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  • Tuesday, March 09, 2021 10:53 AM | Anonymous

    It is with great sadness that I write to let you know that Countryside Co-Founder


    passed away peacefully in her home yesterday.

    With husband, Frank, Annette was a pioneer in progressive education founding Countryside Montessori School (now Countryside Day School) in 1967. Annette was beloved by countless families and educators for her vision of and deep passion for education, her kind heart, her candid communication, and her indomitable spirit. While we mourn her passing, we celebrate the extraordinary legacy she leaves behind: an amazing independent school and community deeply dedicated to supporting families raise children of fine character. 

    Annette requested that her immediate family celebrate her life and honor her passing privately. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to her life's work and passion, Countryside Day School.

    Warmly, Wendy Calise

  • Monday, March 08, 2021 10:55 AM | Anonymous

    SPRINGFIELD – A House committee will continue to explore ways to extend Illinois' $1 child care copays for low-income families now that Gov. JB Pritzker's executive order granting them has expired.

    House Bill 141, sponsored by Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, would make the temporary benefit permanent for families whose income is at or below 185 percent of the most recent federal poverty guidelines based on family size.

    The bill advanced to the floor on a 9-2 vote Friday with Ford noting his intent to return to committee with an amendment.

    The benefit was offered to low-income families after the Pritzker administration provided $270 million in funding to child care providers as part of the state’s federally-funded Business Interruption Grant Program, along with additional funding from federal coronavirus relief packages.

    The funding allowed the state's child care to continue to operate, while families, many of which were facing economic instability caused by the pandemic, benefited from a $1 monthly copay.

    Copayment for the state’s Child Care Assistance Program is traditionally determined by income and family size.

    The Illinois Department of Human Services requires that the copayment be no more than 9 percent of an individual’s income, according to Beata Skorusa, a child care advocate and owner and director of a Montessori school in Chicago.

    For example, Skorusa said, a single mom with two children in her program would pay a $196 copayment per month for child care services, but the rate varies for each family. Skorusa was one of two witnesses to testify in Friday’s committee hearing.

    With the expiration of the executive order, the monthly copayment for child care services returned to regular rates at the end of February.

    Pritzker could extend the program by executive order, the committee said, depending on whether the state receives more federal coronavirus relief funding.

    Committee members said they preferred legislative policy to executive orders in addressing the ongoing concerns of child care accessibility in the state.

    “This bill is actually a jobs bill because a mother or a father that receives child care assistance has to be in school, or they have to be in work,” Ford said. “And so we hope that we respect the frontline workers that have carried this state during the pandemic and realize how important it is to make sure that every child has access to high quality child care.”

    Rep. Joe Sosnowski, R-Rockford, said he is concerned about how the state will pay for this.

    “If we are going to supplement those funds ... we want a good idea, a good handle on what those costs will actually be,” Sosnowski said. “I know it's not an ultra-lucrative business model in the child care industry and so when you do have to waive those funds, or they're not supplemented by the CARES Act or the state, if you lose 5 percent of income, it can be detrimental to those facilities. They operate on a very thin margin.”

    There is no cost estimate yet because the numbers would be based on pre-COVID rates, Ford said. He added that the number of individuals still reliant on unemployment benefits and welfare because the pandemic also impacts the accuracy of data.

    Ford said he plans to work with IDHS to confirm the cost before bringing the bill back to the committee with an amendment.

    He said he wants the committee to be in agreement before the bill goes to a full vote, but there was still some pushback.

    Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, R-Elmhurst, also raised concerns about the possible impact the bill could have on child care providers in the state.

    “It seems like we're really putting the day care providers in a lurch because they're not getting the copay, but there's no guaranteed funding source from the state once the CARES Act money goes away,” said Mazzochi. “So I would feel very uncomfortable about eliminating the copay, unless the state will step in.”

    Skorusa said she believes the state already has at least some money to support this because of a dramatic decline in participation in the Child Care Assistance Program.

    “The last time CCAP participation was down this much was after the 2015 budget crisis, and it didn't recover until just pre-pandemic in 2019,” Skorusa said. “It took four years to recover, and the numbers weren't even this bad after that crisis.”

    She said participation, according to data from IDHS and the governor's office, is down 45 percent for infants and toddlers and 35 percent for preschool aged children.

    “Permanently reducing the copay to the dollar will help families come back to providers, it will also put community-based organizations on a level playing field with district schools,” Skorusa said. “It will be one of the Band-Aids that helps to ensure that the child care industry survives this pandemic.”

    Read the article:

  • Tuesday, February 23, 2021 11:34 AM | Anonymous

    MSE’s Stephanie Toon has just been selected as a finalist for the 2021 Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching.  This is a great and well deserved honor for Stephanie for her years of dedicated and skilled service to MSE’s students, families and school community.  From her recognition letter:  ‘Your passion for giving students the tools required to cultivate their knowledge was evident in your essay responses and was confirmed by your letters of support.’   Stephanie teaches 6-9, is the 6-9 Level Head, the Director of the Montessori Residency of Chicago, and continues to be critical to the accreditation of our adult training program.  

    Not only is this a high honor for Stephanie, but it reflects the level of expertise, mission driven commitment to the children, hard work, and vision of the entire faculty and staff of The Montessori School of Englewood and the Montessori Residency of Chicago.   

    As a side note, Stephanie is one of two Montessorians selected as a Finalist, out 700 nominees in the entire state, for the Golden Apple Award.  The other is Ali Bizon, a recent graduate of our Montessori Residency of Chicago program.


    Thomas Hale
    President, Board of Directors
    The Montessori Network
    The Montessori School of Englewood

  • Wednesday, August 26, 2020 11:49 AM | Anonymous

    By Sally Schulze

    Read the original story on FOX 32:

    CHICAGO - While many schools are starting remotely, FOX 32 wanted to see what it takes for a school to open in-person.

    Principal Ben Blair showed FOX 32 around Rogers Park Montessori School, which is now revamped for teaching during a pandemic.

    “For every educator, this is their first year of teaching all over again,” Blair said.

    At the toddler through 8th grade school on the North Side, about 60 middle school students will return first. They will find desks spaced 6-feet apart, Plexiglas dividers and very small classes.

    “We've broken them down into smaller pods so there will be between 13 and 15 students in any one space, they won't be mixing together and the teachers wont' be mixing together across those spaces,” Blair said.

    The school is tearing down some playground equipment and will put up tents in the parking lot so they can have lunch and learning outdoors as much as possible.

    FOX 32’s Sally Schulze got a temperature check and health screening to enter the school, just like all students and staff will.

    “We're not fooling ourselves. We know that there may be times through the school year that when the children have to stay at home, but we know that time together in-person is incredibly valuable,” Blair said.

    The school is preparing packets for the 50 or so students who chose at-home learning. But most of the 320 students plan to be back in the classroom, masked and ready to learn.

  • Wednesday, August 26, 2020 11:46 AM | Anonymous

    “This is just uncharted territory for everybody, and there are so many questions about CPS’ plan,” one parent said.

    By Adriana Cardona-Maguigad

    Tuesday, Aug. 25, 6 a.m. CT

    Read the original story on WBEZ:

    Becky Sinclair’s daughter loved going to New Field Primary, a Chicago public school on the North Side. But while the coronavirus crisis continues, she thinks her first grader will do better at a small private school.

    “We are pulling my daughter out of CPS just so she can continue to get really consistent high-quality research-based instruction that I know we can rely on,” Sinclair said.

    This summer, many parents like Sinclair are taking a fresh look at private schools. Some say there is too much uncertainty in CPS, which recently announced plans to start the year with remote learning only, while others are going after in-person instruction.

    “This is just uncharted territory for everybody, and there are so many questions about CPS’ plan,” Sinclair said.

    The school district announced its final remote learning plan after much pressure from teachers and parents who fear in-person instruction is too risky during the coronavirus crisis. This plan expects students, kindergarten and older, to do a mix of online instruction and independent learning activities at least six hours a day.

    High school students will spend most of their school day in real-time instruction online. Attendance will be taken, and teachers have to be available all day.

    But this plan continues to be criticized by teachers who argue the district is not offering the resources to get the job done right, including textbooks, software and computers.

    Sinclair, a former CPS teacher, is enrolling her daughter at Redwood Day, a small independent school for students with learning differences on the North Side. Sinclair co-founded it three years ago. Her school is open for in-person instruction, and she said it has the space and resources to ensure kids and staff are safe. She said her school has seen an increase in calls from CPS parents who are looking for other options.

    Parents looking for in-person school

    Other private schools across the city are also seeing increased interest from CPS parents, including DePaul College Prep. The Catholic high school on the North Side usually has about 25 transfer applicants each year. But this year, “We have seen closer to or just over 50 applications for transfers and I’ll say 20 of those have come in just the last month,” said Megan Stanton-Anderson, DePaul’s principal..

    Stanton-Anderson has noticed a pattern at her school. When parents are uncertain about CPS, they often reach out.

    “I do believe CPS’ announcement of how they were approaching instruction this fall has had an impact on people’s thoughts on what they are looking for in schooling,” Stanton-Anderson said.

    Some parents are looking for some in-person instruction and DePaul is offering it — two days of in-person learning and three days online.

    Compared to many Archdiocese of Chicago schools, DePaul College Prep, which has more than 700 students, has a lot more autonomy and resources. It recently moved to a bigger campus, complete with a new dining hall and four new science labs.

    Many other Catholic schools don’t have that. Nearly all Catholic schools are going back for in-person instruction, and the archdiocese has been criticized by teachers for forcing them to go back to crowded classrooms where children are not keeping the recommended 6 feet of distance.

    Other private schools like South Loop Montessori have also noticed a jump in emails and calls from parents.

    The school has about 160 children, eight weeks through nine years old, and lots of space, including some outdoors. Montessori schools are known for their personalized learning model and now, more than ever, parents are attracted to that.

    They’re also looking to keep their children safe.

    “The questions that first come up are ‘Please describe what your school is doing to help protect my family, my child and the community,’ ” said Mahdi Dadrass, executive director of South Loop Montessori.

    This small school has been opened for children of essential workers since April. Dadrass found a way to keep children and staff safe by following strict cleanliness measures and requiring masks.

    “Every Tuesday, we do COVID[-19] testing for all our staff members … and then we even have outside shoes staying outside of the classrooms and inside shoes going into the classroom,” Dadrass said.

    “It’s not an easy situation for any educators”

    Though many independent schools have new interest from CPS parents, not all that translates to new enrollment. Many parents can’t afford high tuition, which in some cases can be as much as $30,000 a year.

    And despite their appeal, some private schools have struggled to sustain their operations. Many received millions in federal payroll protection loans. Dadrass and Stanton-Anderson say that helped keep them afloat last school year.

    While both private and public schools figure out reopening plans that best fit their needs, Sinclair says they all share one thing in common.

    “It’s not an easy situation for any educators out there, and I do believe that all educators are doing what they can with the resources they have in this uncertain time,” she said.

  • Wednesday, July 29, 2020 5:50 PM | Anonymous

    Pollinator garden located in school's nature playground


    ELBURN – Green Friends Montessori School has completed its 900-square-foot pollinator garden, which is located in the school's nature playground.

    According to a news release, the new garden was funded in part by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Jadel Youth Fund, the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Foundation and the Illinois Conservation Foundation.

    Over the past few months, school families and staff planted the pollinator garden, which includes about 100 plants representing more than a dozen native prairie species including coneflowers, prairie blazing star, Culver’s root, and more, the release stated.

    “Ecology education is a key component of our school’s mission to support each child’s drive towards exploration and learning,” said Green Friends Montessori School Lead Teacher Kathryn Engelking in the release. “This project enabled us to engage our school families in local conservation efforts and will provide our students with a valuable hands-on resource for the ongoing study of plants, animals, and ecosystem interactions.”

    According to the release, as schools across the state are working on plans to resume in-person instruction for the fall, opportunities for outdoor learning may prove to be more valuable than ever.

    “The pollinator garden project came at an interesting time,” said Engelking. “The project required extra time to complete due to the need to adhere to coronavirus safety protocols, but the result is a beautiful pollinator garden habitat perfect for pollinators and for learning. Green Friends Montessori will reopen our doors to children next month, and we plan to spend more instruction time outdoors to better support our students’ health. We can use the pollinator garden as a resource for exploring science, math, language arts, and more. The possibilities are endless.”

    For more information about Green Friends Montessori School, call us at 630-448-2213 or visit

    Read the original article:

  • Tuesday, June 23, 2020 11:49 AM | Anonymous

    A recent survey by RealClear Opinion Research published on May 14 delivered some surprising results for families dealing with shutdown-mandated online learning. While popular wisdom suggests that home learning is considered a stressful, difficult necessity, a strong percentage of respondents report that the experience made them more likely to continue alternative methods of education for their children, even after lockdowns end and schools reopen.

    Of all responding families, 40.8 percent said they were more likely to enroll a child in homeschooling, co-op or virtual school after lockdowns end, compared to just 31.1 percent who said they were less likely.

    The strongest interest in learning alternatives was seen among ethnic minorities.

    Of those asked if they supported diverting portions of their property tax payments to support school choice, 64 percent supported the idea. This high level of support was generally consistent regardless of age, ethnicity or political affiliation.

    Additionally, 69 percent of respondents supported Federal Education Freedom Scholarships (tax credits for individuals and businesses who donate to scholarship organizations that offset part of their donations). Empower Illinois is the program available in this state.

    The survey's reported margin of error is +/- 2.31 percent.

    While some families consider options, others find validation

    While the survey did not address the specific reasons for interest in exploring other education options, the numbers are surprising. Tawnie Cisneros, whose child is enrolled at Joliet Montessori School (JMS) in Crest Hill, has found that this home learning experience only reinforced her choice of schooling.

    Like most parents, Tawnie was caught by surprise when circumstances required an almost instantaneous switch to remote learning. Being a Montessori school, JMS traditionally de-emphasizes technology-focused instruction in favor of a proven, century-old individualized curriculum that gently guides students as they explore their own love of learning.

    "Montessori isn't a screen-based learning model," Tawnie says. "So when we had to move to Zoom-based instruction, we really didn't know what to expect. But almost immediately, I saw that the self-motivation and resilience that my son had learned in a Montessori environment had prepared him to deal with the curveball of in-home learning."

    JMS Head of School Heidi Geiger explains why. "The first principle of Montessori is empowering a child's independence, giving him or her the freedom to explore their world and the confidence to build success on top of success along the way. The result is a more resilient child, one who isn't dependent on close supervision or any specific system, software or workbooks to make academic progress."

    Heidi adds, "This lockdown gave us a rare opportunity to see how the Montessori method keeps children engaged and hungry to learn, even under unusual and stressful circumstances. While the daily Zoom meetings and small-group lessons were important, most of the actual schoolwork and independent research were conducted by the students on their own time and by their own initiative."

    About online instruction, Tawnie says, "My son had to quickly learn about Google Classrooms and email – things that grown-ups take for granted. But he was curious and confident enough to take responsibility for his own accounts, to-do lists and work schedules."

    Tawnie adds, "I also loved how we saw the Montessori principles of grace, courtesy and responsibility show up at home. Our son was used to having community responsibilities in the classroom, and that translated to a helpful kid who wasn't grouchy about chores at home. Being stuck in the house for weeks, those extra hands and extra smiles really helped our family work together and stay positive."

    Online open house on June 25th at 4 p.m.

    For local families interested in more personalized and intuitive education for their children in the 2020-2021 school year, JMS is currently accepting applications. Heidi Geiger, Head of School, will host an online open house and virtual tour at 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 25th.

    Sign up for the open house event here.

    JMS is also offering private tours of the school facilities, either in-person (observing necessary distancing guidelines) or virtually.

    View the original article:

  • Tuesday, June 16, 2020 2:46 PM | Anonymous

    MPPI Summer Newsletter

    Advocacy Spotlight:

    If you’ve been to our conference or one of our workshops, you know we are always talking about collaborating with other education and advocacy organizations. One such group is the Council for American Private Education (CAPE), which is a collaboration of more than 20 national education organizations, including AMS and AMI/USA. During the past two months, MPPI has worked closely with our CAPE colleagues at the national level to advocate around federal guidance for PPP loans and the Education Stabilization Fund, speaking with representatives from the US Department of Education and sending letters to legislators to make sure the needs of private schools are considered. In addition, CAPE has a network of state groups, similar to MPPI, which we have also been plugged into. Participating in calls, often on a daily basis, has amplified our knowledge of how states are handling different issues, such as disbursement of ESSER funds. And recently, one of our MPPI state groups, the United Montessori Schools of Indiana (UMSI), connected with their state CAPE representative who worked alongside them and used his connections to help them get resolution to ongoing issues with their licensing division and Department of Education. We encourage you to connect with your state CAPE, state AEYC, and other organizations working on behalf of children to increase your reach and influence. You can amplify your voice, forge connections with policy makers, and you never know when those connections are going to bear fruit; this past winter, in MD, the head of the MD Family Child-Care Association proactively offered to submit a letter of support for the Montessori Schools of Maryland’s (MSM) legislative efforts to create a pathway to licensure because MSM had established a relationship with her.

    Website Updated with State Workforce Registry Information
    MPPI is working to add new resources and information to our website on an ongoing basis. Currently, we are adding specific state information for the early childhood workforce registry*. What is the workforce registry? According to the National Workforce Registry Alliance, a workforce registry is intended to support early childhood educators by:

    • Promoting and providing a framework for professional growth and development
    • Capturing data about early childhood and after-school practitioners in a variety of roles
    • Placing individuals on a career level based upon verified educational information
    • Recognizing and honoring professional achievements of the early childhood and after-school workforce
    • Informing policy makers and partners

    Participating in the workforce registry is another avenue for advocating for Montessori education. More specifically, the system of state workforce registries outline and establish the validity of educator certifications, education level, and trainings. This information is commonly found on a document referred to as a state "career ladder" or "career lattice". Advocating with your state workforce registry office to recognize the Montessori credential at the level of a bachelor's degree is critical for our advocacy work. As we continue to add state information, go to our website to check for your state's career lattice. As always, if you are interested in advocacy work around the workforce registry, contact your state representative or contact us at

    *Please note that we are still adding information. If you do not see any workforce registry information for your state, please check back at a later date. 

    Opportunities to Expand Your Knowledge

    Join MPPI and our partners for a webinars this week on a range of important topics:

    Title IX and Section 504 Coordinator Training - On June 17th at 7:00 pm EST MPPI will be hosting a webinar with attorney Janice Gregerson to train your Title IX and Section 504 coordinator(s). The same person can be the coordinator for both programs or you can have two separate coordinators. In our previous webinar* discussing these and other applicable federal laws, the attorney recommended that someone other than the head of school serve as the coordinator, if possible. You can register 3 individuals per registration to allow for coordinator(s) and heads of school, if interested, to attend. The event will be recorded so if you cannot attend live, you can still register and will be given access to the recording afterwards. There is still time to register, you don't want to miss out! 

    Building Partnerships: Head Start and Ideal Learning The Trust for Learning is offering this webinar, presented by Dr. Iheoma Iruka of HighScope Educational Research Foundation and Annie Frazer of Montessori Partnerships for Georgia, about creating access through partnerships and funding. This webinar will take place on Thursday, June 18 from 12:00-1:15 pm EST

    Moving Toward Action: Strategies for State Advocates to Operationalize Racial Equity Principles - Join Karen Howard, Senior Policy Director, at the Alliance for Early Success on June 19th (Juneteenth) at 2:00 to 3:15 EST to discuss intentional action items that center equity in your organization. The intended goals of the call (as advertised by Alliance for Early Success) include:

    • Provide an overview of principles to pursue anti-racist and equitable policies to dismantle persistent inequities 
    • Examine concrete actions organizations can take to undo barriers created by systemic racism
    • Offer examples and discuss opportunities in federal, state and local policy pursuits

    Advocacy Work and Call To Action
    Like everyone in the Montessori universe, for the past few months MPPI has been heads down at work on finding solutions to the cascading problems caused by the Coronavirus crisis. We know that for months to come school administrators will have full plates adapting to new policies that will need to be implemented to keep children and staff safe at schools and child care. Still, we are acutely aware that many of you were starting or midstream on advocacy work for policy changes that would enable Montessori programs in your state to operate more freely and reach more children, and we want you to know that we are here to support that work. While we will continue to prioritize assisting Montessori programs in navigating the changing policy landscape in response to the health and financial crisis, we are also designating time to make sure we are available to support advocacy work specific to the needs of Montessori. We have seen in recent weeks that some states are looking at redesigning child care licensing and other systems that were not prepared to handle the current crisis so it is a great time to be watching out for changes and reaching out to be in the conversations.   Please reach out if there is something you have been hoping to get to work on, or would like to get back to work with. We are here for you!  

    Take Action - Advocacy work is often collaborative work. Join the National Women's Law Center in supporting the Child-Care Essential Care Act to fund the child care sector during COVID-19. For more information and to take action, click here

    What's New at MPPI:
    New Board Members - MPPI would like to welcome our new board members that join us with a well-rounded and rich history in Montessori advocacy. The following new class of board members join us at an exciting time as we continue to develop Montessori advocacy strategies to move MPPI forward and fulfill our commitment to children.  

    Heather Gerker: Co-founder Kentucky Montessori Alliance; PhD Student in Education Policy and Teacher Education, Teacher Educator.

    Vyju Kadambi: Vice President and Advocacy Committee Chair, United Montessori Schools of Indiana; Founder, Southwest Montessori Academy.

    Gracie Martinez: Board Member, Pacific Northwest Montessori Association; Board Member & Finance Chair, Washington Federation of Independent Schools.

    Trisha Willingham: President and Founding Board Member, Virginia Montessori Association; Consultant and Student Support Coordinator at Mountaintop Montessori.

    We also welcome AMS Executive Director Munir Shivji and AMI/USA Interim Executive Director Alan Preece to our board. And many thanks to outgoing board President, Charis Sharp for her leadership in MPPI's nascent years.

    MPPI Conference
    Just like many others, MPPI has had to reconsider how we continue to present our organization's work and provide networking opportunities for Montessori advocates. This year, we are happy to announce we are offering our annual conference virtually this Fall. Stay tuned for a save the date announcement and registration details! 

    *If you were not able to attend a previous MPPI webinar and would like access, you can retroactively register to obtain the recording and slides. Contact MPPI at if you have any questions. 

  • Friday, June 12, 2020 12:52 PM | Anonymous

    It is with profound shock and sadness that I share with all of you that our beloved Maria Whelan very suddenly passed away on June 10, 2020. We extend our heartfelt condolences and sympathy to Maria’s family. Our thoughts are with them at this most difficult time.

    Effective immediately, April Janney, Senior Vice President of Operations will serve as our acting CEO, supported by our Senior Vice President Leadership Team. A further statement regarding Maria’s passing will be made in due course.

    We know that our collective early childhood community shares our heart break as we process the loss of our fearless leader, colleague, mentor, and champion for children and families. 

    In service,
    Celena Roldan, Illinois Action for Children Board Chair

    Chief Executive Officer
    American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois
    2200 W. Harrison Street
    Chicago, IL 60612
    C 312.965.1830

  • Monday, June 08, 2020 1:15 PM | Anonymous

    June 8, 2020

    Dear Montessori Community,

    It is with great excitement and pleasure that the Board of Directors of the American Montessori Society announces the hire of Munir Shivji as our new executive director, effective Tuesday, June 9, 2020.

    Munir brings to the ED role a career-long dedication to the Montessori Method, our community, and especially, the children we serve. A 7-year veteran of our board of directors, he is also founding head of 2 Montessori schools and founding director of an AMS-affiliated teacher education program. In addition, he is a former program director at an AMS-accredited school, a former Montessori classroom teacher, and a Montessori alum. You can read more about Munir here.   

    The process that resulted in Munir’s hire was led by a board-appointed Search Committee comprised of community members, staff, and board directors. The committee recognized that Munir’s experience in the Montessori community, along with his deep and clear understanding of our organization, uniquely qualified him to immediately assume the functions necessary for leading us during this time of crisis arising from the global pandemic and the national heightened awareness of systemic racism.

    We like to think that Munir’s parents recognized, when they gave him his name—“Munir,” in Arabic, means bright, brilliant, radiant—that their son would one day bring light and clarity to our community.

    We know you will join us in welcoming Munir to his new role as AMS executive director. 


    Amira Mogaji, AMS Board President
    On behalf of the AMS Board of Directors

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