Phillip E. Paeltz has been the Headmaster of Governor French Academy since 1983. Mr. Paeltz was part of the group of seven people dedicated to preparing students for higher education that organized and started the Academy.
Governor French Academy was founded on the principles utilized by every successful music conservatory: guided practice leads to mastery of skills; mastery of skills leads to conceptual understanding.
It is little surprising that the Academy chose to teach college-preparatory academics like the Curtis or Juilliard Academies teach music. Mr. Paeltz was trained to be a symphony orchestra French Hornist. A student of Kaid Friedel, Myron Bloom, and Ward Fearn, Mr. Paeltz graduated with a degree in music performance and education in 1969. Having performed with the St. Louis Symphony by the age of nineteen, the Cleveland Orchestra’s Blossom Music Festival, and several Broadway touring companies such as that for Man of LaMancha, Mr. Paeltz fulfilled his military service in the U.S. Air Force bands.
Teaching became Mr. Paeltz’ profession in 1973 as a result of an illness which curtailed his music career. While teaching at a large public high school, Mr. Paeltz earned a Master’s Degree in English with a major in Theatre. In fact, Mr. Paeltz maintains that theatre training is the best preparation for teachers. Disillusion with what was being done in public schools (see Another Opening, Another Show) led Mr. Paeltz to be part of the creation of the Governor French Academy, an institution that has adhered to its educational principles and goals amid the challenges of over thirty years of debilitating turmoil in the education profession.
Mr. Paeltz was recently asked by a man who has closely observed the St. Louis Metro-East communities for over sixty years, “How does Governor French continue to do so well when the schools around it continue to slide?” Mr. Paeltz responded, “We refuse to improve!” The United States has spent the last forty years choosing illusions of educational nirvana by jettisoning everything that western civilization held dear in educational practice. By refusing “to improve,” Governor French Academy has sustained itself and its students by continuing to teach hard work, basic skills, and perseverance. The Academy has not improved itself right into the position of one of the best schools in the United States.