Running a Montessori School Parents’ Association

So here I am president! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!

Well, you have to put it in perspective right away, in France we like titles, but as I will discover later, I am president of the Montessori school of Lyon’s Montessori parents’ association, you know the one that organizes parties and others. An association with a budget of 4000€ per year, in good years.

Two associations for one school

I am not talking about the school management association, the “really serious” association, the one that manages the salaries of educators, takes all the important decisions, and where we only come in by cooptation, not following a crisis meeting because there is no other candidate.

Far be it from me to make polemics or express any frustration, especially fifteen years later, but this is an opportunity to reflect a little on the governance of Montessori schools, which is one of the topics of this blog. I’m back to the serious business of nothing.

Beyond the first few months, I quickly feel the strange side of the situation: we claim to be a school that is very open to parents (and this is absolutely true for everything regarding relations with families in the educational context, with mistresses, parents are really welcome in the school), but on the other hand the “heart” of the school appears comparatively “locked” and quite mysterious it must be said.

Why two associations in this school? A “parents” association in which the headmistress comes to the meetings to make the link, and another association for the management of the school? I am told that this is historical.

A complicated story with parents

And indeed, I am learning about history: the school was created more than twenty years ago in the form of a commercial company, but after fifteen years it went bankrupt, with a deep crisis and the separation of the two former partners directors, and the departure of many families, a sharing of the school between two camps… In short, it was necessary to rebuild a lot of things, to leave not in another society but by bringing together a group of people who had stuck together during this difficult period, and therefore in the associative format. 

But there is no longer any question of reproducing the previous situation, so we have locked in: recruitment into the management association is exclusively by cooptation. The parent association that existed (next to the management company) continues, and so the school finds itself with two associations, and a somewhat strange governance.

Cooperation, a key concept in a Montessori school

But there is a real spirit of cooperation: I was able to take things in hand, find good will and build a real project team (no one wanted to be president, but many people were willing to contribute), and things are moving forward. And the following year, I was asked to join the management association in order to better coordinate the activities of the two associations (the management association can be responsible for reserving a room, for example, if it is necessary to give a guarantee that the meagre budget of the parents’ association does not allow). 

So here I am, two years after my arrival at school, a real “politician” at Montessori: president of the parents’ association and vice-president of the management association (a position that allows me to participate in meetings and decisions, but without too much extra work). How to bypass a complicated system and ensure a better circulation of information through the accumulation of mandates.