The limits of associative management in a Montessori school

I continue my reflections on Montessori schools and the limits of associative management.

This is an important subject because many schools open every year, and this subject of the legal form is often problematic for the creators of the school.

A school is an economic entity

The first subject, which has constantly challenged me for years: a school is an economic entity, which distributes salaries each month to its employees, and sometimes manages substantial budgets of several hundred thousand euros per year.

So yes, of course, the director (there is still an overwhelming majority of women in this role) is present every day, and ensures the daily functioning.

But what about the management structure when it is an association?

Do not make the director take responsibility for everything

As we have seen, legally, the director cannot totally be in charge, he/she can only act by delegation.

When I was president of the Maria Montessori Les Aiglons middle school (we were created in the form of an association before switching to a cooperative company), I had thus formalized a delegation of signature to be able to incur expenses up to 1000€ for the director, which allowed her to operate for most of the daily expenses without having to refer to me each time, while keeping an eye for all the important expenses. 

But we must keep in mind, on the one hand, that it is a delegation, so you are still responsible, and on the other hand, that this delegation cannot be total.

On the other hand, I know a number of schools where the treasurer spends every day signing cheques, or comes once a week and waits for no expenses except in emergencies (which can be reimbursed on an expense account for example). It must be admitted that this is not the greatest flexibility, and from my point of view, it is only a reflection of the fact that the associative form is not the best in this case.

It goes for the daily management. 

General meetings of shareholders

At the annual general meeting, there is also a strange number: it is obviously the director who presents the report on the past year’s activities, which is generally well listened to … but what about the “moral report” presented by the president? What is its role?

We can try to build something on the themes of relationships with parents, the life of the association as such, as if we could really separate it from the school (not at all if it is an unopened “association”), but frankly it is a little artificial.

And I am not talking about these meetings of the board of directors or the bureau of the association, where it is of course the director, and that is normal, who although simply invited without voting rights, proposes and encourages the various decisions.

This is another strange way of running the school.

What about the educational team in all this?

A final issue is the link with the staff, the educational team in the first place but also the rest of the staff that is often forgotten: cooking, cleaning, etc. They are not at all involved in this associative governance, except at the annual general meeting. Which is a little limited please have some frustrations.

You get it, after all these years, I am not a big fan of this associative governance for Montessori schools, even if it may correspond to a local context. 

That being said, in relation to the various limitations I have identified, original solutions exist: I would like to talk to you in a future post about the collective intelligence process deployed at the Montessori school in Lyon over the past few years.