RE: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Re: Erik's post about starting a school

From: Melissa Bradford <>
Date: Fri Apr 28 11:44:01 2006

I agree with Stuart, although I would add the following: "unless you
have A LOT of seed money and A LOT of people on board."
Melissa Bradford
formerly - Liberty Valley School, Prairie Sage Sudbury School

-----Original Message-----
[] On Behalf Of
Sent: Friday, April 28, 2006 10:17 AM
Subject: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Re: Erik's post about starting a school

Hi Erik,
This is Stuart Williams, a founder of Cedarwood Sudbury School in Santa
Clara, CA (but no longer a Sudbury school staffer), responding to your
post about starting a Sudbury school an hour's drive from Sudbury Valley
School. While I am proud of starting a school and have the highest
respect for those who pull it off (or even try), if I were in your
position I would think twice about your plan. I know the driving time to
SVS seems daunting, but starting a Sudbury school is daunting as well: I
spent perhaps 3000 hours starting one, and others in our founders group
contributed maybe 500-1000 hours more. Let's not even try to count the
hours--mostly unpaid--spent keeping the school going once it opened!
Furthermore, the school you found will simply not be as good as Sudbury
Valley School. The advantages of SVS over a small Sudbury school are
   --More choice of friends and activities.
   --Established school culture.
   --Experienced and highly qualified staff (the average staff tenure at
Sudbury Valley is maybe 20 years; at Cedarwood it averaged less than
   --A lower percentage of "desperadoes" in the student population.
Regarding my last point, parents and students have various reasons to be
attracted to the Sudbury model. One of them is desperation, because the
child's experience in conventional school is so terrible. While many
students who are enrolled out of desperation work out fine, a fairly
high percentage do not. I think many parents would view enrolling their
children in a small startup Sudbury school to be riskier proposition
than enrolling them at SVS, and the ones most likely to take the leap
will be the most desperate. A small startup school will allow most of
these students to enroll, motivated by hope, idealism, lack of bitter
experience, and a need to increase enrollments; also, schools often
don't know what problems a student is bringing with them (and parents
typically don't say).
If I listed the problems some of our students had, you might suspect
that I founded an atypically dysfunctional school, or else conclude that
small Sudbury schools are a bad idea. I don't think either is true. I'll
let people from other Sudbury schools speak up to say that my comments
about desperadoes aren't true, but I personally saw them wreck several
schools (in cooperation with staff members who were too tolerant or out
of touch).
As for whether small Sudbury schools are a good idea at all, I think
they are the best option for a variety of students. Cedarwood served
many of these students well. Generally, though, students left us after
1-3 years. They had many reasons for leaving, some better than others.
My guess is that students at SVS stay there a lot longer than they did
at Cedarwood, which I think is a good measure for how good the schools
are meeting their students' needs.
Take care,

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Received on Fri Apr 28 2006 - 11:43:50 EDT

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