Parents Come Together to Save Ring Mountain Day School

August 8, 2012

Marin Mommies presents a guest article by Karen LeFurgy, Ring Mountain Day School parent and Vice Chair of the school's Board of Trustees.

As a mother who enjoys reading Marin Mommies on a regular basis, I wanted to share with other local moms a positive story about a group of engaged and active parents at Ring Mountain Day School. I’m very proud of our story and particularly eager to share it with other parents who may be searching for a top quality school that embodies what a true school community is all about.

All three of my children are attending or have attended Ring Mountain and I serve as Vice Chair on the Board of Trustees. For those who are unfamiliar with us, we are an independent K–8 school in Mill Valley with an enrollment of just under 100 students. At Ring Mountain, we try to be a little different than other schools by offering small class sizes of 8–15 students so that our faculty can apply an individualized, integrated approach and teach a core curriculum that emphasizes problem solving in real-life situations, promoting comprehensive understanding of academics and the arts. Our middle school is based on the Harkness model of Socratic discussion-based learning where students sit at circular tables and are expected to be prepared each day as they actively contribute in class discussions and develop their own ideas on subjects. To appropriately introduce students to this method of learning, we provide the children with a strong foundation in our kindergarten and elementary schools that emphasizes collaboration and project-based education. The goal is to instill a lifelong desire to learn within each student.

For the last eight years, we have leased a beautiful campus located at 70 Lomita Drive, which is owned by the Mill Valley School District. When Ring Mountain signed the lease back in 2004, it was widely projected by both the school and the District that Ring Mountain would remain there well past the initial ten year term of the lease and deep into the future.

However, in late June of this year, the District unexpectedly informed us that they were planning to terminate the lease and take the space back for their own administrative use. Suddenly, we were faced with a situation where we might have to vacate within two years, which would have had a devastating impact on our school’s long term vitality.

Faced with this direct threat, we chose to organize and take action against the District’s plan as one unified school community. As soon as we sent word of the imminent situation to Ring Mountain parents, teachers, administrators, and community members, an authentic grassroots campaign had begun. Immediately, we received countless responses from a dedicated and passionate group of people wanting to help save Ring Mountain’s campus. Dozens upon dozens of parents attended the School Board’s June 27 meeting to protest the District’s plan, letters of opposition started pouring into the School Superintendent’s office, more than 200 people signed an online petition within six days and the local media picked up the story.

The efforts had an immediate impact. The Mill Valley School Board paid attention to the voices of our parents and directed District staff to meet with us to discuss how we might come to a compromise. And when the meeting with Mill Valley’s School Superintendent took place, it was clear that the discussion was going to be immensely productive. Recognizing the passion of our school community, the District reversed course and announced plans for a long term solution that will allow Ring Mountain to stay. In effect, our crisis had been averted.

As you might imagine, the recent situation was quite scary for us. Yet, it also demonstrated the very best in our school community and why I feel so honored to be a part of such a unique collection of parents. By sharing this story, I hope that Ring Mountain’s experience will give others hope in these kinds of circumstances as well as the knowledge that a devoted group of parents can accomplish anything.