As our darling Maple Village School moves out of its pioneering phase and into becoming a developing school, we have been refining our governance structure based on Waldorf organizational principles. As Waldorf schools are governed in a rather unique way when compared to other public and private schools, we want to share some articles with our community members in hopes of shedding light on what this structure looks like.
The following is an excerpt from The Social Mission of Waldorf School Communities by Christopher Schaefer:
To develop the appropriate forms of governance among teachers, parents, and staff; among a teachers’ college, a board of trustees, an administration, and a parent association is an ongoing task for each Waldorf school and is part of the social mission of Waldorf education. Since 1919, for ninety years, independent Waldorf schools have attempted to evolve community forms in which the interests of teachers, parents, staff, and friends can find true expression.
In most Waldorf schools in the United States and Canada this has meant a teachers’ circle, or faculty council, having primary responsibility for all pedagogical life — determining the curriculum and hiring, mentoring, evaluating, and, if need be, dismissing teachers. The other main decision making group is a board of trustees consisting of teachers, parents, and friends who carry legal and financial responsibility for the school, who support the education by making sure that there are adequate financial resources and a suitable physical space for supporting the education. An administration, grounded in an understanding of the curriculum, provides the support and the expertise needed to help increasingly mature and complex schools function well. The parent association may foster community dialogues, sponsor adult education, support festivals, and serve the cause of responsible communication between teachers and parents.
In Waldorf schools, the absence of formal hierarchy, the group decision-making processes, the need to get to know each other as teachers, parents, and staff pull us out of our isolation. The form and nature of self-administration in our schools mean we need to learn to appreciate the differences between people while at the same time accepting that we are brothers and sisters on the road of mutual development.
While it is an exaggeration, I sometimes suggest that Waldorf schools are designed to enhance conflict. Certainly they are formed to help us meet at deeper levels and to help us “rub each other into shape.” This means that all adults in Waldorf schools need to be on a path of reflective self-development, to be willing to work their issues, for, without this foundation, interpersonal conflicts can undermine the proper functioning of the school. Even in the first Waldorf school, with Steiner present as founder and director, questions of trust, leadership, interpersonal conflict, and the proper delegation of authority were significant issues, as the essay by Francis Gladstone, Republican Academies, makes vividly clear.
If you’re interested in reading further, the complete article can be found online at The Online Waldorf Library. We also welcome you to send us your thoughts! If you would like to share your thoughts in person, a great time is during “Cocoa with Christina” on Friday mornings.