Building Montessori Communities

On Monday evening I journeyed out to 148th and Division to the Franciscan Montessori Earth School to join in a remembrance celebration for Mother Francine Cardew, who died on April 13. I first met this amazing woman in 1977 at a conference in the Bay Area as she shared her dreams with a group of Montessori teachers in the first months of starting FMES. 

Mother Francine Cardew’s thirty-five years as the school’s visionary and leader were reflected in the personal sharing at her memorial. The evening brought together families, faculty, alumni and Portland area colleagues who knew and loved Mother Francine. I was struck by how much the group was like our Childpeace community. Perhaps most Montessori school communities have the same mix of devoted professionals, committed families, child advocates, and happy children. Those who offered comments about Mother Francine remarked about her ability to do what it took at any given minute or on any given day. The volunteers she inspired made note of what the “energy of many” can accomplish. The collective focus at that school and ours relates to doing meaningful work and reminds us that participation is a joy, not a chore.

At Childpeace this is the week the final tally of volunteer hours has taken place and that number totals 3934! That is the number of hours that you, the Childpeace parent body, has logged for this year. When our Board of Trustee adopted our Strategic Plan they included this goal: To have an Informed and Inclusive Community: Children thrive when home and school are in harmony, with both surroundings sharing the same educational values and expectations.

Our vibrant school community is truly the sum of our parts. It is so much more than the delivery of services. When all the members of the community—children, parents, staff, grandparents, alumni, and neighborhood friends—work together, it really feels good. When we bring energy and resolve to our problems, we actually solve a few of them. When we realize our visions (a permanent location for Metro, for example), we celebrate with pride. A broad and deep collection of resources and positive intention is what we are.

I am ever grateful for those in this community who volunteer at the governance level, as trustees of our board. They are ambassadors of “us” in every way and I certainly depend upon their time and wisdom and loyalty to do my job. Some even offer their assistance for their child’s entire journey at Childpeace, which can be thirteen years! They represent you well.

We evaluate the success of our students, our youngest community members, not just by their quantifiable accomplishments, but also by their perseverance, caring, and independence and with the hope that they will know how to create vibrant communities around themselves in their lives.

Mother Francine Cardew took great pride in helping Portland to have an abundance of Montessori communities. She never looked at the different schools with a sense of competition but always with a joy that another school meant more children living in the respectful environment of a Montessori classroom. In celebrating her life, I had another opportunity to celebrate my life, living in community with all of you.

Sue Pritzker, Head of School
Childpeace Montessori School