Starting a Sudbury School

Hi, this is my overview of the process of starting a Sudbury School from someone who went down that path for a while in 2007 before deciding to move to Framingham, MA (location of the Sudbury Valley School).

  1. “Getting it” — step 1 is to understand the model.  Watch videos at the SVS website and their youtube channel.  Read the bounty of free “featured essays”, blog articles, and “About SVS” pages.  It will make more and more sense as time goes.  Even I understand the ideas much better in 2016 than I did 9 years ago in 2007.  But that’s OK!
  2. Order some books.  There are MANY MANY MANY that I have enjoyed over the years, but you will want to eventually order the “School Starting Kit” at http://bookstore.sudburyvalley.org/category/running-school    It has months of reading, including “Announcing a New School” the story of SVS’s opening.  It’s also very interesting to read the Handbook and Bylaws.
  3. If you are really thinking seriously about starting a school and have ordered the kit, you can ask more questions on a private email list that has staff from many other Sudbury schools on the list.  There is also the public DSM (discuss sudbury model) list, but the private list will be much more useful
  4. Talk to people — I image some people you meet on the email list will be happy to talk to you.  And there is also a semi-annual unofficial Sudbury School conference that happens.  I believe the next one is in June 2016.
  5. Visit — It might be hard to visit Sudbury Valley School, but if not them, then I am sure some school will allow it!
  6. Get ready to be an EXPERT in finances.  The main thing to realize is that finances are split between salaries (and health insurance… expensive!) and the building (rent or mortgage, upkeep, utilities) and insurance.  It’s a lot and since it’s paid for by fluctuating enrollment, wow… not easy!

The main thing I learned going through the start-up process is that 1) I was not personally a good enough speaker to pull others into the project 2) By looking at populations of local towns and cities, it was clear that the towns that would have made most sense for starting a school nearest to us was still a 40 minute drive from our house.   So since this was a long drive (on top of starting AND RUNNING a school) it was MUCH easier to just move to Framingham. 3) “Build it and they will come” — I am not sure how solid this rule is, but it seems like typically it helps A LOT if you are able to have a great building and outside area.  Otherwise it’s difficult to attract families to the project.  When new families see SVS for instance (huge stone mansion in great repair, beautiful 10 acre grounds right on the edge of a pond and 100’s of acres more of conservation land) I think that is a pretty easy part of the sell.

Luckily, in 2016 Sudbury schools are getting to be rather well known and there is a growing number of well-established schools with years of experience to learn from.

Go for it!  But be ready for a lifetime of (rewarding) work!

 

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