DSM: RE: Prompting discussion

Joe Jackson (shoeless@jazztbone.com)
Sun, 26 Nov 2000 18:38:44 -0500

Hi Todd, Joe Jackson from Fairhaven School in Maryland.

> (1) A few of the other points I raise will relate to the
> affiliation between SVS and its "sister" schools. What is the
> nature of this affiliation? If it is formalized at all, what are
> the parameters to decide which schools can be affiliated, and who
> sets these parameters? Is there coordination of any kind across
> the various sister schools? If so, what types? Are there any
> types of coordination that don't exist but which anyone feels
> should exist?

There is no formal or informal affiliation between the schools, but there is
constant contact and communication between most of the schools (largely
through the DemStartup listserve). There has been talk of starting an
organization which might work to share resources across schools, but the end
point of that talk has been that practically everyone involved sees much
more disadvantages to advantages in such an organization. Ironically, the
basis for many of these disadvantages are inferred by your second question

> (2) Is there a scholarship fund at any of the schools or
> generally across multiple schools? I would like to contribute
> what I can to help families pay for a Sudbury-style school who
> believe in the concept but who might otherwise not afford it.

I cannot speak for other schools, but Fairhaven has a Tuition Assistance
fund. Our address is 17900 Queen Anne Rd, Upper Marlboro, MD 20774 ;>)

We have a committee who considers TA applications on a case-by-case basis.
The criteria are the need of the family and the needs of the school.

We also give the "third-and-subsequent sibling" tuition rate to students
whose families qualify for the federal free lunch standard - a considerable

> (3) For the people involved in Sudbury-style schools, what
> portion of their time is spent on disseminating the model's ideas
> beyond the schools?
> Do any of the schools have organized
> outreach programs of any kind?

We have an Outreach committee whose purpose is such, the committee is
composed of about two-thirds staff and one third parents.

> Is there any organized outreach
> that is coordinated across multiple Sudbury-style schools?

No. Wait, I take it back - I think schools have teamed up on ads before. I
think some other folks can answer that better then me.

> I
> know that people visit SVS and other schools, that books have
> been written, and that by SVS founders and people involved in
> other Sudbury-style schools speak publicly about the model. My
> main interest in asking about outreach is in conjunction with
> outreach to other schools (public or private) or educational
> organizations (e.g. teachers groups).

We have made efforts in the past to contact school counselors and let them
know who we are, what we offer, and that we might be a good option for any
students they feel would do well in our environment (although I feel
practically all students would do better at our school).

> For me, my interest in
> student democracy and non-forced learning is a combination of (a)
> my desire for my son to have what I didn't have, and (b) my
> desire that all children have the best "school" possible.


> I am
> fairly sure I can find something that will work for my son (and
> me!), but I also want to work towards democratizing t!
> he!
> !
> existing school systems around me.

It is much more difficult to go into an existing school and democratize it
than it is to start a new school (I have not heard of that happening; there
are a few schools that converted to the model, but they were democratic to
start out with).

> I am wondering what sort of
> outreach has been done to "regular" schools and to teacher
> organizations, in order to disseminate the Sudbury-model ideas.

Since the purpose of our PR is to let folks who might want to attend our
school know about us and what we do, we have chosen to do "aim" what
outreach work we have done directly to parents and students, and not other
schools. Our goal is not to change other schools.

> [NOTE: This idea of disseminating democratic ideals is somewhat
> of a pie-in-the-sky issue for me personally, because I am raising
> my son by myself and rarely find time to do my
> laundry, let alone find any free time for outreach/activism.
> However, SVS has been around for over 30 years so I am guessing
> some of the people on this list have tried outreach and can speak
> to its positives, negatives, and future possibilities.]
> (4) I saw a mention on a prior DSM email of the lack of grants
> available to Sudbury-style schools.

Many have tried and failed to get grants for our schools.

> Is there a fundraising group
> at individual schools

We have an active Fundraising Committee. Fundraising at Fairhaven goes
towards expansion and other projects, and not into operating budget.
Currently we are fundraising towards an expansion project this summer. Our
goal is $650,000, we are building a 5000 sq ft building, and the public
phase of our drive begins soon. We have about $100,000 pledged so far.

> or across schools?


> What portion of
> operating revenue typically comes from tuition?

All except for Tuition Assistance grants, so between 96% and 100%.

> Are there
> schools that either can't start, have to close, or can't operate
> effectively due to funding problems?


> If so, what ideas do people
> have for the group of Sudbury-style schools to support each other
> economically?

All of the schools (ourselves included) are utilizing all of our operating
capital in actual operations and in making infrasctucture investments to
ensure future viability. There is no real money left over to share (except
for a few lovely donations we received from individuals at other schools
when we were first opening).

> (5) To what degree do families involved in Sudbury-style schools
> seek alternative living or working situations in addition to
> alternative schooling? By "alternative living situation" I mean
> anything from communal living to coops to cohousing to just
> moving from the city to the country, and by "alternative working
> situation" I mean anything where you are outside of the rat race.
> Is this issue widely discussed and considered to be intimately
> related to the kind of school the
> families' children are in?

The only adjustment Linda & I have made is working like insane people,
trying to make as much $$ as possible to continue to afford tuition! (Linda
staffs at the school, I adjunct staff, I work for the Air Force, I do
freelance music arranging for Warner Brothers, and I have a small financial
services business.)

> (6) How do the democratic prinicples of the Sudbury model extend
> to the world outside the school? For example, do the bulk of the
> parents and staff believe in democratizing processes other than
> the school? As the students, the staff, the school as an entity,
> or the parent Assembly interact with the "outside" world, do the
> democractic principles of the model color affect interaction? If
> so, how? For example, let's assume a new structure has to be
> built, and it will require an outside contractor. In the
> discussion to decide which contractor to select, is there a
> formal "bill of rights", so to speak, or perhaps an informal code
> of conduct, that guides the School Meeting or Assembly or another
> group to select (if possible) a contractor whose business
> functions in a more democratic fashion.

Our Fairhaven School Inc. membership meetings, School Assembly, School
Meeting, committees, corporations and clerkships operate with as much
democratic decision-making processes as appropriate for the level of
decisions being made. Historically, I would say the decisions to use one
vendor or service provider have not been related at all to whether the
vendor or service provider function democratically.

> Another example: if a
> student engages in an apprenticeship or outside work program, is
> there anything that formally or informally leads the student to
> evaluate the work's social, politic!
> al!
> !
> , and economic context? I'm probably not expressing this well,
> because it's 2:15 a.m., but I guess I am trying to understand the
> relationship in the Sudbury model between personal freedom and
> democratic principles, once the outside world is factored in.

I see what you're saying, and I would respond that the interests of the
school in operating democratically extend only to the fundamental mission of
the school, which is to provide the said environment to our students. While
a student's awareness of the dynamics of personal freedom and democratic
principles might be desirable to some adults, the school should not have any
institutional bias towards whether a particular student should learn such
principles, as the resulting _institutional_ agenda would inevitably preempt
the incredible gifts of the self-initiated learning paradigm.

Having said that, our students know what a wonderful empowering thing
democracy is, and innately understand the value of it.

Good luck!

-Joe Jackson
please note my new email address:
Kids rule at Fairhaven School

> Thanks for reading this very long email.
> Todd Robinson
> tsr@speakeasy.net

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