All-School Community Conversation - 1/22/2020

January 23, 2020

Dear Da Vinci Waldorf School Community,

Thank you to those able to join us for our gathering last evening. We had a wonderful group of families, faculty and Board members and it was the beginning of some exciting conversations to come as we begin creating our future plans both in the near and far terms. There were many unable to join us for a variety of reasons but it is a priority that we reach out and keep everyone in the loop as to where we are a community. It is hard to capture everything in notes and especially hard to capture mood or energy in the room. Upon first reflections there was enthusiasm and interest in the topics on our agenda, gratitude for the early invitations to explore ideas as well as creative possibilities for meeting challenges and the delight in engaging in important discussions and directions for the future development at our school. 

More detailed information will be shared as it becomes available for future conversations and planning sessions.

Introduction/Song and Verse

Thank you to Elizabeth English for leading us in song! The lyrics of the song led into our meeting beautifully:

We each live in the other
The whole in every part.
One breath of life shall move us
To unity of heart.

Rudolf Steiner’s Fundamental Social Law was read out as a further context setting regarding our collaborative work with one another as a community. This Social Law is at the heart of how we are striving to work as a community within a Waldorf School. A kind of “pay-it-forward” if you will. 

The well-being of a community of people working together will be the greater, the less the individual claims for himself the proceeds of his work; that is, the more of these proceeds he makes over to his fellow-workers, and the more his own needs are satisfied, not as a result of his own work but as the result of his own work but as the result of the work done by others.

Class Configuration Discussion

After a review of the agenda, Elizabeth English opened our first big conversation topic: Class Configuration for 20-21. This is a big topic, there have not been any decisions made regarding next year nor would this be a decision-making meeting, rather this is a time to gather thoughts and share the elements that go into making such an important decision for the children. Our first and primary goal is to provide your children with an excellent Waldorf education and experience. Elizabeth shared a historical perspective and image of Da Vinci Waldorf School being a small school with demographics that include everyone who wishes to be here. There is no benefactor to provide the resources for the ideal that we wish to create but that this community has made things happen through creativity and sacrifice through some challenging times as well as more prosperous times. We are in the business of cultivating and tending relationships. We feel everyone is here for a reason. She reiterated our reliance on strong and early enrollment to imagine our program and that it can feel like a “chicken and egg” scenario.

The upshot is there is a great deal of thought and conversation prior to landing on the best solutions for the children.

Some additional thoughts:

When balancing needs to occur, between enrollment and staffing an important intention is to discontinue the habitual impact primarily to the faculty and staff, our most valued resource. 

Our educators are Capital.

Space is a challenge but there are ways to be creative. A further exploration of the limitations and possibilities our current home offers as well as perhaps exploring new options. Chad Bantner has made some excellent connections with the local authorities and further study may prove beneficial. Some facts—in our current arrangement, we only have 6 classrooms available for grades 1-8, so some combination of grades remains likely in the near term.  Currently grades 3-4 and 5-6 are combined, and our teachers and staff work hard to make these combinations a positive influence, enjoying the options and efficiencies provided by a larger class while still ensuring each child receives the appropriate Waldorf curriculum for their specific grade level.  Da Vinci Waldorf has a track record of success in making these arrangements work, but it is not a perfect solution. Parent and community buy-in is critical, and we are open to exploring all opportunities, even ones that have been looked at and decided against (for one reason or another) in the past.  

Early Childhood enrollments are KEY! They feed into the grades to strengthen from the bottom up. These families demonstrate long-term commitments.

An ideal is to maintain a commitment to a stand-alone first grade class as this is a crucial transition point for both the child and parents.

Middle School grades may be an easy target for combination but there is a desire to ensure our current students’ experiences and honor them. They long to be seen. 

Focusing on retention in the grades is important.

Some families trust that these decisions will work out for the best but there is a desire to maintain stand alone early grades.

We are in a new phase of community engagement in these important processes. We have a strong focus on transparency and engaging and listening to the community in this process.  We actively seek and value your input!

Following this discussion we transitioned to our second topic: 

Budget Performance Update

Our new treasurer, Christian Canga prepared a handout as a snapshot for this purpose, a copy of which you can find here. The overall view is that we are in a solid position due to conservative estimates around which the budget was built. Christian encouraged families to re-enroll as soon as possible to provide greater security in the numbers and projections on which to build the budget for 20-21. With strong enrollment, agreed upon goals and timelines we can begin to unlock resources to meet ideals and priorities in terms of expenditures. 

There was a desire spoken to dive deeper into the budget and once we have re-enrollment numbers in, we can prepare a conversation and discussion around building the budget with FiCom (Finance Committee).

Strategic Planning Process

Matt Myren, President of the Board stepped up next to speak to the Strategic Planning process DVWS is beginning. He likened the process to going on a family vacation and all the negotiations required. Some wishes and desires may not be fulfilled or perhaps merely delayed but all voices will be heard and suggestions considered. The next Strategic Plan must be OUR plan. Our plan will require participation. 

Matt along with Christian will be the primary drivers of this strategic process. We have identified a succinct “Strategic Plan on a Page” format to work with and share the goals, success measures and initiatives. DVWS’ Plan on a Page was handed out with values statements on the back, and you can find a copy here. Please download, print, and complete the form with your own recommended goals and initiatives. These may be returned to Marianne or anyone in the office for review, collection, and data mining.  Your input is important!

A key goal is to bend the trend line which can be seen in our enrollment. It will require new goals, maybe even audacious goals. Audacious goals are welcome with an understanding that we will need to build a timeline and pathway for attainment. We will need to prioritize goals as well and there will be more conversations and discussions to engage with the community. No doubt there will be mistakes, as we are human beings, however we plan to be flexible, learn from any mistakes and plan smartly for successful execution of initiatives.  Our focus is on  transparency and seeking of input along the way to strengthen our collective bond, work in service towards each other and build and maintain trust in our community.  We look forward to working with you, and all input is welcome! 

You can email thoughts or questions to

or speak with any of us directly.

In closing we spoke about:

  • Coffee Talk on Monday (1/27) at 8:30AM
  • PARTICIPATE in the Giving Circle - donate any amount and participate in the event on 2/1 at the Relationship Center
  • Sell your raffle tickets
  • ENROLL beginning February 3
  • Clear your calendar on April 25th! Spring Fundraiser, Chili Cook-off, Trivia Night
  • Bring along a friend to the next conversation!
  • WOM (Word of Mouth) is our best marketing tool!
  • THANK YOU for coming.
Morgan Branson
Morgan Branson
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