The parents, who live in the tony Great Falls-McLean area, are dedicated to private school education for their children. But they are not dedicated to the long-distance carpooling they have to face every weekday morning.
So they are planning to establish their own school -- a coeducational, Ivy League-style institution that, for many of them, will be no more than a stroll or a canter from their homes.
They already have hired a headmaster and an architect for the school (which eventually will include preschool through 12th grades), have purchased 70 acres of land and expect to get tax-exempt status in a couple of weeks so they can begin raising money in earnest.
They even have a provisional name, the Charter School.
The name, says Charlotte P. Sedam, one of the organizers, comes from the Great Charter that was given to the London Company for its Jamestown settlement. It was the first document detailing self-rule in the New World.
"All the names we played around with sounded like subdivisions or religious foundations, and we're neither of those," Sedam said. "So we settled on this. But we may change it if a major benefaction comes through."
The organizers have before them the task of raising $2 million to $3 million before the scheduled opening in September 1982, and they also must persuade Fairfax County to give them a special-use permit for the land, at Georgetown Pike and Utterback Store Road, where the school would be built. But Sedam is not dismayed.
"We're absolutely committed to this," she said. "Our one common bond is we all have children. I have four small children, and 15 years before the last guy is out of high school."
Sedam and her husband, Glenn J. Sedam Jr., an attorney and chairman of the Virginia Port Authority, are directors of Charter Foundation Inc., the corporation that will build and operate the school.
Both Sedams are products of public education -- Glenn Sedam in Clarksburg, W. Va., and Charlotte Sedam in Ardmore, Okla.
"I grew up in the hills of West Virginia," says Glenn Sedam, "and I think that hampered my getting into better schools." (He attended the University of Virginia, where, he recalls, "I was barely making it in my first year.")
All the Sedam children are in private schools, but, says Glenn Sedam, "You spend all you life in a carpool . . . you should get out here (Great Falls) at 7 in the morning, and . . . see all the station wagons heading toward Georgetown Pike."
There also is another -- and more delicate -- issue that sometimes crops up when organizers tell why they want to undertake the admittedly tough task of starting a new school.
"There is a great deal of dissatisfaction with the public schools among Great Falls parents," says Charlote Sedam. "There is also overcrowding, and I don't want my children running with some of the kids that are running at Langley and Herndon high schools."
While a recent Gallup poll showed that many Americans gave low marks to public schools, a survey conducted by the Fairfax schools this winter showed that 82 percent of those surveyed thought the county public schools were excellent or good with only 2 percent rating them as poor.
The Sedams said they have not discussed their plan with Fairfax County officials.
Supervisor Nancy K. Falck (R-Dranesville), whose district includes Great Falls-McLean, said she doesn't think a new private school in the area will have any adverse impact on public schools.
"Our public schools have a strong academic, college-oriented back-ground," she said. "I don't have any problem with private schools, but I do wish they would select their students a little more broadly."
But headmaster David M. Rivers, who has a public and private school background (most recently he was headmaster at Langley School in McLean), believes public schools do not always provide the best education.
"I was once a dyed-in-the-wool booster of public schools," he saud. "I taught in public schools . . . But over the years, quite unintentionally, I feel there has been an erosion of standards and expections of human behavior and interaction.
"This disturbs me and disappoints me. If our school challenges this condition, I think it will have served its purpose."
Rivers, Sedam and another organizer, Burton C. Gray, a real estate investor who lives in McLean, all stress that the Charter School will provide more than a first-class academic program.
"It will have some aspirations that I don't think any school has," Rivers said. "We're going to give some attention to developmental requirements -- as well as academic needs.
"If we didn't have these goals," added Gray, "I wouldn't be involved in the effort."
Not surprisingly, public school educators don't agree their schools are remiss in teaching values such as leadership. Robert Jarvis, assistant superintendent of schools in Loudoun County, from which the organizers of the Charter School hope to draw students, said:
"I feel these values are part of what we're teaching. That's why we support extracurricular activities -- yearbooks, newspapers, magazines, clubs of all sorts, drama, forensics. The best place to learn leadership is where you have a good cross section of the community -- and that's in a public school."
But Charlotte Sedam expects the Charter School to have a good cross section of students.
"We are not limiting the student body to those who are gifted and talented, with 140 IQs and above. We certainly will accept children of above-average ability."
While there will be no programs from children with learning disabilities, she said, there will be emphasis given to "talented under-achievers."
She also said that there will be scholarships available for students who qualify every way but financially, so the school doesn't become "elitist."
"The atmosphere on this campus will not be an exclusive one. We want very open relations with the rest of the community," she said. "We do not want a walled environment."
Tuition at the Carter School, which would have no boarding facilities, could be about $3,500 a year. By comparision, St. Alban's, a private school for boys in the District, will charge $4,825 a year for nonboarding students starting in September, while Langley School in McLean will charge $2,185 for students in grades 1 through 5 and $2,250 for students in grades 6 through 8.
Sedam expects to have little trouble recruiting students. Already, she said, parents have been calling to make out applications for their children, even though the school isn't scheduled to open until September 1982, with preschool through 7th grades. The remaining grades would be added one year at a time, she said.
Within a nine-mile radius of the proposed school site, there are 30,000 school-age children, Sedam said, a more than adequate pool from which to find the 800 to 900 students who would attend the new institution when it offers its program for grades 3 through 12.
She also noted that other private schools in the area have many more applicants than openings, and that many of them are far more distant from their target population than the Charter School would be.
And headmaster Rivers believes parents will be drawn to the Charter School because of its educational standards:
"We want a school that's in the St. Alban's-Cathedral School league, or better. We're not trying to copy another school but our aspirations are close to St. Alban's or Sidwell Friends and, yes, Andover and Exeter." CAPTION:
Picture, Planning the Charter School are parent Burton C. Gray, headmaster David Rivers and codirector Glenn J. Sedam Jr. By Gary A. Cameron -- The Washington Post