Kaleidoscope: The many colorful things happening at Rainbow, from the Executive Director
Every year has such a different feel to it. This year? I almost have to pinch myself. I look around at all the things we have wished for, and see it happening. Even more than the facilities and the programming, I marvel at the staff we have developed. To me, they are the most enlightened group of people I know. But the best thing of all is how vibrant all the children feel.
For those of you who are new parents, Kaleidoscope is different than the other news items you receive at Rainbow. It isn’t “news” so much as what the school looks like from my point of view. You will learn the reason for things that otherwise don’t makes sense, and gain a deeper perspective on how things are going. It’s more about the How and the Why, than the What. Rainbow Reminders (e-published each Wednesday) is your #1 source of WHAT is going on that you need to know about. (By the way, did you know that Kate can actually see who opens Rainbow Reminders and who doesn’t? For the most part, you are very astute about reading your Reminders.)
What is important enough to air on all four major networks at one time this Friday, September 11th, at 8 pm?
The president? Nope. Education! And Rainbow may be featured! As you know we are incredibly honored to be one of 60 Ashoka Changemaker elementary schools. Ashoka and a few other key players in the world of the education revolution are featured on the THINK IT UP program being aired this Friday on CBS, NBC, ABC, and FOX!! While you watch it, be sure to be ready to tweet your favorite stories about Rainbow, because they will be live streaming a lot of social media response from around the country. Change is in the air – literally. So please tune in to the airwaves this Friday.
How Are We Doing?
We asked you in the End of Year Survey, and over 40 of you responded. Overall rankings were very high, with “Rainbow’s philosophy and approach to education” and “Quality of teachers” scoring the highest. (Click HERE to view the graphs.)
In answering the question “What is/are the most important aspects about Rainbow?…” There were a huge number of comments about the teachers – how loving and respectful they are, the intellectual growth they stimulate, the care they put into teaching, the emotional safety they create, etc, including a number of accolades for specific teachers. There were almost as many comments about the holistic philosophy of Rainbow’s educational model being the most important thing. “Community” and “spirituality” were also commented on.
In response to “If you could change anything or wish anything, what would it be? There were repeated comments in the following areas:
People hoping for more diversity
People wishing RCS were free or lower tuition
People overwhelmed with all the communication and email
People wanting a high school
People wishing for vans or buses for field trips
People wondering about security measures on campus
Let’s take a look at each of these:
Diversity: I was glad to see these comments! Yes, the board feels this is the most important priority over the short term future, and so do I. Please see our new poster on diversity for more clarity on why diversity and inclusion is important. We envision Rainbow as a truly integrated and inclusive community for many important reasons. Also, I encourage anyone to take the Building Bridges class by visiting www.buildingbridges.org. We have over 10 staff and board members taking it this term, including a couple who are facilitators. I highly recommend it. Building Bridges is actively working to make Asheville a more integrated community.
Can Rainbow be free? Great idea. Let’s figure out how to make that happen – at least for the people who can’t afford it, so as many children as possible can have access to holistic education – and not just in Asheville, but all over. Let’s dream big!
Can we have a high school? For years, this has been the most repeated comment on End of Year surveys. Now that we have completed our P-8 model, maybe designing a high school could be feasible. Should the board consider exploring it as a possibility in the new long range strategic plan? Sounds like a potential new committee.
The communication is overwhelming. We know that a lot of information is always pouring out of Rainbow, and it can feel super overwhelming. We are a very active community with a lot going on. If you get lost, just make sure you at least read Rainbow Reminders, your teacher’s emails, and the occasional emails from your class parent.
People wanting a bus or van: I remember in 2007 when I was interviewing for the E.D. position at Rainbow, and I found out there was no school bus. I couldn’t believe it! “How do you go on field trips?” I asked. “The parents drive.” Wow. Amazing parents! The school is almost twice as big now, and we still don’t have a bus. As amazing as you all are, we obviously need transportation. Teachers would take your students on lot more field trips – including quick little trips to nearby nature areas – if they didn’t have to arrange all the logistics of parent drivers for every foray into the wilderness. Plus, having all those drivers on the road is a little scary, and it’s hard to keep track of everyone. It would be much safer to have a school bus. Parent Council’s intention is to change that this year by raising money for a bus or two. They already posted a Crowdrise fundraiser on RCS’s website that has $4,000 in donations. If this is something you believe is important, click HERE. A lot of small donations will add up quickly.
Security: I think it is particularly important to talk about security at the beginning of the school year. Our campus is five acres, and it was not designed as a school, per se. Instead, Rainbow purchased land and buildings little by little, resulting in a creative hodgepodge! As one person commenting on security in the End of Year survey said, “I know this is a by-product of the layout of the buildings, and I wouldn’t want the school to feel like a fortress…” This parent made another good point, that even if it were possible to build a barricade around the whole property and only allow people in who are “buzzed in” by the main office, that is not the community-style of education we believe in. We believe that families should feel comfortable being on campus throughout the day. As a result, we have to be very alert about safety, and you should know about the systems we have in place.
A couple years ago, we installed a digital intercom system that can be accessed from any staff member’s cell phone. So, for example, if a potential threat were seen in the parking lot or street, a staff member can call a lock-down from any place on or off campus, and it will be announced instantaneously all over campus. We practice our lock-down drills both with and without the children, and with and without the local police.
Fortunately, we have never had any trouble, and that is partly because of our strong community. You are part of that community — if you ever see peculiar behavior, please report it right away. If you see someone who doesn’t act like they have a child or grandchild on campus, please go up and ask if you can help them. (This is a great way to be both welcoming and safe.) Sergeant Creson, an expert who consulted with us and helped us map our campus safety plan, emphasized that violent episodes in schools are a result of people who are associated with the school – not strangers who randomly attack. So our most important security is in maintaining a healthy, strong community of sane individuals. Also, we have a wonderful relationship with the local police, who keep a good eye on us. Many of you might have noticed officers Eric Halford and Juan Gonzales, our West Asheville day beat officers, who were here the first couple days of school. You are always welcome to call them directly. Juan’s number is 828-242-6850.
Also, we are so happy to finally have the main office up at the front of the property by Haywood Road, where we can insist that visitors check in at the office, and we can more easily see who is entering off of Haywood Road. (If you haven’t checked the new office out yet, feel free to come in and say hi.)
After school is really focusing on safety this year, which is the main reason for all the after school changes. As Rainbow grew, we realized that the convenience of simply bringing all children to after school at the end of the day was too confusing and not as safe as having children specifically signed up for after school. Thank you for your patience, as they work on getting the system flowing.
High in Mind
A shot of dopamine goes off in our brains every time we learn something. I confess, I am totally addicted! I have the best job in the whole world for a learn-aholic. Not only am I constantly challenged and learning all the time, but I have the pleasure of sharing the thing that makes me high with others, all day long, every day. Complete joy! But I am still always looking for more. So, as many of you know, I was accepted into an Ed.D. program at Columbia Teachers College. I will be going to New York one weekend a month during the school year for the program, starting this weekend. I also spent several weeks on Columbia’s campus in June for summer term, and I loved it!
I applied for a K-12 EdD program, but ended up being accepted into an adult learning and leadership program called AEGIS (Adult Education Guided Intensive Study), and it has turned out to be perfect. I am passionate about the importance of spreading Rainbow-style holistic education, and I see pursuing my Doctor of Education Degree as an important step in preparing Rainbow to be a key player in the Education Revolution. Through this program, I am learning about how to train adults – such as parents, teachers, and school leaders. The program was founded by Jack Mezirow, the “father “of Transformative Learning. So far, we have learned a lot about adult development, and how to help people rise to new levels of learning all through their lives. It’s very holistic. A few people have asked if they can read some of my papers, so I have attached one which you can access by clicking here. This short paper is a fairly personal reflection, but it provides quite a bit of insight about my strategy of leadership at Rainbow, so I don’t at all mind sharing it.
A Vote of Confidence.
I sometimes make fun of how “unscientific” the WNC Best of Awards are, but they are very important! As a small school, it is amazing that we get so many votes compared to larger schools that have so many more voters. That shows how enthusiastic and devoted you all are—so, THANK YOU so much for taking the initiative to vote for your Rainbow school. These awards help other people in the community pay attention to the important work we are doing at Rainbow. The awards also help us raise grant funds. Lately, we have submitted several grants, searching for funding for our proposed Community Environmental Learning Center (CELC), and winning those awards gave our application credibility. (More on the CELC later.)
Did you notice that we won first place for Best Science and Tech education program? Science, engineering, systems, (and technology in the older grades) are taught in experiential ways at Rainbow, with complex understandings arising from field world, lab work, experiments, and games. While standardized test scores only tell a small part of the story, it is not surprising that our students blow the roof off of the SAT 10 Science test each year. Be sure to have lots of great dinner time science conversations with your children this year to enhance their opportunity to dialog on scientific concepts.
Potlucks are our favorite thing…
….and the best one of the year is next Friday, September 18. Sue Ford’s marimba band will be playing, and the backyard is going to be full of love, life, and excellent food. If you bring a dessert, we will ask you to place it at the new courtyard, where will have will a little celebration of the new space after dinner. Thanks for making it happen!
Have you been wondering when construction will begin?
Besides everything else going on, there is a large construction project looming on our horizon.
In the background, a team of people have been working hard at getting our construction project off the ground. Jeff Dalton, parent of Sara Grace in 5th grade, and lead architect at Row House Architects, has been preparing the final plans for bidding.
Contractor, Chris Fox, parent of Lily (4th) and Nate (1st), has been generously and courageously acting as construction manager. He has used his practical expertise to think through the plans with us, making sure they meet our needs and budget, and he filed for the permit back in December.
I don’t know what we would have done without these guys, so if you see them say thanks!
Just last week, the city finally turned the permit around, and as soon as they have the names of the general contractor and the subs, we will have a permit. Four contractors are bidding, and their bids are due Thursday. Everyone – keep your fingers crossed, pray, wish, etc.– that the bids will come back within our very specific budget.
The winning contractor will have to start immediately into order to meet our deadline. (Remember, we need to have our new classrooms ready in time for the 2015-16 school year in order to have enough classrooms for everyone next year.)
So what will the next few months be like with a construction project underway?
It will begin with a bang — demolition.
Sometime between March 4 and March 12 an environmental contractor will spend three days removing any materials that contained asbestos or other potentially hazardous materials so that they are removed with the utmost environmental and air quality standards in place – not one particle of friable material is to become air born.
I have never watched this, but in my imagination I see lots of dust-buster style devices sucking every particle of dust up while white-robed technicians remove windows and take dry wall down. ECS has a reputation for being the best and they guarantee the safety of the children and anyone who will be using the building.
It is going to be shocking to have all the downstairs windows out and boarded up! After the environmentally sensitive work is done, the contractor will begin sledge-hammer work, tearing down five structural walls and disposing of materials into huge trash bins. Excavation of the courtyard area will commence, and fill dirt will start piling up.
It’s going to be loud, dirty, and inconvenient…but so satisfying when it is done. There will be days that no one will be allowed in the auditorium, such as when the environmental work is being done downstairs. But for the most part, normal activities will continue right through construction.
Why do we need the extra classroom space so soon?
The big game-changer is the expanded Omega.
The current 8th grade is the last of the small classes from the “old” days of Rainbow. When the current five 8th graders graduate in June, they will be followed by a rising 8th grade class which has 20 students currently, and the rising 7th grade, which also has 20 students.
Therefore, Omega will go from having 25 students this year to having up to 40 students. No longer will Omega be a one homeroom-style classroom. It will require at least two classrooms, and a few smaller rooms available for break out groups, electives, and tutoring.
The original plan was to have 6th grade in the lower level of the community center, but after consideration, the teachers and I realized that it makes more sense for 6th grade to move into the large room that Omega is currently in, and for the New Omega to inhabit the lower level of the community center.
It is going to be exciting to have the whole middle school program on the new campus. The music classroom will be completed during construction. Eventually, a new art room will also be in the lower level.
Of course, expanding Omega means hiring a larger teaching staff.
We will be adding a full time Science teacher, and since there is a shortage of Science teachers nationwide, I am extremely pleased at the number of fantastic Science teachers who are applying for the additional lead teacher position in Omega.
We are also adding a full time teacher assistant to Omega, and we have some wonderful applicants for that as well. Sandra and I are busy reading resumes for several positions. We have already had a couple of prospective teachers demonstrate and complete their interviews. Rainbow is very fortunate to be a place where extraordinary people want to work.
Here is something new in my life: I applied to a doctorate program at Columbia University.
Not because I don’t have enough to do, but because the program is project-based, and the replication of Rainbow is the project I am proposing. It is a very competitive program, and a long-shot that I will be accepted, but if it works out, we will have the resources, wisdom, and creditability of Columbia’s Teachers College behind our school!
If I am accepted, I will have to be on campus in New York for three weeks in the summer, and for eight different weekends throughout the school year (almost one weekend per month) for the next two years. They have called me in for an on-campus interview, so I will be in New York for part of this week. Again, it’s a highly competitive program, and the chances of being accepted are very small, but I thought it was worth a try.
My short personal statement for my application can be read HERE.
It is somewhat personal, but I wanted to share it with you. At the end of the statement I reference a quote by John Dewey: “I believe education is the fundamental method of social progress and reform.”
Did you know the teachers at Rainbow are working on writing a book?
They are compiling centering techniques and activities into a book that will potentially be called “The Centered Classroom.” Centering is part of the glue that holds our learning community together. Inviting in spirit and sacred space every day, and making that integral to each child’s daily experience is special. Children develop the habit of having a meaningful, daily spiritual practice. Teachers outside of Rainbow have asked how to do centering, so this book is for them.
By the way, centering is open for parents to join.
When I first came to Rainbow it was still a tradition for parents to participate in centering on a regular basis. It is a wonderful way to start your day, so please feel free to stay beyond drop off for centering when you have the chance. It’s not just for kids!
Science Fair was incredible.
Did you get to check it out?! Amazing! Several of the prospective teachers who are applying for the middle school Science position visited Omega during Science fair, including people who had worked at Carolina Day School and Asheville School, and they were exceedingly impressed with the sophistication of our students.
Dance, Drum, Pray on May Day!
Important Date Change: LEAF International is partnering with Rainbow Community School for an awesome global opportunity. In May, we will be hosting an indigenous Costa Rican dancing/drumming group call Proyecto Jirondai from May 4 – May 7, so we are changing our May Day Celebration to May 5, so that they can join us.
I had the honor and good fortune to witness an indigenous spring earth-based celebration when I was in Ecuador, and I know there are some deep similarities in this ritual throughout South America, Central America, and Mexico.
It will be very special having this group with us for May Day. At the end of their residency, the group and several lucky Rainbow students who sign up for the after school special program with Proyecto Jirondai will get to perform with them on stage at LEAF. You will be hearing much more about this groups’ residency. If you want to be a host family, contact Caryn Hanna at 828-768-1826.
Spring is Around the Corner
Spring truly is just around the corner. I hope these cold winter days provided an opportunity to savor the slowness of winter. Winter can be such a trial, but so much growth and learning comes from trials. Soon, your children will be presenting to you at Student Led Conferences. They are young buds, ready to burst forth into blossoming learners and change-makers.
“The only way to stop the juggernaut is to stop running, and start thinking of time as music that we don’t want to stop the flow of, or a gift with which we have been graced.” Phil Cousineau, Once and Future Myths.”
Happy New Year!
I love how we have a New Year in the middle of the school year! It is such a gift to be able to press the reset button and re-establish rhythms, goals, and routines.
My New Year’s resolution? To be more present and in flow with time. Like the quote above, I am searching for the balancing point between keeping the rush of the outer world flowing (rather than drowning in it), while surfing my inner world.
Instead of seeing time as a scarcity, time is a gift, if we look at it that way. As always, being in a place of gratitude is the best attitude. Doreen Dvorscak, the kindergarten assistant, has a mantra, “I have all the time in the world!”
Favorite Time of the Year
For many teachers at Rainbow, the next couple months are their favorite time of the year. Why? Because your children tend to return from winter break very focused. I think it has something to do with the magic of time – over break grown-ups almost always jump off the juggernaut and spend quality time together as a family.
It also has to do with winter, a time when our souls turn inward. Your children may learn more in the next couple months than the whole rest of the school year. At their student-led conference in March, you will see the results of their progress and be amazed by their epiphanies.
A New Time: The rhythm of the whole school will be different over these coming winter months. We all worked very hard to complete the capital campaign in December so that we can move on from the hub-bub of fundraising and into a more contemplative time. In case you didn’t see it, here is the GOOD NEWS I sent out on December 19:
“What an amazing community! This last week was a landslide of donations. At this point, virtually everyone has given to the combined campaign. Even MORE families participated than last year!!!! Some classes have 100% participation, and school-wide participation is about 90%. Together, you raised close to $130,000, and still more is coming in. While that is a little short of the goal, with participation so incredibly high, we know that all of you did your best. The board and the fundraising committee are amazed and humbled.
Therefore, the board announced last night that we will go ahead and break ground. They decided to limit the project to just what is absolutely needed to open the new classrooms, and the rest of the project can be cut out or put off. We are also getting some incredible in-kind donations that will greatly cut costs. In addition, since family participation is so high, we think we will be able to leverage that to bring in some more grant funds. Plus, some donations are still rolling in. It’s going to work!
You will learn more about all this later, but for now, I just wanted thank all of you for being such a beautiful community, and send you off into the holiday break knowing this good news.
Peace, love, light, and gratitude.”
So, What’s Next? Indeed, contractor, Chris Fox, turned in the request for permit on December 22.
In order to have the necessary classrooms ready for next school year, we have to break ground as soon as the city approves our permit. We still have to raise some funds to fund the construction.
Fundraiser, Sara Stender, will be working on attaining some grant funding for the next few months, in-kind donations toward the construction, as well as gaining more business sponsors.
Of course, if you never got around to donating to the campaign, and you don’t want to be left out, you can always make your donation. Several people have even made second donations to help fill the funding gap. Again, the participation behind this campaign is delightful! Thank you everyone!
Volunteer Hours Used Creatively
I want to give a special shout-out to Geneva Novik, mom of Sasha, in first grade. Geneva used her volunteer hours to produce the campaign video that we showed at the winter program.
This was a huge project, and Geneva poured her heart and creative talent into it. What a great idea she had! By the way, If you have a special talent or skill that you think can be utilized to help Rainbow, you can always pitch an idea, like Geneva did, as a way to use your volunteer hours. I love great ideas!
Student Talent Show
Speaking of talent… did you know the student talent show is in February? It’s my favorite event of the year – always a testimony to our creative and supportive community. That will be Friday, February 20.
Hobey Ford Show
Then, Rainbow is hosting a very special creative show – nationally renowned, Hobey Ford, will bring his puppets on Saturday, February 28. When Hobey performs at Diana Wortham Theatre it is to a sell-out crowd, and The Diana Wortham Theatre has twice as many seats as our Rainbow Community Auditorium, so you will want to purchase tickets early. They are in the office, Malaprops Bookstore downtown, or you can get them online here.
Get Ready to Talk with Your Child
For students in the fourth through eighth grade; the next few months bring some important experiences. The annual ski trip is January 23. For many students this will be their first time on skis or a snowboard – a time to expand their boundaries.
Also, over the next few weeks, older students will be starting or continuing their sex education, and students in 6th and 7th grade will engage in substance prevention education. We will provide plenty of guidelines for parents about how to have these frank and open conversations at home.
Thinking About Next Year
Now that the push for the capital campaign is over, I begin looking ahead toward next year. This week, I will be drafting the 2015-16 budget, and shortly after that the board will be approving the tuition rates for next year.
Admissions director, lovely Sheila Mraz, will be asking for your intentions for next year, and in February your contract to secure a spot for the following year will be due.
Stay Cozy. Just as the seeds beneath the ground are resting and soaking up as much earth energy as possible right now, we need to also. It is definitely a time to be grounded. Let’s savor every moment we have. Spring will be here before we know it.
Kaleidoscope: The Many Colorful Things Happening at Rainbow –
From the Executive Director
Why does our sign still say Rainbow Mountain Children’s School?
Maybe we are just too nostalgic to change it?
Actually, it is a series of unfortunate events behind a long journey which began many months ago, but our sign maker has returned from his back injury and we might actually have our new sign by December – fingers crossed.
Where Will all the Students Go?
We have 5,500 square feet of space in the lower level of the new Community Building that is unusable until we can bring it up to code and configure it into full-size classrooms.
This involves major construction, including removing structural walls and creating handicap access.
This space needs to be completed as soon as possible in order to have enough space for all of your children for the 2015-16 school year!
For example, next year, the Omega 7th and 8th grade will be an estimated 40 students as the current 6th and 7th grade students matriculate up.
Omega only has one classroom now, so they will need another room in order to have enough space for 40 kids. This is one reason we are in a crunch to finish that space. It is silly to have all the space sitting there, unusable, when we don’t have enough classrooms for all your children.
Our contractor says we need to begin construction in January in order to have the space ready for students in August. The permit for the next phase of construction is already being submitted to the City of Asheville.
By December 19, we need to have $150,000 pledged toward the construction project to know that we can begin construction in January and be able to fund the project.
Have you pledged yet?
Fortunately, we don’t literally need cash in hand when we break ground in January, but we do need enough money pledged by then.
(You can pay a pledge later or over a period of months.)
This year’s campaign is every bit as important as last year.
Thank you for investing in Rainbow’s facilities which will serve your children and so many others for years to come. It is exciting to see the pledges rolling in. It’s incredible how it really does take everyone doing what they can – no more, no less — to make the goal.
For those of you who have already made your pledge, thank you so much!
Not only have you gotten this campaign rolling, but every time someone donates early in the campaign, it means we can spend less money and effort on fundraising and more money and resources on education. The earlier people donate, the better it is for our whole community. Thank you!
Coming Down from the Summit
I found the Parent Summit to be an exciting event.
The board is filtering through pages and pages of notes and documentations from the Summit.
Thank you to the many volunteers who helped make the event happen and/or volunteered to organize notes afterward.
As a result we have a ton of suggestions and ideas.
The board’s job is now to find the common themes in those ideas to help steer the overall direction of the school, and then to turn the management-level ideas over to the various circles which would potentially implement them.
Our Faculty: Life-long Learners
During the faculty work day in October, all faculty members visited another school of their choice.
Although the main goal was for them to observe other teachers, a side benefit is that they act as ambassadors for Rainbow.
You may want to ask your child’s teacher which school they visited and what that experience was like.
The office is working on completing the 2013-14 Annual Report by Thanksgiving. Look for it!
Wanted: Community Coordinator
We are looking for someone who will write a newsletter highlighting Asheville community events/classes/activities that Rainbow families may be interested in.
Looking for an interesting way to use your volunteer hours?
Contact Kate in the office if you want to know more. This is a fun job for the right person. Most of the work can be done off campus.
EPIC Faculty Training
The teachers are receiving a rich menu of training on Systems Thinking, Engineering, and the Maker Movement this year.
The last two trainings were called Engineering is Elementary.
Before that Tom Heck presented “Making, and Making a Difference.” Tom runs the EPICS program (Engineering Projects in Communities and Schools) at Purdue University. He will be consulting with our teachers throughout the year, helping them integrate robotics, engineering, and tinkering into their units of study.
The Many Adventures of Reneé – Changing the Odds
I attended the Changing the Odds conference, October 9 and 10, in Dallas to help at the table with Ashoka Changemaker schools.
There were 10 other Changemaker schools there, and it was really wonderful forging relationships with other change leaders and teachers. I got to meet some of my favorite authors, Malcolm Gladwell and Tony Wagner.
The Changing the Odds conference focus was largely on the importance of social/emotional learning, especially empathy and compassion.
The school that hosted the conference is called the Momentous Institute, a private school funded by the Salesmanship Club of Dallas, which raises $7 million a year by hosting a PGA golf tournament.
The Momentous Institute is their sole recipient of these funds. So this private school has a dream budget that provides free tuition to many kids who would otherwise attend public school. Momentous has as many therapists as teachers on their staff!
They invest in best practices and have the money to collect and analyze a lot of data. Momentous has really great research that ties social emotional learning (SEL) to academic success.
SEL is becoming accepted as the most important aspect of education.
Forbes predicts empathy as the #1 desired quality for careers by 2020. I am posting some of my favorite quotes and thoughts from the conference on my blog, which can be accessed here.
Mind and Life Institute
Last week I traveled to Boston for the Mind and Life Institute’s International Symposium on Contemplative Education.
Three hundred and sixty doctoral and post-doctoral papers were presented at this conference on effects of contemplative practices in education and life! Just a few years ago contemplative education was extremely rare, and now the field is exploding!
I worked with 30 educators from around the world on the topic of merging transformative education (education for social action) and contemplative education.
John Powell was a riveting speaker. Dr. Powell is a powerful social activist, particularly in the area of race and racism, and he is a contemplative meditator who spent a significant amount of time in India.
He spoke about how people can use meditation to tune out or to tune in. Clearly, we use contemplative practices at Rainbow with the intention of tuning people in– helping them to be more engaged.
A side note on the use of your hard-earned tuition funds: Rainbow spends as little as possible on all the travel I do.Ashoka paid for the Changing the Odds Conference expenses, and I am fortunate to have a family member who used to work for an airline, so I have extremely discounted standby airfare. Plus, I have friends in several cities to stay with, and when I don’t, I am as thrifty as possible. In Boston I stayed in a hostel dorm room.
Time to Slow Down
This has been the busiest fall at Rainbow I have ever experienced – one exciting event after another.
It’s time to slow down.
Winter is approaching, and the time of year when our bodies go inside for warmth is also when we warm our hearts and become more focused on our inner selves.
It is no coincidence that virtually every religion has a major holiday coming up – it’s a very spiritual time of year.
I hope you can soak up every minute of the upcoming Thanksgiving and winter breaks with gratitude and plenty of family time. Blessings.
Here we are – together – at Rainbow Community School, 2014.
I would love to hear about your experience and impressions so far this year. What has intrigued your child? What have you learned? What has the staff learned? I think the most important thing I have learned (again) is to simply be myself. After all, who else would I be?
We open the 2014-15 school year with many landmarks.
Campus is twice as big as it was this time last year, and our enrollment has ballooned. There are 195 students enrolled at Rainbow Community School. That’s 50% growth since two years ago! 46 students are in preschool; and 149 are enrolled in K-8. There are 164 families, and over 60 of you are new. We met our goal to have every class full, with 16-20 students and two home-room teachers.
Life-long learning, as demonstrated by one of our founders.
Rainbow’s first Executive Director, Aostre Johnson, called me just before school started. She teaches education at St. Michaels in Vermont, and though she is well into her 60’s she just completed a Fulbright trip to Ireland last year to research contemplative/mindfulness education. She sent us a copy of her latest book, Education from the Heart. It is in the office.
We are IN!
Just in the nick of time, we finally received our temporary Certificate of Occupancy for the new Omega classroom and the auditorium.
Our hard-working contractor, Christopher Fox, probably spent 40 hours in the last few weeks meeting with people at the city offices and dealing with inspectors in order to make that happen. Max has been incredibly patient and diligent.
They definitely have a few stories to tell about the whole experience. (One of many examples: How fair is it for an inspector to say you don’t need a Van Accessible sign, and then a week later at the final inspection the same inspector tells you he won’t pass you because you don’t have a Van Accessible sign?!)
Anyway, we won’t have access to the bottom floor of the main building until the next round of construction (as planned), but the auditorium is now open. Yay! Thanks again to Jeff Dalton of RowHouse Architects. You are brilliant. Thanks to EVERYONE who made the campus expansion possible through donations, guidance, and positivity. You know who you are!!
There is an official Ribbon Cutting Ceremony on September 10, from 4:30 – 6:00 pm that the Chamber of Commerce and the West Asheville Business Association are hosting. Wicked Weed is sponsoring and serving beer, so this is an event to leave your children in after school care. Businesses from all around Asheville are attending.
You are one dedicated, loyal, and enthusiastic group of parents! Despite being less than half the size of the other schools who won awards, you voted Rainbow Community School as the BEST SCHOOL in WNC. We tied for first place.
You also gave preschool a first place award for Best Preschool, and voted Sue Ford as the best music teacher.
Rainbow’s Art Program won second place! You showed up to vote, and it made a difference. THANK YOU! (As a tangential note: I hope you also show up for this November’s North Carolina’s elections, because you folks know how to make things happen. If you are new to town, be sure to register early and HAVE YOUR ID.)
Another Rainbow Alumnus Makes a Difference
Last night, at a Chamber of Commerce event I met Rick Fornoff, whose kids went to Rainbow Mountain Children’s School in the 1980’s. I always want to know what interesting things our alumni are doing, so I was astounded when he told me that his daughter, Erin, is an award-winning spoken word poet who works for a non-profit organization called Ashoka, and her job is to find social entrepreneurs around the world. (A social entrepreneur is a term for someone who uses entrepreneurial skills to help others.)
What an amazing coincidence! I explained to him that Rainbow just became an Ashoka Changemaker School, and that recognition distinguishes us as a school that teaches kids to become social entrepreneurs – just like his daughter!
Read all about it
We were published in two national/international publications this last month.
Part 1 and Part 2 of the Innovation Generation articles I wrote were published by the Ashoka Changemaker Foundation in August, and they are publishing Parts 3 and 4 next month. This is quite an honor.
Triple Pundit published an article about our cutting edge organizational system, called Dynamic Governance. The article titled, “What Can a School Teach Us About Organizational Agility?” can be accessed here.
Did you know…
…Rainbow’s webpage receives over 4,000 unique hits a month? That means that far more people than our parents or even prospective parents must be accessing our webpage to read the content.
Family to Family
The holistic clinic, Family to Family, which was founded by Rainbow parents, is going to be one of Rainbow’s partners this year. Dr. Susan will be offering an advice column for parents and will be onsite a couple times this year offering classes for parents. Thanks, Family to Family!
Partnering with the Police
We are fortunate to have a good relationship with our local police officers, who keep a special protective eye on our campus. After school started, I called Officer Jones, who is our assigned community resource officer, and let him know school was open and that we were concerned about cars not stopping for pedestrians in the crosswalk in front of the school. He said they would spend a few mornings parked there and give out warnings or tickets to help send the message that pedestrian safety in front of our school is essential.
Rise Up to the Summit! Climb the Peak! Be There, or Be Square!
I hope it is an indelible event in your calendar by now: The Parent Summit is September 29 from 5:30 – 8:30. It is a required event, meaning at least one parent from every family is requested to attend. Why it is so important? Why is it so long? At the last summit (three years ago) everyone was asked “What are we called to do?” Almost every answer that came out of that summit has since come to fruition, including expanding our campus. You are an inspiration.
“I believe that education is the fundamental method for social progress and reform.” ~John Dewey.
Education is a powerful tool, so please attend the summit to help guide us in the right direction.
Have you thanked a teacher today?
I bet you have.
Our teachers are blessed to be in a community that understands and appreciates how hard they work and how special they are.
The outpouring of love you have showed your teachers already this year is overwhelming and appreciated. Love is a circle: It comes right back to your child.
Thank you for making it go ‘round.
Introducing New Faculty Members!
Great News! Sue Ford has agreed to be our new music teacher, beginning with the 2013-14 school year. She has also begun working with a few Rainbow grades this year — conducting a music residency with preschool, kindergarten, first grade, and 5/6 for Imagine. Sue used to teach music at Rainbow, but left to pursue a full time position as Evergreen’s music teacher for the last seven years. She is well known for the children’s marimba band she leads in Asheville. Sue has decided to retire early from full time teaching, so she was really excited to accept our part-time music position. Sue is wonderful with children, has a vast repertoire, and will be really fun to collaborate with. We are grateful to Joy Black for coordinating the music program for the second half of this year, in-between permanent music teachers. Joy has brought in diverse music styles for the kids and she has brought “joy” into music class. Thank you so much!
By now, you should have received an email introduction to Melissa Scott, Rainbow’s Sixth Grade teacher for next year. This is a new position because 5th and 6th will not be combined. Melissa has an MA in teaching from Brown University and some incredible experience as an environmental educator, literacy coach, and curriculum coordinator. We are excited to welcome another amazing educator onto our prestigious faculty!
Also, please introduce yourself to Jessica Bachar and Mary Yacovelli, who are the interim preschool teachers while Teddy Humpert and Kate Couture have their babies. Jessica and Mary are very accomplished educators at both the preschool and elementary levels. Some of you already know Jessica, who is mother of Jaggar in kindergarten. The faculty held a Blessingway ceremony and gift-giving party for Teddy, Kate and their partners in March. It is beautiful to watch our family grow! The next addition to the Rainbow family will be Jessy Decker’s baby who is due in July. Wow! What is in the water in the preschool?
The Saga of “What shall we call ourselves?” continues…
Okay, I heard some of you loud and clear. On the Rainbow name survey, a few people said, “Enough, Already! Either keep the name, or choose a new one, but get on with it!” We have let this process linger for almost a year now. There have been long periods of time that we have simply let it sit, as it didn’t seem prudent to move too quickly since the decision we make will be very permanent. Nonetheless, our goal was to make a decision by the end of this school year, and it looks like we will meet that goal. Elly Wells Marketing held a listening session in March, where they listened to a group of people comprised of two parents, two board members, two administrators, two teachers, and one alumni parent. They were also given the results of the survey we sent out. Over 70 of you responded – a higher response rate than we have had on any previous survey! Despite the great response and lots of good feedback, which were very helpful, the surveys did not provide any clear direction. In fact, the largest number of respondents were neutral about the name with about an even number liking or not liking it on each side of neutral. The only crystal clear aspect was that if we keep Rainbow and/or Mountain, the word “Children’s” can be eliminated. A few people pointed out that if the point of changing the name is to broaden the appeal of Rainbow Mountain for marketing purposes, then maybe we should consider that admissions is busier than ever before. Good point!
There were a couple of valid concerns expressed in the name survey comments that deserve a response. One was that we should focus our resources on the classroom and not on marketing. Please be assured that is always what we do. In fact, we used to spend less than 1% of our budget on marketing. In the past two years, we increased our marketing spending to 1.6% of the budget. Even though that is still a very small slice, it allowed us the funds to make a beautiful video about the school, improve the website, develop our Facebook page, and increase the quality of our advertising. We are reaping the rewards of our increased investment with the vast increase in admissions, which will quickly trickle down to improving the programming for every child. When enrollment is up, everyone benefits, especially the children. Fortunately, Elly Wells, who is sympathetic to the needs of non-profit organizations, is giving us a great deal on the branding work she is doing.
Another concern was a question about if we were looking at changing the name because of confusion with the LGBQT movement. Personally, I believe the biggest concerns about our name are that it is perceived as a preschool (only), and that the name has some cliché elements to it that perhaps keep people from regarding it has a credible educational institution. In addition to that, a much smaller issue is that Rainbow is a brand that has been used by several businesses and movements, including South Africa’s Rainbow Nation, the Rainbow Gathering, and the Gay and Lesbian movement. While these are all movements that Rainbow Mountain is sympathetic to and/or aligned with, we don’t want people to confuse us as being synonymous. That is what branding is all about – defining yourself as you, not to be confused with others– even others with whom we have a lot in common. Rainbow Mountain will always be an open and affirming community for all types of families, no matter what our name.
Once the roofs for the gnome village are completed and the structure poles cemented in, progress will be quick. I estimate the project will be done shortly after May 1. Then, the beautiful new preschool playground will be built this summer. Landscaping will also begin this summer, which will dramatically improve the aesthetics of the playground. We are still almost $15,000 short of our fundraising goal. We’ve raised 82% of the goal for the playground, so we may have to decide if we need to cut back on the plans. We would all like (especially the children) to build 100% of the fabulous plans, rather than 82% of them. I think there is lots of hope that a few final donations will roll in to make it happen! Any donations turned in before June 30 will be applied to this year’s campaign – there is still a chance to have your family’s name on the gnome village structure along with other donors. It’s going to be really special. Many thanks to the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and students that helped us fund this project through monetary donations, donating materials, and their precious time!
Sheila is very busy!
Last year we had two tours in the month of March. To give you an idea of how different and busy admissions is: Lately, we average close to two tours a day! It is people like you, who believe in holistic education, and have seen the quality of our teachers and the results for your children, who are recommending Rainbow to new families. Many of you will be receiving a $300 discount on your tuition for next year, thanks to a family you referred who is enrolling. We can’t wait for you to meet the many wonderful new families and children who will be here next year. Thanks for all the great referrals!
The Biggest News of All
Taking into the consideration our busy admissions and our need for classroom space, the board is considering the most affordable and appropriate ways to reach our goal of having enough classrooms for each grade to hold 15 -20 kids per class. At the board’s March meeting, they voted to develop a master facilities plan for Rainbow that will include a round Deltec structure, large enough for four new classrooms! Jeff McGahee, an Asheville-based site planner who has done a lot of great work around town (including most recently, the site planning for Wicked Weed Brewery), will be doing a preliminary master facilities plan, based on physical needs and feedback received from parents and other stakeholders during strategic planning last year. This is very exciting and very challenging, as we have a huge number of factors to consider, including working around our many large and beautiful trees, run-off considerations, sustainability, and more. The goal is to have a plan by mid-May. If our enrollment grows sufficiently, and we can conduct a successful capital campaign, we may be able to build as soon as the summer of 2014!!!
Three artists (and Rainbow moms) are offering three separate weeks of arts programming (and lots of other activities, with academics integrated in as well). SOAR – Summer Of Art at Rainbow – is definitely going to be a memorable experience for your rising 1st , 2nd, 3rd, or 4th grader.
Also, Elana Kann, another Rainbow mom, is organizing a permaculture program for Omega students, and alumni. This will be taught be permaculture expert, Chuck Marsh, founder of Earthhaven. Chuck is a pretty dynamic guy!
Springtime is busy and creative
The main focus for the staff over that last several weeks was preparing for conferences. Just writing the narratives alone requires 20 – 50 hours that each teacher finds outside of class time to complete – and they work so diligently on making thorough and thoughtful reports.
Therefore, for our February training, we did a mandala-making workshop that was an opportunity for spiritual fellowship with each other, inner guidance as individuals, and enjoyable. Our March training was with Donovan Zimmerman, our main Imagine artist. Along with some hard-working parents, they began designing and assembling some large puppets to be used in our Imagine celebration of the arts. Donovan of Paperhand Puppets out of Chapel Hill (similar to Bread and Puppets), will be working with many of the elementary level classes from April 29 – May 3 as our main Imagine artist-in-residence. (By the way, Donovan will spend that week in Asheville with his wife and 1 year old daughter. We are looking for a Rainbow family who is willing to host the family. Donovan is fun, friendly, and will be a wonderful house guest!) This promises to be the most intriguing, fun, and creative Imagine yet. The big Imagine performance will be on Friday, May 17 in the afternoon. The Imagine committee has yet to narrow down the exact time, but it will be approximately from noon – 4pm. Please mark your calendars, and set that afternoon aside in order to see the performance.
More Spring busy-ness: I won’t list all of the events coming up in detail, as you have Rainbow Reminders for that, but some of the highlights are Grandparents Tea, staff appreciation day, the student talent show (many peoples’ favorite event of the year), May Day, and of course Imagine. There is also an open house on April 10, and you may have friends you want to refer for that event. This is a great opportunity to meet your child’s teacher for next year, ask questions, and find out a little about next year. Of course, friends and neighbors are always welcome to come to any Rainbow events.
Spring is always a time for blossoming!