Monday, May 26, 2008

Good News

I know it has been a while since I have written about what is going on at the school. I have fallen victim to daydreaming about going home, it is true, but I do have a somewhat more responsible reason for not writing, namely that there have been several meetings held to try to sort out the school's future, and nothing has seemed certain until the last few days. Oh, but certainty is a fleeting feeling around here, so I am going to claim the right to future amendment to today's statements right from the start and then just do my best to explain what the plan is at the moment.

The big problem since I arrived here at the school has not been the teaching or the teachers' lack of training or the school's lack of materials or even the health of the students. These were all problems, but they were issues to be addressed on a daily basis, and some progress has been made on all of them. The impact of the school feeding program alone has been tremendous, resulting in regular attendance, better classroom behavior, better health, and a reduction in stress for everyone from the the smallest Class I student to the cooks themselves who can count on taking home leftovers to feed their families five days a week. Malarial children are regularly treated at the local clinic. The director's wife is a nurse who volunteers once a week to do first-aid at the school. Teachers now have some idea of what the Waldorf curriculum and approach to teaching are. There has been plenty of progress.

No, the big problem has been what happens to the 190 current students of the school when it moves well over an hour away to its new campus in September. The faculty were quite clear that only a handful of their current students would be able to continue at other schools in Goderich, and it seemed that most of the students were just going to end up very literally back on the street, on the beach or in the gravel mines. Now, finally, the school has what seems to be a viable plan.

In fact, I spoke to the director about starting up a strategic planning process (Lucy and Irene will be so proud of my putting my experience on the Rudolf Steiner School board to good use), and two weeks ago we did just that. The guiding principle is that the Goderich campus will be phased out over five years so as to ensure that all current students have the opportunity to complete Class VI while the new campus at Rokel will be slowly built up over the same period. It is a beautiful plan, evident in the fact that everyone involved with the school who has heard about it is now sleeping better at night. Now it is just a matter of finding the money to make everything work.

There is also a great desire to improve the quality of the school, and that is where the really difficult work and need for commitment will come in, just as I am getting ready to leave! I have been very busy typing up lists of questions to answer, suggesting budgetary planning processes, dreaming up ways to fund the whole business. There is a good deal of work to keep me busy (and away from daydreams of hot showers and well-stocked bookstores)until I leave and well afterwards, but I am definitely sleeping better these days.

1 comment:

Melisa & Erik Nielsen said...

You don't know me, I am a Waldorf homeschooling parent and found your blog through surfing - you and your school are in our prayers.

Melisa Nielsen