Tonight we heard public comment from many families whose children are currently enrolled in the general education program at Dr. William R. Cobb Elementary. Families are worried their program will be closed, because the school district is implementing a Montessori program at the same site.
While my ability to talk about the specifics of this situation is limited, there has been no decision to either close the school, move a program, or end a program.
What I can say is that The Montessori program at Cobb was created to fulfill two objectives: implement programs that integrate Pre-K and elementary school programs in a seamless way; and create high-quality programs for African-American children. In several districts across the country (most notably Milwaukee), public Montessori programs have been implemented with very positive results for low-income children and African-American children, and this data was the spark that started the push for a Pre-K through 5th grade public Montessori program. Why locate this program at Cobb? There were existing preschool classrooms, the school was under-enrolled, and the principal was enthusiastic.
I don’t believe anyone saw the Montessori program as a way to marginalize the predominantly African-American families who currently attend the school. The objective (I believe, though I was not on the Board at the time the program was created) was to offer families from the Western Addition a unique and high-quality alternative program; and a program that would afford children a seamless transition from preschool to elementary classrooms. Because our preschool programs are required to reserve 60 percent of their seats for families who are low-income, job-hunting, or unable to afford preschool, the Cobb program was seen as a way to ensure that the least-advantaged families were first in line as we implemented a promising educational approach.
I’m posting a useful FAQ on the Cobb General Ed-Montessori situation that may help answer some of the questions swirling around.