GREENSBORO, N.C. — For a full week at the end of every six-week academic session for The Greensboro Montessori School, middle school students live and work as a community on 40 acres the school uses in Oak Ridge.
“It allows them to apply knowledge they’ve learned in the classroom to a real-life situation,” says Karen Howland, the school’s director of development and marketing. “They work collaboratively, and learn to solve problems.”
Students also tend three organic gardens on Horse Pen Creek Road as part of the school’s environmental program, which is a key focus for students and aims to teach them “to be true stewards of the earth and to respect nature,” Howland says.
Raising the funds to create a position to run the environmental program is part of the goal of the first major capital campaign the school has undertaken since it opened its doors in 1974.
Begun last fall with a quiet phase focusing on parents that has raised $775,000, the campaign now has kicked off its public phase and aims to raise a total of $1.2 million within the next few months, Howland says.
The school ultimately wants to raise a total of $5 million by 2020 to grow its facilities and programs; expands its outreach in the community; increase financial aid and scholarships; grow environmental education; create a teacher mentoring program; expand academic programs and professional development; renovate and “green” its facilities; integrate advanced technology; increase enrollment; and recruit additional teachers.
With an annual budget of $3.3 million, 45 faculty members, including 10 working part-time, and a staff of seven administrators, the school operates in three buildings on a nine-acre campus and serves 315 students, a total it wants to increase to 350 in two to three years, Howland says.
The school hopes to raise awareness in the community about its work, including its mission of educating students and educators alike.
A key focus of the approach to education at Montessori, an internationally-known model, is for teachers to customize what happens in the classroom to the individual needs of each student.
The capital campaign, for example, will help fund a new “education exchange” that will share Montessori theory and best practices with other educators from public and private schools, and to learn from other teachers.
“Our goal is to improve education for our community,” Howland says.
The outreach effort also will focus on the role the school can play in helping to attract employees from other countries to the region, she says.
Campaign co-chairs are Will and Tina Stevens, president of Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants & Hotels and a community volunteer, respectively, and Katherine Weaver, president of Residence Development Company. Honorary chair is Mike Weaver, who is married to Katherine Weaver and is chair of Weaver Investment Company.
As part of the campaign, the school is offering donors the option of making an unrestricted gift, part of which would include a three-year commitment to the annual fund.
The annual fund typically totals $100,000 to $125,000, and the school hopes to raise $300,000 for the annual fund over three years as part of the campaign.
Another goal is to increase the number of donors who have not given to the school in the past, creating a “culture of giving.”
A study conducted by Winston-Salem consulting firm Whitney Jones Inc. on the feasibility of a campaign concluded that, despite the weak economy, the campaign was important.
“Our families agreed,” Howland says, “there was a real need to do this and do it now.”