6-7s Building Study: Progressive Education

Michèle's June 2019 Talk to Parents

Michèle's June 2019 Talk to Parents

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Delivered at the June 7, 2019 State of the School and Final Parents' Association Meeting

“A Place Where the Children Are Going to Make ‘This Land Is My Land, Our Land’”

As a school year comes to a close, there are always memorable moments that flash through our minds and this year is no exception. So much goes into a school year, and the work we all do together can sometimes cloud the moments of clarity. I am happy to have been a part of the work, and to have shared some incredible culminating days with you.

This year, clarity came in the validation of our renewed NYSAIS accreditation through 2024. The NYSAIS Committee commended MCS for three things.
“The commitment by all constituencies to the mission of the school, and the mission’s real power in decision-making.” “Recognizing the Farm as an integral part of the mission.” And,” the culture of inclusion …. and the commitment to making time to ensure this.” They also had recommendations, “celebrate the mission both for its history and its current applications,” “showcase the ways in which it leads towards the creation of civil society in a democracy,” and, “compile testimonies from alumni as to the success of the school’s mission and use these for outreach.” For me another powerful insight was the casual comment from one committee member that our self-study (written by committees over more than a year) was uncharacteristically honest and authentic to what they found in their three days here.

All schools have rituals that highlight the journeys and pathways as well as the transitions at the end of each year. From my office, it seems the 4-5s are in constant motion, heading out for culminating activities with the 5-6s who introduce them to next year, and to read the storybook written by seventh graders who’ve been their Child Development class partners all year. I also listen in to eighth graders present their final portfolios, and sit down to write their graduation speech. By now, all 22 of them know they will soon leave MCS for 18 different high schools. Full of the anticipation of change, they keep working together on a play, and spend their last night in the school building dancing. Our final assembly is a transition, mostly singing in multicultural tradition. While most in the room will return in the fall, we also wish those who are leaving that they carry MCS with them wherever they go. Thank you for the spontaneous expressions of thanks to the staff members who have been a defining influence on our growing school, and the confidence that the people stepping into the community have that potential too.

 The school itself, guided by the goals of the MCS 2020 strategic plan, has been embracing change as well. This was only our third year as a growing   community in a larger home in a new neighborhood and community. Yet so much of what we just imagined a few years ago is now a piece of MCS   reality. Next fall all lower school classes will have two sections, and our enrollment will top 300. The nature of our diversity is more expansive, with   53 incoming families from 39 schools, 26 zip codes, and a dozen languages spoken at home.

 All year long, I spend a lot of time juggling the realities of our holistic embrace of diversity and equity, the sliding-scale tuition that sustains it. Since   embracing MCS 2020, the budgets we monitor include those that sustain our operations and those that support building more on the top floors of   85th Street and at the Farm. Within our $8.5M operating budget, we’ve seen increases in revenue from admissions and expanded programs like   Afterschool and City/Farm camps.

 Fundraising trends show increases too. Our sliding-scale tuition model assumes philanthropy will always be a necessary source of revenue. The   Expanding Purpose Campaign was designed to support the comprehensive needs of growth and expansion. This summer we will add another room   in the sixth floor, and begin a multi-phase elevator replacement. Later phases of construction are all calibrated with the doubling of the Upper   School. Thank you for the many ways MCS families have been generous supporters of the school, as volunteers, as thought- partners and as   financial contributors.

My favorite and best tool in my toolkit for admissions, fundraising and expanding our public mission has always been stories. I am always revising those stories and this year I heard compelling reasons to be more explicit about the educational program and to see what data corroborates what we know from experience. I am committed to taking those things seriously. Yet, the power of stories will remain the anchor of our contemporary relevance in the broader landscape of equity and education for all children.

“What does it mean to parent toward freedom?” “That is my responsibility as a parent.”  Those words inspired one of this year’s Big Night Out! honorees and MCS parent, Ana Maria Archila, to describe the kind of experience that MCS engenders. She went on to observe ways that the school has proven to be a place that nurtures her because she sees children who can tell their stories and listen to others’, learn to examine their histories, and where hopes and possibilities are the foundation of what they use to create and care about the communities they build.

See a clip of Ana Maria’s Big Night Out! speech here.

Thank you for a year of educating toward freedom, as a community that thinks deeply, sings loudly and softly, and cares deeply about children. I wish everyone a wonderful summer, and look forward to the fall.