Forget the question of Secretary of State. The question everyone in Washington wants answered is where will the Obama girls go to school? The Obamas briefly toured the city as a potential home after Barack’s 2004 U.S. Senate victory before deciding that the girls and Michelle would remain in Chicago.
While there’s been some speculation that after singling out Michelle Rhee’s reform efforts in one presidential debate this fall, President-Elect Obama might decide to send his two daughters to a public school—as Jimmy Carter did—a public school presents a host of problems for a First Family, not the least of which is a set of security concerns. After 9/11, security officials believe a public school is out of the question.
Thus Sasha and Malia will likely end up at a private school—and the leading candidate appears to be Maret, the elite Woodley Park K-12 school founded in 1911.
The school the girls attend in Chicago—Hyde Park’s Lab School—would be considered most analogous to DC’s Georgetown Day School, which was the first integrated school in the District, and admission there wouldn’t be a problem; top Obama advisor Eric Holder Jr. sits on the board.
The school already has an affinity for the Obamas: Barack Obama handily won the mock presidential election in both the lower school and the high school.
Sidwell Friends, where Chelsea Clinton attended, has also been pushed in private conversations but it seems a distant third in the running.
The argument for Maret, with 600 students and an annual tuition of about $26,000, may prove strongest of all.
At least four key Obama advisors have ties to Maret—foreign policy adviser Susan Rice, tech adviser Julius Genachowski, transition leader John Podesta, and adviser/superlawyer Greg Craig are either current or former Maret parents. All four are key figures in helping the Obamas set up their new life in Washington.
The Maret campus is also considered ideal since it’s compact and, after unrelated recent renovations, the entire eight-acre campus is fenced and more secure. It also has a strong reputation for diversity and has a partnership with a DC public school, “Horizons,” which runs summer enrichment programs for kids from H.D. Cooke Elementary School and Bancroft Elementary School.
“The school is a warm, diverse, caring environment where everyone is treated the same,” says one Maret parent who begged anonymity. “The kids are fiercely loyal to the school and each other. Students are valued for themselves and not for their parents occupations or bank accounts.”
Maret also has a long history of educating Washington’s elite. Current and former Maret parents include Senator Ted Kennedy (wife Vicki’s two children attended Maret), Martha Raddatz and Jan Crawford Greenburg, both of ABC News, NBC’s John Palmer, Queen Noor, and DC power couple Joanne and Ben Ginsberg. Plus, the head of the school is the sister of Brookings head Strobe Talbott.
If you live near Cathedral Avenue, you might want to prepare to make way for the armored motorcade whisking by mornings and afternoons.