Waldorf families, their program cut, discuss home cooperative

04/03/2014

A week after the Lagunitas School District’s trustees voted to terminate the decade-old Waldorf-Inspired program, parents are investigating the feasibility of starting a homeschooling cooperative.

But plans are nascent. Parents, who went into last week’s meeting thinking just one of their program’s three teachers might be cut, are still absorbing the news. Richard Sloan, the only board member to vote to keep the program, said parents expressed shock at a meeting on Tuesday night.

“People were in tears. Those 46 students were entitled to two teachers, not zero,” Mr. Sloan said.

The board claimed the program was unstable and that kids had been transferring out of the program for the past few years, but advocates said the instability was caused by the district itself.

Mr. Sloan believes the decision undermines the district’s core tenet of parent choice. And although some parents are relieved to have an end to the struggles between the program and the district, many are angry. Kelly McMenimen, the mother of a first grader, wants her son to remain with his friends. She said she has become increasingly shocked and upset since last Wednesday’s vote. She hasn’t ruled out transferring her child to the district’s Montessori program, but she is worried that he might not adapt well.

“I feel like the Waldorf group lessons and group dynamic [create] a container for holding my son’s development,” Ms. McMenimen said.

Although there is a private Waldorf school in San Rafael, many families do not have the financial wherewithal to enroll. A co-op will also present a financial challenge, since families must fund a teacher without any assistance from the district.

School Principal Laura Shain said the district sent letters to Waldorf parents on Friday, offering tours of the Montessori and Open Classroom programs.

And although they can’t make staffing decisions until they know which parents will remain in the district and what program they will choose, Ms. Shain anticipates needing an extra Montessori teacher next year. The Waldorf teachers would have the chance to apply before the district seeks a larger pool of applicants, although they would have to be approved by the program and commit to Montessori training.

One Waldorf teacher, Dorothy Iselin, is tenured and is guaranteed a position somewhere in the district, whether in the Montessori, Open Classroom or middle-school program.