WMS people

Alumni Spotlight: Patrick Dorton, 82


I have had a front row seat at WMS for as long as I can remember as one of the first graduates and as Pat’s son.  I live in Washington, DC now, not Washington, CT. My vantage point is different, but in some ways I see the patterns of the school even more clearly.

What have I seen in 37 years of watching this school?

First and foremost, WMS kids routinely seem to over-achieve academically in high school at all levels of ability. This is a defining characteristic of WMS alums­ you see academic achievement consistently through alumni generations.

As important, WMS grads also tend to be good citizens within the communities of their high schools. And within the CT school community-especially in independent schools—WMS has a reputation for producing kids who positively impact school communities.

High school placement at WMS has been consistently strong year in and year out. For a long time.

And guess what? I haven’t done a survey, but from reading On Circles through the years, it appears that WMS kids seem to be more likely to attend highly competitive colleges.

patrick graduation
Patrick with mother Pat Werner and sister Kerry Dorton at his graduation from Middlebury College in 1990.

So is there a WMS advantage?

I believe the answer is yes. We do not have a great outcomes study, but some key indicators over a long time—academic achievement, good citizenship, school reputation among high schools, college placement—point to a WMS that may offer one of the best educational experiences in Connecticut.

Somehow this school has been able to teach drive—the secret sauce of educational excellence. This mission is what schools struggle with across the country. How do you develop sustained passion for learning among kids? How do you get kids to buy into high personal expectations for themselves) It’s hard, this is complex, and yet WMS has figured it out.

I credit the school with helping to develop the critical thinking and hyper awareness of the world that has helped me as a congressional and White House staffer, and in building a successful PR firm.

My three kids are in the Montessori school in Washington, DC that most closely correlates to the WMS experience. They are flourishing. My wife, a product of 17 years of Catholic education, is a complete convert. We have lots of educational choices in our city, but our joint view is that we have to get as close as we can to a WMS model that works to give children the strongest set of tools possible to tackle the world.

There are lots of fake debates about a school with Montessori in the name. Is there enough structure, is it rigorous enough, should kids sit at desks, why isn’t there more memorizing?

But really the only question should be whether this education system produces the best set of outcomes for a child.

There is ample evidence that the answer to this question is yes at WMS.