The Many Wonderful Things Going On At Rainbow

Howdy! Welcome to the first Kaleidoscope issue for the 2017-18 school year. For those of you who are new to Rainbow, Kaleidoscope isn’t really a newsletter. While it does provide some news, it’s more of an opportunity to learn the rationale and strategy behind decisions, to get a glimpse into what is ahead for the future, and to read random ramblings of my heart and mind.

It’s a little bit like having a conversation with me. If you have ever asked me out to dinner or hung out with me in any social setting, you might know that I love to “talk shop.” There is nothing that fascinates me more than Rainbow Community School!

 

What fascinates you?

If you had your child(ren) at home all summer, how has your life changed since getting them back into the school routine? Has it opened up any time for you to rekindle your own passions and interests? Sometimes as parents we forget that we have (or had) a life beyond children and work. I hope you are able to keep that spark alive. Your children will love you for it.

 

Step up to PEP!

Wednesday night’s Parent Engagement Program is an important time for us, as parents and caregivers, to nurture ourselves and to learn more about our inner life, our community, and our children.

Thanks to Parent Council and the hard work and vision of West Willmore, our first of three required parent engagement programs (PEP) will be from 6pm to 8pm on Wednesday, September 27 in the auditorium.

These parent programs are required for several reasons – the most important being their potential to improve the quality of your children’s experience, but also out of respect for the hard work and resources required to produce the PEP program.

 

Transition and mourning

Last week was the equinox and Rosh Hashanah — a time of transition. story, ceremony, and the transformation of suffering

For those of us who knew Chris Weaver, these two events brought a whole new meaning. Chris was a beloved teacher at Evergreen Charter School for nine years and North Carolina Charter School Teacher of the Year.

His last year of school teaching was at Rainbow. He taught 3rd grade for the 15-16 school year, so most of this year’s fifth graders had him.

Chris was a magical person – deeply spiritual, wildly creative. As his previous teaching assistant said at his memorial: “Chris Weaver was someone who truly cared.” His relationships with children were more authentic and went deeper than perhaps any teacher I have known.

Chris was a beautiful writer, and he wrote a book about transformation through suffering and loss – particularly loss of loved ones. We followed his “directions” for how to move through loss by holding a fire circle all day on Friday, which ended with Sandra reading a mythical story from his book.

The story began with a sudden torrential rain creating a river that unexpectedly separated loved ones within a small tribe from one another. As people realized that there was no way to cross the river, the loss and grieving was inconsolable.

The story ended with a little bird transforming into a spiritual being that could bring messages to and from people who would never be able to see one another in the flesh again.

Messages such as, “I love you.”  “I wanted to say goodbye.”  And, “I forgive you.” The story was cathartic and healing.

I was so in love with our community, who rallied to help our fifth graders (and all of us who were touched by Chris) through grieving.

Thank you, Chris, for all you gave.

 

What does it all mean?

At Rainbow, we always put purpose at the center of education.

We keep in mind that the ultimate purpose of education is to help humans reach their highest developmental potential, or to thrive so they can create a flourishing society.

We have a lot going on at Rainbow and sometimes it may be hard to see the long- range vision.  The RCS Board of Directors, with input from our community, adopted a Strategic Plan in March 2016 that serves as a guide for the decisions we make.

As executive director, the strategic plan helps me make daily decisions regarding how to work toward our highest purpose using the resources we have, so that we are a sustainable non-profit business. Two of the plan’s most purposeful goals are to become a more equitable organization and to be a positive influence on education at large.  We are a private school with a public purpose.

 

What are we doing to be a more equitable organization?

An important part of that goal is to steadily increase teacher salaries, so they are paid equitably.  Our initial goal was to increase salaries to at least that of Buncombe County public school teachers.  Rainbow salaries have gone up consistently (26% since 2012) and we expect to match Buncombe County within two years.

Did you know that 80% of our annual budget goes toward staff salaries and related expenses?  Of course, your tuition dollars are what directly pays teachers and staff, so we have strategically been increasing salaries steadily, yet moderately enough so that tuition doesn’t suddenly jump too high.

One of the ways you can help right now is to carefully look over the annual campaign letter and packet that you should have recently received.

If you didn’t receive it, please let the office know. Also, if you would like to read my letter again or share it in a digital format, you can access it here. The annual campaign helps to make Rainbow a more equitable place, because it works using the community concept of “give as you are able, receive as needed,” which benefits all of us.

 

Another important aspect of equitability is racial equity.

It has been our goal to ensure families and children of color have the opportunity to attend RCS.  In Asheville, racial inequity is extreme and largely drawn along lines of income, with the majority of families of color living in poverty.

Therefore, increasing financial aid funds has been critical to also increasing racial diversity and equity. We have met our goal for increasing financial aid, and we feel very fortunate to have been able to offer greater access to an RCS education.

We do not expect to be able to expand financial aid much further in the future, but will instead concentrate on improving the program for all families who are already here. Also, we’re clear that not all people of color are under-resourced or need financial aid.

So a question we have to continually ask ourselves is, “Do children and families of color feel fully included here?” And, “How can we – as individuals and as an organization– do better?”

Addressing these issues is hard and complex, but necessary because getting diversity right provides all of our students with the best education. That’s why we’ve hired Danaé Aicher as our Equity Director.

She will not only help our faculty and staff to be mindful and intentional around issues of equity; but she will also keep parents informed about opportunities to educate themselves. I hope you’ll take advantage of those opportunities. We will be a stronger community and our students will have an exceptional educational experience if you do!

 

What do you think would make Rainbow a more equitable and inclusive organization?

With that question in mind, it’s important to remember that we don’t receive government funds to support our programming, and as a non-profit organization, no one makes a profit. The board is made up of volunteers, not investors. The administration, for example, has set salaries that don’t increase through any profit.

Therefore, all revenue collected from tuition, donations, and grants during the year are spent on the program. We are budgeted to bring in 2.5 million dollars this school year and we will spend every penny of it with precision.

As head of the organization, I am constantly working to find the most fair, equitable way to distribute those dollars while providing the highest quality education for our children and ensuring that Rainbow will always be a force of good for Asheville and for the field of education.

 

One of the ways we are a positive force for Asheville is through our facilities.

We rent out our facilities – especially our beautiful auditorium – to organizations year-round.  On Sundays, the Gathering Church has been leasing from us for over two years now.

We have no affiliation with the church, but they have become good neighbors who help us improve the campus.

For other non-profit organizations that cannot afford a space of their own, we lease or donate our space, and thereby help make Asheville a more vibrant place.

 

How can Rainbow influence education at large?

Yes, we have an incredible school – a childhood utopia, in some regards. How can we share that with others beyond financial aid and the few lucky people who get to attend Rainbow?

We believe that the purpose of education is to create a thriving society. What would our society look like if more schools and educators adopted the Rainbow Seven Domains and other Rainbow practices?

 

The Vision for Rainbow Institute.

RI logo

We founded Rainbow Institute with the goal of inspiring a holistic education revolution.

The upcoming More Than Mindfulness Conference, October 6 and 7, is intended to train and inspire educators, therapists, and leaders to use holistic and mindfulness practices in their classrooms, workplaces, and homes.

We also encourage parents to come to the conference. You can purchase a ticket here.

We are hopeful that Rainbow Institute will provide innovative ways for teachers to supplement their salaries. The vision is for teachers to be able to do consulting work through Rainbow Institute (such as training teachers at other schools, etc.).

Eventually, I predict that we will be hired to open other Rainbow Seven Domains Schools. I like to envision Rainbow Community schools all around the world, with children of every demographic having the opportunity for a humane, high quality, engaging, holistic education.

With that in mind, I am excited to announce that our expertise is already being sought out.

Lisa Miller, author of the fantastic book The Spiritual Child and head of clinical psychology at Columbia University Teachers College, is starting a new Collaborative for Spiritual Development.

She has asked 12 leaders from schools that embed spirituality in their teaching practice to work together over 18 months to compose a set of resources and best practices to share with educators.  I will be traveling to Teachers College in mid-October to begin work on the Collaborative.

 

Special People on Campus!

On Friday, October 6, the evening of the More Than Mindfulness Conference, we are hosting our first Rainbow alumni reunion. Alumni parent, Jenny Hatcher, has been contacting as many alumni students and parents as possible to invite them.

Three of our four founders are planning to attend and one of them, Nura (formerly Ashrita) Laird, will be the keynote speaker at the conference during the day.

The event will be an opportunity to begin collecting stories from our alumni. If you are an alumni family or you know one, please help us spread the word by sharing this invitation link with them.

 

Here comes the sun!

Thanks to an incredible private foundation donation, we will soon be installing solar panels on the auditorium, which are expected to almost fully power that building!

We are currently waiting on an approval from Duke Energy, but have been told they often stall on such approvals for as long as possible, as it doesn’t benefit their business.

We hope to get the go-ahead in the next couple of months so we can start generating energy from the sun. Not only will this reduce our reliance on dirty coal-power, but it will also save a lot of money on our utility bills. The auditorium uses more energy than all the other buildings combined.

Thank you, anonymous, generous, and visionary donor!  We are so blessed.

 

Here comes the rain!

Have you seen our new wetlands area?  It is in the northeast corner of the lower campus – at the edge of the parking loop for the auditorium.

The Blue Ridge Printers parking lot above us was creating a lot of water pollution.  Every time it rained, sheets of water were dumping from their lot onto our campus and then eventually pouring into the French Broad River.

The biggest water pollution threat for the FBR is this type of water pollution because of the heat gain from surface water and the dirt in the water.

Buncombe County Soil and Water worked with us to engineer a series of pools to collect and filter runoff from Blue Ridge’s parking lot. The “wetlands” may be one of the nicest places on campus when the newly installed native plants mature.

 

There is so much going on!

I have only conveyed a small portion of all that is happening on campus. What is the common theme of all this activity? We are a positive force in the world – a beacon of light that is meant to spread.

 

Do we expect to solve all the world’s problems?

No… and yes. Someone has to, for the sake of our children. Recently, I moved further away from the school and I drive more often (whereas I used to ride my bicycle most days). Therefore, I hear the news more than I used to. Every day, the news brings tears to my eyes. It’s all so overwhelming! But then I arrive on campus and see your children.

I see they are completely focused on the present moment and I instantly forget about everything going on “out there.” It makes me wonder how people who don’t work with children maintain any sanity.  Our children are everything!  Thank you for sharing your children with us.  They give meaning to life.

With love,
Renee Owen

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