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A MESSAGE FROM THE DEAN OF SCHOOL
October 15, 2013
Dear KWS community members,
For the second year in a row, we have had a distinguished international visitor at Kimberton Waldorf School. Last year, the Minister of Education for Ecuador visited. This year, on October 4, Nesreen Barwari, who is an adviser to the Minister of Education in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, came to learn about our school and about Waldorf Education. See photos above. She toured the campus, saw all of our programs from Early Childhood through High School, and met with staff, faculty, and students. She spoke for about 45 minutes to a gathering of Grades 7-12 at the end of the day. Ms. Barwari has an impressive and interesting background, much of which she shared with the students. She was born in Baghdad to a large family; she was the only girl in a family of nine children. At the age of 14, Nesreen and members of her family became political prisoners because of their involvement with the Kurdish movement. After the 1991 war, she became a refugee. She eventually returned to Baghdad and completed a Bachelor's degree in architectural engineering and began her work for the United Nations in Iraqi Kurdistan. Her early work focused on relief work for refugees and displaced people following the war of 1991. She later earned a Master’s degree in public policy and management from Harvard University and served as the minister of reconstruction and development in Iraqi Kurdistan. She was the first woman minister in the Kurdistan government. She has been honored by the United Nations, the Arab League, and the World Economic Forum for her work.
In recent years, Ms. Barwari has become interested in the role that education can play in building a just and peaceful society. She spoke with our students about her own education, which she said was very narrow, and only focused on academic achievement, tests, and grades. As an “A” student, she said that success was defined for her in two options: to become a doctor, or an engineer; no other options were acceptable. Her search to find an education that educates the whole human being has led her to Waldorf Education. She told the students a personal story of how her brother had been forced to flee Iraq because of his work in the Kurdish movement. He settled in Germany with his family and sent his children to school there. Over time, his son experienced many difficulties in the school that he was in, and his father was very worried about him. He moved him to another school, and within a short time he became like a new child: open, engaged, interested in the world, and expressing artistic capacities that had previously not been nurtured.This school was a Waldorf school. Since that time, Ms. Barwari has been visiting Waldorf schools whenever she travels, and has brought a number of Waldorf educators to Iraqi Kurdistan to meet with her and education officials. She wants to influence her society through education, and she believes that Waldorf Education is the best education for promoting brotherhood, problem solving, and open-mindedness. Her goal is to open three Waldorf schools in Iraqi Kurdistan, and after a year of trying to convince the education officials, she has received a license to do so. She plans on calling her school the Kurdistan Waldorf School, and she was excited to see a student with a 'KWS' shirt: “that’s it!” she said. Now, the exciting challenge of building a school begins for her. Apparently there are financial resources available, but she will need people with the background and training to help her establish the schools. Many of our high school students had questions for her about how she was going to go about starting her schools: what grade levels, how she was planning on getting Waldorf teachers, designs for her buildings, etc. She asked that we make her email address available, as she is looking for people to help in any way they can. So, as promised, here is Nesreen Barwari’s email address: .
In other news, we are posting on the school’s website the goals and action plan of the Change and Renewal Task Force. For those of you new to the school, or unaware of the work of this task force, the Change and Renewal Task Force was formed and mandated last year by the Board of Trustees to develop an action plan to help Kimberton Waldorf School achieve four goals: Financial Sustainability, Pedagogical Improvement, Enhancing School Communication, and Welcoming Parents as Integral Partners in the Mission of the School. The members of the task force are Andrew Kreider (parent), Michael Campbell (parent), Deb Merroth-Ahola (alumni parent, Board member, and faculty), Katie Hynes (alumni parent and Board member), Nancy Coe McLane (parent), and Carmen Maciarello (faculty member). The task force works closely with me to develop the action plan, assign owners to each action and deadline, and to track progress. Many of the actions on the report have been achieved and we are making good headway on the rest. A sub-task force of this group has been formed to develop a three and five year financial plan for the school. Members of that group are Michael Campbell and Eric Mitchell (Eric is a current and alumni parent and also on the Board’s Investment Committee).
The most important keys to our financial sustainability are enrollment and the proper balance of tuitions, financial aid, and salaries and benefits. It is clear that we need to grow the school and fill our classrooms, and look closely at how we structure our tuition and financial aid. By most independent school standards our tuitions are modest. We also give large amounts of financial aid relative to our operating budget. The salaries that we pay our employees are also modest. Our enrollment is not yet at levels that we want, and because of that we have run a deficit last year and this year. The Board of Trustees made the decision last year to prudently trim our expenses where we can, without cutting our program in order to keep it strong, and supporting our teachers and staff members who work so hard in support of the students. The result has been a very positive start to our school year: we were re-accredited by by AWSNA and by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools; we are working to review and refresh our curriculum standards and to establish a new across-the-school curriculum guide; we have invested in improving the ways we support students in their learning needs; we are investing in teacher mentoring and evaluations and raising our expectations of excellence; we are taking steps to reinvigorate and involve the parent community; we are investing in new outreach and marketing efforts; we are improving our enrollment processes; we are examining and changing our program to better engage our students; and we are taking steps to investigate and plan for a student boarding option and for growth in our Early Childhood program. The positive energy has been palpable. Our goal is to grow the school through improving what we do, and sharing what we do with more and more people.
We need the help, engagement, and positive energy of all our school community members. If you are parent, alumni parent, or alum living in the area and would like to get involved with one of our many volunteer committees, please click here or contact our Outreach and Marketing Director, Emily Shaker, at . If you are an alum and would like to sponsor an alumni event in your area, you can also contact Emily. We will soon be launching our annual fund drive, the Community Spirit Fund. Please consider giving generously to this fund which helps the school to meet its operational expenses. We need every single person to participate. And, all of us can be an ambassador for Kimberton Waldorf School and spread the word about our wonderful program! Word of mouth is our best advertising.
In closing, I would like to mention an online newsletter on Waldorf Education that you might enjoy. It is called Waldorf Today and can be found at www.waldorftoday.com; it includes current articles and news about Waldorf Education. For example, I just learned of a Waldorf graduate who has won the Nobel Prize! Similarly, you can find interesting news and articles about Waldorf Education at www.whywaldorfworks.org; this is the official site for Waldorf Education in North America. Finally, please click here for the News page of our website, which includes a very recent article in the New York Times about the benefits of music, linking it to academic achievement and life skills like creativity, discipline, and collaboration. In fact, the Nobel Prize winner I mentioned above credits his bassoon teacher with teaching him discipline!
And remember that you can view and download our Kimberton Waldorf School mission statement and learning goals on our website here and here.
Dean of School