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Myrtlewood Montessori Academy Proposal Approved!

The Bandon School Board voted (4-2) to approve the Myrtlewood Montessori Academy charter proposal! We will be submitting our charter contract shortly and will continue our search for the funding necessary to open the school by fall of 2013. A heartfelt thanks to those of you who have supported MMA on this journey!


School Board Vote Postponed Until May 14

After a brief discussion and in light of some last minute information, the school board ultimately decided to postpone the vote regarding Myrtlewood Montessori Academy until the next board meeting on May 14. The vote will not be delayed again. We could really use more support at the next meeting. Please arrange to be there! We have an excellent shot at this!

A fiscal analyst at the Oregon Department of Education helped MMA and the Bandon School District calculate our impact on the district, taking into account new legislation that makes it financially beneficial for districts with declining enrollment to sponsor charter schools. Using the Bandon School District’s numbers from the 2012-2013 State School Fund Estimate and our pre-enrollment numbers, the state calculates that the district’s General Fund would increase at least $21,000 in our first year of operation!

Financial benefits to the district aside, Myrtlewood Montessori also stands not only to increase business in our local community, but has the potential to serve as a powerful draw for families near and far. As Amy Strong stated in the Bandon Western World this week, the inclusion of a charter school, along with other proposals to increase options and offerings for the area, would be “a direct way to boost Bandon’s economy”. Another supportive editorial outlined the benefits of alternative educational options and the “unique opportunity” that MMA represents for the children of our community.

School Board to Vote on April 9

The addendum to our charter proposal has been submitted to the Bandon School District. We have been invited to a public work session to present new data and answer questions on April 4 at 6:30 pm in the district cafeteria. This is a public meeting but there will be not opportunity for public comment. Supporters are encouraged to attend! We are very excited that the board is taking the opportunity to carefully consider our proposal before the board takes action at the regularly scheduled school board meeting on April 9. This meeting starts at 7:00 pm although we may not be the first item on the agenda. We also encourage supporters to attend this meeting as well. If the board votes to accept our charter proposal, we can being to negotiate the charter contract and move forward with our plans to secure new funding needed to open the school. If our proposal is denied, we will apply to the State Board of Education for sponsorship.

Read the addendum to our charter proposal here: Addendum to Myrtlewood Montessori Academy Charter Application to the Bandon School District.

Currently Pre-enrolling. Thirty-four students and counting!

In order to be in compliance with the law (ORS 338) as we pursue sponsorship by the State Board of Education, we must first submit an addendum to our proposal to address any remedial measures suggested by the district. However, as the district has not suggested any remedial measures, we will be submitting updated pre-enrollment data to the district as well as to the state. The Bandon School Board will have another opportunity to vote in support of MMA within 20 days of receipt of our addendum. Stay tuned for information regarding our next school board vote!

We currently have 34 students pre-enrolled! If you have not pre-enrolled already, please do so as soon as possible. If you know someone who may be interested in a free, environmentally-minded, high-quality Montessori education with an emphasis on local marine ecosystems, please have them visit the MMA website, urge them to fill out the Pre-enrollment Form, and/or contact us directly with any questions.

Thank you for your ongoing support!

Charter school proposal rejected

By Geneva Miller Contributing Writer Thursday, December 15, 2011 | No comments posted.

BANDON — The Bandon School Board has decided not to support a proposed charter school in the district. Monday night at the board’s regular meeting, much to the obvious disappointment of several Myrtlewood Montessori Academy Charter School supporters in attendance, the board voted 4-2 against sponsoring the proposal, saying the potential cost to the district outweighs the benefits. Board members voting in favor of the motion to deny the request were Francis Stadelman, Wayne Robbins, Fred Carleton and Robin Koch. Kate Valleli and Troy Russell voted against the motion. Misty Berry was absent. MMA project director Jenn Von Bork said Tuesday morning she and her supporters will apply for sponsorship by the Oregon State Board of Education. “The supporters are all ready to move forward,” said Von Bork, who is motivated by the number of families who want to make MMA a reality. “I’m not giving up.” Communication with the Bandon School Board is not finished. Before applying to the state, Von Bork must review a written response from the board and provide an addendum to the MMA proposal addressing board questions and concerns. The school board will then be invited to vote again. Von Bork has initiated the review process and scheduled a meeting with Superintendent Diane Buche for early January. The school board decision did not come as a complete surprise, though supporters were hopeful, given the interest shown by many of the board members. Buche pointed out several compelling elements in the Montessori curriculum, especially hands-on math instruction and year-round organic gardening. In a two page letter to the board, however, she suggested that the district already offers much of the same curriculum and then recommended the board reject MMA’s proposal as too expensive for the district. At the meeting, Buche reviewed possible deficits that would result from the loss of weighted Average Daily Attendance funds for in-district students electing to attend MMA. In addition to reduced enrollment at Ocean Crest, she anticipated the district would bear new costs for providing required services such as bus transportation and fiscal oversight. Based on surveys and pre-enrollment by area families, Von Bork is convinced that the number of families not presently served by the Bandon School District outweighs the number who would transfer from Ocean Crest to MMA. After reviewing enrollment projections prepared by Buche, Stadelman said that losing even half the projected number of students was not acceptable. Koch said the MMA proposal represented a “wonderful vision” for an educational model she would choose for her own family but decided the financial impact is too much for the district to bear. Carleton expressed a similar rationale for his vote and said it’s unfortunate Bandon’s school district isn’t large enough to absorb the cost of a charter school. In light of the application for state sponsorship, Von Bork has changed the projected MMA opening date to fall 2013. Supporters are encouraged to visit the MMA website for information and review the updated pre-enrollment form at myrtlewoodmontessori.com

Bandon Western World: School Board to decide on charter school proposal

» School Board to decide on charter school proposal

By Geneva Miller
Bandon Western World
Tuesday, December 06, 2011 | 1 comment(s)

BANDON — Bandon School Board members are scheduled to decide Dec. 12 whether to host Myrtlewood Montessori Academy Charter School within the district.

MMA is the first independent charter proposal the district has received since the state legislated public charter schools more than a decade ago.

Many community members believe a Montessori charter would provide a complementary alternative to the district’s elementary programs. Approximately 15 area parents attended a public hearing prior to the Nov. 14 board meeting to show their support for MMA. Several infants, toddlers and preschool children accompanied their parents to the hearing.

Statia Ryder addressed the board as an educator and mother. Her work with the Curry Lower Rogue Watershed Council takes her into area schools on a regular basis. She praised the interactive Montessori model, telling board members, “Hands-on is the way to go. Teachers can’t get enough of what I have to offer.”

MMA director Jenn Von Bork said the question she most welcomes from the district staff and board is, “How can we work together?”

Von Bork holds a PhD in marine biology. Her vision for the charter school includes curriculum for local marine studies; she hopes to include Bandon’s middle and high school students in the field work. While several School Board members have spoken positively about the scope of the MMA proposal, cost is a concern. Elementary public charter schools in Oregon collect at least 80 percent of the weighted average daily attendance funds allotted per pupil by the state. The host school district retains 20 percent of the ADM for each resident student enrolled in the charter school and 10 percent for students who reside out of the district.

Many of the families who have shown interest in MMA presently live outside the district or are homeschooling their children. Numbers collected by Von Bork indicate the charter school could actually boost district enrollment by attracting those homeschooled and non-district families, who are not presently served by the district.

Supporter Nicole Kraynik noted that parents who are willing to commute, relocate or homeschool demonstrate a high level of commitment to their child’s education, suggesting those families would be an asset to the public school community.

Board member Fred Carleton said he was impressed by the public show of interest and invited his fellow board members to consider how the charter program might benefit the district over the long term.

“I’d like a more global approach, not just dollars and cents,” he said at the meeting.

Later, Carleton said that, in the past, the presence of a quality Montessori program in Bandon enriched the whole district. Many students who attended elementary Montessori continued to demonstrate academic excellence and student leadership when they transferred back into public secondary schools, he said. Carleton, along with board member Francis Stadelman, asked Superintendent Diane Buche to investigate the number of families choosing alternatives to Bandon’s public schools. According to Buche, specific information about families interested in MMA will help the board make a decision about sponsorship, especially letters to the district that specify whether children are presently enrolled in Bandon schools, by choice or because the students are not yet old enough to attend.

“Pre-enrollment, again with the above information, would also help, so the board can get a real number of students who would need to be recruited from our current school population,” Buche wrote in an email. “Obviously, the more needed from our current enrollment will reduce the amount of dollars available to the students who stay in our regular schools.”

Buche has invited input from Ocean Crest Principal Liz Olive as well. Board members will review Buche’s report at this month’s meeting at 7 p.m., Monday, Dec. 12, in the district cafeteria. Interested families can pre-enroll at the MMA website, myrtlewoodmontessori.com or contact project director Jenn Von Bork at 541-655-0373.

Montessori Seeks Help From Bandon School District

By Geneva Miller

Contributing Writer
Friday, October 28, 2011

Supporters of Myrtlewood Montessori Academy Charter School are seeking sponsorship by the Bandon School District. The Bandon school board will hear public input and consider the proposal at its regular meeting Monday, Nov. 14. The board will not vote on the proposal until December.

Public charter schools are free public schools, sponsored by a host district and accountable for the same academic standards as traditional public schools. MMA project director Jenn Von Bork believes individualized, hands-on Montessori instruction, coupled with local marine science fieldwork, could provide an enriching alternative for area students. MMA would serve students in kindergarten through fifth grades.

Von Bork is a marine biologist who earned her PhD from the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology. She also is a mother. Her emerging passion about her son’s education prompted the shift from full-time research scientist to charter school director. In the last year, she has pursued Montessori training and developed a marine science curriculum that integrates academic subjects. Her vision brings students to a classroom where shorebirds wheel overhead and tide pools brim with life.

“I just want kids to be jazzed about this amazing place where they live,” she said last spring.

The MMA charter mission has struck a chord in Southern Coos and Northern Curry counties. Several businesses and organizations have written letters of support, including the Lower Rogue and South Coast Watershed Association, OIMB and Valley Flora Farm. Many families have taken advantage of pre-enrollment.

“People who are passionate about alternative education are passionate about choice,” said Von Bork. “We feel like the school would attract families to the district.” Her observation is based on the number of letters and surveys she has collected from parents who presently home school or are interested in commuting to Bandon from other school districts.

Brian Kraynik recalls feeling that traditional classroom settings did not complement his strengths as a learner.

“I like the way Montessori lets kids grow at their own pace,” he said.

A seven-year Bandon resident, Kraynik is one MMA supporter who believes the charter school would draw families and actually increase district enrollment. He’s encouraged by the interest Bandon school board members have shown in investigating the proposal.

At the school board work session last Monday, board member Fred Carleton said a public Montessori school could be a boon for the city.

“We can be a beacon for good education,” he said, considering the role public schools play in drawing working families to Bandon. Board chairman Wayne Robbins expressed little doubt the community supports the Montessori model. He will take a hard look at the financial impact of the proposed charter school.

“I’m concerned about how it affects our budget and our bottom line,” said Robbins.

If approved, MMA would collect at least 80 percent of the per-pupil state funding for each enrolled student. While the district would gain from newly enrolled students, it also means a loss of income from students presently enrolled at Ocean Crest Elementary School who choose to attend MMA.

Members of the 2CJ Port Orford-Langlois School District board pointed to flagging enrollment and financial stress when they voted not to sponsor the MMA last spring. Although disappointed by 2CJ’s decision, supporters agreed to apply to the Bandon School District.

Then, in September, Von Bork and 27 other charter school directors in Oregon learned they would not receive federal grants administered by the Oregon Department of Education. The competitive grant awarded to MMA was slated to cover implementation costs, including teacher training and supplies. MMA is requesting conditional approval from the Bandon School District, pending a new source of start-up money.

“Basically, we’re starting at square one with funding,” said Von Bork.

It’s unlikely the state will recover federal charter school funding before 2014. MMA is seeking alternate public and private grants.


Loss of grant funding hits Oregon charter schools hard

Published: Thursday, October 13, 2011, 6:21 PM     Updated: Friday, October 14, 2011, 10:12 AM

View full sizeCourtesy of Arco IrisArco Iris charter school teacher Mercedes
Gomez works with her fourth- and fifth-grade students at the Spanish/English
immersion school in the Beaverton School District.

Charter schools across Oregon learned three weeks before school started that they would not receive up to $225,000 each in grants from the state.

From Portland to Bandon, school directors scrambled to fill the void, cutting supplies, counselors, computers, library materials and turning to parents for more donations. In a few cases, the loss of start-up funds may postpone schools opening until next year.

Charter school leaders want to know why they lost the expected funds and why they weren’t told sooner. The state says the federal government is at fault; the federal government put the onus back on the state. Either way, it could have a long-lasting impact on the schools.

So far, the Oregon Department of Education has not secured future charter school funding, which comes through a federal grant.

“It’s definitely a dark time for the Oregon charter school movement,” said Jennifer Von Bork, project director at Myrtlewood Montessori Academy in Bandon.

Like many of the 27 public charter schools eligible for the money, Von Bork was relying on it for start-up costs.

The Academy may have to delay its opening for another year. The school was expecting about $200,000 to help pay for teacher training, furniture and supplies among other expenses.

“It’s pretty devastating, actually,” she said.

After the dust cleared, charter school leaders wanted answers.

The Oregon Department of Education pointed to the federal government, saying the U.S. Department of Education cut the final installment of a three-year charter school grant from $7 million to $600,000.

The U.S. Department of Education, however, pointed to a report filed by Oregon in June 2010, showing the state had used only $900,000 of the first $9.5 million given it in 2008 and opened just four charter schools. Oregon’s total grant was supposed to be $16.5 million, but came in at $10 million.

“They had not used up all the funds,” said Stefan Huh, director U.S. Department of Education Charter Schools Program. “They had not launched the expected number of charter schools.”

Huh said $9 million is the equivalent of about 20 charter schools.

But officials with the Oregon Department of Education said there’s more to the story than it appears.

Oregon funds charter schools over a three-year period and was finishing off a previous grant, issued for 2005-08, before it dipped into the 2008-11 charter grant.

It had used only $900,000 on four schools by the time the first report was due to the federal agency, according to Oregon Department of Education reports.

Since then, the state has spent the remaining $8.6 million on 48 charter schools, some in the process of opening and some already open, said Margaret Bates, Oregon Department of Education charter school specialist.

The state has used the same method in the past without a problem, said Ed Dennis, deputy superintendent Oregon Department of Education.

“We were being told we had a good track record,” he said. “I think they have reinterpreted a long-standing practice and said it wasn’t OK anymore.”

Huh, who took over this year, said states are supposed to use the grants within the three-year window, and Oregon did not indicate it was using previous grant funds after being awarded a new grant.

“They should have communicated that to us,” he said.

Charter schools are public schools usually operated by a group of parents or educators who are given more leeway in their approach to education. Most operate under a charter with a local school district, which passes on a minimum of 80 percent of the per-student state funding for each of the elementary charter school students. Oregon has more than 100 such schools.

The state helps kick-start new charter schools with the federal funding, which ranges from $56,000 to $225,000 and goes for planning and implementation. The money is restricted to certain items.

Arco Iris, the only charter school in the Beaverton School District, was expecting about $200,000 for its final phase. Leaders at the year-old school budgeted on a more conservative enrollment, said Mary Taylor, chairwoman of the Spanish/English immersion school board. “We still had to tighten our belts,” she said.

The school bumped class sizes to 25, did not add computers to its lab of laptops, scrapped its library and reduced off-site teacher training.

In Scappoose, parents at the Sauvie Island Academy were outraged at the loss of $225,000, said Darla Meeuwsen, executive director of the 174-student school. The school had to eliminate supply and printing budgets, a counselor, digital cameras and other technology. It’s looking for other grants and relying heavily on parents to help provide for the students.

“It’s been an amazing effort, but it has been a tremendous strain on the school, especially finding out only three weeks before we opened our doors,” Meeuwsen said.

Oregon learned about the reduction in September 2010, a full year before it notified charter schools, but it was expecting funds from a supplemental grant to cover the loss, Dennis said. This August, the state learned there was no funding for the supplemental grant.

“I believe my staff never thought that supplemental wasn’t going to come through,” Dennis said. “This one door was closed but this other was thrown open.”

Dennis said he doesn’t think the loss of funds will affect charter school growth in the state.

“I think we’re going to see passionate people opening charter schools across Oregon,” he said. “This is mission driven.”

Oregon was not awarded a grant for the 2011-13 cycle, but plans to apply again in 2012.

Wendy Owen


MMA Charter Application Submitted to Bandon School District

Our charter application/proposal has been submitted to the Bandon School District. Please continue to spread the word about Myrtlewood Montessori Academy and stay informed about upcoming events. Our public hearing will take place in the next few months and we need your support to make this a reality!

The Results Are In!

Thanks to those of you that came to the meeting and/or cast your vote via the online survey. In addition, thanks for your thoughtful and compelling comments in favor of both options. We had a total of 30 responses in approximately 2.5 weeks. The results are as follows:

83.33% voted to transfer the grant to the Bandon School District
16.67% voted to pursue State Board of Education sponsorship in 2CJ

Our official notifications to the Oregon Department of Education and to the Bandon School District will go out tomorrow. Thanks for your continued support!