About Governor French Academy

Governor French Academy in Belleville, IL operates toward a simple goal and under a simple premise. The goal is the preparation of every student for college or college-level education. The premise is that such an education is best achieved by diagnosing what each student needs to achieve the goal and then adjusting that education as much as possible to the individual’s strengths and weaknesses. It is recognized that there are limits to such individualization, but without it, little of importance can be achieved among the highly individualized people that are American students.

Mission and Philosophy

Our mission at Governor French Academy is to prepare all of our students from the earliest levels of schooling for college or college-level education.

Who Was Augustus French?


Augustus C. French was born in Hill, New Hampshire on August 2, 1808. He was a man of high character who was orphaned before the age of twenty. He cheerfully assumed the duties of educating and caring for four younger brothers. He attended Dartmouth College where he studied law. He was admitted to the bar in 1823, after which he established a successful legal career in Illinois.

Augustus French was a genuine pioneer who came to Illinois in 1832. French was elected to the Illinois State Legislature in 1836 and was a colleague of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A Douglas. He was elected governor in 1846 and re-elected without opposition in 1848. He was the first man to be elected to two terms in the governor’s office. After leaving office in 1853, French moved to Lebanon, Illinois where he was a law professor and member of the board of trustees of McKendree College. Governor French died on September 4, 1864 and is buried in the College Hill Cemetery in Lebanon.

Prior to being elected governor, French served in other political capacities, including a term in the Illinois legislature. As governor, French oversaw the adoption of the 1848 Constitution, the initiation of free stock banks, the reduction of state expenses, the elimination of the state deficit, and the finalization of construction of the Illinois Central Railroad.

Upon leaving office on January 10, 1853, French took a law professorship at McKendree College in Lebanon. While living in Lebanon, French commissioned the building of a stately manor on Belleville Street, likened to a Swiss Château. In this home, he taught young McKendree law students. He lived there with his wife, Lucy Southwick French, until his death on September 4, 1864. The home has become known as the Governor French Mansion and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Since 1978, the manor has been the home of Phillip Paeltz and his wife, Myra Blackman. Paeltz is the founder of The Governor French Academy. Blackman served as President of the Board of Directors until the Academy converted to nonprofit status in 2015. It is through their historical affiliation with the good governor and his active support of education that the couple chose to honor him with the naming of The Governor French Academy.

Diversity and Multiculturalism

Every school described itself as diverse and multicultural. Often these words are empty. We offer few words about diversity because we believe the numbers tell the truth.

Student Population for 2014-2015 Percentage
White 48%
Black 46%
Undeclared 3%
Hispanic/Latino 2%
Asian 1%

Fast Facts

  • Independent, coeducational, college preparatory day school, founded in 1983.
  • Governor French Academy educates students age 4 through high school.


Students from all over the St. Louis metro-east area and Southwestern Illinois attend Governor French Academy. Through the years students have attended the Academy from as far north as Alton, south as Coulterville, east as Mt. Vernon, and west as St. Louis.

School Students
Lower School 114 (Forms K – IV)
Upper School 41 (grades 9-12)
Total 155

Non-Discriminatory Policy

Governor French Academy accepts students regardless of race, creed, or national origin.

Average Class Size

11-17 students per instructional class

Teacher/Student Ratio



15 faculty members all with earned B.A., B.S., or equivalent degrees; 5 faculty members also hold master’s degree.


Fully-networked campus in downtown Belleville encompassing 4 buildings and including a STEAM lab, computer lab, and playground. Gymnasium facilities are rented from the nearby St. Paul United Church of Christ.

SAT Average Scores – 2015

Scores For Reading Math
National 496 514
Governor French Academy 680 <770/td>
Perfect Score 800 800

ACT Average Scores – 2015

Composite Score
National Composite 21
State Composite 20.7
GFA Composite 25.3
Perfect score 36

College Placement

100% of Governor French Academy graduates have been admitted to a two- or four-year college or university program upon graduation. Students are accepted by many of the top colleges in the country.

Recent College Acceptances

  • Babson College
  • Bryn Mawr College
  • Colorado School of Mines
  • Emory University
  • Grinnell College
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Missouri University of Science & Technology
  • Carnegie Mellon
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • South Dakota School of Mines
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Illinois
  • University of Missouri
  • UMKC Accelerated Medical School program
  • University of Wisconsin – Madison
  • Washington University in St. Louis

College Scholarships

The 2015 class of 14 students was offered over 1.5 million dollars in college scholarships. That’s an average of approximately $113,500 per student.

We consider your tuition payments as an investment. How will your investment do? Consider the Academy’s scholarship financial figures for the past 5 years.

Class # of Graduates Scholarship Offers
2010 11 $672,592
2011 20 $652,000
2012 8 $1,084,196
2013 13 $1,565,832
2014 13 $1,492,736

In short, a family’s investment of about $6,000 per year is repaying an average of $1,093,471 per year in college scholarship offers. This is $84,113 in offers per student (based on our five-year averages). This is education that pays!


Daily: 8:00am – 4:00 pm for Lower School
Daily: 8:00am – 4:15 pm for Upper School

School Year: In 2015-16, classes begin in mid-August and end in late May. A two-week vacations is scheduled for Christmas in December. A week-long Spring Break occurs in mid-March. Academic year calendar for 2015-16 here.

Tuition Schedule for 2015-16 (subject to change)

  • Current Tuition: $5,940 (tuition rate depends on date of registration)
  • Registration Fee: $350 (registration amount depends on date of registration)
  • Books and Supply Fee: $67/month, but subject to change (uniforms, IOWA testing, PSAT testing, and A.P. testing will be an additional cost)

International students are charged additional application and tuition fees to support the cost of the program.


School bus transportation is not available. Families form car pools or provide their own transportation to and from school each day. Several students ride their bicycles to school or take public transportation. There is a Metro Bus stop right across the street from the Academy. Students who drive cars to school may purchase parking passes from the City of Belleville.

Before and After-School Care

Supervised care is available for an extra fee each school day starting at 7:15 a.m. and until 5:30 each evening.

Facility Usage

Governor French Academy has a three decade history of using existing facilities through recycling, retro-fitting, and full utilization of cooperating community facilities. One of the reasons the tuition of Governor French Academy is 26% of the tuition of comparable academic, private schools in neighboring St. Louis is that Governor French has this history of recycling and retro-fitting. Such use of established facilities is both economical and green.

Anyone interested in utilizing the school facilities may inquire with Mrs. Bassler at the office.

Success Stories

Governor French Academy enjoys seeing our past students find success in the next phase of their lives. From going on to college to starting the career they have always dreamed about, we enjoy knowing we played a part in shaping their future. Governor French graduates currently include a professor of Nuclear Engineering at the University of Tennessee, a professor of Mathematics at the University of Connecticut, a professor and Vice Chair of research in neurosurgery at the Mayo Clinic, many physicians, teachers, accountants and business owners among others. Below are just a few detailed examples of past students who are finding success after GFA:

From a 2014 graduate of Governor French Academy:

My name is Martina Hukel and I am a sophomore at University of New Haven. I have a double major in Criminal Justice (concentration in Investigative Services) and National Security Studies. I also have a certificate in Law Enforcement Science and a minor in Chinese. I am part of the Admissions Team at my school where I give tours of the campus to prospective students and professors. I am also a part of the American Criminal Justice Association, the Community Service committee. I am a Sister of Delta Phi Epsilon sorority and I’m the Coordinator of Community Service for this organization. I am a member of the Honors Program and the Alpha Lambda Delta Honors Society. I have also made Dean’s List both semesters I have been in school so far. I am currently applying for an internship with the FBI.

Best Wishes,
University of New Haven 2018

From a 1994 graduate of Governor French Academy:

My relationship with The Governor French Academy (GFA) began over twenty years ago. It was during the summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school that I met Mr. Paeltz, toured the expanding school and decided to attend GFA. Little did I know at the time how much of an impact the school, and when I say the school I mean the entire GFA community, would have upon my life. Entering Governor French as a directionless teenager there is no way anyone could have convinced me I would return and spend the first two of my fifteen-plus year career as an educator there, but that is exactly what happened. It is only appropriate that I began my teaching career in the very school, with the very teachers, which instilled my desire to become a clichéd life-long learner and pursue my own education and eventual career in the field of education. That is the shorter version of my GFA experience; now please allow me to digress. I was a directionless Holden Caulfield type and not very interested in my education when I enrolled as a junior. Over the course of the next two years, learning began to captivate me, something I never experienced to this degree before and was a pleasant surprise for my parents and me. This new found view on school was refreshing and motivated me to pursue my undergraduate degree, which ultimately brought me back as a teacher for the first two years of my career in education. Since leaving Governor French to further my education and pursue my career both domestically and abroad, I have come to realize the impact that the GFA learning environment made upon me as a person, as a student and as an educator.

When I was a misguided and willful student, Mr. Paeltz once told me in a minute of contention that, and I paraphrase, it was not his primary focus for me to like him in that moment, his focus was that I appreciated what he was doing for me when I was far removed from GFA. This has proven true for me on several an occasion and is something that has become a part of my own teaching philosophy. If more educators focused on the development of the person and not just finding a quick fix to temporary issues, more students would have an opportunity to successfully discover their path through life – it worked for me and many other graduates. Now that I have taught, traveled and grown as a person, I can honestly say that Governor French left an indelible mark upon me. After thirteen years of life getting away from me, I recently visited the school and it was comforting to see (and smell) all of the little things that made GFA, still a part of GFA – the Isom artwork, the green bookcases, the blue blazers, Mr. Paeltz, the list goes on and on. It was all there, slightly rearranged, but still there.

The Governor French Academy was the right school at the right time for me, twice. As I am flooded with memories I feel as if I could talk about GFA ad nauseam at the moment, so Iʼll cut myself short. – Thank you, Mr. Paeltz.

Best regards,
Michael Weil ʼ94