RE: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Re: Desperadoes

From: Sam Senteney <>
Date: Fri Apr 28 21:06:01 2006


Two things tell me you misunderstood what Stuart said.

"it took me more than ten years to convince"

"circumstances in my life over which I had no control"

When you say that you had to do the convincing for that long, it is clear
you understood what the philosophy was about and was pursuing it. The
"Desperados" in question are very much like the ones Sacramento Valley
School has had in their history. These students typically did not pursue
the school - the parents did. The second part about you having
circumstances over which you has no control is not the case with many of the
"Desperados". They have control, and exercise it by not following rules or
subverting the processes that make the school function. Those are the very
behaviors that got them kicked out of the schools they came from. They
promise to be good, and then skirt the law as close as they can get until
they finally succumb and step over the line again. Trust me, they were in
control and were taking their parents and the school for a ride. They chose
to get expelled once again.

Students like these are corrosive to a schools culture and do in fact drive
new students away from the school. This is not to say that every kid who
was labeled a bad egg by the outside is like this. There have been some who
took a while to "get it", exhibiting undesirable community behavior early in
their tenure. The problem with the younger schools is exactly as Stuart
describes - the need to keep and increase enrollments, the idealism, and the
unwillingness to let someone leave the school because it would look like you
are giving up on them.

The reality is that the survival of the school has a priority over the
toleration of one student with a willful disregard and demonstrated contempt
for the laws and well-being of the school community. It is a hard lesson
for the younger school. It really has nothing to do with the students who
try to get in and have circumstances over which they have no control.

  -----Original Message-----
[]On Behalf Of Tay Arrow
  Sent: Friday, April 28, 2006 5:06 PM
  Subject: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Re: Desperadoes

  Hi, Stuart--

  I'm saddened to think that someone on this list would encourage anyone
from turning away or avoiding students such as myself from schools such as
the one it took me more than ten years to convince anyone I needed. No
wonder your "desperadoes" left and failed... I'd be uncomfortable at best
with any organisation that regarded me as a "problem" due to circumstances
in my life over which I had no control.

  Tay Arrow Sherman, SVS alum, desperado class of 1996

  On 28 Apr, 2006, at 11.16, wrote:

    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 two).
       --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'

    Take care,




Received on Fri Apr 28 2006 - 21:05:17 EDT

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