Rudolph Steiner’s vision for the way a Waldorf School should be run is that all pedagogical decisions rest with the College of Teachers (often the more experienced teachers). The Board of Management is made up of parents, who participate on a voluntary basis, as well as some teachers, administrative staff and at least one representative of the College. The Board holds the legal and financial responsibility of the school. The College and The Board work together looking at issues from both the pedagogical and legal/financial side and make decisions, taking these viewpoints into account.
This management structure is unique to Waldorf schools. It means that as a parent you can volunteer your time and energy, and participate in making decisions that affect the future of the school. During the history of Imhoff Waldorf School many parents have served on the board and on ad hoc sub-committees (mandated groups) that have been formed to address specific issues. Parents have participated in the decisions that have been made since the inception of the Dragon Tree project. The strength of the school going forward depends on the continued involvement of newer parents, replacing the longer-term parents in these mandated groups and on the Board. If you feel strongly about the future of the school then this is the way to become involved.
Three prominent architects from various backgrounds were interviewed several years ago. The Board and The College agreed that the successful candidate must be an anthroposophical architect because the school is a Waldorf School. This decision was reviewed recently (in the past year) and again the Board and the College came to the same conclusion. One very important consideration for the anthroposophical design is that this design would correspond with the international Waldorf trends. To date this has paid off, as the bulk of funds raised have come from the international Waldorf community. By showing that we are serious about building a purpose-built, anthroposophical Waldorf school, additional funding should come in from this source. Keith Struthers, our architect, is an anthroposophical architect. We foresaw a long and very challenging road ahead where the architect would be carrying the bulk of the responsibility (project management and so on) and again Keith Struthers matched the criteria, having a proven track record. To date he has not faltered in this respect.
Red Cliff Properties (our landlord) specifically did not want us to build informal, wendy house, classrooms on the new land because it believes this will compromise the future development plans for the rest of the farm. It was therefore made a condition of the sale agreement that Red Cliff Properties has input regarding all the plans for any buildings on the new land. Whether we can move some of the wendy house classrooms over to the new land as a temporary measure is a possibility that is yet to be negotiated.
Should the leaders who make important financial decisions for the school not be trained or experienced in business principles and systems?
As a school, we are very reliant on the involvement, input and skills of our parent body. The school is structured with sub-committee or mandate groups, mandated by the Board of Management and/or College of Teachers. Each Mandate Group consists of a Board member, College member and parent representatives. The mandate groups report back to the Board and, where necessary, the College of Teachers.
Our Finance Committee, for example, has always had highly experienced & skilled parent representatives (CA’s, strategic business consultants and successful business entrepreneurs). It is crucial to have these skilled parents provide an objective “big picture view” based on solid business principles. They advise, guide and report to the Board on a monthly basis.
Likewise, our Development Group (now named Build Team), has over the last 10 years, also been guided by skilled professionals.
Over the last year, we have seen a drop-off of some of our parent representatives on key mandate groups. This has been largely due to these families growing up and leaving the school, or their own professional lives becoming too demanding to have the time required to dedicate to the school. It does require a huge commitment from parents, and many of these parents made that commitment for many years.
The Board is acutely aware of gaps that now exist and has been engaging with certain parents with particular skills to step up and fill these gaps. It has become apparent, though, that many do not have the capacity to dedicate the required time to the school.
We do presently have skilled professionals on the Build Group and Finance committee but need to strengthen these groups further and would welcome any parents with skills in these areas to please come forward to support the school.
As a Board, we have always strived to have a balance of “skilled business leadership” coupled with “social leadership skills”.
The greatest challenge remains financing the build. All along funds have been the major limiting factor, despite exploring many avenues and various approaches. A large part of the message we hoped to convey at the information sharing meeting in August was that the school needs help with fundraising efforts. This was somewhat overshadowed by other questions, understandably so. But the funding issue remains crucial.
Some of the avenues that were being explored have come to a point where it is clear they will not yield funds. There are still some proposals pending and the crowd funding Buy-a-Brick campaign has been launched locally and will be launched internationally. We need new and creative ideas and ongoing effort. We are hoping that in opening up the conversation through Karen Goldberg’s process and workshop we can create a shared sense of how to move forward as a school and access ideas and contributions from our broader communities and networks.
All ideas and assistance from the broader parent body would be helpful and once Karen’s workshop is complete we will be actively eliciting this.