2019–2020 Annual Report
Community can be experienced in many ways. The same community can be different things to a person at different points in their lives. That is my experience at Butler — I’ve been part of the parent community, part of the teaching/staff community, and now a part of the Trustee community. Regardless of my particular “role”, I am always aware of the “bigger” Butler community, one that serves so many.
Especially in these uncertain times, Butler serves as an oasis of peace and commitment as we struggle with concerns about the future. It serves as an oasis for the child, and for the many adults who believe deeply in that child. It serves as an oasis for the nature lover who needs a contemplative walk in the woods or quiet fellowship with other souls. This bigger Butler community is what we are acknowledging as we celebrate its 50th anniversary. May it always be here for us and for future generations.
When I was asked to contribute a story about my time at Butler for the 50th anniversary, I had just eaten an apple with peanut butter. For some of you this may ring a bell if you had the experience of eating alongside Butler’s founding head, Rilla Spellman. Rilla’s standard lunch fare was often simply an apple, cut into wedges, with a dollop of peanut butter removed from the spoon with the point of that wedge. Sweet, nurturing, simple, and satisfying this lunch mirrors the experience of so many Butler students of the past 50 years. I taught at Butler from 1992 to 1998 – six years when I was just beginning as a Montessorian. Butler launched my career which includes 8 years of teaching and 20 years as a school head. I have many stories of my time there, when I learned so many things alongside the students. The community culture at Butler is unmatched. The staff and families are truly in partnership to create an environment where children can be independent, curious, explorers who exude confidence and compassion. My last year at Butler I was stuck in a huge traffic jam on my way to Darnestown from D.C. Pre cell-phone era, there was no way to contact the front office. An early riser, I usually arrived before Diana, the receptionist, so I imagined they would be worried about me. After I arrived and walked in, I let Diana know I was stuck in traffic. She stared and said, “You weren’t here?!? None of the children told me. I just sent two parent observers in there.” We walked to my class and there were two students leading the community meeting, talking about jobs that needed to be done, and reminding them of our field trip the next day. The adult visitors were peacefully observing. I apologized for my tardiness and they said, “No problem. We saw everything we needed to know.” The students are at the center at Butler and take ownership of their education so that they are ready to make a difference in the world. Happy 50th Butler! Thanks for changing so many lives for the better – including mine!
Maura Joyce is the Head of School at The Post Oak School in Houston, which serves children 14 months through 12th grade.
When I received your letter, I knew it would tell me about your intention to step aside as Academic Head of Butler School, I was still a bit unprepared for this decision. As I stopped to think about the timing of the decision, your resolution to step aside now became clear. Stagnation is not in your vocabulary. But no cause for alarm is needed. Butler has been built to a strong position, not only to survive but also to thrive in a new era.
There is an impressive development to review. When you founded the school back in 1970 the first class consisted of only thirteen children, but within a short time the Primary classes grew to four. Something was good. But you knew quickly that Montessori had more to offer children of elementary age. Your commitment to give children all they needed for a good start in life added to my vision of Montessori for the older child. This brought about Butler's elementary program and eventually the intermediate class. Your dedication to helping children share in their own development is what made Butler's primary and elementary classes gain the strength and stature they have today.
The list of your accomplishments is long and impressive, including acquiring the campus by hoodwinking your best friends into a losing investment opportunity with purely spiritual dividends. Along with the school you created a great summer camp and a year-round equestrian program. After initial growing pains, you have managed the school so that it has a sound financial picture, I thank you for your consistent spirit, belief in the child, and dedication to Montessori and to the Association Montessori Internationale. Infused with Maria Montessori's guiding spirit, your commitment to the highest good and growth for all has been inspirational. You have been a source of positive energy for everyone—children, parents, Board and staff.
I know that you feel strongly about the importance of change, the need for growth and the life of the school. Along with you, l am excited about the changes ahead. I know that Cheryl Rowe is an excellent choice (I did try to corral her into training Montessori elementary teachers.) I'm sure the Board will support her in every way possible. She has a powerful understanding of Montessori, extensive experience in the classroom, and the ability to work with people very effectively. Although you will be missed, I know that the school will thrive under Cheryl's leadership.
I look forward to the party on June 5th. This is a very special occasion and I, along with the many friends and families who have been a part of Butler School over the years, want to celebrate with you.