Re: A meeting on diversity in svs-model schools

Rietmulder Associates (
Fri, 06 Sep 1996 16:34:59 -0700

Jim Rietmulder here, The Circle School.

At 12:41 9/6/96, Kirsten Sutherland wrote...

>...on the topic of tuition for those [of] us living near urban ghettos
>and poverty... instead of a sliding-scale or scholarships which would
>divide people into classes and create mostly conflict and resentment...

...and she went on to describe an idea for increasing school diversity.
Here's another:

The Circle School operates a Tuition Work-Off Program (TWOP; we pronounce it
"TEE wop", rhymes with beebop). Families contract with the school for a
certain number of hours of work to be completed during the school year. The
number is unlimited and is up to the family. (The collective total must fit
the school's budget, but that hasn't been a problem.) Any member can write
a TWOP Work Order, detailing work to be done, expected outcomes, skills
required, deadlines, maximum hours allowed, the name of a person who will
inspect the work, and more. Each Work Order must be approved by the School
Meeting in order to generate tuition credit. (TWOP approval is a standing
agenda item, *usually* taking two minutes at each meeting.) Once approved,
any qualified TWOPper can claim the publicly posted Work Order, perform the
work, and get the credit. Students, siblings, parents, grandparents, and
other hangers-on all do TWOP work (subject of course to visitation
regulation and the Lawbook). The burden is on the TWOPpers to monitor
available work and grab enough to satisfy their contract. Tuition is due in
cash (on our usual monthly payment schedule) if TWOP credit hasn't hit the
books. The *school's* most significant contractual obligation is to ensure
that enough TWOP Work Orders are generated to collectively satisfy all of
the TWOP contracts written. (That allows families to rely on TWOP credit in
their financial planning, and hasn't been a problem for the school.)

In practice, many families report that TWOP is financially crucial to their
being at The Circle School. Another benefit is that work that would
otherwise be done grudgingly by staff, much of it on weekends, is done
gratefully by families who become all the more engaged and invested in the

TWOP increases our economic class diversity, reduces staff burnout, and
increases family involvement.

Jim Rietmulder
The Circle School