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In Kids & Family

Dr. Maria Montessori believed that children learn best when self-directed and freed to follow the natural tendency to work.

Tosa moves closer to public Montessori


When Wauwatosa kids start school next fall, some of them might be the inaugural students in the district's first public Montessori program.

Montessori programs are built upon the methods and philosophies of Dr. Maria Montessori, who believed that children learn best when self-directed and freed to follow the natural tendency to work.

Wauwatosa School District has plans to launch the school in the lower level of the Fisher Building, 12121 W. North Ave., which also houses the district offices and Tosa's School of the Trades.

Although Wauwatosa doesn't currently have a public Montessori school, there are private programs, including ones at Milwaukee Montessori School and Children's Workshop.

Jenny Keats, principal at the district's Underwood Elementary School, has been key in Tosa's two other recent school launches -- Tosa School of Health Science & Technology opened at Wilson School three years ago and the new Tosa School of the Trades -- and was tapped by superintendent Dr. Phil Ertl to be the functioning administrator of the Montessori school.

It is unclear whether or not she will continue on in that role once the school opens.

Keats says that the idea for the Montessori program has been in the works for a few years now.

"Shortly after the plans for the first charter school were underway, community members approached Dr. Ertl, with the idea to have a Montessori school as part of our public school district," says Keats. "We have had help from Michele Butz, a retired Montessori director who is now a consultant."

Butz has worked with a number of public Montessori programs in Milwaukee Public Schools.

Keats says that the "tentative" plan is to open the new school for the 2011-12 school year, but that much still depends on the outcome of Tosa's February enrollment and a weighted lottery that would give preference to children with previous Montessori experience.

Depending on the public response, the school could open with a single primary classroom (K4-K5) or up to three classrooms for kids ages 4 through 11.

In Montessori schools, multi-age classrooms are standard -- as is inclusion of 3-year-olds, and some -- including Butz -- have urged the district to consider including them in the program. Roughly 18 to 25 students are required to launch the school.

"Until we are able to get people to quite literally commit," Keats says, "we can't go any further."

The proposal is expected to go before the school board for a vote on Jan. 24. A full presentation will be made to the board at the Jan. 10 meeting.

Positive response to a survey the district conducted among city residents about interest in the potential Montessori program and word of mouth support have led the district to believe the school will have the enrollment numbers required open.

Keats told the school board at a presentation this week that 89 survey respondents with previous Montessori experience would consider a public Montessori program in the district in grades one through five. Additionally, 26 respondents who identify themselves as "Montessori parents" were interested in the program, which would seek teachers with Association Montessori International (AMI) certification.

"We want to provide educational options to our residents," Keats told the board that evening.

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Talkbacks

dukefame | Dec. 19, 2010 at 1:59 p.m. (report)

MPS has several Montessori programs and all have results that meet or exceed any state standards. Guess there are some things working in Milwaukee. What is this the "interview the former bandmates about education blog?" :-)

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