at each of them, of course. But for me, boarding school helped me feel confident declaring my major in the field of interior design, where I’ve been happily employed to this day.




  • Established: 1975
  • Headmaster: Mike Lindsey
  • Address: 55 Gardner Drive, Hilton Head Island, SC 29926
  • 843-681-2878

HHCA enrolls from Christian families to form a partnership between the family and school. The school not only provides a quality education but also encourages and influences the development of the student’s Christian faith. Believing that every student must be prepared academically for both college and life beyond the classroom, the school provides a rigorous academic program centered around core Christian values. The inclusion of arts, athletics and social experiences all combine to round out a uniquely Christian education.

How is student learning assessed?
HHCA utilizes computer-aided individual student assessment tracking to measure learning aligned with national standards.

How else is the school unique?
Both the head and heart are challenged to grow and mature. Led by an all-Christian faculty and staff, students are exposed to mature Christian believers who also meet and exceed all teaching and certification requirements. The small class size fosters a genuine family environment where students, parents and students share core values and beliefs. HHCA enrolls students from over 35 different churches.

How do students perform in college and in the world?
A strong guidance department ensures that virtually 100 percent of graduates from HHCA receive acceptances to four-year colleges. Students choose to attend schools ranging from private competitive liberal arts colleges to the state’s top universities to well-regarded Christian colleges. The class of 2010 garnered close to $1 million dollars in scholarship offers.


  • Established: 1998
  • Headmaster: Shawn Young; preschool director Susan Hackett
  • Address: 495 Buckwalter Parkway, Bluffton, SC 29910
  • 843-706-2000

The school’s mission is to provide an education in the Anglican tradition of academic excellence, fostering respect for self and others, service to community, and a commitment to know, love and follow Jesus Christ. Our nationally normed standardized test scores are outstanding. Students in grades 3-6 work at the Food Bank on a rotational basis as well as participate in community service projects throughout the year. Students attend weekly chapel services, memorize scripture and learn about Christ in weekly catechesis classes.

How is student learning assessed?
Student learning is assessed through a variety of methods, including tests over material taught, lab experiences, cooperative learning and annual standardized testing.

How do graduates perform in college and in the world?
Our school currently goes through the eighth grade. Students who graduate from Cross Schools are well prepared and transition successfully to other schools.

How else is the school unique?
The student/teacher ratio is 10-to-1. The small classes provide a family atmosphere and learning is celebrated daily. We are the only school in South Carolina that accepts children as young as 18 months old and continues their education through eighth grade.


  • Established: 1905
  • Headmaster: Thomas C. Whitworth III
  • Address: 1041 Cave Spring Rd., Rome, Ga., 30161
  • 706-235-6051 or 800-268-4437

Darlington’s mission states: “At Darlington School we empower students to learn with passion, act with integrity and serve with respect.” Our commitment to learning, character and service are also reflected well in our motto: “Wisdom more than knowledge, service beyond self, honor above everything.”

How is student learning assessed?
As an independent school, Darlington is able to align instruction and assessments based on the school’s mission, not extraneous pressures or mandates. Darlington uses multiple measures to assess student learning with the belief that learning is not merely knowledge but true understanding. While the school uses traditional types of assessment (quizzes, tests and exams), a multi-layered approach for determining mastery of content, skills, and the ability to think and reason – while much more difficult to determine – is paramount.

How do graduates perform in college and in the world?
100 percent of Darlington School’s graduates attend college at a wide variety of institutions around the world. Students regularly tell us that their freshman courses repeat a good deal of what they had studied at Darlington, often using the same textbooks. They say that they are well-adjusted both personally and academically for college life, feeling comfortable with various teaching methods – whether large group lectures or small seminar discussion.

How else is the school unique?
For students who are serious about soccer, tennis or golf, Darlington offers specialized, year-round athletic academies. Darlington also offers an Instrumental Music Conservatory that enrolls highly motivated students from around the world who wish to obtain an excellent college-preparatory education while receiving world-class music instruction.


  • Established: 1993
  • Headmaster: Gloria Shoemaker
  • Address: 11 New Orleans Road, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
  • 843-842-8600

Heritage Academy excels at providing progressive, differentiated instruction for students who are pursuing an extra-curricular passion and fostering a sense of responsibility and a motivation for learning. Students demonstrate a moral respect to personal dignity and a commitment to global citizenship each day on our campus. Our hands-on learning environments, global perspectives, and varied academic experiences are conducive to highlighting the best of what diversity of ideas can bring to a school setting and what can be achieved in a small 21st century school where accountability, high expectations, divergent problem-solving, and true collaboration meet.

How is student learning assessed?
Achievement is measured through external testing (Stanford, Otis Lennon, SAT, ACT and Advanced Placement) and through summative and formative internal school assessments.

How do graduates perform in college and in the world?
We have a 100 percent acceptance rate to college for those who apply. 99 percent of seniors apply to universities or colleges that reflect an optimal match for their academics and athletics. Our high-performance athletes are scouted by college golf, tennis, and swim coaches in their junior year. Our students compete at the most competitive universities across the globe, from Ivy League and small liberal arts colleges to flagship state and national universities. Most Heritage students receive generous academic and/or athletic scholarships.

How else is the school unique?
We have an international student body, representing 28 countries and 24 states. We run a 5.5 hour morning and a 5.5 hour afternoon session of intensive core academic instruction each day. Instead of belonging to a traditional high school sports team, every Heritage student’s aim is to train with professional coaches to continually improve their personal best in their athletic, artistic, or academic passion area. The school’s aim is to continue to graduate competent, confident life champions who demonstrate academic excellence, top athletic or performing arts achievement and strong character.


  • Established: 1965
  • Headmaster: Dr. Anthony Kandel
  • Address: 8 Fox Grape Road, Hilton Head, SC 29928
  • 843-671-2286

Hilton Head Preparatory School’s philosophy is to educate the whole child and prepare him/her for college and life. Prep focuses on academics, values, and community service. The school and its class sizes are small enough to allow personal attention for each student, both academically and emotionally. Our teachers are also “coaches” who mentor students in and outside the classroom. All aspects of the school experience are tied into the classroom learning – athletics, academics, global studies, environmental studies and experiential education. The Lower School specifically follows the philosophy of the Responsive Classroom, which shifts responsibility for behavior to the child, rather than the adult.

How is student learning assessed?
We have schoolwide assessments, such as the ERB CTP4, our standardized, annual achievement tests for grades 2-9 , and the WrAP, our standardized authentic writing assessment in grades 3-9. We administer the Gates McGinite reading test in the fall and spring of each year in grades 1-5. Teachers use projects, exit tickets, discussion, writing, annotative notes, etc., as formative assessments and end of unit tests, projects, etc., as summative assessments. The use of these multiple assessment types ensures a balanced approach that provides the opportunity for the teachers, students, and parents to work collaboratively to respond to the individual needs of our students.

How do graduates perform in college and in the world?
Not only do 100 percent of our graduates attend college, but many attend the country’s most prestigious colleges and universities, such as Princeton, Harvard, Duke, Wake Forest and University of Virginia. Hilton Head Prep graduates abound in many distinguished career paths, including medicine, business, public service, law, entertainment and education.

How else is the school unique?
Our school is unique because we have 4-year-olds to 18-year-olds on the same campus. We encourage interaction between our oldest and youngest students. National Honor Society members tutor Lower School students. We have a Pooh Pal program between our seniors and our kindergarteners and first-grade students. We also have a big buddy program called Nancy’s Buddies, named in honor of one of our alumni. There are monthly social activities that help in the social-emotional development of our students. The Upper School has a strong faculty advisory program where each child is matched with a faculty advisor.


Our mission is to provide a positive, safe, nurturing and loving environment that promotes the physical, social, emotional and cognitive development of the children while responding to the needs of parents. Our emphasis is on prompting each child’s self-concept, individual strengths and creative talents. By exposing children to a wide variety of situations where they are free to interact and manipulate their environment, they benefit directly from an improved daily environment.

How is student learning assessed?
Children are evaluated daily, a process dictated by their individual pace and progress. Results are shared with parents in parent/teacher conferences semi-annually. We are dealing with young children; therefore, their input can best be measured in observed responses to the teacher and their learning environment. By varying the child’s environment, we build a base of learning and reinforce thinking and organizational skills. Our elementary students also have standardized testing in third and fifth grade. Our students consistently score above the 90th percentile. They have weekly homework and more individual responsibility as is ageappropriate.

How do graduates perform in college and in the world?
Parents points of view: “The skill sets, values, work ethic and sense of independence established at May River Montessori have successfully translated into a positive ongoing school experience.” “The ‘hands-on’ Montessori experience far transcends the nuts and bolts of daily classroom life, and truly blossoms when you experience events such as the annual Christmas performance, art shows, plays and Shakespeare Festival.

How else is the school unique?
May River Montessori experiences a very low teacher turnover. Our location in downtown Bluffton is within walking distance to the May River, several art galleries, the Heyward House and other historic sites. We also offer Spanish, music, library and catechesis as part of our curriculum.


  • Established: 1968
  • Headmaster: Darcie D. Patrick
  • Address: 9 Fox Grape Road, Hilton Head, SC 29928
  • 843-785-2534

Sea Pines Montessori Academy follows the “authentic” Montessori philosophy, centered around these basic concepts:

  • It is developmentally based.
  • Children absorb knowledge by interacting with their environment and responding to it.
  • Children are motivated from within.
  • Adults must respect and trust the child.
  • Our teaching should foster the development of the whole child: social, emotional, intellectual, physical and spiritual.
  • The child is a self-teacher. Classrooms are materials-based, allowing the child many opportunities to initiate activities, explore and practice. The adult teacher serves as support person and facilitator.
  • Adults are models for the children, and our behavior should exemplify the attitudes we would like the children to imitate.
  • An authentic Montessori environment as found at SPMA fosters self-respect, caring and tolerance for others, and a responsible approach to the earth.

How is student learning assessed?
Teacher observation, built in controls-of-error and developing habits of self- assessment. The Montessori teacher works with the same students for three to four years and comes to know their strengths and abilities intimately. The majority of Montessori education is based upon the teacher’s observation of the child’s response and ability. Motivation and self-evaluation are prompted by the child’s human tendency for self-perfection. Children naturally check their own work, validating math calculations or verifying science data. Proponents of Montessori do not believe that grades are a useful or sustainable method of motivating children toward maximum effort. Rather, Montessori educators strive to ensure the child is motivated to repeat, apply deep concentration and sustain active engagement in the task.

How do graduates perform in college and in the world?
Although children are individuals with varying personalities, abilities, and interests, the Montessori experience strongly influences the kind of person each will become. Most Montessori students become creative thinkers and problem solvers, cooperative learners, confident in their abilities, socially and ecologically responsible, academically skilled, balanced, self-directed and independent “citizens of the world.”

How else is the school unique?
SPMA is the only independent school in South Carolina to offer the Suzuki Method of Music Education as part of every student’s education. Dr. Suzuki called his teaching method the “Mother-Tongue Approach,” inspired by the fact that children so effortlessly learn to speak their native tongue. Prompted and encouraged by the parents’ love and the family environment, the child responds and develops this most difficult of skills, that of intelligible speech. In the Suzuki approach each of these principles is used in the learning of an instrument (piano & violin). The mother-tongue approach has successfully been applied to other fields such as art, poetry and mathematics.


  • Established: 1995
  • Headmaster: Mike Rockers, Ed.D.
  • Address: 45 Beach City Road, Hilton Head, SC 29926
  • 843-681-6501

We are here to nurture students’ spiritual and intellectual growth in an authentic Catholic community committed to academic excellence. This leads us to value the following:

  • Faith formation: Our students are called to know, love and serve the Lord.
  • Quality academics: Our high achievement test scores are testimony to our success.
  • Community: Our parental and parish support is exceptional.
  • A nurturing and discipline-filled environment: We provide an environment highlighted by unconditional positive regard for each student and high behavioral expectations.
  • A variety of opportunities and enrichment activities for our students: Our athletic program, expanded enrichment program, National Merit Scholarship Qualifying program, National Junior Beta Club, computer lab, music program, art program, field trips, SCISA events, sporting events, band activities, and theatre productions are just a few of the co-curricular and extra-curricular activities which support our mission and enhance our school.

How is student learning assessed?
We provide both formative and standardized assessment. This includes teacher observation, essays, task performance, portfolios, teacher-created tests, tests provided by textbook publishers, rubric-related assessment and others. Each spring, our students take the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, a nationally-normed achievement test. The results of those tests show that our students average over 20 percentile points higher than national norms.

How do graduates perform in college and in the world?
Our students do very well academically, athletically and socially as they move on to the various high schools in the area. Our goal is for every graduate to be a person of faith, integrity and scholarship.

How else is the school unique?
Even in these difficult economic times, we have recently built a 3,500-square-foot fine arts center and a 15,000-square-foot gymnasium/auditorium. Along with an excellent lay faculty, we are blessed with four religious sisters from the Dominican Sisters of Mary. These sisters have recently been highlighted on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Our parental and volunteer support is exemplary. Our principal, Dr. Mike Rockers, was recently awarded the Charles Aimar Educational Leadership Award from the South Carolina Independent School Association. He was chosen from among the leaders at the association’s more than 100 schools.