“When you choose to form a school, you have the beginnings of an idea, but it isn't until you have something on paper that you really start to get an idea of how you will leverage the passion, skills, and experience of a team to achieve a shared vision for closing the achievement gap.” Founders of Lee Montessori PCS
We were really excited after turning in our application. When you choose to form a school, you have the beginnings of an idea, but it isn't until you have something on paper that you really start to get an idea of how you will leverage the passion, skills, and experience of a team to achieve a shared vision for closing the achievement gap. Our application took this vision to a level of detail that forced us to answer the nitty-gritty questions: Can we afford to implement our model? How do we have a holistic plan that serves all of the students we want to serve? What's the best way to grow? How do we maintain sustainability?
The day we turned in our application to the DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB), we felt we knew our school. We didn’t have a building, but we knew what it would look and feel like. We didn’t have students, but we could see our scholars learning. And we hadn’t hired teachers, but we could envision the talented individuals we would need to help us in our mission of closing the achievement gap for our students.
As a small founding group, we didn’t have a lot of start-up money. We all pitched in to edit, review, copy, and assemble our more than 200 page application. The review process was difficult and somewhat arduous, but at the same time exhilarating, because our team was passionate about implementing high-quality Montessori programming. Because we wanted to ensure our application had sufficient detail, we worked long hours leading up to the day the application was due, but thankfully no all-nighters!
On May 20, 2013, PCSB approved our application. The Washington Post's Emma Brown said it best: "The two successful applicants for new charters are giddy after PCSB vote. I think I heard talk of champagne." We were proud to have external, objective validation of the strength of our plan and ecstatic to know we would start implementing our work.
We're very proud of our application and all the work done so far, but now we begin the hardest part. We have spent a lot of time doing outreach and project planning to ensure we have a strategy that will get us a school that, on the first day of school, is fully enrolled and staffed by the greatest teachers in the District of Columbia.
We're somewhat a case study in how perseverance pays off when designing a charter application in DC. We didn't realize how much was missing in our application last year until we went through the application process, but we knew we had a great idea that others would value, so we kept going.
Lee Montessori PCS, located in the Edgewood neighborhood in Ward 5, will open in August 2014 and serve 70 students in pre-kindergarten 3 through first grade and add a grade each year up to sixth grade.