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New Trier Not Perfect, Grad Says: On Web Site, 2002 Alumna of the Celebrated High School Tells of a Troubled Environment

December 22, 2006

By Lisa Black, Chicago Tribune

Dec. 22–Filled with well-heeled, worldly students, college-level programs and a motivated faculty, New Trier Township High School represents, to many, the creme de la creme in public education.

But not everyone enjoys the experience, and now a graduate of the Winnetka school has decided to air her side of the story by creating a Web site, TheTruthBehindNewTrier.com, that depicts a toxic environment of mean classmates, vicious competition and unsympathetic teachers.

You might think Marny Daniels, a 2002 alumna, must be some kind of spoiled brat. But the tale she tells is one of a troubled youth who battled anorexia and floundered within a golden sea of 4,000 other teens–each, she says, more beautiful than the last.

She realizes others do not necessarily share her views, and in an age where technology allows her a voice, she wants to start a conversation about it.

“I don’t want people to see me as dwelling in the past and being bitter. I want people to know they’re not alone,” said Daniels, 22, a former Winnetka resident who now lives in Santa Fe, N.M.

“The issues New Trier deals with are the same as any other school. It’s just such a huge place that the problems are heightened. … And the fact is that you do walk into kids who are living stereotypes, who walk around with Louis Vuitton bags.”

She and her father, Harvey, 59, created the Web site together about two months ago and have seen some response trickle in after they announced its debut.

“I think it’s really good that there’s a forum for that kind of discussion,” said Michael Deheeger, 22, of Winnetka, also a 2002 graduate. He praised the high-quality programs at New Trier but suggested that officials could be more receptive to students’ concerns.

“I think the pressure, a lot of it just comes from this neighborhood,” he said. “A lot of parents are driving their kids incredibly hard, and that affects their education.”

But some visitors to the Web site, such as Maryanne Hoffman Marymont, 49, of Winnetka, bristled at what she read and wrote to the site’s creators, urging parents and students to shoulder some of the blame for their unhappiness.

On Wednesday, Marymont said her son, Jesse Rowland Marymont, 16, who has autism and cerebral palsy, has benefited greatly from New Trier programs and Special Olympics.

“He’s fulfilled, he’s content, he has fun. He has friends. What more could you possibly ask?” she said.

New Trier administrators did not return calls regarding the Web site. School officials in the past have stressed the importance of getting students involved in extracurricular activities and have acknowledged the pressure students feel.

But Harvey Daniels, an education professor and author, said school officials should do more to support students who do not emerge as leaders, play on a team or achieve stellar test scores.

“I think New Trier does a great job for about 300 kids,” he said.

“The problem is they have 4,000.”

lblack@tribune.com

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Copyright (c) 2006, Chicago Tribune

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.

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