The Indispensable Ingredients For Establishing And Maintaining A Sudbury School As A Viable Entity
“The seeds for having a sustainable school are planted at the very beginning. How you start, how you set the place up, are largely the determining factors in how long you’re going to stay in existence. I’m afraid that an awful lot of schools – Sudbury schools and other alternative schools as well – haven’t really appreciated this basic reality. The alarmingly high number of failed schools that have been started with tremendous enthusiasm and high hopes, and have ended up closing within the first few years, is to a certain extent testimony that some of the essential events that should have occurred at the very beginning didn’t happen. So I’m going to examine the things that are necessary from the very beginning and then see how they tie into keeping a school, once started, sustainable over the long run.
“Sustainability means never losing the feeling of being entrepreneurs in a startup even when you’re finally paying salaries. Google pays salaries, but they still have the culture of an entrepreneurial startup. And that’s the key to sustainability. The minute you feel relaxed and complacent, you’re in trouble. One of the original twelve-member Sudbury Valley startup group, who was hardworking and contributed a great deal to establishing the school, turned to me one day during our second year and said, ‘I really don’t have any problem working as hard as I can for these first two or three years, because I know that after that things are going to settle down, and it will be easy sailing after that.’ I remember saying to him, ‘Never gonna happen!’ That’s the point. That’s a mistake that it’s easy to fall into. A school might get through the agony of the startup, of putting things together, and then they feel, ‘Okay, now we’ve got our school going and we can take a deep breath and relax.’ Then, when things start going sour, they forget the essential thing: their school is still a startup, and should always be. Never lose sight of it. If you remain a startup, you’ll remain for a long time.”