Open Letter to the Leadership of the New School of Lancaster
INSTRUCTIONS: Please read the letter below and, if you are in agreement with the requests and approach laid out, please sign the petition.
To Robyn Stearne, Head of School, and members of the Board of Trustees of The New School of Lancaster:
The mission of The New School of Lancaster is to facilitate the unfolding of each child’s unique potential through an outstanding Montessori education that enables a child to meet future challenges, and that encourages a love of learning, independent thinking, social responsibility and individuality in a peaceful atmosphere of respect and acceptance among children and adults.
We are parents and community members who care deeply for The New School, having seen our children flourish over the years in an educational community that, while imperfect, clearly strove to fulfill its mission in every aspect of day-to-day life. One of the Montessori model’s finest contributions is the opportunity for children to grow in curiosity, responsibility, and thoughtful dialogue and decision-making. This learning-through-example depends upon the adults in our school community. We have been lucky to send our children off every day to a place full of caring, committed, highly qualified teachers and staff whom we trust to model the New School mission for our children.
Given this, we are very concerned by the further teacher resignations announced in the May 30 email, in a year that has already seen unusual numbers of staff departures. Why are so many core faculty members leaving our school community, and what will it mean for our kids? By our calculations, over 50% of the current elementary and middle school faculty will not return next year.
We understand that transitioning to new leadership in any school can be a bumpy road. But many experienced, long-term teachers have chosen to leave within a very short period of time, some without securing future employment. We worry more resignations may be coming over the summer, and we worry about the continuity and quality of our children’s experience, as well as the morale of existing staff.
In addition, we were unsettled to learn of recent changes in our Board’s bylaws, especially the elimination of public board meetings and the effective elimination of term limits for both the President and Treasurer positions. We need a Board structure in keeping with our school’s mission that prioritizes values of collaboration, dialogue, and respect in its operations. Otherwise we risk a departure from the Montessori goal of parent education via involvement.
In order to ensure a school culture that builds on our many community strengths and that will retain excellent Montessori-trained teachers moving forward, we believe transparent communication and collaborative decision-making is essential. Towards these ends we propose:
- Implement a safe exit interview process for all teachers and board members who have resigned over the past school year and commit to responding to the issues identified.
- Adopt a formal problem-solving process with input from school leaders, teachers and parents that provides a safe process for raising concerns going forward and ensures follow-up on identified school concerns.
- Invite a neutral, third-party consultant to work with a team of parents, Board members and teachers from every grade level to implement a school climate improvement process, including a school climate survey appropriate for a Montessori context.
- Hold at least one Board meeting annually that is open to parents and teachers who would like to attend. Re-establish a routine communication channel between Trustees and the school community.
We offer these observations with the goal of promoting positive growth, renewing trust, and emboldening a sense of commitment to the mission of The New School of Lancaster amongst students, parents, teachers, administrators, and Board members.
We write this letter because we cherish the Montessori education our kids have enjoyed over the past years, and we look forward to a similar level of quality, care, and community for them and many other children in the years to come.
We request an all-community public meeting facilitated by a trained mediator, held no later than June 24th. The Head of School and Board should be present, in order to openly discuss these concerns and your response to our specific recommendations.