Jim Fitzpatrick, December 21, 2010
There seems to be some confusion circulating on this site about SBMS--this, a somewhat difficult form of communication to moderate or even consider for accuracy or information. Despite its shortcomings, there is in this "greatschools" site this opportunity for a school official to respond to 'reviews' of the school. So, after reading one of these negative reviews my response is, "You must be kidding, right?" I mean, as founder (along with my wife and fellow teacher) I have been, at times, described by others as 'The Great Communicator.' Since I am responsible for the school's written communications, its text for websites, weekly bulletins, monthly newsletters, as well as video and other presentations, I take personal, as well as professional pride in all of SBMS's communicatons--to have it suggested that there is 'little communication' with parents at SBMS is, well, it's silly. Certainly, there are aspects of any school's programs that can be misconstrued, or mis-understood, and as a Montessori teacher and administrator over the past 40 years I've had parents and families occasionally express their confusion as to how "Montessori" works--'What does my child do all day, I don't get it?' is a familiar refrain, because a real 'Montessori' program doesn't look like a traditional school's classroom. In fact, 'parent education' in a Montessori school is essential for the school's programs to succeed with the children--the parents' understanding is vital to their child's classroom success. So, this review claims, "There is very little communication with the parents..." Really? The review also claims, "Lack of parent participation... high attrition rate..." Really? SBMS, now in its 36th year, may want to address these issues, otherwise the school's long list of alumni families and students, especially those attending our local high schools, or colleges and universities, including Harvard, UC Berkeley, Stanford, UCLA, USC, UCSB, or those developing their own businesses, or living and studying around the world, or contributing to this and the global community with their skills and expertise--they may all want to reconsider their time at a school where creative thinking, hands-on learning, and project-based activities fill each day in preparation for an appreciation for learning as an individual and in collaboration with others. As a parent, if you want to find out why and what the truth is about SBMS, drop by any time, my door is always open; I'd be proud to show you what a Montessori school looks like, and if you have the time I'll gladly explain why I think it's the type of educational experience you've always promised to provide for your child.
Excellent school! Don't believe the naysayers. SBMS is the school you wished you went to growing up. Warm loving environment. Solid education based on proven methods. We have been at SBMS for 5 years and feel blessed to have found the school. We are a modest family and have found no favoritism to any children or families. We have always felt welcomed and part of the community. A fundamental part of SBMS is 'follow the child', to tailor the learning to the child's interests. But also 'a child needs freedom within limits' Therefore if a child's interests is in hitting other children, SBMS might not be for you. SBMS has high expectations of your children and you should too. These expectations are not just grace, courtesy, but also actual learning. I saw some results from last years standardized tests: For every level SBMS was 2-4 grade level ahead. Meaning SBMS 1st graders were testing as 3rd to 5th graders in other schools. And SBMS does not even focus the tests. You can ask the HOS for details. From my own experience, my 5 yr old was reading and addition (with carry) in the 1000s. My 6 year old was loving his multiplication work. SBMS is a great school producing great results!
There are so many things to say about this school I don't know where to begin. I'll bring up a few topics I feel to be the most important for people to be aware of. Our previous Montessori school was very community oriented with dynamic teachers, and a lot of family supportand warmth, but we never really felt accepted at SBMS. It felt like there was favoritisim among the staff and children of the elite families. The favored children were never disciplned while children who "weren't choosing work" had to sit in chairs all morning and stare into the corner. In this day and age? Really? It was never even considered that maybe the "work" just wasn't that interesting. This was quite contrary to our previous experience, where we were encouraged to appreciate our child's personality and interests, whatever they may be. While certanly charming to look at and lovely, SBMS seems really behind the times to us as far as actual education. If you do tour this school, ask a lot of questions and weigh the answers carefully. Assuming all Montessori schools to be similar in discipline and education style (as well as education level of teachers), we were shocked to find out how untrue this is.
The true measure of a school is in the people it produces. At the end of the school year, during the "flying up" ceremony, each and every graduate from SBMS's Erdkinder (7th-8th grade) class gives a speech. It's a joyful day, and a sad day -- a day I've seen each year since my daughter was 4. Every single speech was inspiring, and each young man and young woman was remarkable. I can't quantify my measurement, or make a comparison with other schools based on it -- but for me, a dad, seeing the results with my own eyes has been invaluable. At the end of this school year, I will watch my daughter give her speech. It will be joyful, capping a remarkable decade of her growth and learning. And it will be sad. Santa Barbara Montessori does not offer a 9th grade class.
Our experience at SBMS began 6 years ago and we could not be happier. The experience and opportunity that our children have on a daily basis are extraordinary. The education is like no other. To see what my children are capable of at 8 and 5 years old is remarkable! Most importantly, it has been so gratifying to witness the confident, caring people that our daughter and son have become - we owe this in large part to their experience at SBMS. Thank you, Jim, for giving our children this gift!
Our children are receiving a truly remarkable education at Santa Barbara Montessori, perhaps just as importantly, they come home from school every day happy and confident. They are growing as individuals and receiving one of life's best lessons: that learning is fun, it's interesting, and it is its own reward.
We have been at SBMS for 4 years now and could not imagine our child any place else. Our daughter loves to learn, loves to go to school, loves her teachers, simply loves everything about it. All the staff are qualified, extremely passionate, caring and committed. We see what our daughter is doing, who she is becoming and we have SBMS to thank for so much of that. The education your child will receive is like no other in town. And trust me, we did our research. It you are curious at all about trying out a non-traditional approach to education, this is a school worth looking into. Both my husband and I wish we were given this opportunity as children.
Finding the right educational environment for your child is one of the biggest and often most stressful decisions a parent will make. You owe it to your children to tour this school. The large classrooms are filled with light, warmth, and beautiful learning materials. The children are engaged in purposeful, hands-on learning experiences and treat each other with respect and courtesy. The teachers are intelligent, dedicated individuals who truly care about their students. The atmosphere on this campus is always calm, respectful, and inviting. Santa Barbara Montessori is a gift not just for your children, but for your entire family.
When we first enrolled our daughter she was 22 months old. The school told me not to be surprised if she didn't want to go into the classroom the first day. I dropped her off and she said over her shoulder bye mom. I scratched my head, the teachers said wait 2 weeks and she may balk at going to school. It is over 4 years later and she asks to go there on Saturdays. It is a wonderful loving school, it is too bad that people had a negative experience, just don't let someone else's experience mar your own. Take a tour, it will work for you or it won't. We love it and are happy there.
We have had our children enrolled since they were toddlers at SBMS and have enjoyed 10 years at this wonderful school. Our children are happy and eager to go to school each day. The teachers are knowledgeable, informative and always available to meet with us if we have questions or just want to 'check-in' about our children. I marvel at the way in which all subjects are explored without the need for interrupted, specialized classes. My children view all subjects as interrelated and have a love for learning that I envy! This is the finest Montessori School in town. Thank you, SBMS for an incredible education.
I can't say enough about this school. The teachers, the classrooms and campus, the students and parents are all so wonderful. Every year is better than the last. Sure, I have had questions and moments of doubt because it is not a traditional school (which is what I'm more familiar with), but the teachers and Head have always had answers and been very open to educating me about Montessori. I wish every child could experience SBMS, from the toddler to the junior high, it is THE BEST.
After experiencing this school for the last ten years, I couldn't be more excited that my children are attending this particular Montessori school. I've been involved in many parent education nights, observations, parent/teacher conferences and continue to be amazed by the Montessori approach and just how luck my children are to experience it. I wish I had been as fortunate to have gone to a school like this. As for the teachers, they work with the specific needs of my children and answer any questions or concerns that I have. They support me as a parent and inspire me to be an event better parent.
Like the other writer, I regret sending my children to SBMS! The problems at this school run deep and reach all levels; from poor leadership, to the teacher's limited understanding of teaching modalities outside of the Montessori philosophy, to the school's lack of enrichment programs - the school is without real and formal art, music, science, foreign language and physical education programs. The attrition rate is very high as a result, enrollment is down from 140+ to 107 in just 3 years! There is no parent involvement except for fundraising. If you are 100% sure that your child is a perfect match for a strict Montessori environment, you may consider this school, but their other downfalls should make you think twice. If you desire straight forward feedback about your child, DO NOT enroll your child here.
Sent my daughter there during preschool age. I believe you had great introduction to early childhood education. We decided to pull her out for personal reasons.. Leadership is very questionable but I believe it was great place for my daughter to start school nevertheless.
Not a good place. Deeply regret sending my children to this school. I started out with a positive idea about Montessori, but have left with a bitter taste in my mouth.
Incredibly happy with this school. Our son has been there for a year now and is thriving. Admittedly, it took a while to understand the school but counter to a previous review you can ask questions and I strongly recommend that you do. Not because there is anything you should be concerned about, but because your child will have a better experience if you understand the Montessori experience. I recently had a job offer in another town that had many Montessori options. After touring them (and having already seen the ones in Santa Barbara) we are so happy with the wonderful environment of SBMS. So much so that we are not moving after all.
We've had one or more children there every year for the last 12 years -- LOVE this school. The faculty are the best, the community of children so respectful of each other. It's a very nurturing environment in which children thrive. Our eldest is now a junior in college and calls his SBMS years the best college prep education possible because of the personal responsibility, discipline, and love of learning that evolve in the child through this true Montessori education. Third child is entering their junior high class now and experience has taught us that this is the very best place for a pre-teen to grow into their very best selves.
The most dedicated staff, the most beautiful classrooms, the best education I could ever imagine for my children!
The only school worth sending your child to in this town.... Incredible staff and families.
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