The Masters School (Dobbs Ferry, NY)

<p>After getting back from our first Family Weekend at Masters, I figured it was about time to “out” myself as a new/current Masters parent.</p>

<p>With two kids at two different boarding schools, it’s challenging not to think in comparative terms. But instead of comparing Masters to St. Andrew’s (where my older daughter has been for the past 4 years), I am going to try to comment on Masters as it stands on its own. They are VERY different schools (for example, SAS is 100% boarding and at Masters I think the number is closer to 30%).</p>

<p>I’m going to post a few observations here, but please feel free to ask questions if you have any. And if you are a longer-term Masters parent/student and feel I’m getting anything wrong — by all means speak up!</p>

<p>Masters is more rigorous than I thought it would be
Both of my daughters attended a fairly rigorous and well regarded day school in Princeton through middle school. 7D2 had excellent grades and was a hard worker there. Since Masters is rarely mentioned on this forum, I didn’t know what to expect with regard to academic rigor. So far, I can report that the teachers and coursework/workload are challenging enough for her. Additionally, Masters seems to have adopted the Harkness method for all classes (including science and math).</p>

<p>Masters has some very cool offerings
Over Family Weekend (what Masters calls “parents weekend”), they shared a great video about an “On Location” class — which seems to be a group process class where teams work towards making short films. It looks like an excellent experience to work with technology and new media, and the work they shared was quite good for just 6 weeks of class.</p>

<p>Masters has a fencing team. Only a handful of boarding schools have a interscholastic programs, and I’d put Masters’ program up there with the best of them (like Lawrenceville, Culver, Dana Hall, and Hockaday). The longtime coach, Francisco Martin, is a great guy and very well connected in the U.S. fencing scene. When the new MAAC (Masters Athletic and Arts Center) is completed (Spring 2015), it will contain what I think will be the best permanent fencing room of any boarding school in the country. Plus, if you/your kid is an elite fencer, the proximity to several strong clubs allows fencers to train with strong coaches and training partners in the scholastic “off” seasons. Not to mention the convenience of a few major airports nearby to make it easier to get to NACs and international tournaments.</p>

<p>The school also hosts CityTerm, a semester-long program where students live in a separate dorm and “use New York City as...classroom and laboratory”. I don’t know much more about it, but it sounds pretty cool. Learn more here: <a href="http://www.cityterm.org"&gt;http://www.cityterm.org&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>Masters arts programs are strong
As part of Family Weekend, a few of the arts groups performed. Frankly, I was blown away by the musicianship and stagecraft of all the groups. The Jazz Band in particular surprised me with its high level of talent. And I’d put Dobbs 16 (the school’s auditioned acappella group) up against any high school group. Of course, in any given year there can be a fluctuation depending on the kids who participate, but right now, I’d say that Masters has a very strong performance corps.</p>

<p>Masters has nice dorms
My daughter has a single room about the size of her older sister’s freshman year double at St. Andrew’s, and while a con of its third-floor location is the hike up the stairs — a pro is the loft-like ceiling. I suggested to her that she ask to keep the same room next year if possible. My daughter claims the boys’ dorms are even nicer — despite being the original dorms (when Masters was all-girls) and housed in older buildings.</p>

<p>Masters has an enviable location
I sometimes hear people say they’d never consider St. Andrew’s because of its relatively remote location. (I don’t get this, because somehow that doesn’t seem to knock Hotchkiss or Deerfield out of the running…and those places are much farther from a major city than SAS is.)</p>

<p>Masters is located in Dobbs Ferry, NY, just up the Hudson River from Manhattan. To the tip of the island by car is about 20 minutes via route 9/Henry Hudson parkway. I have not yet taken the train in town to NYC from Dobbs, but I hear it’s about 45 minutes to Grand Central. Besides Episcopal and Milton, I think Masters may be the closest BS to a major city.</p>

<p>But more than that, I think Dobbs Ferry (which students can walk to) and the adjacent river towns are totally charming, with many unique/non-chain shops and restaurants. Plus, there are the historic homes of the Hudson River Valley (<a href="http://lyndhurst.org"&gt;http://lyndhurst.org&lt;/a> and <a href="http://www.hudsonvalley.org/historic-sites/kykuit"&gt;http://www.hudsonvalley.org/historic-sites/kykuit&lt;/a> are just two) which give visiting parents something to do in addition to school-related activities. There are also enough hotels nearby that we could get a room at a reasonable rate, even on a school weekend.</p>

<p>All of this is a long-winded way of saying, if you are interested in a rigorous boarding school with some unique programs that is close to a big city, definitely put The Masters School on your list!</p>

<p><a href="http://www.mastersny.org"&gt;http://www.mastersny.org&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>Forgot to mention that Masters recently named a new head of school, who assumes leadership next year:
<a href=“http://www.mastersny.org/news/detail.aspx?pageaction=ViewSinglePublic&LinkID=26366&ModuleID=65&NEWSPID=1”>http://www.mastersny.org/news/detail.aspx?pageaction=ViewSinglePublic&LinkID=26366&ModuleID=65&NEWSPID=1</a></p>

<p>Hey 7D…I’ve always heard great things about Masters. My daughters math teacher sends her daughter there and raves about it and approves of their academics. The current parents I know from there have day students. It is so close to the city and Dobbs Ferry is beautiful. </p>

<p>Know a 2013 graduate from Masters…wonderful kid. Bright, friendly, well-spoken, interesting. She loved the school.</p>

<p>Just the other day, my daughter asked me where 7D2 was going. I’m glad things have worked out well for her! That is a very nice area indeed. I hope that at some point you will comment on how the high day-to-boarding ratio affects the character of the school.</p>

<p>@twinsmama: I think I’ll be able to better comment on that later in the year, after the overall novelty of living away from home has worn off for my daughter.</p>

<p>One consequence of it, for sure, is that 7D2 has burned through more of her (limited!) spending money than her sister at St. Andrew’s over a similar period of time. </p>

<p>I chalk this up to the fact that at SAS, the 100% residential situation means that kids go off campus (the closest shopping center is a fairly long walk/short bike ride) much less — which means fewer opportunities to spend money. Contrast that to Masters, where there is a fro-yo place, a pizza place, a hot dog joint (plus many other dining options) and even a magic shop, a very short walk from campus. So 7D2 does go off campus with some frequency to snack and hang with friends…and that costs $.</p>

<p>On the other hand, recently the parent of a day student volunteered to drive my daughter and some other boarders to a party at another day student’s house…very appreciated, and I think it helped the boarders feel like they were not missing out.</p>

<p>SevenDad - can you talk about the diversity of the student population? And, do you have any insight into the competition for spots for 10th grade. My daughter (9th grader) currently attends another boarding school far from NYC (we just moved here in August), and I"m looking for something a little closer to home. Thank you!</p>

<p>@Write4MyLife‌: In terms of racial diversity, I think Masters is quite diverse…with many people of color (and I use that term as a person of color myself). Based on seeing the entire student body in one room at Convocation on Family Weekend and relative to the other boarding school with which I am most familiar, I’d say that Masters has greater racial diversity than St. Andrew’s (DE).</p>

<p>In terms of geographic diversity, Masters seems to draw primarily from its surrounding Westchester region, plus Fairfield County Connecticut and NYC. Keeping in mind that it has a majority of day students, this is not that surprising. There are some international students, some non-local boarders (from as far away as Florida and California), and some students who board despite living in one of the three areas I mention above. So, I would say, considerably less diverse than SAS in terms of where kids are from. </p>

<p>In terms of socio-economic diversity, perhaps too early for me to get a read on this. But given the sending areas for day students, I’d think the average HHI of the parent base at Masters is most likely quite high (Fairfield Co. includes the Greenwichs and Dariens of the world, and Westchester has places like Bedford, Rye, and Mamaroneck). That said, a quick scan of Masters FA budget indicates that they spend a significant amount annually — especially relative to the school’s relatively modest total endowment. </p>

<p>Another “early read” that I get from my visits to the school is the Masters’ student body seems more artsy (and perhaps more “indie”) than a place like St. Andrew’s…which in comparison, feels very preppy. This could be due to St. Andrew’s more formal dress code, though. Hope that helps. I’ll reach out to my AO regarding the number of 10th grade slots, but also encourage you to reach out to their admissions team as well. Best of luck and I’ll try to field any other questions that might come up.</p>

<p>Follow up after hearing back from the AO who was the main contact for our family last year…the number of slots available for new sophomores at Masters varies from year to year, but is generally in the range of 10-15 openings.</p>

<p>Sending you a PM now.</p>

<p>New school website is live:</p>

<p><a href=“http://www.mastersny.org”>http://www.mastersny.org</a></p>

<p>My younger sister was a boarding student at the Masters School (Class of 1985) when the school was all-girl’s school. It has always been famous for strong music and art program. She went on to RISD and some of her paintings are still put somewhere on the school wall. Everything you said about the school is true. Its proximity to NYC offers great experiences. Back then students visited the City for museums and music performance for weekends. 7D2 will have a great experience there. </p>

<p>Speaking of strong music and arts programs…apparently the young woman in the new Apple holiday commercial is a Masters alum (class of 2007).</p>

<p>Are there 5-day boarding options? A friend lives a bit too far to be a day student, but was thinking maybe a 5-day program would suit them…I guess I can look that up! LOL. I guess what I am really wondering is whether the school empties out on weekends…</p>

<p>@london203: I don’t think there is an official 5-day boarding program at Masters — such as exist at nearby Hackley. But there seem to be a number of boarders from the Westchester Co./Fairfield Co./NYC/NJ orbit who, at least in the first few months of the school year, do seem to go home on weekends. That said, Masters has “Community Weekends” about once a month when boarders are supposed to stay on campus. This past weekend was one of them.</p>

<p>Earlier in the year, my daughter did observe that the school emptied out a bit on weekends…but I think that sense has lessened, for two reasons: 1) my daughter has found and hangs out with a group of non-local kids like herself who have stayed on campus consistently over the first few months of the school year; and 2) the WestCo/FaiCor/NYC/NJ kids are staying on campus on weekends more as the year progresses.</p>

<p>Feel free to PM me or have your friend PM me with any further questions. Going to pick up 7D2 today for Christmas Break after a few conveniently scheduled meetings in NYC. </p>

Some recent athletic news from the Masters website:

Masters Fencing leads medal count at 2015 ISFL Individual Tournament

In what’s become a mid-season measure of “the best of the best”, the Masters Varsity Fencing Team took home a league-topping 13 medals at the Independent Schools Fencing League (ISFL) individual tournament — which allows students a rare opportunity to vie for individual honors in the team-centric scholastic league.

Masters fencers fought to top-8 finishes in all 6 weapon/gender categories, outpacing rival Rye Country Day School by 4 in the overall medal count. The team total included 2 Golds and 3 Bronzes.

While the medals were divided fairly evenly between the boys (7) and girls (6) squads, the Boys Epee and Saber teams distinguished themselves by each placing 3 fencers on the podium, including the Gold and Bronze medalists in Epee. Masters’ second Gold of the day was awarded in the Girls Epee event. The other two Bronze medals came in Boys and Girls Foil.

“I’m very proud of the team. They are all very enthusiastic and confident in their skills.” said longtime Head Coach Francisco Martin after the meet.


If you are a prospective boarding student who is interested in trying fencing at more than just a school club level, you should definitely give Masters a look. Some of the kids on the team only started the sport when they got to Masters.

And even if you are already an experienced fencer who wants to join a strong program, definitely put Masters on your short list. The ability to train at NYC-area clubs like Fencers Club, Manhattan Fencing, Nyack, and the Fencing Academy of Westchester is icing on the cake. And fencing in a scholastic team setting is very different from USFA fencing…the crowds and cheering for the semis and finals of the ISFL tournament mentioned above rival anything I’ve seen on a NAC finals strip…and is similar to the format fenced at the college level.

SevenDad: Do you have insight on CityTerm? Do you know if the 30 students are integrated into the school at all? From what I can tell, they have their own dorms and dining hall. My kid is currently at a private day school and we usually have 2 or 3 kids attend HMI for a semester but my daughter is interested in CityTerm instead. She has applied to some boarding schools for next year, but thinking she would love this program if not admitted. I just wondered if you have any firsthand knowledge as a parent.

@TheStig2: (A fellow car nut, I presume?) I don’t know much about CityTerm other than what’s on the website…but I did ask my daughter about it last night. She reports that it is totally separate from the regular Masters classes/day-to-day. She does see kids from the program on campus. Some Masters kids do CityTerm but I think it is mostly kids from other schools…in her words “It seems very cool.” I think she may apply if it works with her schedule at some point in the future. Sorry I don’ have more insight.

Their incoming head of school is fantastic! She was the second head of school when I attended Miss Porters and was universally loved by everyone. Great person and administrator. Masters is lucky to have her!

Travelreader1: Thanks for chiming in on the incoming head. I know she’ll have big shoes to fill as Dr. Fonseca (outgoing head of school) seems very beloved by the community. But Laura Danforth is coming at what seems like great time at the school…especially with the new MAAC (Masters Athletic & Arts Center) building set to be complete by the time she takes over.

Speaking of Arts…over the weekend the school production of Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” was put on. My daughter reports that it was extremely well done. Apparently they approached the ending (Ibsen had written two endings) with input from the audience and improv’d it…sounds like a very creative and adventurous approach.

For TheStig2: my niece went to a private day school in D.C. and did CityTerm a couple of years ago. Loved it-- enjoyed the experiential learning aspect (very different from her school) as well as just being there and getting to use NYC.