This week I emailed the community the State of the School Letters. If you missed the email, below is your chance to read the letters and learn about how the school is doing and the direction it is heading.
From Robert Schultz, President of the Board:
Dear Parents and Friends,
While staying true to its mission, Fraser Woods Montessori School is thriving.
As President of the Board of Trustees, I am pleased to report that our Board has never been stronger. Ever more diverse and professional, we’ve improved the way we work, our stewardship of the school’s finances, and our strategic planning. We’ve also developed a productive partnership with the Head of School, Chris Robertson, who sets the school’s curriculum.
A zealous convert to Montessori, Chris understands that FWM’s defining characteristic is the joy of learning that guides children through their individual journeys.
Indeed, as Chris reports to us during our Board meetings, Montessori education imparts skills as no other method can. Through its emphasis on individuality and respect, it builds character and instills an unshakable sense of fairness. What’s more, it teaches skills necessary for the 21st century such as emotional intelligence, the ability to sort through information, how to work in a team, and how to present ideas cogently.
Building on this foundation, the Middle School gently transitions students in order to prepare them for non-Montessori high schools and colleges. And we can see that the program works, because our former students flourish in those institutions and beyond.
We invite you to read in the next pages Chris’ examples of successes. Among other things, he’ll tell you about new initiatives such as the MakerSpace and all about our splendid Middle School.
President of the Board
From Chris Robertson, Head of School:
Dear Parents and Friends,
This year at Fraser Woods Montessori, we will begin to celebrate our upcoming 50th anniversary. What an exciting time for a school that is so well positioned for the future. Our Montessori approach and methodology continue to cultivate the skills needed for children to be successful in an ever-changing and evolving world. One has only to observe any of our classrooms to see how independence, grit, collaboration, critical thinking, compromising, and purpose are infused in the day to day moments of learning. At the center of this development is a joy of learning – the true key to a lasting and successful academic experience.
This past year, there were several new academic programs implemented at FWM. In early childhood through elementary, these programs enhance our Montessori methodology. In Middle School, the new programs strengthen the learning bridge between the students’ Montessori experience in the early grades and the preparation needed when the students transition to high school. Hence, FWM is not veering in a different direction, it’s just moving forward – fulfilling itself as a premiere Montessori institution while also preparing children to be successful in non-Montessori high schools.
Instead of taking my word for the effectiveness of these programs or citing research that may or may not apply to our school setting, I asked the teachers to reflect on the impact these programs are having on their students’ learning experience. Below are some of their observations:
Singapore Math (Upper Elementary)
This past summer, Mr. Comstock and Ms. Hope were trained in the Singapore Math program and implemented it in their classroom. Mr. Comstock writes: “I have noticed a greater sense of collaboration between small and large groups of students. The lessons offer an opportunity for all types of learners to grasp concepts and it has made me a better educator. We learn as a group that there are several ways to approach and solve problems.”
New Middle School Math Program (6th Year – 8th Year)
New Middle School Math Teacher, Ms. Manganiello, was trained in Singapore Math and combined her own experience as a math teacher to develop a hybrid program that best meets the needs of our students. She writes this about the new math curriculum: “The math program builds a solid algebraic foundation while incorporating the necessary skill sets to help children be successful in their future academic endeavors. The main focus is on process, not product. My goals are that the children feel successful and joyful about math.”
Teachers College Writing Workshop (Upper Elementary)
After being trained at Columbia University’s Teachers College in the Writing Workshop model, Mr. Comstock shared this about the new writing program in Upper Elementary: “In our Writer’s Workshop lessons there is a purpose and a focus to each mini-lesson. An activity is presented and then the students “turn and talk” to share their personal insights or writing. Once this happens there is an instant buzz in the classroom, with students engaged, smiling, talking and sharing. I am able to listen in on these conversations and push the writers further by asking insightful questions.”
Teachers College Reading Workshop (Lower School)
Lower School teacher, Ms. Doyle, has extensive experience with the Reading Workshop model developed at Columbia University’s Teachers College. After the Lower School team was also trained in its methodology, the program was implemented with the Extended Day students. FWM already had a strong literacy component; however, the teachers are observing the impact of this new program. Ms. Doyle writes: “Since implementing Reading Workshop we have seen an increase in children’s reading levels. More specifically, their comprehension is stronger and they are reading with increased fluency. We also are excited to see the collaboration that is taking place during partner reading and small group lessons.”
New Humanities Curriculum (Middle School)
Our new Middle School Humanities Teacher, Ms. Lamb, has skillfully woven the language arts and history to create a curriculum, infused with the exploration of contemporary social justice issues, for our 6th, 7th, and 8th Year students: “I see students building confidence and independence in their writing skills through collaboration with their peers and regular teacher feedback. As readers, students bring individual perspectives to literature discussions and writing pieces that show the diversity of understanding and ability to listen and respectively respond to classmates.”
New Science Curriculum (Middle School)
When he moved from math to science, Mr. Brown was excited to revise the science curriculum. He shared, “The new Middle School Science program applies a hands-on approach to learning. My style differentiates instruction for each student’s learning style (aesthetic, auditory, visual). Students demonstrate their understanding of the curriculum not only from reading, but also creating presentations, scale models, and movies to represent each unit’s content.”
At the 2017 Spring Gala, the school raised $40,000 to renovate the former Tech Lab. The transformation was amazing and the result is the creation of the current MakerSpace – a place where tinkering, discovering, designing, and creating happens on a daily basis. FWM’s Director of Technology, Danielle Ulacco, has this to say about the MakerSpace: “Students in our MakerSpace make choices every day that reflect their commitment to their education here at Fraser Woods Montessori. Our curious, thoughtful, and innovative students can turn a cardboard box into a spaceship, a castle, or even a race car. The energy doesn’t stop there – our MakerSpace truly comes alive as students collaborate with their peers to create, construct, and communicate with each other.”
New Hires this Past Year
FWM had twelve new teachers and assistant teachers join our faculty this year. Though new to the school, they have acclimated very well and are already making a significant impact on the learning here at FWM. Their passion, expertise, and excitement have been embraced by this community.
The Admissions Office has been very busy this past fall and winter. There has been a significant increase in inquiries, visits, and applications to FWM. In addition, it isn’t only the quantity of families interested in our school, we are also attracting families who share the school’s ideals, values, and Montessori philosophy. At almost every initial meeting Alison and I have with prospective families, we ask them what characteristics they are hoping an early childhood through grade 8 school will cultivate in their child. The majority respond they want their child to be independent thinkers; confident and comfortable with who they are; nurtured & loved by teachers who know them as individuals; provided the opportunity to make choices about their learning; and happy about school and about learning.
Financial Health of the School
National and regional trends show a decline in enrollment in early childhood through 8th grade independent schools; this translates into less revenue for schools. However, of the eleven early childhood through 8th grade independent schools in our region, FWM is the only school this past year to show an increase in enrollment. This past year, FWM saw a 11% increase in enrollment and we are on track to see another increase for the 2018-19 school year. Hence, I am happy to report that from a budgetary point of view, 2018-19 is on track to be the healthiest the school has been since 2012.
The Challenges Ahead
There are several areas where continued, focused attention will keep the school on an upward trajectory: 1) FWM has a wonderful story and as we evolve, we need to be able to share our story creatively with the internal and external community. By doing so, we will continue to reduce attrition and increase enrollment. 2) “Word of mouth” has been the number one reason why new families are visiting and applying to FWM. The school will continue to actively explore ways to increase the “word of mouth” in the community. 3) With higher enrollment, the school will need to explore its physical space which may include renovations to the back storage area otherwise known as “the hangar”. 4) Currently, the Board is working with FWM’s administration on updating, and in some cases creating, its standard operating procedures. Having a set of processes will provide greater transparency and consistency within the organization, as well as outline the steps needed to ensure the most effective outcome.
What Can Parents or Caregivers Do?
Each year, I encourage each and every parent or caregiver to be actively involved and fiercely committed to the school’s success. All independent schools rely on their parent community to ensure growth and development. Below are seven important ways you can help:
- Attend important school events
- Go out of your way to speak positively about the school to neighbors, people at work, and the wider community
- Please give generously to the Annual Fund (click here to give)
- Volunteer time to help with a school or grade level event
- If you have a concern, share it with the teacher or Head of School
- Please complete re-enrollment contracts on time
- Stay informed – read the weekly FWM News & Views emailed to you on Fridays; read your child’s teacher’s blog on MyFWM.org; follow me on Twitter (Chris Robertson @cdr1969)
In his letter, Rob Schultz, the President of the Board of Trustees writes, “Montessori education imparts skills as no other method can.” I believe this to be true and significant for families who have chosen FWM. What is happening in our classrooms, in our halls, and around the campus is unique to other school experiences. At FWM, we provide children a learning space that develops more than an exceptional academic base; we also help children to grow into compassionate, confident, and independent young people who understand they have the power to make a positive impact in the world.
Thank you for all you do for the school. As always, I appreciate hearing back from parents. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions, suggestions, or thoughts.
Head of School