Hi Families and Friends of MOS,
We find ourselves so close to the beginning of a new journey. Year 1 of the Morgan Oliver School. We have so much to share. We've come a long way from the old bike shop we lived in almost exactly a year ago.
My family came back from vacation last week with Laura, Cee Cee, Ashley and Kieran holding down the fort with summer camps and school development. They did a fantastic job, and the chickens are massive. (What were y'all feeding them?)
Our garden space is thriving, although the inclement weather has done a job on the corn and sunflowers. The Squash, tomatoes, lettuce, green beans and herb gardens are thriving and we're preparing for another round of planting in the coming weeks.
Summer camps have been a huge success, largely due to the leadership of Cee Cee and their flawless execution of rhythm, activities and parent communication. Kerian and Ashley have ensured that kids are having a wonderful time with activities and culturally responsive read alouds and I have enjoyed getting to know so many kids and families outside of our enrolled population. Considering that this was our first foray into summer camps, we've had an overwhelmingly positive response with families signing up for multiple weeks and returning campers. We've been running at full capacity. This is the biggest compliment.
Laura and I have been busy with school development, curriculum mapping, creating partnerships and along with our school development committee and fundraising subcommittee, we've been planning events for
our founding families and greater community to come together and celebrate and support our efforts.
Our numbers next year are robust and representative of the city in which we live. We have 22 enrolled students, with over 70% being kids who identify as BIPIOC and over 55% families reporting an annual income of under 25k a year, (or faculty children). The remaining demographics are spread across socioeconomic lines representing families whose income is between above 200k and 40k a year.
These numbers are not accidental. At Morgan we believe in equity and representation and are committed to accept families who will enrich and contribute to our community in more ways than financially. We crave diverse experiences and we strive for diversity in perspective and circumstance. We know that relationships build bridges and dispel stereotypes and limited understandings and perspectives. Our students come from Indian, Latinx, Black, Mixed race, Asian and Pacific Islander and White families. Our tuition structure we have carefully constructed invites participation from every family, and our selection process has, and will always prioritize marginalized voices.
With all of the above to celebrate, we still have a lot of work to do. Let's celebrate a bit more for a moment.
We have secured a food program for all of our students and staff members next year. We have partnered with Red Bead Restaurants
and Marco Shaw, Vice president alongside celebrity Chef Kevin Gillepsie and Marco's newly formed non-profit, "Save Southern Food" to provide locally sourced and ethical lunches for our community. Save Southern Food was formed during the pandemic after Marco noticed a food shortage crises in our Atlanta public schools. They have worked around the clock to provide (at no cost) dinners for families experiencing hardship during the pandemic. Although we will be paying for this service, it is at a fraction of the cost that we initially stipulated, because of their commitment to serving marginalized families. These services will be included in the tuition for our families.
We will provide lunch "Dinner Style" and kids will select the food they are interested in, trying from a big
table, and every human in our school will participate in our lunch program. No packed lunches, dietary needs will be met, including lifestyle choices such as Vegan and Vegetarian. Meals will be built from food that is in season and monthly menus will be sent out giving a broad range of food to be served. This is a development worth celebrating and one which we will need every family to buy into. Gone are food
inequity power dynamics with kids who have access to a varied diet and those families who provide meals for their children by whatever means possible. Food aversions and picky eaters will have a choice of staple go to foods, but everyone will be encouraged to try something new and be food explorers as we dive into the importance of sustainable living and life choices. Recipes and meal plans will be shared through our website...if you've ever been to Gunshow or Revival, you know that your kiddos are in for a treat. Chef Marco and his team have become experts at hiding the good greens in timeless kid favorites.Thank you Marco for our partnership.
Every child at MOS next year will wear comfortable and athletic uniforms suited to the weather. We are still working on the details, but we believe that removing the complicated branding and social constructs of "better clothes" will create an environment which will be more conducive to learning, growing and redistributing power. Uniforms will be included in the tuition costs.
We will remain a shoes off school, but similar to Japanese culture, will have students maintain school "slippers." This is to respect our space, limit the amount of cleaning required- (We have wood floors) and uphold best practices around separating the farm and the home.
Our vision of becoming a 50/50 Dual Language school begins this year. We are hiring and seeking organizations and specialists teachers whose first language is Spanish. We are actively creating curriculum to incorporate literacy, phonics and language classes for students across all levels of the school. Laura's passion and a large part of why she was brought on is her commitment to anti racist work and dual language appreciation. In order to cultivate little people who value and appreciate language duality, we must model that and make space for that development at school. While we recognize that most of our students do not come from a spanish speaking background, we are seeking best practices and working with experts in the field around designing curriculum and working towards integrating content areas to include and build literacy in both English and Spanish.
We are working on various grant proposals and fundraising efforts to meet the gap we are bumping up against when it comes to designing spaces which are meant for more than the wealthy. We know we can do it. We also need your help. There will be opportunities to volunteer and participate as we prepare for our upcoming school year. Teacher Salaries make up 70% of our operating budget because teachers are historically deprofessionalized and they are the CEO's of entire universes which are our children and the future. We pay our teachers well at MOS because we expect a lot from them, and they give so much of themselves. If CEO's and Hedge Fund managers can make six figures, what are we doing? Our teachers aren't making six figures. Yet.
This isn't something we can do alone. We weren't meant to. We are designing a model for education for all. In order for it to be successful, we need buy in from everyone in whatever capacity they're able to contribute. As we all know, there are no free rides, and no one here wants one because we care for each other and respect each others humanity and value those learning and working alongside of us. It is the only way forward as we share our global home and learn to redistribute and restructure power dynamics.
I, for one, am constantly learning and growing. I have learned so much in this journey of forming a school. Some of it has been beautiful, and a lot of it has been hard and has required me to sit with my shortcomings and to ask for help and apologize when I've been wrong or hurt someone. I find that it's good practice.
We are in this for the long haul. Our desire is to become a K-12 school which centers people of color and develops, shares, collaborates and invites other change makers to build and design schools of their own with similar models responsive to their communities. We are scientists, we love peer reviewed systems and structures. We tell the truth, and trust families and kids. We know they trust us, too with their most precious pieces of themselves who will go out and be loud and disruptive and confident and capable. Our ultimate goal is to see the federal government notice an insurgence of divergences in schooling and choose to fund independent schools committed to serving a large percentage of historically marginalised families and let go of the oppressive testing mandates required solely for accountability and tracking for political district lines (and) drastically increase teacher salaries in the public education sector both in primary and secondary education because the data shows we are generating incredible results. This would be an educational revolution.
And yes, we can do it.
We will have field trips and dance parties. We'll have school sleepovers and parents socials, we'll have panels and protests. We'll publish and hold an open door policy. We'll be loud and fierce and we'll search for
unicorns and fairies in our garden. We'll talk about social constructs, gender, identity and race, current events and read books about kids with Autism and disabilities and same sex families and the rich and beautifully storied histories of often ignored cultures in South America and Africa and Indigenous people and we'll cook good food and bake bread and write letters to policy makers and solve complex mathmatic problems we notice in our communities. We'll be investigators and we'll always embrace the squeaky wheel, the whistle blowers and the advocates. We'll invite families in to share their traditions and cultures regardless of background. We love families.
Because...We don't need factory workers anymore. We need leaders with strong voice, conviction and the ability to laugh at themselves when they make a mistake and commit to doing better and apologize and recognize their shortcomings. We need to cultivate, protect and make space for the kids who ask the good questions, like. "Why are people still going hungry when we're going to outer space?" and, "Why don't more people have solar panels if we know that's what will help protect our global home?" and "Shouldn't we be composting?" and "Excuse me sir, but why aren't you following me in this store, and why are you following that black man? Isn't that racial profiling?" and kids who notice a need, but still love themselves enough to know when to draw boundaries. We need kids to know systems and how they work. We need kids to know history and how it shook out, (really) and recreate systems that make sense and take into account the historical and subsequent generational implications impacting people of color.
It all starts with you, and your commitment as parents and stakeholders to support and throw yourselves and your respective privilege into creating a world where systems of oppression are recognized first, and who are willing to put our heads together to do what humans have done best since the Cognitive Revolution.
Thank you, and I look forward to sharing more next month.