Annual Report February 2023
Letter from the Head of School
Looking back over this past school year, the one feeling that comes to mind again and again is the feeling of gratitude. I have such gratitude for our amazing guides, assistants and support staff who came to school day after day, creating an environment of love, stability, and learning. Gratitude for our families who offered support, inspiration, and hope as we continued to navigate the world we all live in. Gratitude for our Administrative team, whose efforts to lead the school forward are monumental to say the leat. Gratitude for our Board and donors for their unwavering support. And finally, gratitude for the children who make each and every challenge worth the effort. Their love of learning, humor, and continual growth inspired me daily to move forward and to continue the mission of our school.
I also feel a great deal of gratitude for the future. Our programs remained strong and stable during the pandemic and that stability has allowed us to look forward to things to come. As an administrator, I’ve seen countless programs reduce their programs and close their doors. How lucky we are to be picturing a future with expanded programs and a building that brings us all together.
Everything we did this year, we did together and with kindness, grace and strength. We have taken big strides and overcome many obstacles and I look forward to continuing to build upon the greatness of our community.
Head of School
About our School
Sagebrush Montessori is a non-profit organization. We are registered as a 501(c) (3) with the United States government and as a non-profit in the State of Washington. A Board of Directors, who give their services without remuneration, supervises the School. While the Board is responsible for the business and financial affairs of the school, the day to day operation of the school is under the direction of the Head of School and Childcare Director. In addition, we rely on consistent and regular support from Parent Volunteers. Sagebrush Montessori’s elementary program is recognized as an approved private school by the State of Washington’s Board of Education and has attained association status with Association Montessori International/USA (www.amiusa.org). Childcare at the Children’s House campus is licensed by the state of Washington.
Our Board of Directors
Board Chair & President of the Corporation Rob Darling
Vice President of the Corporation Sandrine King
Secretary Tom Haller
Treasurer Bill Pike
Board member at Large Miles Thomas
Our Programs: One Incredible school, Two Campuses
Thayer Campus - Ages 3-6
Our Children’s House program consists of two classrooms that serve children from pre-k through their kindergarten year. There is a wide range of activities to engage children of all ages, ability, and maturity. Montessori goals focus on individualized work, concentration, independence and social awareness.
Firehouse Campus - Ages 6-12
Our Elementary program serves children ages 6 through 12. Elementary students thrive on learning from one another. Our collaborative learning environments are divided into lower elementary (6-9) and upper elementary (9-12). There is an emphasis on both strong social development and academic success. Students develop the ability to work cooperatively while learning to reach goals, contribute ideas, and respect individual differences.
Our mission is to provide children ages 3 – 12 with a traditional Montessori education in a warm and nurturing environment where we celebrate each child as an individual and embrace religious and cultural differences.Our mission is to provide children ages 3 – 12 with a traditional Montessori education in a warm and nurturing environment where we celebrate each child as an individual and embrace religious and cultural differences.
Congratulations to the classof 2021 - 2022
We are so proud of our graduates and wish them plenty of adventures ahead as they begin their middle school journey.
Facilities and Program Expansion
Maintaining two campuses puts a strain on our organization, and it is difficult to build a sense of community and continuous education between the two locations. In addition, we have a demand for a second lower elementary classroom without space to support it.
For these reasons we have been working to bring the Children's House and Elementary programs to a single site with a larger Elementary capacity.
Here are the steps we've taken to date:
We researched and evaluated all of our options - to buy and build on a new property, buy an existing building, rent an existing building, or build on our current property on Thayer Drive.
In the end we committed to building on Thayer.
We applied for and were granted an allowance to site a school on less than five acres in a residential zone, allowing us to place an Elementary program on Thayer.
We explored our facility and program needs and created a Program of Work to submit along with requests for proposals from architects.
We met with architects and received proposals, and in the Spring of 2022 we selected an architect, DKEI.
We have initial building plans and are working with civil engineering for an initial site plan.
When the initial plans are complete we will be able to firmly gauge our costs and begin exploring our finance options and begin fundraising efforts. We anticipate a cost in the range of $2.5m.
A huge thanks goes to our Childcare Director, Jen Sandvig for her work on all of this. Her detailed knowledge of state rules, our needs, and grant opportunities have been incredibly valuable throughout this process.
Our location and our high standards make it difficult to find the quality Guides we are accustomed to experiencing in our programs… Our school faces no greater challenge. With this in mind we have committed significant resources to the development and training of local staff.
We have worked with current and past staff, known and respected for their skills and Montessori spirit, who are committed to the Tri-Cities community and to Sagebrush, to become the next generation of Guides at Sagebrush.
To support our new Guides, Samantha May left the classroom so she can focus on whole school leadership and staff development in her roles as Head of School and Director of Pedagogy.
In the longer term, we have also begun programs to introduce young potential educators at CBC, TriTech, and WSU to the opportunities of Montessori.
Our thanks to Samantha for all of her work in making this possible - her Montessori leadership and guidance are invaluable.
Thanks go as well to Terri Allen, Maryanne Gilbert, Karlee Bacastow, and Ken Gamboa, for their investments in Montessori education and the commitment of their careers, skills, and caring for children to our Sagebrush classrooms.
Leadership and Presence in the Community
A long-held goal of the founders of Sagebrush has been to find ways to share what we have with others.
With this in mind, we have begun efforts to understand how we can support the addition of more Montessori classrooms in the region, in particular ones serving those who cannot afford a private education.
We have developed relationships with several national organizations that foster Montessori in the Public Sector and will explore how we can be part of their mission to provide Montessori education for all.
In June of 2021, we shared our Strategic Plan, with some core goals:
Expand programs to keep pace with growing demand
Expand facilities to create a permanent, integrated campus
Establish regional partnerships necessary to ensure a reliable pipeline of high quality Montessori guides
Establish long term financial and program stability
Looking back, we are happy to say that we’ve taken enormous strides in all areas of focus, as outlined in the previous areas of this report.
As always, we thank our dedicated and talented staff for all that they do to make these plans become reality and the Sagebrush family community for their incredible support.
Sagebrush remains in stable financial shape despite the challenges posed by several years of pandemic operations. Those years reinforced our financial planning principles, which are to (1) ensure that the school can meet its operating costs with tuition and fees alone, enabling fundraising to focus on major efforts such as facility improvements and staff investments, and (2) maintain a sufficient reserve to weather unplanned disruptions.
Over the past two years Sagebrush administration has also been remarkably successful in acquiring grant support from state and federal sources that covered investments in classroom equipment and recruiting and retaining critical staff.
For the 2023 fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023, the board approved a budget of $767,000. At the midpoint of our current fiscal year, expenses are slightly below our projections and income is running slightly ahead of projections. We will end the school year with a modest positive variance that will allow us to add to the school’s operating reserve.
The charts below show the breakdown of income and expenses for our most recent complete fiscal year, FY2022. In FY2022 we booked an operating loss as a result of deliberate spending of our PPP and other grants; grant funds booked as additional income in FY2021 were largely spent in FY2022 on classroom equipment and other costs.
As we have continued to mature as an organization, we have also added necessary new costs for services like HR, benefits, and accounting support. We have also funded valuable professional development for our staff – to maintain a robust pipeline of talented guides and assistants, we must not only look to hire from the outside, but to also grow our own talent by investing in critical Montessori training and support.
Going forward, we will continue to adjust tuition and fees to reflect the value that the school provides. As we have all observed in other areas of our lives, costs to operate the school have risen substantially in the past year. We maintain a strong partnership between the school administration and the board to ensure that we take on new costs thoughtfully and sustainably.
We will depend on generous financial support from families of current students and alumni as well as the broader community during our fundraising campaigns. Please include Sagebrush in your charitable giving plans; see https://www.sagebrushmontessori.org/give for more information on ways you can contribute. These donations allow us to tackle critical enhancements to our facilities and investments in our staff.
As ever, we are grateful for the Sagebrush community’s support to our school and we work hard to manage the school’s finances thoughtfully. If you would like more information on the school’s financial status or our financial principles, please reach out to Bill Pike at firstname.lastname@example.org.