The importance of program leadership in public Montessori education

My remarks, as written, were presented  as a public comment made to the Grand Rapids Public Schools Board of Education, Education Subcommittee, April 20, 2011:

Hello, I am Matthew Patulski, a GRPS Montessori parent and a member the GRPS Montessori Taskforce.

On behalf of the task-force parents, we want thank the district for executing the Montessori marketing survey. Without scooping the details, I just want to say it validates what we have known for along time: there is interest in Grand Rapids for a high performing, public Montessori High School. This interest transcends, income, race and region as long as there are Montessori trained staff teaching Montessori curriculum.

To do this, we must start at the top: Hire a dedicated Montessori Principal or Program Director. We first identified this matter in our original report in June 2009. The 2011 Englefried/Moudry consultant report makes the same recommendation, as do the leading Montessori professional organizations AMI, AMS and NAMTA.

From there, if the GRPS Montessori Community is provided tangible program descriptions, a trained staff, with practical options of where they can help, organized around consistent milestones, our parents and the larger community will join in and it will work.

I can say this because, every person I have spoken with: GRPS parents, NPO leaders, business leaders, elected officials, private citizens; all think this is a no-brainer; they say ‘this is what Grand Rapids needs as an education option, now.’

They may not fully understand the Montessori method but they are inspired by practical descriptions of Erdkinder and Micro-economies and their outcomes: environmental awareness, sustainability, service learning, soft skills development, executive decision making, project based learning, community building, internships, entrepreneurship, etc.

This inspiration will fill those gaps where GRPS’ time and funds are short. We have persons in the wings who would love to help us design growing programs, partner on service learning opportunities, discuss arts, music options in the core city, or act as ambassadors to our Latino and African-American communities.

I could go on, but none of what I have described is possible without clearly defined school-level leadership invested in Montessori education, in short, a Montessori principal.