Montessori High School
Copyright© 2012 by Cor
The flight from the Capital to Chicago's O'Hare had been a bit less than two hours but having to drive from Manatee Bay to the airport, wait the interminable three hours at the airport because of those damned Homeland Security clearance procedures and then the delay at the car rental agency and the drive to Curtis City had combined to make it a long and extremely tiring day. Janet Brooks was glad when they finally arrived at the motel; she was looking forward to removing her shoes.
She and Roger Hollingsworth had met up with Gregory Clarke of the Bureau of Educational Standards at the airport and had flown on to Chicago together. After they had checked in, Roger suggested that the three go out for a meal but Janet was not at all hungry so Roger and Gregory went out together to find one of those 'beer and wide-screen TV' sports bars while Janet went to her room. She had checked out the motel website before leaving and, when she saw that it offered a full-service spa as one of the amenities, had thought to pack a swimsuit. Now, in her swimsuit and bathrobe, she went down to the Motel's Health Center and climbed into the hot tub.
"Ahh ... This is heaven..." she thought and closed her eyes...
The next morning, they met for breakfast at the motel's restaurant. They were to meet April Hastings of the Charter School Oversight Committee, Dean Massé of Brookdale U's Education Department and a Dr. Crenshaw of the Sociology Department at the University at nine. Roger hadn't brought down anything with him but both Janet and Gregory had brought briefcases; Gregory had brought along copies of the requirements for State's mandated drown-proofing course while Janet's contained copies of the Manatee Bay School Board's documentation on the Willow Lane residential co-operative, the latest Barracuda Bay Elementary exam results and the minutes of the Board's discussions about the drown-proofing course, the board's concession to Paul Jackman's dress code requirements and the recent decree to make Palmetto Drive Junior High clothing-optional.
When they arrived at the University, they were guided to the Education Department's boardroom and, after a preliminary round of introductions and coffee, they sat down to work. First up was Venera Crenshaw. After closing the lights, she proceeded to show the same PowerPoint presentation she had used at Lisa's trial, except that she had updated it with the results from that spring's Sunny Acres day-care and grade school evaluations. Even April Hastings followed the presentation with rapt attention for it had been the first time she had seen it. After the forty-five minute presentation, there was a lengthy question and answer session followed by a coffee break.
When they got back to it, it was Dean Massé's turn...
"The primal energy source behind all this is Lisa Cummings. In one sense, I am grateful that she is not here at present because she would die of embarrassment if she had heard me say this. She is a very unassuming young lady. Lisa graduated from Brookdale's Bachelor of Education program last year..."
Janet interrupted... "You mean to say that a girl barely out of University is running the three schools?"
"Yes, but it is not as nonsensical as it may sound ... I don't usually do this but what I'm handing out is the first part of Lisa's Master's thesis; Master's theses are kept in the University documents library for consultation but are not, as a rule, distributed at large. In this case, I'm making an exception. What I'm telling you now can all be found in this document."
"Not many people know this," continued Dean Massé, "but it is my habit to supervise the progress of our students from afar and I had quickly become aware of the spark within Lisa. When she graduated, I arranged to have her hired by the School Board for a particular day-care with which they had been having problems. One of the parents at that day-care was a religious bigot and had already caused three other teachers to resign or to go away on medical leave."
"The inevitable happened and there was a confrontation ... However, this time around, it was the parent who was forced to back down. Unfortunately, the man was a sore loser and had Lisa arrested for pedophilia ... well, not pedophilia, exactly, but for all intents and purposes, it came to the same thing. This is where Venera came into the picture; she convinced the other parents of the benefits of a naturist environment and had them pull all their kids out the day-care and set up their own, independent, day-care at Sunny Acres."
"By Christmas, the parents had seen the truth of what Venera had told them with their own eyes. Lisa's trial late November had brought everything out in the open, as well, and had created a media circus. The result was that they were inundated with requests from outside parents who wished to register their kids in the school."
"We decided to intercede with State to finance the day-care as a Charter School. State was very receptive to the idea as it had been fascinated by Venera's report as well; it was convinced that the results Venera had announced during the trial were a statistical anomaly. To confirm the numbers once and for all, it agreed to finance a twenty-year study by Brookdale's Education and Sociology Departments, and authorized the day-care to turn part of the building it was using into a grade school. This spring, with the influx of new students, some of whom were close to puberty, the first group graduated, which is the reason the high school was built."
"When we talked over the phone, Ms Brooks, you said you were particularly interested in knowing the structure of the High School and knowing how they deal with any conflicts with 'textile' parents. Allow me to address the second part first ... There are NO conflicts with textile parents because there are no textile parents ... No, allow me to explain ... All three schools are located completely within the grounds of Sunny Acres and there is no bus; all the students are either full-time residents of the resort or are dropped off by the parents themselves."
"Sunny Acres' dress code requires absolute nudity at all times, weather permitting. Parents dropping off their children are required to disrobe prior to bringing their children to the school or picking them up and it does not accept that children under the age of eight be left at the gate. Furthermore, the parents must agree to maintain a nudity-friendly household; it is a 'sine qua non' condition for registering the child."
"As for the structure, all three schools apply the Montessori Method, where the child is encouraged to explore, under supervision, that which interests him. The teacher's role is that of a mentor, a facilitator; helping the child to explore avenues he might not have considered by himself. The schooling is child-oriented; one child may be working on a math problem, another may be exploring the physical universe while a third may be reading a book; it is quite common for a four year old Montessori child to be able to read, write and do simple calculations. It is also habitual for children of different age groups to explore a problem as a team. As a result, children frequently study subjects considered to be above what is generally accepted as their skill level."
"As an example, I'm told that the High School students have recently completed a critical analysis of Malory's 'Le Morte d'Arthur' as part of the State's English Literature requirement."
April Hastings' eyes popped. "What?! ... I did 'Le Morte d'Arthur' in first year literature at University!"
"Yes, I know ... I imagine that they chose 'Le Morte d'Arthur' because nobody had a copy of 'Lord Randal' or 'The Highwayman' on hand."
Venera spoke up "I spoke with Lisa just a few days ago ... as a math project, they have just finished surveying the grounds of the Sunny Acres resort and in doing so, discovered an error the original surveyor had made. And as part of the Physics requirement, they studied the properties of alpha and beta emitting radioactive elements and this week; they have started grinding the mirror for a thirty-centimeter reflecting telescope they are building from scratch. Mike Rutherford, their physics teacher, is an amateur astronomer. The key to all this is that no one is telling them that what they are doing is impossible, so they simply keep on going."
"How old are these kids," asked Janet, incredulously?
"Most are thirteen; the oldest is a Russian girl. I believe she will be fifteen next month."
"This Mr. Rutherford," asked April Hastings "is he qualified?"
"He has a doctorate in nuclear physics ... I understand he has distant family ties to Ernest Rutherford, who first described the atom as we know it today."
Dean Massé spoke up... "Ladies and Gentlemen, it is already twelve thirty; I suggest we break for lunch and we continue afterwards."
That evening, back at the motel, Janet, Gregory and Roger discussed what they had heard over charbroiled steaks. They had been arguing back and forth about the details of Venera's report and whether the numbers could be believed. Finally, Janet had had enough.
"Gentlemen, we are making the same error that their Oversight Committee made; just because the results are so far above what we are accustomed to seeing, we are assuming that they must, therefore, be necessarily false. We have no choice in the matter ... we must go 'in situ' to confirm what we've been told by personal observation."
"But ... but..." said Roger.
"Wait a minute... !" echoed Gregory.
"Shut up, both of you," replied Janet. "Gregory, when the BOES put out those requirements for mandated swim lessons last year, we advised you of our particular situation; that we were unable to build any new facilities. Yet you did nothing, leaving us no other solution but to go to Paul Jackman. When Willow Lane Elementary burnt down and we again had no choice but to set up the replacement school in the middle of a naturist resort, you again did nothing."
"Wait a minute! We supplied you with a new school building..."
"Yeah, yeah ... That school building was taking up valuable warehouse space you needed for something else. We did you a favor by taking it off your hands. You guys must have had a grand old time, laughing your heads off watching us having to peel down to our skins, first for the swimming lessons, then for the school."
"Then, when that controversy about super suits came out, you had the GALL to suggest that every one go nude at the swim meets so as to give everyone an even chance. You're nothing but a hypocrite!"
"And, as for you, Roger, I've had it to here with your pious platitudes ... it's time to get your hands dirty. I'm no more a naturist than either of you but ... I ... have not shirked my responsibilities. When the school opened, I... , at least, had had the courage to wear the school uniform. My daughter goes to 'Cuda Beach Elementary ... when there's a special event, I ... join the other parents there and I participate fully in the activities. I haven't seen you there once since the school is in operation. We're going ... and that's final! Now, if you'll excuse me, I need my beauty sleep."
The next morning, prior to the continuation of the concertation meeting, Janet spoke privately to Dean Massé of her wish that the three of them visit the schools.
During the meeting, just like the way Gregory had described the circumstances of the State's drown-proofing course the previous afternoon, Janet described the difficulties the Manatee Bay School Board had had in applying those same BOES requirements for their swimming course. She explained the consequences of being situated in the Capital's 'Green Belt' and also, she admitted, the financial constraints caused by the fact that Manatee Bay was a small community with fishing and the naturist resort as the only viable commercial endeavors.
After the break, she continued, describing the fire and the subsequent decision to erect the replacement school within the naturist resort and the inevitable consequences that decision had produced. She concluded her presentation by describing their surprise that their student progress numbers echoed those the Venera had mentioned the previous day and the intense lobbying the 'Cuda Beach parents had done to obtain a clothes-free junior high for their kids.
After Janet had sat down, Dean Massé rose and said "If that concludes the presentations, I've arranged that we all have lunch at the Bare Pit, Sunny Acres' restaurant; the meals there are excellent. After lunch, we will tour the schools and meet Lisa Cummings, the principal. She will gladly answer any remaining questions."
"Well, in that case," said April," I think I'll be going back to the office ... I'll say my good-byes now."
"No," said Dean Massé, quietly. "You're coming with us. I've already discussed this with Bernie Goldstein."
As Janet proceeded to gather up all her documents, she noticed Dean Massé and April arguing vehemently in a corner. She smiled quietly to herself.
Venera pointed out the lockers and distributed towels all around " ... to avoid splinters," she said. Dean Massé, Janet and she disrobed matter-of-factly and stepped outside again in no time and were joined, first by Gregory and then Roger. Eventually, April Hastings joined them as well, her towel carefully draped over her forearm. When the group was together again, Venera led it to the Bare Pit where she introduced Warner Matheson, the owner, and Lisa.
As it was the end of October, the air outside, while still not cold, was a bit too nippy for them to eat outside, so they gathered about a large table set for eight inside the restaurant. At first, several members of the group were hesitant, standoffish, but by the time the second round of pre-dinner drinks had been served, the conversation flowed as easily as it would have in any 'textile' restaurant. The menu featured a choice of main courses and, as Dean Massé had promised, they had all been excellent. By the time desserts and coffee had been served, everybody got along as they had known each other for years.
When everyone had finished eating, they rose and stepped back outside. As they strolled through the grounds, Warner pointed out some of the landmarks of the resort; the children's playground, the pool, the volleyball courts and the cabins where the full time residents lived. They eventually arrived at the building in front of the lake that housed the day-care and the one-room grade school. At that point, Warner excused himself, saying that he had to get back to the office and Lisa continued the tour by herself.
They stepped onto the raised patio deck in front of the building. "This building used to be Sunny Acres' clubhouse when Warner's uncle first built the place. When Warner expanded a few years ago, he built the present clubhouse and restaurant and used this building for storage for their seasonal stuff. When we first approached him to set up the day-care, he was kind enough to make the building available for us to use."