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Board Update

January 22, 2013
Dear WMS Community Members,

The WMS Board has a lot of things going on and we want to keep everyone in the loop. Here is a summary of many of our current Board activities.

Governance
A By-Laws Review Task Force, made up of Board members and members of the WMS community, has been working to recommend revisions that make the work of the board more open and accountable. The revised by-laws will be available on the WMS website so that parents can learn how the board works and how parents can be part of the process. At present, by-laws call for board members to be appointed by the current board, leaving parents with little recourse if they disagree with the direction set by the Board. In the past, board members were elected. The task force is determining what system (appointments, elections, a combination) will work best for our community and will present their recommendations to the board in January. Once the board approves those changes, the changes will be presented to the entire community for approval. Our goal is to have the new bylaws in place by the end of February so that elections can be in effect for the Annual Meeting on March 20, 2013 when new members are selected for the board.

An Expectations Statement has been agreed upon by the Board, with grateful thanks to former Board Chair Israel Floyd for his leadership and guidance, to be posted on the Board portal of the Wilmington Montessori School website. This statement discusses what WMS community members can and should expect from their WMS Board. This statement will help potential WMS Board members understand what the commitment requires.

Facilities Committee
WMS has an active Facilities Committee. In the fall, they planned a Weekend Warriors day that had families pitching in to do odd jobs around the school. Most recently the Committee had the gym floor refinished. The Committee is currently working on developing a list of longer term projects and repairs. In other Facilities news, the Board has recently agreed to rent the Great Room to a local church on Sundays beginning next August.

Re-Enrollment is Coming
In January, the Board will be setting tuition prices for the upcoming school year. Many factors are being considered including the total amount of financial aid to be awarded in the coming school year, the staff discount, administrative fees, staff raises, and other related issues.

Re-enrollment packets will be distributed soon, with deposits due on March 1 for the 2013-14 school year. The March 1 deadline for deposits is crucial to the process because it allows our WMS administration to have a clear picture of how many classrooms and teachers we will need. Our administration plans to issue teacher contracts as early as possible so that we can retain our great teachers.

Strategic Planning
One of the WMS Board’s main tasks this year has been the development of a three- to five-year strategic plan, with the help of Israel Floyd, WMS Advisory Board Member/Former Board Chair, who is currently Chair of Villanova Law School’s Board and an experienced strategic planner. This involves defining our ideal school and the steps it will take to get there. The plan focuses on WMS’s educational program, finances, facilities, enrollment, development, and marketing.

While the board has worked together on what that future looks like, we need input from our community to have a shared vision. Up to now the Board has been working alone, but the vision for the future of WMS will only be on target if it is supported by input and feedback from staff and families.

We have recently learned that we will have additional help - from a world-class consulting firm named Independent School Management (ISM). Roxanne Higgins, president of ISM and an alumni parent, has reached out to WMS. While we had originally planned to finish a strategic plan in the winter, we were squeezed into the ISM schedule in March. We are certain that the wait will benefit WMS. We will be able to share the strategic plan at the March 20 Annual Meeting. ISM will be conducting Parent and Faculty/Staff Surveys in the coming weeks so that everyone can have input into WMS’s future. The surveys are electronic and anonymous so please participate and give your honest feedback.

Marketing
The Marketing and Communications committees have been working on a redesign of the WMS website. There will be two “parts” to the website, the public and private, much like there is now. The “public” part of the website will have an increased focus on marketing. Key search words will be added to the content, providing the WMS website higher visibility when private schools are searched via the internet. The new layout will be easy to navigate allowing prospective parents to find the information that is important to them. The “private” or current parent section of the website will also undergo a redesign. Communication among the WMS community will be the focus of this update. Navigation between classroom pages, Head of School messages, the Wednesday Weekly and PTO information will be simplified. And going into the future, cost-saving measures are being considered. Look for the new design.

Search of a New Head of School
Marie’s decision to spend another year as Interim Head of School has allowed us to spend the time we need to make the best decision for our school. Because WMS went though such rapid changes, our search during the fall of 2012 was later than ideal - spring is the best time to undertake a search for a new head of school. In the meantime, while strategic planning is underway, our Head Search Committee is laying the foundation for finding a great match for WMS. We will be in touch with news as soon as we can.

Fundraising
A hardworking Development Committee has great achievements to announce on the 49th birthday of WMS on January 31. And, while the Board deserves no credit, we applaud the efforts of the PTO free fundraising efforts - thank you all.

Bi-Annual Mission Review
At the start of the school year, the WMS Board identified four goals for the school year, and we took some time in January to note our progress, or the need for progress, on these goals.

Here’s where we are:
1) To be a sustainable (balanced budget and stable student body and staff) independent Montessori School at 1400 Harvey Road.
Progress:
- Increased enrollment with two new classrooms.
- Most classes are filled or nearly filled.
- Smaller staffing levels without a director of development, and without a separate educational director for each level.
- On target, and likely surpassing budget targets for 2012-13.
Future steps:
- Head search.
- Strategic plan.
- Communicate our success - develop a detailed version of the WMS budget to share with parents.
 
2) Focus on our Montessori roots.
Progress:
- Trevor Eissler’s visit.
- An interim head of school, Marie Dugan, with extensive Montessori training and experience.
- Montessori Madness book group (thank-you Hunter!).
- Faculty/staff group is currently focusing on Montessori Excellence.
- Continuing the work of the Center for Montessori Advancement with Montessori seminars for teachers.
Future Steps:
- Identify a new head of school with Montessori experience.

3) Focus on Academic Excellence.
Progress:
- As above, the faculty and staff are meeting regularly to discuss Montessori Excellence.
Future Steps:
- Parent survey to identify parents’ opinions about educational excellence at WMS.
- Increase communication about alumni achievements.

4) Focus on the school-parent partnership:
Progress:
- The PTO, with huge appreciation to Kerry Shweiki and Meredith Amado.
- Committees and task forces with parent leadership.
Future Steps:
- Increasing Board communications with published minutes and periodic updates.
- Continuing to assess and improve the co-op program.

In partnership,
The WMS Board of Directors

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