EDITOR’S DESK: Growing pains for Montessori

       Ever since it was proposed in 2003, the Montessori program at Buena Vista Elementary has seemed like the quintessential “win-win.” As the region's only public school offering this self-directed learning approach, supporters believed it could revive a school whose graying neighborhood had meant a 50 percent enrollment loss since the early '90s.
       Sure enough, enrollment did climb when the program started last fall. 2004-05 was the first school year since 1992 that enrollment at Buena Vista went up instead of down.
       Another bright side may also appear in July, when the state releases the full CSAP testing results. Montessori students tend to come from families with strong educational focus, and this could help the school's overall score.
       But not all of the Montessori story is joyous. Some growing pains are evident. The win-win from some angles is looking like win- lose, as the Montessori group is advertising outside the attendance area to attract experienced Montessori students while kids in the attendance area are mostly sticking to traditional classes or even transferring to other schools. Money issues have arisen, and indications of friction between the educational "sides" have also surfaced. What does this bode for the future? An end to Buena Vista as a neighborhood school? Let's hope not.
       That's why it's an encouraging sign that Brenda Smith, the new Buena Vista principal, is coming in with the attitude that if everyone puts the kids' interests first, solutions to other problems can be found. In this, she deserves our support.

- K.J.