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This forum is open to all Waldorf parents. You are encouraged to discuss the topics posted on this blog using "comments". If you have a question you would like to have addressed, please e-mail me, and I will put it on my schedule of topics. Contact me as well if you would like to post a topic yourself, so I can send you instructions.

Please remember, this forum is about supporting one another, our children, our teachers and our schools. By participating in this forum, you agree to keep your thoughts and ideas positive, even, and especially, when the topics are delicate. Try to avoid naming specific people or schools except when congratulating them on achievements. I reserve the right to remove any postings or comments that are not in the spirit of compassionate mutual support.

- Ms. Ilian

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Understanding Waldorf School Structure: Part II

     The second primary governing body in a Waldorf school - in fact in any private school - is the advisory board. It consists of teachers, parents and, ideally, community members. All are volunteers. Usually joining the board involves an application and acceptance process, and this process is often initiated by a personal invitation from a teacher or board member. It is possible, however, to apply for board membership through personal initiative and demonstrated interest and commitment. Having certain useful skills helps too.

     What skills are useful to the board? This is best determined when one understands the board's responsibilities. These responsibilities are to oversee the legal and financial health of the school. The board has a number of important committees that include, but are not limited to, finance, development, site. The school charter and/or bylaws are drawn up by the board. So are the various contracts for employment, enrollment, and the like. For this reason, a strong, healthy board will include lawyers, accountants, business people, contractors, grant writers and the like. The presence of teachers on the board ensures that the faculty and board are able to work closely with one another where their individual responsibilities overlap. It also helps the board to educate the teachers regarding the business aspects of running a school, while the faculty is able to help the board learn more about Waldorf education and its underlying philosophy.

     Like the faculty, Waldorf school boards usually try to work by consensus. This can result in slower decision making, but usually also in well thought-out decisions that are supported by all members, leading to greater stability. The school's paid administrative staff plays a large roll in helping implement board decisions. In this way, overseen by the board and carried out by faculty, administration and committee volunteers, the policies of the school are carried out, bills are paid, tuitions and donations are collected, and legal requirements are met.

     I welcome my readers who have served on Waldorf school boards to elaborate on what I have described here, and for those who have more questions regarding the work of the board to ask them so that they can perhaps be answered.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Understanding Waldorf School Structure: Part I

What Does "A Faculty Run School" Mean?

     There is often a lot of confusion surrounding the structure of Waldorf schools, and first among the many items creating this confusion is the term "faculty run". In simplified form, this refers to the idea of the faculty being involved in all aspects of the school. It is an important concept. Rudolf Steiner wanted the teachers to involve themselves in the administration of the school as well as in the classroom work. He hoped in this way to keep the teachers grounded in the life of the world outside the sphere of pedagogy and  philosophy. He wanted the teachers to work together to create the policies as well as the curriculum of the school. Because of this, it is unusual to find a classic pyramidal structure with a superintendent, principal, etc. managing a faculty that in turn manages the children. How, then, is the structure of Waldorf schools to be understood?

     There are a number of visual diagrams representing a typical Waldorf school structure, ranging from a sort of venn diagram of interlocking circles to a three-pillared temple. In general, though, they show the same basic thing: three "governing" bodies working cooperatively and helped by professional administrative staff. Today I want to talk about the faculty's role as governing body of the school.

     The faculty's primary role is, of course, pedagogical. The teachers meet regularly to discuss the curriculum, the classes and the children. Theirs is the oversight over the learning as well as the social life of the children. They therefore also set the policies for discipline, dress code and the like for the children,  as well as for themselves. They agree to the calendar, the rhythms of the day, week and year,  and the festivals to be celebrated. They are responsible for the beauty and cleanliness of the classrooms and other school spaces, and for the presence of appropriate equipment and supplies, both indoors and out. Parent education and communication are also the responsibility of the faculty. Working with administrators and communicating with, and participating in the other committees of the school, including the two other "governing bodies" (board and parent group) is essential to the work of a Waldorf faculty. In designating a Waldorf school as "faculty run", the faculty's role as the body having oversight over the affairs of the school is affirmed.

     It is understood, however, that the faculty is not able to do all things and have all the skills essential to the successful operation of the school. They need - and seek - help from the school parents and the community at large. The primary source of help comes from the other two "governing bodies", the advisory board and the parent group. I will talk more about the role of the board in the next post, and about the parent group in the third section. I invite you to help flesh out this overview on school structure in the comments. Waldorf schools can be as varying as the people that inhabit them, and the towns in which they are located. It is precisely this variation that keeps the structure living, growing and changing.