Building on Strong Foundations

Building on strong foundations

Great River Community - a message below from Sam O'Brien, Head of School: 

January 5th, 2018


First, the obvious accomplishments: our new walls are up! The concrete foundation is literally poured for the facility expansion that will connect our two campus buildings into a unified 3.5 acre site. Exterior walls of the new facility are erected, the full west campus building remodel is underway to hold our fully realized elementary program.  

January 2018 marks the start of a culminating year for Great River School. Currently in our 14th school year, we will be celebrating our 15th anniversary starting in September. Also, as we are sure you've noticed, the construction of our unified 3.5 acre campus is fully underway. 2018 is also the closing year of a strategic planning cycle for the school.

We made an ambitious 3 year plan in 2014, and we are seeing the fruition of our work. What was clear in 2014 was that our innovative upstart school had become a promising institution serving families and children for 12 years of education. Our 2015-2018 strategic plan emphasized addressing immediate challenges to the school - facility, finances, and defining the overarching and long-term outcomes for our program. Our first elementary classroom opened in 2012, and we are now one of three Montessori programs nationally serving students age 6-18. As we look at the successes of our work these past three years, it is clear that we can achieve our goals and execute well on plans. The opportunity that lies before us now is to endeavor upon plans that serve the deepening roots and clarity of purpose that our students and family community seek.

Our current state as a school is one of success - we are a model for stable and transparent operation within the Charter School community. We operate an innovative educational program with a stable financial outlook. Our current firm foundation is the result of immense work and action over the past three years at every level of the school - from classrooms to the school board.

And yet, I will be the first to invite us to look critically at the ways we are responsible to address the challenges of the culture and society we live within. Adults in society (especially in the news these past two years) repeatedly demonstrate an inability to act with grace and courtesy. Social inequities - economic and political - are a pervasive challenge for schools to address, as we work to build fair and just relationships among students.

Great River faces these pervasive challenges with an opportunity to make actionable progress, but only if we are able to develop tools within our own school and community that are uncommon. An uncommon approach to resolving conflict with respect. An uncommon approach to addressing inequity with generosity, letting go, and offering of partnership. An uncommon understanding of how we will raise children with the tools to have integrity in their relationships, and that their success will not be at the cost of their peers or neighbors. I say these are uncommon because they are not simple, but they are possible. Inequity, social aggresssion, and status-caused problems among adults are pervasive challenges. I believe our next strategic plan as a school will need to articulate the concrete tools our school will use to address those challenges. 

Now that we have succeeded in addressing our immediate challenges, we aim to look toward the next 5 school years with a critical question: 'How do we take responsibility to model grace, courtesy, and high standards of responsibility and freedom for students

The class of 2029 is in first grade at Great River School. As we look at our foundations built over the first 14 years of the school, I'll be encouraging families and staff - new and old - to see the deeply successful program that has developed, found a niche, and thrived at Great River. The exceptional program we are all a part of is a result of persistence, humane relationships, and a dedication to our mission. We aim to prepare each student for their unique role and contributions in the world. In future newsletters this spring, you'll see school founders and contributors through the last 14 years deliver their thoughts and reflections on the school's purpose and role in the world now.

Thank you for being a part of this foundational time in the history and future of the school. Thank your child for the work they are doing to build a more peaceful society within the walls of the school, and thank yourself and your peer parents for proceeding in this endeavor to support whole children and a humane world. I look forward to seeing the fruits of our investment arise and show up between now and 2029 in the walls and on the ground of the campus we are seeing built today!