2012 Annual Meeting: State of the School

Following is a transcript of Head of School, Dominique Mouthon’s, State of the School speech from the Annual Meeting on October 2, 2012.

Good evening! Thank you for coming to Follow the Child’s Annual Meeting of the corporation.

As is the tradition, the purpose of this meeting’s agenda is to give our members an update on the state of the school and to reflect on the operation of the last fiscal year, which coincides with our school year. There is much to say about our 11th year of operations at FCM! As you all know—because I think we repeat it at every opportunity—FCM is at a crossroads, having to face multiple challenges, which in isolation would be exciting and invigorating… but the combination of them makes life even more exciting and invigorating!

To begin, let me celebrate the fact that our enrollment in 11-12 surpassed our expectations. 135 students attended FCM last year! We could not have done it without your support, without your referrals, without your word of mouth. Thank you! Our success is also due to our strong reputation of being a true Montessori school. I know of area admission directors and heads of schools who recommend FCM to parents looking for an authentic Montessori program.  This reputation is based upon the hard work that all our teaching staff provides on a daily basis, teachers and assistants from toddler to children’s houses, lower, upper elementary, and after school,  your work and dedication makes our program what it is. Thank you! It is also due to the work of our curriculum support team that encourages, counsels and challenges our teachers to keep thinking, to go back to Montessori’s writings and to see where we can do even better. Thank you! Our success is also due to the support of the administration team whose dedication needs no further examples. From plunging overflowing toilets, to scheduling interesting extra-curricular activities, to organizing the ton of paperwork for registration, to keeping the entire community informed of the many goings-on at FCM! Thank you!

Our success is for sure based on our wonderful community of parents and friends who support us by volunteering countless hours, from room parents to Parents4FCM executive committee members and event coordinators, parents and friends who offer their many talents, and who contribute to our fundraising efforts. Thank you! We are also thankful to our board of directors—past and current—whose members have shown an incredible dedication to the school in these times of growth. Your leadership and support are greatly appreciated. To all thank you! I know it is a cliché, but isn’t it true that it takes a village?

Another highlight of the 11-12 school year was preparing curricular changes to the Children’s House language program, investigating the implementation of a model with, what we affectionately call, a Spanish floater. What do you imagine when I say “floater” in a Montessori classroom? Now imagine what a Spanish floater might look like! After research and many conversations among staff last year, we defined this rather aerial concept and made it into a reality while maintaining our Montessori standards of uninterrupted work cycle and using the Montessori materials.

We also spent a lot of time imagining a variety of plans for our growing lower elementary population. What you may not realize is that when something new happens one year, it is the fruit of a long labor we embarked upon the year before. So we decided to send another teacher to training, a teacher that we had been courting for several years I might add… But then the training of a teacher is only one small aspect of the project. Once again we were faced with a space issue. You all know how we resolved that situation! We are now enjoying seeing the beginning of a second Lower Elementary!

Another accomplishment I am very proud of was bringing Dr. Steven Hughes to FCM and the local Montessori community. A child psychologist with years of research on how Montessori supports the natural development of the human brain Steven Hughes’ presentations were an inspiration and a challenge for parents and teachers alike. FCM took a leadership role in organizing that event and it was a testimony to our active participation in the Montessori circles of the area.

Other achievements from last year include our Capital Campaign committee who, under the leadership of Leah Friedman, Amanda Dawson and Sarah Kavanagh, worked diligently on developing materials that will come to use once we are ready to jump on our location of choice.

As I continue to reflect on the 11-12 school year, one of our main challenges has been, of course, our search for a new location. We seriously considered 3 sites for which we hired an architect as well as civil engineers, when needed, to help us discern the viability of these sites. One of the projects consisted of taking a close look at what could be done on this campus that we all love so much. There were quite a few hurdles that stood in the way, such as the condition of two of the 3 buildings. One would not think that it would be that expensive to take down an old building … and how about having to dig access to water mains if we increased impervious surfaces? Hurdles after hurdles, we could not do anything but realize that this very campus we like so much would be extremely expensive to renovate and could not accommodate our growing student population for much longer, unless we acquired the entire block for a fistful of millions of dollars!

We also looked at a location off of I-40 in Cary. There, the issue was accommodating the flow of traffic we create several times a day for our drop off and pick up. The parking lot was just not large enough and despite the very creative meanders we were able to imagine, it just did not work out. The 3rd property we seriously investigated was on Beryl Rd. One of the major issues there was the size of the water pipes to feed the sprinkler system we needed to install. So, in the last year, we have spent quite a lot of energy and dollars, actively investigating sites for our relocation. We continue to do so, dedicating the same energy and effort to each opportunity that presents itself until all possibilities are thoroughly explored, schematic drawings done with a financial estimate in hand; but so far something or another comes in the way of realizing a particular project.  As Albert Schweitzer once said “One who gains strength by overcoming obstacles possesses the only strength which can overcome adversity.” There are many days when I am ready to say, “OK, we are strong enough! Just give us a new location!”

Yet another challenge we have been facing is finding the very difficult balance between meeting our goal of building our savings to face the financial needs of our relocation as well as building a nest egg for rainy days, and making sure our students and teachers have everything they need to ensure a quality Montessori program. Everyday decisions on spending and saving were made carefully weighing the needs, the wants and the superfluous. With the incredible support of our community, our fundraising goals were surpassed and we were able to save more money than anticipated. Again, thank you for this wonderful financial support.

It is often said that the developmental stages of a growing school are similar to those of a human being. So, for those of you who faithfully attend our parent education classes, you know that we are in the 2nd plane of development, a time in the child’s life where reasoning skills are developed and where skills that have been acquired earlier in life are being refined and taken to a higher level. So here we are, refining our structure, our operations, taking the time to think about the future and planning accordingly. As good parents, we are working to establish sound policies and procedures that will allow FCM to go on when we are not around. We have invested in our infrastructure, a new student information management database as well as in our growing IT needs. I am delighted to announce the launching of FCM new website today, same internet address, but a totally new look. It is still a work in progress as we will soon launch the password-protected parent portal. Our new website is dynamic. You will find information on FCM, of course, as well as relevant links and information on Montessori education, local news and news of the education world. A huge thank you goes to Liz Leone who has worked for quite some time to make this project happen. On our new website you will find the 11-12 Annual Report either at the bottom of our home page or under the Parents section in Publications and Forms. I hope you take the time to read this Annual Report that highlights several aspects of last school year. A huge thank you goes to Viki Redding and Liz Leone for all their work on this project!

Once again, I want to thank every one of you for your support and the wonderful year we had and for those yet to come. Thank you particularly for entrusting us with your children. Seeing their faces every morning makes it all worth it!

Thank you.

Follow the Child Montessori School
Montessori Education for Toddlers-12 year olds. Looking for an education for 14-month olds through 12-year olds designed to foster independence, responsibility, and self-motivation? Contact us to schedule a tour and classroom observation.

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