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PACIFIC PALISADES : Where Girls Can Be In a Class by Themselves


"What's good for girls is good for the nation."

So says Diana Meehan, educator, feminist, wife, mother and founding trustee of the soon-to-open Archer School for Girls in Pacific Palisades.

When Meehan and co-founders Vicky Shorr and Megan Callaway open Archer this fall, they will add to a list of independent Catholic girls' schools on the Westside that includes Notre Dame Academy in West Los Angeles, Marlborough School for Girls in Hancock Park, Marymount High in Westwood and Immaculate Heart in Hollywood.

The three women say they embarked on the project because they all attended single-sex schools, they all have daughters--and they have taken to heart a widely publicized American Assn. of University Women report charging that co-ed schools shortchange girls.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday June 22, 1995 Home Edition Westside Part J Page 3 Zones Desk 1 inches; 28 words Type of Material: Correction
School affiliation--The Archer School for Girls was misidentified in a June 11 story in the Westside section. The independent, private school in Pacific Palisades has no religious affiliation.

According to the 1992 report, girls receive less attention than boys in the classroom and lose self-confidence, a problem that seriously hampers their academic performance.

Such studies have boosted interest in all-girl schools on the Westside and elsewhere, and Archer's founders are betting that it will benefit their own project.

"Going to Archer means girls are free from the pressure of something they can't control, namely male judgment," said co-founder Shorr. "And what that does is restore to a girl a sense of control over her life, her friends, and her behavior at a time when it's crucial for her to find out who she is."

The Archer School will start as a middle school with the sixth and seventh grades and will have the sixth to 12th grades by 2001.

Meehan says a friend, feminist author Betty Friedan, once asked her: " 'What's all this nonsense about starting a girls' school?' "

"I told her that [Scholastic Aptitude Test] scores go up 30% when girls are in single-gender math and science classes, that they learn better in a cooperative atmosphere rather than a competitive one and that 40% of our girls are on scholarship," said Meehan.

The nonprofit school plans to charge $11,500 a year to tuition-paying families and use $500,000 it has collected in donations to offer scholarships to 40% of the students.

Many of the contributors, such as producer Norman Lear and his wife, Lyn, do not have school-age children, and other donors--entertainment mogul David Geffen, for instance--have no children at all.

According to Archer admissions director Ruth Jenson, the initial group of 32 students is diverse, well-rounded and academically strong, representing all races and social classes.

"This is not a rich kid's school with token poor students," said Meehan.

The heart of Archer's program will be a college preparatory curriculum that incorporates the arts, athletics, environmental awareness and community service. Professional people, including senior citizens, will be used as mentors and role models. The teaching staff ranges from a recent college graduate to a seasoned 60-year-old professional.

At the helm is Trudee Christensen, formerly head of Cornelia Connelly Girls High School in Anaheim, who has 17 years of experience in all-girl education.

"This is a dream come true to found a school where we believe in our girls, not doubt them, and proudly declare ourselves as feminists," Christensen said.

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