Updates – May 17, 2020
Last Updated: Monday, May 18 at 11:00 AM
Dear City Garden Families,
As we wrap up the 2019-20 school year, I want to acknowledge that this has been an unusual and challenging year, to say the least. Thank you to each of you for your courage, your candid and honest feedback, your engagement in our community, and your commitment to our children and to our collective mission.
I am sharing a number of updates with you here, as we complete this school year and look towards summer and the 2020-21 school year. The information will also be posted on the COVID-19 page of our website at this link.
Thank you for your partnership.
Updates – May 17, 2020
This week some of our guides and staff have shared that they are moving on from City Garden to pursue other opportunities. Every time a guide or member of our staff leaves City Garden, it is painful and hard. Our staff members go out of their way to build strong relationships with our children, parents and guardians, and they do the big work to serve our children and families each day and bring our mission to life. I want to acknowledge the impact our staff departures have on you and your children.
Guide and staff turnover is something we have received significant feedback about from parents and guardians—that the recruitment, hiring and retention of guides and staff must be a top priority for City Garden. I recognize that the departure of several key guides and staff members this year exacerbates this concern and adds to the frustration and anxiety of parents, guardians and students.
I want to state our commitments to you, as we work to improve and strengthen the recruitment, hiring and retention of City Garden guides and staff:
- We have been soliciting and will continue to solicit feedback from current and departing staff regarding what makes our work environment challenging and rewarding, and what we need to do to continue to improve our work environment. We will translate this feedback into actionable changes organizationally and are working to put accountability mechanisms in place to ensure consistent progress.
- We are working hard to hire the most aligned and experienced guides and staff to fill all open roles, and we will communicate with you as quickly as possible regarding new staff appointments. We are leveraging all possible outreach and recruitment outlets and strategies to identify the best candidates.
- We will ensure that every City Garden guide has the support they need regarding curriculum guidance, training and professional development, and time to complete the work that is required to implement our anti-biased, antiracist, public Montessori education program. We have been working to develop an Elementary Montessori Teacher Education Program, which will begin this summer with a cohort of City Garden lead and assistant guides. You can read more about this below.
- Every lead guide from Primary through Upper Elementary will either be Montessori certified or will begin Montessori training this summer through City Garden’s training program.
We have convened a staff Planning Team that includes a representative from each instructional and support team in the school, to engage in decision-making for the school.
- We have hired an outside consultant to facilitate listening sessions with staff, conduct an assessment of our staff culture, and make recommendations to address challenges and build a stronger staff culture. We received the assessment report last week and are working collectively to determine our next steps.
Dr. Davis, Interim Principal
Dr. Davis has let us know that, due to unforeseen personal circumstances, he will be out for the foreseeable future and will not be finishing the school year with City Garden. We wish Dr. Davis well, and thank him for assisting us through the past four and a half months. Please contact Amira Mogaji (email@example.com) or Christie Huck (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions, concerns or information that you would normally bring to the principal.
8th Grade and Primary Graduations, Last Day of School Joy Parade
Next Friday, May 22nd, we will officially end the 2019-20 school year. There are a number of things happening that we want to make you aware of:
- 8th Grade Graduation will take place “drive-in style” on Tuesday, May 19th at 8:00pm. For everyone’s health and safety, we are limiting the graduation attendance to graduates and their immediate families. However, we look forward to sharing the graduation video with our whole community, after the event. Please wish our 17 graduates well as they complete their City Garden journey and move on to high school! We are so proud of each of them.
- Primary Graduation will take place on Friday, May 22nd at 10:00am as a “drive through” graduation. Our primary graduates and their families are invited to drive through the City Garde parking lot and will receive their diplomas as we cheer them on. Please wish our Primary graduates well as they make the big leap to kindergarten!
- We invite you and your family to a Last Day of School Joy Parade on May 22nd from 11:30am-12:30pm. This is the first year in our 12-year charter school history that we will not be able to walk together to Tower Grove Park for our last-day field day—we will miss this! But we still want to have an opportunity to come together in a safe and socially-distant way to celebrate the close of another school year. Here are a few details about the Last Day Joy Parade:
- Cars can begin lining up in the pick-up/drop-off line at 11:30. Cars can drive through between 11:30 and 12:30 as many times as you would like.
- You are invited to decorate your cars if you’d like, make signs, etc.
- We will acknowledge and thank guides and staff who are leaving City Garden—feel free to make special signs or notes for them!
- If you have a Chromebook or other technology items that your child(ren) will not need for summer school, or if you are not returning next year, please bring these to the Joy Parade and hand to a staff member through your car window.
- Students and families on bikes or on foot are also welcome, as long as you are wearing masks and keep social distance.
- City Garden staff will be present and will wear masks and maintain social distance as we cheer for our students and families.
Moving Up Information and Class Placements
If you have a child transitioning into Primary 3, Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary or Junior High, you will receive information soon from that level’s instructional team to help you and your child prepare for this transition. We realize how important it is during this time to share information, create open lines of communication, and build and sustain a sense of connection for our students and our parents and guardians. We will work to stay in communication with you throughout the summer so that you have the information you need to make a smooth transition into the next “level” of our Montessori program.
The instructional team is currently working on class placements for students moving up to a new level. We will communicate your child’s class placement by the end of June, so that you and your child can begin to prepare for the transition.
Principal Hiring Process
Thank you to many of you who have participated in our Principal Hiring Process!
The next and final step of the Principal Hiring Process is a Community Roundtable Dialog, which will take place this Monday, May 18th at 5:00pm. All City Garden stakeholders, including students, staff, and parents and guardians, are invited to watch and participate via Zoom. Please register at this link.
The Hiring Committee has been digesting all of the feedback and input that has been gathered, and met on Friday to determine who our finalist candidate(s) will be. The Hiring Committee includes three parent/guardian representatives, as well as a representative from each instructional and support team in the school and two board members. We look forward to you meeting the finalist candidate that has been selected for the final round of interactions with the City Garden community.
City Garden is planning to hold “virtual” summer school for students in kindergarten (Primary 3) through 8th grade. We are working to finalize details of the program, and will send more information this week.
Calendar and Next School Year
We are working with state officials, city officials, other school and district leaders, and partners across the country to assess how to appropriately plan for the 2020-21 school year. There are still many unknowns, and we will keep you informed as we receive information and updates to inform our decisions. We are currently planning for a variety of scenarios, including beginning the school year via distance learning, implementing a “hybrid” model of some time in school and some time out of school, opening in person but planning for periodic school closures, depending on increased virus outbreaks, etc. Our number one priority in our planning is to ensure the health and safety of our students, our staff and our families. We are committed to supporting all of our community members through this challenging time.
Our school start date for all students is August 26, 2020. We are moving forward with this start date, and are working to develop the remainder of the school calendar, should we be able to hold in-person school. However, we are doing so with the acknowledgement that we may have to make adjustments to the calendar, and that it may not be possible to hold some or all in-person gatherings and events.
Thank you for your patience and support as we work through this together!
City Garden Montessori Institute is Launching, Director Named
It is with great excitement that we share that the City Garden Montessori Institute is launching this summer, and that Jori Martinez-Woods has been named the Director of the newly-forming City Garden Montessori Institute. Jori will lead and guide the formation of the Institute, whose mission is “to provide learning opportunities that prepare adults to implement an anti-biased, anti-racist, Montessori school model.” You can read Jori’s bio and background below.
The City Garden Montessori Institute will launch this summer with its inaugural program, the Elementary Montessori Teacher Education Program. The first cohort of the Elementary program will be small and will consist of only City Garden staff.
We have also extended an offer to an individual from outside of St. Louis to join City Garden as a full-time elementary instructional coach, who will also help coordinate the Elementary Teacher Education Program. This individual has experience as a public Montessori elementary guide, coach and trainer, and will be working with Jori and Amira Mogaji to launch the Elementary Teacher Education Program as well as providing support and coaching to City Garden guides. We will let you know as soon as this hire is finalized. We will also send out an announcement with more details about the Institute and the Elementary Teacher Education Program in the coming days.
Bio: Jori Martinez-Woods, she, her, hers, Indigenous Mexican American Heritage
Jori was called into education at the age of 10 and from that moment has dedicated her life to living into that calling. She discovered Montessori while attending Rosati-Kain. She interned at Hope Montessori as a Senior and fell in love with this Method of education that is designed for the innate unfoldment of the soul of the child. Jori went on to design her bachelor’s degree which focused on Cognitive psychology, Early Childhood Development, and General Education coursework. Upon graduating she was hired by the Japanese Ministry of Education of Shizuoka, Japan to fill the role as a Professional Development Specialist for their teachers of English. After 3 years, she was accepted into the Harvard Graduate School of Education and received a M.Ed. in Teaching, Curriculum and Learning Environments. She also worked for Educators for Social Responsibility where she was introduced to workshop facilitation for adult learners in the areas of conflict resolution, mediation and multicultural education for educators. She subsequently co-founded Civitas Associates with activist Jamala Rodgers and Carol and Arthur Lieber, the founders of Crossroads School. This organization started as a chapter of ESR in St. Louis. Jori was recruited by National Louis University and held an Assistant Professorship for 5 years. This master’s in arts of teaching program was unique as its focal point was teacher research and its design, a cohort model that met weekly for 23 months.
Jori has a deep understanding of the challenges and benefits of adult learners who are enrolled in a professional degree program while at the same time working full-time in the classroom. After her first son was born, Montessori was her choice for him. She was hired by Chesterfield Montessori, formerly Montessori Children’s House, and sent to train at the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee where she earned her 6-12 AMI Credential. Jori has led 6-12, 6-9 and 9-12 classrooms across her Montessori career. She came to City Garden Montessori School in 2015 and was the Lead Upper Elementary Guide, Team Lead and Instructional Leadership Team representative for Upper Elementary. Jori shifted out of the classroom and in addition to the roles mentioned above, she stepped into the Erdkinder Specialist position to provide additional support to the Upper Elementary Team. She has acted as a field supervisor for City Garden Lead Guides pursuing their Montessori Credential while teaching at City Garden. Jori, with her wealth of experience, deep commitment to Montessori, and the manner in which she embodies City Garden’s Mission, is the newly hired Director of the City Garden Montessori Institute.