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Head's Corner, May 7, 2013
Greetings CMS Families,
I hope that you had a relaxing weekend. I don’t know about you, but I certainly needed to rest after a long week of meetings and conversations with multiple CMS families. In case you have been out of the CMS loop, we have been celebrating an increased enrollment in Lower Elementary and the highest retention rates that the school has experienced in over a decade! Yay! That gives us all great reason to celebrate!
All of that is great news, but it also created fear and anxiety among parents who were uncertain of how we would handle such an opportunity. That, coupled with the untimely announcement of Nurse Liz’s departure, sparked the best game of telephone tag among adults that I have ever experienced. Although I did meet, talk, and exchange emails with many parents, I thought I could help us all win the telephone game by providing you with the facts so that we can all exhale and wrap up the year with a bang!
We are thrilled about the number of students we will have in Lower Elementary. Next year there will be 55 students, 26 of whom will be first year students. Of those 26 rising first graders, 23 are moving up from CMS's Kindergarten. We knew that retention was looking pretty good in the late winter when a number of current Kindergarten families took advantage of visiting the Lower Elementary classrooms. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive! The Program Directors, Admissions Team, and I met with the Lower Elementary Team to discuss the opportunity. They were not only ecstatic, but also very instrumental in helping us to creatively plan for the potential increase.
Although we were excited about the possibility, we did not know the exact number of students until April 10th, which is the deadline that all independent AISNE (Association of Independent Schools of New England) accredited schools extend to families to notify schools of their enrollment plans. Once we had the final number, we knew that we would need to add a third teacher. Based on history and the Montessori philosophy, we decided to add a third teacher in one of the Lower Elementary classes. We had a fabulous trained Lower Elementary teacher who is a CMS parent and former CMS teacher with a long history with the school. She had an opportunity to work with many of the Lower Elementary students this fall when she covered a maternity leave. Due to unusual circumstances, a position in the Primary Program became available after break, and we placed her there with the intention of her receiving additional training and remaining in the classroom. The classroom had its share of ups and downs and certainly needed some stability.
When it became apparent that we would need to hire a third teacher in Lower Elementary, we simply followed protocol, which is to give all internal candidates the opportunity to apply. She was the perfect fit for the position and for the school. Unfortunately this was devastating to many of the parents in the Primary classroom that had a tough year and rightfully so! Our responsibility is to take care of the children, each and every one of them. Katelyn and I met with families in that room to acknowledge that this year was tough and to share our deepest empathy and solutions moving forward. The Program Directors, Admissions Director, and I met with the families in Kindergarten and the first and second year Lower Elementary program to celebrate the news, acknowledge and address their concerns, and share the plan moving forward. During one of the meetings I was asked about the “budget cuts” and Nurse Liz, a very sensitive topic, I might add. I was so grateful to the parent who asked the question in an open forum because it gave me the opportunity to respond instead of leaving room for outside conclusions.
The night before the meeting, I had a conversation with a Board member who is also a parent. He gave me some great feedback about the announcement about Liz, among other things. He said that my message was confusing and I agree. We did not have budget cuts; however, I had to reallocate funds within the budget to parts of the program that needed additional support. Liz is not only special to all of you, Liz is very special to me, and I will miss her dearly. You have no idea. I will send a staffing update to CMS families before the end of the month and will include any additional information so as to eliminate a possible bad game of telephone tag.
We are making every effort to create the ideal school culture. One way of achieving that is by communicating openly and honestly with each other. As Head of School, I will do my best to be transparent and timely. I know that there have been decisions that were made in the past that have negatively impacted our community and have resulted in a lack of trust. Just as time heals all wounds, it also helps to reestablish trust. None of us can either rewind or fast-forward time. I have accepted my role in creating the ideal school culture. I certainly hope that you will accept yours. My door is always open if you have questions, concerns, or complaints. I acknowledge that there is always room for improvement. However, we have so much to celebrate at CMS, and it is important that we all acknowledge that!
I think my mom was a sailor in a past life. She always told me “a ship that sails backwards never sees the sunrise.” She also said “loose lips sink ships.” This ship may have sailed through some rough waters, but it is sailing toward an eternal sunrise! I hope that you have a peaceful week.