This teaching method, developed by Maria Montessori circa 1907, emphasizes child-centered learning and individualized instruction, is a departure from the traditional classroom model that the school has used in the past.
According to a vision statement on the school’s website, the change is in response to a decrease in enrollment at the pre-k through 8th grade school, which has been partially attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic and increased competition from other schools in the area. The switch to the Montessori model is designed to help the school remain competitive and provide a unique educational experience to its students.
While the school administration and the Diocese of Columbus have endorsed the switch to the Montessori model, The school’s website states that the decision was made “with the full endorsement of Bishop Fernandes and the support of the Office of Catholic Schools,” However, some parents of children enrolled in the school have expressed concern that they were not consulted before the decision was made.
Kim Eaton, a parent of children enrolled in the school, a parishioner of Saint Mary Church, and an alumnus of Saint Mary’s School herself, who also said she is not an official spokesperson for the parents, spoke to us about the situation. Easton said that parents are upset that Father Garland, the Pastor of Saint Mary’s, had not provided satisfactory answers about why the decision was made that will affect the students and the teachers.
Eaton also expressed concerns about the impact that the Montessori model could have on students with special needs. “I was told that they will not be staffing intervention specialists at the same rate they are currently staffing,” she said. “That’s a big concern for me, since I have special needs students.”
Eaton continued by expressing concern about the removal of Principal Nikki Ford, who she described as “wonderful.” According to Eaton, Father Garland, announced in an email last month to parents that Ford’s contract would not be renewed. This announcement has added to the frustration and anxiety felt by some parents about the upcoming transition to the Montessori model of education.
Wednesday night Reverend Garland hosted a Zoom conference call to address parent concerns, but many parents gathered outside the school during the call. Parents held up signs “Save Our School” and ‘We (love) Our Teachers,” in protest, as motorist passed by honking in support. With many parents looking intently in to their phones as Reverend Garland spoke on the call, prompting the presence of a School Resource Officer after normal school hours.
A diocese spokesperson said topics covered during the session will be compiled into a FAQ that will eventually be posted on the school website.
The diocese would not comment on matters involving any individual employees.
The implementation of the Montessori model is a significant change for Saint Mary School, and its success will be closely watched by both school officials and parents of enrolled students.
For more information on the Montessori model, visit https://www.wgu.edu/blog/montessori-learning2207.html.