DSM: DSM advice

From: Vserda@cs.com
Date: Sun Nov 04 2001 - 11:39:52 EST


Dear friends,
  I would like to ask for advice and encouragement. Warren, who has been a
member of your group for some time, and I have started a school at the Sauble
Beach Community Centre in an area of Ontario with a very small population.
The site we had rented nearer a more populated city fell through two weeks
before school was to start in September. We had to quickly find a location
that was up to the government guidelines, and the only possibility within 30
miles was the present location. The school is modeled as close as possible to
SVS.
  We are having a huge problem with only five students being enrolled. The
government won't register us as a school because there needs to be five
children 6 or over, and my daughter is 5. The interactions between the
children and the JC, with such a small number, quickly became personal
affronts and 'payback'. Although we have had frequent discussions with the
children suggesting other ways of dealing with problems, and trying to impart
understanding of the model, we still have had some major blowups and threats
of three children to leave the school. This wouldn't be such a problem if we
had more students, but with five, when one is absent the running of the
school is compromised.
We have another situation that has been hard to deal with. Out of the five
children at the school, one of the parents, me, has paid the yearly tuition;
two of the children are from one family who pays monthly; the other two have
not paid anything yet. And somehow, the one family with two children is
trying to use their financial power to do what they want with the running of
the school. For instance, we, the staff, proposed having one hundred dollars
per month stipend for gas to be paid to us, since we are volunteering this
year since there are not enough students to pay staff. These parents balked
at the idea, saying that their money is being paid to go toward their
children's education, etc. and I should not be given any money for gas since
my daughter is a student and I would have to drive her anyway, and I only
have to drive there and back, and their family has to drive twice, etc.
  We felt that they were really unappreciative of our efforts, and think they
are undermining many of the things we are trying to accomplish at the school.
We have felt really disheartened by the way things are going, but are trying
to keep on, since we both believe so fully in the ideal. It is hard to
continue to defend our position against such strong opposition.
  Has anyone else had experience trying to start a small school like this? I
am wondering if it is worth it to start a school without a permanent
location, or with such small numbers of students. Our advertising (newspaper
ads, radio interview, postering) attempts have been largely unsuccessful, and
we have only had one new family express interest in the school since
September. Neither of the staff have the funds available to buy a property
without enough tuition money to support the running of the school. It seems
that no one is interested in sending their children to a school that is
impermanent, since they are worried about them having a hard time going into
another system after so much freedom, unless they do not have another
acceptable option. People in this area also have not been exposed to many
different kinds of schools, especially not democratic ones. The people here
are not progressive, and authoritarian methods are not questioned usually.
Thanks for any responses in advance.
Victoria

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