Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] SVS=Elite? AND Urban Students

From: Mike Sadofsky <>
Date: Thu Dec 5 09:23:01 2002

On Wed, 4 Dec 2002 23:54:19 -0500, "Alan Klein" <>

>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Woty Free" <>
>> The 'is Sudbury elite' question seems to me to be something
>> along the lines of 'how dare you provide something better
>> for your own child before it's avalible to all children?". I
>> think this is a bad question. If parents do not work to
>> make things for their own children, then there will never
>> be any improvement for any children.
>I see the "elite" question a little differently. I was a founding staff
>member of The Highland School, a democratic, but not "Sudbury-Model" school.
>We served a mostly very poor, rural group of young folks in West Virginia.
>(I use the past tense, as the school is in what I hope will be a temporary
>hiatus after 18 years of operation.) Despite the fact that we served such a
>poor clientele, the fact of the matter is that Candy and Steve Landvoigt,
>the founders of the school, were willing to use their resources, both
>financially and personally, to pay the bulk of the school's expenses. We
>would have had precious few (if any) students able to afford the school
>I understand full well the sacrifices that the founders of SVS and other
>such school have made, and continue to make, to ensure that these schools
>become operational and to stay operational. I know that tuitions are
>generally much lower than other private schools. Despite this, I believe
>that the "elite" moniker still fits and that, in fact it is not an
>indictment at all. The fact of the matter is that parents of our schools, in
>addition to the taxes they pay to support state schools, also have to pay
>tuition. This very fact puts attendance out of the reach of many people -
>hence "elite". It is not the way we want things to be, for sure -- but it is
>the way things are.
>~Alan Klein

Indeed, attendance at a private, financially unendowed school is out
of reach for many people. And so are many alternative expenditures in
this society as they also are in every modern society I've had any
exposure to. And probably most families sending their kids to SVS
(and other similarly funded sudbury model schools) have more money
than some others.

Taxes pay for public schools; tuition pays for SVS. When SVS was
started, tuition was set equal to the funds local schools reported as
per capita spending. Today, SVS tuition is approximately half of the
amount local school districts report on a per capita basis. This is
what we've been capable of achieving since we instituted a reasonable
staff salary funding plan about a decade ago. (For the first 25 years
of the school's life, survival depended on a substantial financial
sacrifice by the staff.) Perhaps SVS will consider an alternative
tuition plan at some point. Some sudbury schools have, and others may
be looking at those examples. Meanwhile we do what we can. People
sometimes reach out to extended families for support; private
scholarships have sometimes funded tuition.

Whenever tuition costs are discussed and placed in the context of "who
can afford this?", I am reminded of an incident that occurred some
years ago. I was walking out of the barn at SVS after a thesis
defense and was approached by a man and woman. I didn't know them,
but they obviously knew my role as President of the SVS Assembly.
They were the parents of the diploma candidate. Their command of
English was limited. They were immigrants. He worked as a
construction laborer; she as a house cleaner. They were obviously of
very limited means. Yet, they had enrolled their son at SVS because
they wanted him there. They found a way to pay the associated costs.
They approached me to say "thank you." They understood what their son
had obtained from SVS and were pleased that the school was there and
available to them. They did not regret the sacrifices they had made
to send their son. They were certainly not "elite" as the term has
been introduced in this thread. I read that only as a pejorative
applied to SVS staff on the mistaken impression that one must spend
unpaid time before an opportunity might arise for a salaried position.
And even after several clarifications of staff compensation policy,
that mistaken impression has been reposted as if it were fact.

I find most parents at SVS (and other sudbury schools) to be "elite"
in having selected this school for their child. These schools are
"elite" or "selective" because we have a very different view of the
way children learn and grow to be adults. We are far from the
mainstream of cultural acceptance. Hopefully, that will change, but
until it does, our efforts are best spent on staying open and alive.

Mike Sadofsky
Received on Thu Dec 05 2002 - 09:22:36 EST

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.2.0 : Mon Jun 04 2007 - 00:03:04 EDT