The outcomes of the GRPS Montessori Taskforce

On April 11, 2011, I spoke during the public comment section of the Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) Board of Education meeting about the work of the GRPS Montessori Taskforce about the positive outcomes to date of this multi-year collaboration with the district. Below are my my remarks as submitted for the public record:

Good evening Board of Education members, Dr. Taylor, fellow citizens. I am Matthew Patulski, a proud parent of 2 Grand Rapids Public School students at North Park Montessori Academy.

I am also one of the parent members of the GRPS Montessori Task-force, established in 2009 by Dr. Taylor. In June of that year, we delivered a report that examined the existing program and made recommendations for the long-term viability of our Montessori High School.

A year ago we reconvened with a plan: The task-force would engage with consultants experienced in Public Montessori Secondary education; have them produce a COI application; and also provide recommendations to be implemented this fall 2011.

The results of that work are in hand. As parents, we are very encouraged. It’s an excellent starting point for a reinvigorated public Montessori High School. We are working through next steps with our district collaborators. We will then involve our parent community to further build consensus towards actualizing a reinvigorated program with the GRPS.

We are community-focused: Dozens of parents and other Grand Rapidians have funded a large portion of our consulting costs. Hundreds of GRPS parents, citizens and organizations are actively following our progress on the web, Twitter and Facebook.

That said, our success requires district-wide stability of staff if we want our students and parents to participate and succeed. The current climate, much of it beyond our district’s control, contributes significantly to this challenge within our district. There are many solutions to this issue but only a strong partnership between parents and the district can provide successful public education. With that we may begin to address the ongoing matter of retaining Montessori trained staff which has compromised the Montessori program.

GRPS has delivered Montessori education to its students for 40 years. There are 3rd generation Montessori students in our classrooms today. Our High School effort presents an opportunity to build on this legacy.  We can enfranchise new families to Montessori education and continue to offer quality education options for all children in our city.

In closing, I want to acknowledge the ongoing support of several Cabinet Officers: Mayda Gunnell, Mary Jo Kuhlman, Lisa Freiburger, Carolyn Evans and John Helmholdt. They and their staffs have been crucial to this effort.

We look forward to this continuing collaboration. Thank you.