Kiing presents his collection of maps.
St. Croix Montessori is founded on a commitment to remain a quality early childhood provider that is accessible to all families and to create an equitable learning community across every area, policy, and practice of our school – from classroom to leadership.
When Individuals Sponsor A Child
A young student attended an art exhibit and brought along a 3 foot tall puppet of Abraham Lincoln that he had carefully created over the course of a few weeks. His attention to detail, such as the jointed limbs, weighted feet, internal organs, and replica of period-era clothing, was done with found objects (coconut husks and string), a large supply of masking tape, and hours of research at the library, caught the eye of the then Director of the Caribbean Museum Center of Art. She discovered that this student, Kiing, had an unquelchable passion for art, he was self-taught and talented beyond his years, and, dismayingly, that he was being teased at his school for this. The Director came to St. Croix Montessori because she had heard that we often provide service exchanges to families who are below the poverty level and with whom even full scholarships do not provide for all educational costs. She also shared that multiple individuals within the art community had been struck by Kiing's kindness, curiousity, and his artwork. They wanted to support him in being in an educational environment that encouraged and valued these skills.
We met Kiing and it was clear that he would thrive in our school.
When Kiing first joined St. Croix Montessori, at age 10, he discovered cartography during a geography lesson. In the Montessori style, his interest in maps was fed. He created to-scale maps of the classroom, our school, and the island of St. Croix. He read about different forms of maps and noticed that some look - and are - aged. Kiing's experiments on using tea to make paper look like ancient papyrus sparked a monthlong series of mapmaking across the classroom. Eventually, Kiing created a portfolio of maps that included the stages of Earth's tectonic plates and a scaled-topographical map of St. Croix. He presented his work at the end of the school year this past June.
Several months after Kiing began at St. Croix Montessori, we received a visitor in the office. The former director of the museum had come to share that those individuals who had seen Kiing's watercolors and artwork, and who had met him at the museum, donated to cover his full tuition and fees for the 2019-20 academic year. The generosity of these donors allowed our school to provide additional scholarship funds to a family with 3 children.
In addition, Kiing's passion for art and his pieces inspired our school to learn more about the museum curating process. This year a group of students, including Kiing, will partner with the museum to create personal pieces of art, meet local artists, discover how a museum exhibition is created, and assist in hosting a museum exhibition.
We cannot imagine our school without Kiing.
We are grateful to those donors who provided for an entire year of education.
Our school saw a consistent pattern of student, community, and financial data forming over the past few years:
- Annual increases of inquiries to enroll in our programs (rose 300% between 2015 and 2019);
- An increase in retention of enrolled families grew from 50% in 2015 to 85% in 2019;
- A widening gap of income statuses represented on the island of St. Croix with continued increases to cost of living (KidsCount, 2018);
- The total number of families who qualified for a form of scholarship awards rose from 50% of families in 2014 to 77% of families in 2019; while the range of award required expanded from full scholarships ($8,300) to $250;
- A widening gap of independent school tuition prices on St. Croix; ranging from $3000 per year to over $15,000 per year; and
- A decline, especially post-Hurricane Irma and Maria, in local individual and business donors' capacity to support multiple nonprofit organizations on STX.
While our big hairy goal is to one day provide free early childhood education, St. Croix Montessori faced an opportunity to rethink how we can align our values and our practices with the picture of our island community.
So, we ran some numbers.
By providing all families a consistent, affordable tuition structure, our school can also:
- Maintain the excellence and value of what we do;
- Greatly simplify our scholarship criteria to focus on those who truly could not attend without this form of support;
- Enable more families to access our school; and
- Adopt a stable model that represents what we value and also reflects our local community.
The analysis showed that this model works!
Our Board of Trustees unanimously approved this bold change to meet the needs of St. Croix’s families while also decreasing our tuition and fees for all families by half! Our leveled tuition and fee model began August 2019 and will continue for at minimum 2 years.
We expect that over time, we will be able to identify additional improvements. In fact, the leveled model helps our school have even more consistency across our enrollment process, scholarship awards, and family service agreements.
Currently, the feedback from our parent community has been extremely positive.
Families that previously received scholarships no longer need that assistance under this new model. Families reported that they have less stress in meeting their family's needs (inside and outside of school), and that they are more likely to offer additional service hours to help the school. We also experienced an increase in parents seeking pre-school education for their 2 and 3 year olds. Many of whom reported that they never would have walked into the door and discovered this form of child-directed education because they were wary of the potential costs. Our Primary Program classroom doubled in size this fall!
Thank you to our global giving community for helping us create equitable models of education on St. Croix!
Puppet inspired by Souza's Obama WhiteHouse photos
Self-portrait done with colored pencil