The New School News

March 13, 2022

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Reminder: School Begins at 8:30

We know that over the course of Intensives, the start time for school was a bit "soft," but our new schedule this semester has classes beginning promptly at 8:45. We are committed to beginning our Morning Meetings promptly at 8:30. Students arriving after 8:30 may miss important announcements/information about the day. Please do your best to arrive at school prior to 8:30. The building is open beginning at 7:30.

Attendance is taken during the morning meeting. If students are late, they must check in with Susan in the office before going to class. As a reminder, if you are going to be absent or late, please notify the office. We worry about folks who aren't where we expect them to be when we expect them to be there. Communication helps everyone.

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Student Volunteer Recognition

Thank you, Cohen, Effy, and Jethro!

Last week, Outta the Box received a donation of a houseful of high quality items, however the donor was unable to deliver the furniture to the store.

Cohen volunteered to help out, and he recruited Effy and Jethro to help as well. Together with Scott, this crew packed up and moved truckloads of items to the store. This donation will bring in close to $1000!

Thank you, Ryan and Morgan!

Ryan and Morgan worked with Christine to rearrange, reorganize, and declutter the Common Room on Wednesday. It's not quite finished, but it feels like a new space!

Spring Festival Volunteer Sign Ups

Thank you to those who signed up for volunteer assignments at our May 21 Spring Festival! This week you will receive an email with available slots if you haven’t yet added your name.

Spread the Word! Open House April 2

The Admissions Team will be hosting another interactive Open House at The New School on Saturday, April 2 from 10-1. Like our event in October, we will be running an abbreviated school day complete with lunch and sample classes. Current students are strongly encouraged to attend. We will be advertising this event across multiple channels, but we need your help to attract the largest audience possible! Please remember to "like" comment, and social media posts about TNS to help boost our message, and don't forget to talk us up with people you meet who have school age children. Let's stop being the best kept secret in education in Southern Maine.

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Dates to Remember

Upcoming Dates for Your Calendar
  • March 14: Admissions Team meeting 6:00 Zoom
  • March 17: Events Team meeting 6:30 Zoom
  • March 25: Final Friday "Game Night" at TNS (bring your friends!) 6pm
  • Wednesday, March 30: Teacher Day
  • April 2: 10:00-1:00 Open House with abbreviated school day and sample classes
  • April 18-25: April Vacation

Consensus-Based Decision Making

As I mentioned in my email last week, here is some information about consensus-based decision making.

Two of the core principles of a consensus-based decision-making model are collaboration and cooperation.

  • Collaboration: Participants contribute to a shared proposal and shape it into a decision that meets the concerns of all group members as much as possible.

  • Cooperation: Participants in an effective consensus process should strive to reach the best possible decision for the group and all of its members, rather than competing for personal preferences. ( Hartnett, Tim (26 April 2011). Consensus-Oriented Decision-Making: The CODM Model for Facilitating Groups to Widespread Agreement. New Society Publishers. ISBN 978-0-86571-689-6.)

In order to respond quickly to rapidly changing situations during the past two years, the Board authorized the staff to make decisions about school operations concerning safety and public health without input from all stakeholders. The spirit of the school has been, since its inception, one that seeks out all opinions when making decisions that impact the whole community.

COVID has not provided our community with much time to explore consensus or to develop our collaborative skills over the past few years. Consensus requires a greater time commitment than simple majority decisions and also depends on a shared commitment by participants to find common ground, work through miscommunications, and work towards finding solutions.

In short, consensus decision-making is messy and time-consuming, but ultimately it should result in group decisions that should allow all participants to feel like they have been heard and that their opinions and perspectives have been taken into consideration as the group makes choices for the common good.

The pandemic has provided opportunities for TNS to critically assess our organizational structures and to move forward with some fairly significant changes. We began the 2019-2020 school year as a teacher-led school. The teachers shared responsibility for the oversight and administration of the school. Last year, we shifted to a smaller leadership team comprised of an Education Director and a Business Director. This freed the teachers up to concentrate on teaching.

We are still not done rebuilding our school. Many more aspects of organizational structure, responsibilities, and processes remain to be examined critically. Our decision-making processes are definitely up for discussion.

If we are going to return to our pre-Covid decision-making model, no changes in policy that affect multiple stakeholder groups can be made without the approval of the All School Meeting. Further, major policy changes are made using modified consensus. For an in-depth look at using consensus, please read this guide to consensus written by Marylyn Wentworth, who retired from leading TNS in 2016. Much of what I know about consensus, I learned directly from Marylyn.

I believe that a good leader should take responsibility for her mistakes. After reflecting on Monday night's meeting, I believe that I was working to bring the school community to full consensus and did not facilitate the process for modified consensus correctly. I also failed to appropriately explain the protocols around blocking in consensus. These were my mistakes as a facilitator, and I apologize for mishandling the discussion. Had I been a tad clearer in my intent/purpose, we might have left Monday night feeling less frustrated. Or maybe not...

For future reference:

Blocking consensus is reserved for 1) illegal proposals--there must be a legal reason why the proposal is not acceptable and should not be adopted or 2) there must be a compelling ethical reason why the proposal should not be accepted--one that demonstrably violates human rights or other moral precepts held by the group

In modified consensus, once the initial vote has been taken, provided the proposal is neither illegal nor immoral, dissenting voices are invited to speak and be recorded. Attempts to modify the proposal can be made in an effort to meet the needs and concerns of more people in the group. A second vote is then taken on the (potentially modified) proposal, and, if the majority of votes are 3 or higher, the proposal should go into effect. If there is no clear majority, the proposal is sent back to be worked on, and the dissenting voices can also bring forward a counter-proposal.

The New School | Kennebunk, Maine

The New School offers rolling admission, so students can apply any time throughout the year. Parents & Students, please spread the word. Let people know all the cool stuff going on here, and invite friends to come visit an Open House!