Today we sent a press release to the local media, including The Reporter, The Mountain Eagle and the Daily Star, and we met with Ray Pucci of Delaware County Chamber of Commerce to shoot a short video about our school plans, which will be coming out soon on their social media!
In our press release, we were fortunate to be able to include supporting quotes from Delaware Economic Development Office, Ray from the Chamber of Commerce, and a local real estate agent in Bovina!
Look out for us in the local news and read the press release in full here:
FOR iMMEDIATE RELEASE APRIL 21, 2021:
Plans for a first Montessori School in Delaware County
- Application sent to NYSED by local family
BOVINA CENTER April 20, 2021 — A local family in Bovina Center applied to the New York State Education Department (NYSED) for a license to start a private Montessori school and daycare in Delaware County. If approved, it would be the first school in Bovina Center in 60 years (*1) and the first private school for local children aged from 18 months to 15 years in the history of Delaware County.
The founders of the potential future school are Danish-born Sophie Wallas Rasmussen and David Madié, who relocated from Brooklyn to Bovina Center in 2018 with their two children now 7 and 12 years old. Their hope is that the new school and daycare will open in September 2021 with 25 children enrolled in the first year.
“The idea for starting the school came along when we wanted to homeschool our own children along with those of a number of other local families," says Wallas Rasmussen who is an anthropologist by training and a practicing nutritionist. We came to appreciate the idea of mixed-aged classrooms—which is fundamental in Montessori methodology and in line with the old one-room schoolhouse of local yore.
Also, we had a vision of founding a school located on a farm with sustainable farming, nature conservation, and arts as the foundation of the school’s curriculum.”
Montessori Schools are an institution in the United States with over 5,000 (*2) schools nationwide. The first US-based school started in 1911 in Scarborough, NY, and really took off when New York City-born Nancy MicCormick Rambusch popularized the educational principles in the 1950s (*3).
The method—which emphasizes more choices for children and child-led activities in the classrooms—is now used across the country, with over 1 million American children currently enrolled in Montessori classrooms.
Historically, entrepreneurs like Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison helped found Montessori Schools in the early 20th century.
More recently in 2018, Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and a Montessori alum himself, provided $1 billion to start Montessori-inspired preschools for low-income families in the Pacific Northwest (*4).
In New York state alone, over 150 Montessori Schools operate, including the Catskills Montessori School in Greene County, which opened in September 2020 on a converted farm and with a focus on permaculture (a set of principles for sustainable farming).
The new Bovina-based school founders plan a similar farm setting and focus.
“The Montessori school in Greene County was a great inspiration for us, as it provided us the assurance that this could be possible to build in Delaware County," says Wallas Rasmussen. “The two neighboring counties have roughly the same population size, median income, and school-aged kids (*5). And the Catskill Montessori School started last year with 31 students in two classrooms and have another 80 children on their waiting list already.”
Taking inspiration and advice from this role model school was also important for Wallas Rasmussen’s husband and co-founder, David Madié.
Madié is a life-long serial entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of GrowthWheel International Inc., an international company now based in Bovina Center providing training programs and a software platform for small business advisors around the world.
“When you start any new business, it’s important to adopt best practices from the field," says Madié, who has advised hundreds of small businesses on how to start and grow.
“Often you can find information to help you succeed, and from our new memberships with the national and international Montessori associations, we have been really pleased to see how much the community of schools are sharing with each other. This has helped us hit the ground running.”
A significant investment is required for facilities, equipment and school start-up costs. At this point the proposed school in Bovina Center is hoping to finance this with tuitions, loans and donations from benefactors.
“Funding is what we are working on right now," says Madié, who as an entrepreneurship advisor has also helped other companies raise funds for their startups.
“We are not there yet, but we are hopeful that enough parents will sign up, so we can show lenders that the school will have sufficient income to pay its borrowing costs and operating expenses.”
The project is getting advice from the Binghamton Small Business Development Center (SBDC) as well as from Delaware County.
According to Glenn Nealis, Director of the Economic Development Office in Delhi, a private school fits very well with the overall economic development strategy of the county:
“We have seen a large number of new families relocating to the county in the last couple of years, and more school options are likely to further attract families and make them stay in our county.”
This view is supported by Douglas Clarke, a local real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Timberland Properties who lives in Bovina Center:
“Historically, school information was not important for us as realtors, as Delaware County was considered a second-home community for out-of-county buyers. This past year forced us all to look at schooling options. It is now a question at the forefront with new buyers.”
The idea of a new school is also welcomed by Ray Pucci, President of Delaware County Chamber of Commerce:
“A healthy community begins with healthy businesses, and for our businesses to be healthy, they must be able to attract potential employees to live in Delaware County. They must also be able to keep current employees here, and more school choices is absolutely helpful to this end."
Based on expressions of interest from parents and the community at large, the founders are now waiting for NYSED to approve the school license in the weeks to come. At that point, more information about the future school program and location will become available.
Interested parents can sign up for more information at www.bovinamontessori.com.
(1) Bovina’s Last Public School
with clip from June 2, 1961 issue of the Walton Reporter.
(2) 5.000 Montessori Schools in the US
(3) Nancy MicCormick Rambusch
(4) Jeff Bezos
(5) Comparison Greene County, NY and Delaware County, NY