Re: DSM: Can it be too big?

Scott Gray (
Wed, 21 Mar 2001 16:56:52 -0500 (EST)

On Wed, 21 Mar 2001, CindyK wrote:

> Hi everyone,
> I was talking with my co-founder and we were trying to figure out if
> there would be a maximum size for a Sudbury School. Could it ever be
> too big? I know from the literature that a few of the early students
> wish it had been bigger back then and then they had in excess of 50
> students. I have also heard another grad mention wanting to do drama
> but there was noone else interested and that it's hard to do a play by
> yourself. So it seems that bigger can be better. I can see that there
> would be more students and staff who may then share the same interests
> thereby making it more fun. SVS is at around 200 students now - does
> that work well? Are there any problems to being larger? How big would
> SVS get if it could?
> I know as a starter group I shouldn't be worrying about being too big!
> :) I'm just curious. My co-founder spoke of splitting the school once
> it reached the magic number and we were wondering what that number would
> be. I'm not looking for exact answers (obviously there are none). I'm
> just curious as to whether 200 is a good number or would 400 be better?
> Does the school get harder to manage the larger it gets? Any comments
> would be welcome here. I'm just playing. Thanks.

This is the real advantage of democracy. You don't need to come up with a
"magic number" for anything in advance. When the School Meeting meets
every week, and every one of its members is daily part of the community
and sees every stress on that community, the Meeting can quickly and
efficiently react to any situation. I have my own hypotheses about how
large such schools can grow, but they are really irrelevent -- whenever a
school is on the edge of that "magic number" that school will know it and
can react.

Other schools are forced by circumstance to rely on "magic numbers."
Without the daily involvement of or understanding of the community in
administrative decisions, traditional schools require a host of "magic
numbers." How many students will be enrolled before it makes sense to buy
a piano? How many students must come from accross the railroad tracks
before it's time to offer a free breakfast to students? How many
bathrooms do your need to accommodate the number of students in the

When the administration lives in its own wing, and doesn't _know_ what
goes on in the school, of _course_ they want tools -- magic numbers -- to
make their decisions for them. But a living breathing community can tell
for itself whether things are too tight, or what would be nice to have

> CindyK
--Scott David Gray
reply to:
All men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's
character, give him power.

-- Abraham Lincoln

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