Starting New Schools

The AMI Draft Goals 2017 calls for increasing the number of authentic Montessori schools to 30,000. 

I contacted AMI to ask how many authentic schools are currently documented.  This was the response

“We have begun to document this, by organising Montessori school census projects in the countries where we have a strong presence, either through our training centres or affiliated societies.

To give you a ball park figure: at present there must be over 20,000 Montessori schools worldwide. As you will be aware, the name Montessori is not copyrighted and when a school incorporates the word Montessori into its name, this in itself is no guarantee that authentic Montessori materials are used or that the teachers have a Montessori credential.”

Who will open and staff these new schools?   

I know there are some support mechanisms available in the Montessori community, including  a NAMTA site with guidance for opening a school, and a NAMTA publication entitled The Whole-School Montessori Handbook ($50-70).

The NAMTA site says that “All schools must consider the following steps in building an organization appropriate to their purpose” (emphasis mine) and describes Parent Study Groups, Parent Advisory Boards, and Incorporation as a Non-Profit, as the first steps to establishing a school.

While I have no doubt this has been a successful strategy, I question the imperative phrasing. Are these steps really the only way to build an organization?  What other paradigms might be useful for establishing new schools?

Just off the top of my head I can think of two other ways to establish a school…

Budding

The idea comes from the process used by some plants and fungi to reproduce asexually.  An identical organism grows attached to the parent organism until it can sustain itself, at which time it is separated from the parent organism.

An established Montessori school with multiple learning environments, a full time administrator, a supportive parent board, and a wait list of applicants might choose to open a satellite campus in an adjacent area of town.  The new campus should be opened by a experienced guide and assistant and seeded with children from the wait list and from the guides existing environment, provided the families were interested in changing locations.  

The school administrator would initially oversee admission, tuition, and finances for the satellite school, visiting weekly or bi-weekly.  After a few successful years the satellite would expand to 2 environments and an administrative assistant could be hired to visit the satellite more often and support the head administrator.  By the time the school was ready for a third environment, the administrative assistant would ready to become the full time administrator of the satellite school.  A parent board could be drafted and the satellite could separate and become an independent school.

All for One

A group of experienced guides (2-3) and a parent willing to assume the responsibilities of administration, could start a school as business.  Just because a school is not filed with the government as a Non-profit doesn’t mean it has to run for-profit.  The partners could nurse the school to success and after several years, the several environments full of eager and involved parents should yield a few willing to form a non-profit foundation.  The foundation could buy the school from the guides and assume all fiscal responsibilities while the guides are hired to continue their work.

There must be many ways to establish a successful, non-profit, parent managed Montessori school.

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