While the nation watched President-elect Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, consider several Washington D.C.-area schools for their two daughters, Andover resident Meredith Price followed with a particular interest.
Price knows what private school life is like for a child of a U.S. president — at least, the child of a former president. He was a house counselor for John F. Kennedy Jr. during JFK Jr.'s time at Phillips Academy.
"I had to inspect the boys' rooms, and it was a little unnerving to see a photograph of his parents sitting there," said Price, of John Kennedy's room in the Sterns West dormitory.
"It, perhaps, made me overlook an unmade bed," he said with a chuckle.
Price was an instructor in English and house counselor at Phillips from 1963 to 2002, and continues to work part-time there in the summers, he said.
Kennedy graduated from Phillips in 1979 and lived in Price's dorm his sophomore year, 1976-77.
Last month, the Obamas decided on the Sidwell Friends school for their daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7. Sidwell Friends is a private Quaker school in northwest Washington that Chelsea Clinton attended.
Price, who attended a rival private school in Washington, D.C., as a child, called Sidwell Friends "one of the finest co-ed institutions. I think it's an excellent choice."
Sidwell Friends has "been there, done that" with Chelsea Clinton, he said, so the school already knows how to handle secret service agents and parent-teacher conferences with the commander-in-chief.
At Phillips, Kennedy was not given any special treatment, said Price. He made friends easily and was considered just another student by his peers. The then-15-year-old Kennedy lived in a double room with a roommate in a boys-only dorm of 20 students.
"When he was in 10th grade, he was full of life and somewhat happy-go-lucky. There was absolutely nothing pretentious about him," said Price.
Kennedy made friends easily and often had visitors, both male and female, said Price. His sister, Caroline Kennedy, visited as well.
That year, a team of secret service agents moved into the Andover Inn, next door to Price's dormitory, and gave Price a special panic alarm to activate if he felt Kennedy was in danger in any way.
After the alarm went off accidentally four or five time times during the first day, Price said he never had to use it. The secret service agents checked in with Price about once a day, but were not intrusive in campus life, he said.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis sent cookies and care packages to John and letters to Price asking about her son. Whenever Onassis was on campus, she was sure to check in with Price, he said.
"She was a great boarding school mother. Not all parents are as attentive as she was," Price said.
The first time the former first lady and son came to Price's dorm, the visit left a lasting impression, he said.
"Hearing the doorbell ring, and knowing it was Jackie Onassis and her son, I was so nervous I walked smack into (one of the weight-bearing columns that stood from ceiling to floor in the faculty apartment)," he said, laughing.
Price opened the door with a large bump growing on his head, which was graciously not mentioned by either mother or son.
One of the first things he learned about John Kennedy Jr. was "exactly how difficult it was to be John Kennedy (Jr.)," growing up in the isolation of the White House, said Price.
Kennedy had never ridden public transportation and had to ask how to catch a bus, said Price.
Reporters from grocery store tabloids were in the area constantly, trying to learn things about Kennedy. They would often tempt Kennedy's dormmates with lunch at the Andover Inn, said Price, but to his knowledge no student ever gave an interview.
Tragically, John F. Kennedy Jr. died in July 1999, along with his wife Carolyn Bessette, and her sister Lauren Bessette, in a plane crash off Martha's Vineyard. Kennedy was piloting the plane himself, headed to a family wedding.