Don't consolidate Montessori schools in one building

Posted: Monday, January 07, 2008

This letter is to alert taxpayers to the fact that Juneau School District Superintendent Peggy Cowan is creating a de facto Montessori charter school within the district at public expense.

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Folks should recall that I was able to defeat an application for the granting of a charter for the Juneau Montessori Charter School a couple of years ago by testifying before the state Board of Education, which turned down the charter application.

Cowan has made the unilateral decision to expand the existing district Montessori program offered by the district. Cowan is attempting to accomplish the expansion and consolidation through the back door.

Current district Montessori classrooms have only one-third of the special needs children that are in mainstream classrooms. What a deal! How do they rate an exemption? Do current Montessori classrooms reflect the ethnicity/demographics of the population of the district?

Cowan's plan as proposed is to pretty much take over one of the existing district elementary schools and consolidate all of the district's existing Montessori classrooms within one building because they say they want to be together. This expanded Montessori will encompass several classrooms.

I have heard that Cowan has her eye on Mendenhall River Community School as the likely candidate. How do Mendenhall River families and tax payers feel about the taking over of their building? Has there been a public meeting or any kind of public process to vet this? Are Mendenhall Valley residents even aware of it? How is the district going to pay for busing Montessori students from all over the borough to a central location?

The district Facilities Committee will meet on the proposal, and I urge interested parents to attend and protest this resource grab. This constitutes a de facto charter school. This is an example of vocal, upper middle class families desirous of a private education for their children at public expense grabbing resources from mainstream schools. Call your local principal and find out how he/she feels this will impact their school.

None of the current elementary principals want a consolidated Montessori within their buildings, and they have signed a letter to that effect to the superintendent. Interested tax payers and parents should read the district meeting notices in the Juneau Empire and show up and voice their opinions or live with the aftermath!

Edith McHenry


Editor's note: A public meting of the site countil for the Mendenhall River Community School will take place tonight at 6 p.m. in the school library.

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