Kaleidoscope – January 2016

Kaleidoscope – January 2016

Kaleidoscope tileJanuary 2016

Kaleidoscope: The many colorful things happening at Rainbow, from the Executive Director, Renee Owen

As I reflect back on 2015 I am struck by how much was accomplished at our little school.  I am so happy we said “goodbye” to 2015 with love.  Wasn’t the winter program about love…lovely?  ALL the songs were written by the students along with Sue Ford (music teacher), and classroom teachers.  Plus, Billy Goodrum, parent and internationally acclaimed composer, made a special appearance with two songs Omega students wrote with him.  A text came to Sandra McCassim (Director of Operations) during the performance that read, “These songs are all so catchy! They MUST be recorded!” We will see if we can do an audio recording for you.
The theme of every song was love, and I have enjoyed carrying those songs in my head and in my heart throughout break, and into 2016.  In fact, love is my intention for 2016 – inspired by your children.

There is much to look forward to. After completing almost everything on our strategic plan that was written in 2013, the board has been laboring since the parent summit last fall to write an updated strategic plan.  What is next for Rainbow?  What are we called to do?

Lately, it seems we have been called to do a lot.  Below are some examples:
On January 13, two PhD’s who are writing a book on compassionate schools are visiting for the day.  They will be observing classes and interviewing students and staff.

The Ashoka Foundation has asked me to help write a book on changemaking education.  I will be spending the whole third week of January with seven other writers from other Ashoka Changemaking schools, and at the end of the week we will have the first draft of a book!

In late February, I and our new Director of Equity, Kyja Wilburn, will also be spending a week with Ashoka at a national summit to strategize how we can influence the national educational system to be more compassionate and to better prepare students for the future.  Soon after that, in March, West Willmore will be presenting at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, on behalf of Ashoka.

Another researcher, Alan Bush, is proposing to do a dissertation on resiliency based on research at Rainbow. One of his co-workers, Amelia Terrapin, is providing free services to Rainbow as she pilots a program she has created on reflective thinking and group learning through movement. (Amelia has a great TedX talk, which you can see here.) Yet, another researcher, Judy Yero, author of “Teaching in Mind” visited in October, and after visiting 50 schools that she handpicked nationwide, Rainbow was one that she hi-lighted to an investor that she is working for.

Plus, West and I have put together an all-star team to design a high school.  (See November’s Kaleidoscope for an explanation of the XQ high school $10 million grant competition.)  Our concept for “rEVOLution High” was submitted and accepted by XQ, so now we move onto the next phase, which is due February 1.  I encourage you to read the concept, by clicking here.  You can watch the rEVOLution High concept video here, by using the password “rainbow.”

In March, a researcher from Columbia Teachers College and another from LSU are going to be interviewing parents, students, staff, and working with the board on “Blue Ocean Strategizing.”  They have worked with very large corporations and non-profit organizations, and are interested in applying Blue Ocean strategizing to a school for research purposes.  We are honored they have chosen to work with us as their pilot!  This is also a great opportunity to get help in strategizing how best to capture the opportunities we have right now, and how to make the largest impact with the fewest resources (and/or how to expand our resources.)  This is very important as our little school is being noticed all over the country.  How can we make the biggest difference for our own students and community, while helping to make holistic, Seven Domains education widely accessible?

First we need to solve the largest puzzle that we have.  The board calls it “the nut we have to crack.”  Essentially, the “nut” is that we charge tuition and that makes it hard to serve a wide array of families – only a narrow sliver can afford to attend.  Of course, that is obvious, and it is more complex than that.  We have to charge tuition because the education we provide does not fit into the BOX of public school education.  Until we can change that, the “nut” is trying to figure out how to keep tuition as low as possible, so that Rainbow education isn’t just for those in the highest social-economic demographic.  Not only would it not match our values to be exclusionary, but additionally, we can’t prove that Seven Domains education should be available to public school students, if we haven’t proven that it is effective with a wide demographic.  At the same time, we need to have enough revenue coming in to pay our staff, maintain/improve facilities, and to keep a low teacher/student ratio and all the quality programming and we have.

How do we make ends meet?  Currently, we do it by paying our staff very low salaries.  I am sorry to report that Rainbow lead teachers make, on average, about $7,000 less a year than Buncombe County teachers and North Carolina ranks 46th in teacher pay in the US. This is surprising, and quite disturbing to most parents when they discover this fact — especially since we have such amazing teachers and they work so hard! As you know, it is quite a struggle to pay tuition, so it just doesn’t seem possible that tuition isn’t enough to pay salaries that don’t even compare with some of the lowest paid teachers in the country.  However, some straight forward math reveals that when we have fewer students in a classroom than public schools and we staff two teachers in a room instead of one, and tuition is set only a little higher than what public schools receive per pupil, that by the time all our revenue is spread out over all the staff (and staff is 80% of our expenses, annually), that salaries end up being low.

Therefore, the board has decided that we have two major equity issues to tackle on our new strategic plan – racial equity (see November Kaleidoscope for more discussion) and teacher pay equity.  There are only two ways to solve the teacher pay equity issue – either save money by staffing more kids per teacher or increase revenues.  Doing the former would compromise our quality, so that means focusing on the latter.
So, how can we increase revenues?  Tuition is our only consistent source of funding, and it makes up 95% of our revenues. Currently, tuition goes up quite a bit every year, just to keep up with the 3%-6% salary raise teachers receive annually.  If we started providing larger staff raises, tuition would have to increase immensely.  The current average tuition at NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools) is $17,800/year.  Clearly, our tuition is way below that, while our quality of instruction matches NAIS schools, and we seem to have enough demand for enrollment to support a high tuition increase.  However, our integrity and values do not match that kind of tuition increase! 
So, how else can we raise more revenue — A LOT of revenue, like $200,000/year more– without making Rainbow totally unaffordable??  We could have a much larger annual campaign, but the $80,000 we currently have is not easy.  We could raise tuition steeply, but on a sliding fee scale.  This has its obvious drawbacks.  People have also suggested we have an additional fee each year and families below a certain income wouldn’t have to pay it.  Again, this has some major drawbacks. As you can see, this is quite a nut to crack!

The strategy for “cracking the nut”
While we may have to consider some of the options above if we want to pay our teachers fair salaries, the ultimate goal is to get really creative and find funding – consistent annual funding — from outside the parent body.  This is almost unheard of for a private school, but Rainbow is unique!

The strategy we hope to create is to wrap the following two goals together :
1) to impact national education and 

2) to make our own campus more equitable.
After all, with all the attention our Seven Domain educational model is receiving, we should be able to receive some revenues through sharing it. Some possibilities: publish books, train teachers, hold conferences, start “franchising” Rainbow schools – and to use some of the funds from this work to fund equitable tuition at Rainbow.  However, all of these ventures require an investment of labor and money.  So we are beginning to look for large grant funding to support spreading our influence on a national level.  The XQ high school grant is one example, but there are more possibilities. Ultimately, I would like to see tuition decrease, while teacher pay increases, and financial aid (accessibility) increases.  Dream big!  That’s what I tell your kids. I believe this is possible and I will be continuing to write about it in upcoming Kaleidoscopes.

Tuition for 2016-17
In the meantime, we are fortunate to be financially stable, and to have the resources we need to maintain our current level of quality.  This month the board will vote on the tuition rates for the 2016-17 school year with an eye to maintaining that quality while increasing teacher pay and equitability.  Be sure to check your parent mailboxes at the beginning of next month, where the new rates and your tuition contracts will be placed.

Also, in the meantime, one thing that really makes a difference with the “nut” is the annual campaign. We want to thank everyone who donated to the annual campaign.  We actually raised slightly more than the $80,000 goal!  About 70% of all families, including a lot of awesome grandparents, donated.  If you intended to pledge, and didn’t get around to it, it is NOT too late!  In fact, any donations that come in before June 30 will be applied to this year’s annual campaign. There are many campus projects that we can accomplish with extra annual campaign funds, such as fencing off the athletic field from the street, making a CD of our winter program, increasing the counselor’s hours, and much more. Did you know that 100% of the teachers and staff donated to the annual campaign? That is just another example of what a generous community we have.  Thank you to everyone for donating to make Rainbow the incredible non-profit organization it is today!

I especially want to shout out to our fundraising volunteers!!  These brave parents donate their time to go out and ask people for money.  That is a job a lot of people aren’t willing to get paid to do!  They do it for free because they love Rainbow, they love you, and they want to see this school and your children succeed.  So please, go out of your way to thank whoever on the fundraising committee solicited you for your annual campaign donation this year.  It was probably one of the following people: Zack Adam, Sarah Corley, Andrea Rosal, Jenn Tracy, Ira Starr, Neill Yelverton, Macy Pugh, and Claudia Konijn.  They are heroes!  Also, we want to thank Sara Stender for managing the campaign so beautifully this year.

If you found this Kaleidoscope informative, be sure to recommend it to a fellow parent or grandparent.  I also hope you clicked on the high school concept link and took the time to read it or to watch the video.  There is a lot happening, and with a shared vision we can make a huge difference in the future of education and in the lives of your children.  We are a strong community.  Blessings for 2016!

EVENT: Winter Music Performance

EVENT: Winter Music Performance


Please join us for a musical 

“Feast of Love”

This year’s Rainbow Community School student winter music consort features original music written by students, teachers, and special guests. We hope you are able to attend and partake in the love that our children have to share!

Friday, December 18th, 2015

Rainbow Community School Auditorium

60 State Street, Asheville, NC

10:30 AM Preschool through Eighth Grade Performance

6:00 PM First Grade through Eighth Grade Performance

Kaleidoscope – January 2016

Kaleidoscope: November 2015

Kaleidoscope tileNovember 2015


Kaleidoscope: The many colorful things happening at Rainbow, from the Executive Director



November is here; it feels like life is being squeezed into shorter days.  Classrooms have established their mascot names. Relationships have formed.  Academic units are rolling along.  What is your child’s school experience so far this year?  Has he or she attached to his/her teachers?  Is she feeling some success in all the domains?  November conferences are just around the corner, and that will be a good time to get a feel from your teacher’s perspective.  Will Ray, director of counseling, is also available (extension #430, will.ray@rainbowlearning.org) if you sense that there may be a need for some extra intervention, or if you need guidance as a parent.

The Hoedown was a huge success in every way.  The core team of Stephanie Cody, Jenny Hatcher, and Lisa Sullivan totally rocked the planning.  The band rocked the stage.  And parent council and all the volunteers made it all happen. The Hoedown netted $4,967! Did you go through the haunted house?  Did you do the scary tour or the not-so-scary? Aren’t those Omega students clever?  They put all that together in only one day.

El Dia de los Muertos was beautiful.  Thank you to Oscar and Laura (parents of Tona in Kindergarten) for making this year’s celebration especially sweet and gorgeous, and for sharing your tradition.  I have never seen such a beautiful Day of the Dead altar.

Speaking of beautiful, I just finished writing a new Heart of the Matter on BEAUTY, and the place that beauty has in a holistic education.  It will be in your box, and you can read it here.  It is a revised version of a shorter essay I wrote last year.  How much beauty is in your life?

XQ Super School: The Next High School? 
You have all heard of IQ.  Most likely you have heard of EQ (emotional intelligence), and you may have heard of SQ (spiritual intelligence).  Now there is XQ!  The XQ Super School competition is a nation-wide grant contest, calling for “audacious” high school designs that completely scrap the current, obsolete model of education and start over.  Steve Job’s widow, Lauren Jobs, is donating $50 million dollars, with the intention of awarding five winning High Schools $10 million each.  Obviously, this is a bit of a long shot, but when I received an email with a link to the XQ website, I felt called to give it a try.  West Willmore sent me that fated email, and she is coordinating the application with me. The XQ rules require that the school be a public school, and we are not sure how the XQ people plan to merge “audacious” school designs with “government controlled.”  If that is actually realistic, it would be great, because it will ensure that the high school will serve a diverse population, especially those who most need it.  Free is awesome! We are putting together a great team of people who have expertise in many areas.  The concept we are working on has a mission and holistic approach similar to Rainbow: To develop change leaders who are prepared to build a world that is socially just, spiritually fulfilling, and environmentally sustainable.  Maybe “spiritually fulfilling” is more “audacious” than the XQ Super School grant is looking for?  We will see.  I will update you more on this process in upcoming Kaleidoscopes.

Got justice? 
The current Rainbow Mission Statement reads: To develop accomplished, confident, and creative learners who are prepared to be leaders in a compassionate and environmentally sustainable world.  The board has been working very hard on finishing the revised strategic plan, and within that work, the idea of adding “socially just” to the last part of the mission statement has come up.  What is your reaction to that?  Do you want to be preparing your child to help create a world that is socially just?  Some of the representative faculty members who discussed this issue wanted to make sure Rainbow can really walk that talk if we adopt socially just into our mission.  What would we have to do to be more socially just as an organization? As a private school?

Racial Equity is currently the biggest issue of discussion amongst the faculty right now. We have about a dozen faculty members taking the Building Bridges course right now. Plus, we are doing some in house trainings on structural racism, and last night we discussed how each of us develop in terms of racial identity as we mature and become more dedicated to justice.

What can you do as a parent?  I strongly advise taking the Building Bridges course.  It is life changing.  It’s a nine-week course, starting on January 25, on Mondays; from 7 – 9pm. It’s only $35!  Besides providing a wealth of information, this course brings people of multiple races together to have open, honest conversations about race.  Asheville has become known, sadly, as a very segregated city, but Building Bridges is working to change that.  You will be so glad you made the commitment to be a part of the change, by signing up here for the next Building Bridges course.

How else can you help? 
Speaking of social justice, the annual campaign is one of the most important tools we have toward becoming a more socially just organization.  Besides simply paying the bills, it helps us keep tuition down and provides financial aid, so we can have a more diverse and equitable school.  We are fortunate to have much more socio-economic diversity at Rainbow than most private schools, so we recognize the amount each family can donate is very different for everyone here.

My goal for this year and years to come: To spend more of my time on making Rainbow the best school it can be, and less time on fundraising.  You can help by turning in your annual campaign pledge early! Similar to public radio station campaigns, the sooner we meet the $80,000 goal, the sooner we can end the campaign– greatly saving on staff time, resources, and on how many times you have to hear about it.  Don’t delay!  Pledge today!  (Also, like radio stations, you only need to pledge now, and pay later.) We definitely want to meet that goal before the Winter Program, so that we don’t have to interrupt that precious programming to talk about the annual campaign.

An Original
! The winter program is going to be made up of ALL original music written by Sue Ford and students.  The faculty had their first practice for our faculty performance, and it made my heart sing.  I can’t wait to share it with you.

What Happens “Over the Rainbow?”
 The Middle School Open House included a panel of alumni students that was wonderful and heartwarming.  We put a call out on Facebook asking for Rainbow alumni to participate, and had two very full panels of high school students who were eager to talk about their high school experience and how Rainbow prepared them.  I have immense respect for these students, whom I consider to be some of the most wonderful people on Earth.  Soon, there will be a videotape of the panel posted on our website.  Look for a link on Rainbow Reminders.

It’s Easy Being Green!
 Zhenya Fomin, dad of Misha in preschool, installs green roofs for a living.  He has generously offered to install a green roof at Rainbow.  It is time to start “rainbow-izing” the new campus, so we chose the walkway roof that goes between 6th grade and the east-side door to the auditorium.  Zhenya plans on doing the install very soon!

More Green: We are honored to receive TWO grants from the Arboretum: Inspire and Explore.  One grant is supporting the teachers and students in citizen science projects, where every class is conducting science research and collecting data for large data banks for scientific researchers around the world.  Ask your teacher what your child’s class is doing for citizen science.  The other grant is providing funds and help to install a nature trail and a pollinator garden on the new campus.  That installation is now scheduled to be in late winter.

Change is in the Air! With Hoedown and El Dia de los Muertos behind us, we have properly celebrated the height of autumn, which brings changes in the weather and the soul. In our American culture, which is so often centered on the individual, I look forward each year to Thanksgiving, when we celebrate our gratitude for others.  In centering in Omega, the students reflect on a quote every day.  I just found one from Dietrick Bonhoeffer: “In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” I joined Omega for centering yesterday, which was being led by a student.  Everyone was asked to share one thing that they are unhappy about with a partner, so that our partner could then provide us with at least six things we could smile about.  My partner shared that she is very sad about this being her last year at Rainbow.  I gave this bright student many reasons to smile.  For one, she gets to go out into the world and share the beauty and love she has received here at Rainbow with others, and she is truly prepared to do that.  That is something to be grateful for.  All of us here are very rich.

Barnes & Noble Bookfair



Starting Friday, November 13th and ending Friday, November 20th, all purchases made at Barnes & Noble can be credited to RCS! Get your holiday shopping done early or fulfill a classroom wish list while raising money for the school. Just give our Voucher ID# 11708971 to the cashier when you checkout in the store or enter it at checkout when you shop online at www.bn.com/bookfairs
Bookfair 2015

Middle School Open House

Middle School Open House



October 26, 2015

9:00 – 11:30 AM


6:30 – 8:00 PM


In the newly renovated Omega classrooms

Event will start in auditorium

60 State Street


Interactive Middle School Open Housenakaya & sunshine

  • See our classrooms in action

  • Meet teachers & parents

  • Ask alumni about transition to high school