The Montessori Charter School in Flagstaff is moving from a commercial to a non-profit charter school, which she hopes will contribute to the long-term sustainability and success of the school.
“We all believe [this change] will be for the continued success of the school, ”said school principal Ike Ozis. It was unanimously approved by the Arizona Charter School Board at its January 10 meeting.
Arizona is one of the few states where nonprofit charter schools are allowed. Osis said the state has about 25 of the 600-700 charter schools.
Since 1995, the Montessori School has run four offices in Flagstaff for students from PreC to eighth graders. As is typical of Montessori education, classes combine three levels of classes and emphasize self-directed learning. A change of status will not affect the school’s educational method.
The school has decided to move to “long-term sustainability,” said Osis, much of whom had a leadership structure. Previously, this was similar to the structure of a corporate board, which will now change to an independent school board consisting of five parents.
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“We had to make a lot of decisions during COVID, and I made those decisions with my administrative team, so I think having a school board and a nonprofit structure helps schools with their long-term sustainability,” Osis said.
This board will eventually hold public meetings and guide decision-making at the policy level, as in other nonprofit statutory schools. Another level of leadership at the school level will manage day-to-day operations.
Members of the new board are Andy Vaughn, owner of Doney Coffee; Dr. Ann Newland, CEO of North Country Healthcare; Beya Thayer, Executive Director of the Jawapai Coalition of Justice and Mental Health; Kyler Kuen, Lowell Observatory’s deputy director of technology; and Sarah Clancy, program director of the NAU Institute for Human Development.
“When we set up the school board, [we] really paid attention to the balance of a healthy board, ”Ozis said. “…. We really have good, strong advice that will open up opportunities to better serve society.”
The pandemic was a major factor in determining these changes because it showed how the leadership of Flagstaff Montessori hoped to approach future crises. Switching to a nonprofit is not an option that can be easily reversed.
“There were a lot of opportunities associated with COVID, and when we lost one by one, we started talking … do we want to consider this, isn’t it time to think about it?” Said Osis.
The change does not mean that the school is not eligible for COVID funding (e.g., ESSER I, II and III), which it previously missed due to commercial status.
“I think COVID helped in the decision-making process, but we knew that those funding opportunities were gone,” Osis said. “… We were thinking about future sustainability, so the funds were only a small part. It’s more of a governing body, a school health organization, so I think it really was the main thing [reason]. Usually, if you have the right flags and counterweights, you can functionally support a nonprofit that is a better, healthier governing body. ”
The previous owner of the school, Eric Alexander, will still own the school buildings, but will distance himself from the school’s activities.
“I really appreciate Eric’s support for this idea,” Ozis said. “… He wants schools to be successful in the long run … he is still investing in the school. His main motivation is not profit, [it’s] probably giving society an excellent education ”.