Why did you open a preschool, Escuela Cooperativa de Sayulita, here in Sayulita in August 2017?
We have been coming to Sayulita for almost ten years and have fallen in love with the town and its warm and welcoming residents. We wanted to give back to the community, so we started asking about opportunities. Education has always been a priority for us, and we soon learned there was a real need for a tuition-free preschool for local children. We started holding community meetings at the cultural center to see if local families were interested. At each meeting, more parents came and brought their friends. They were very enthusiastic and shared their priorities with us. They asked many questions and soon we had a registration list of 15 families ready to start in August.
What are the mission and goals of the school?
Our vision is to collaborate with the community in order to create an innovative educational opportunity for its youngest children. Escuela provides an early learning opportunity for children aged 3-5 in a nurturing and fun environment that will start them on the path to lifelong learning.
We now have 18 children, an outstanding teacher who has moved to Sayulita during the school week, and an excellent assistant.
We have six basic goals:
- to create a curriculum for 3-5 year olds that encourages peer-to-peer learning, develops self-confidence and a curiosity for lifelong learning
- to enhance local pride through the integration of Mexican arts and culture across the curriculum
- to provide English language instruction
- to introduce environmental concerns across the curriculum
- to include caretakers in the educational setting through volunteerism and skills training
- to create a community-based school where families feel welcomed
How does the school operate?
Escuela operates on the public school schedule and runs five days a week from 9-2. It is a Montessori-based, cooperative preschool, so parents who are paying no tuition are expected to volunteer their time.
There is a Parent Advisory Council that meets once a month to enhance communication and organize activities. These families have been fantastic. They bring nutritious lunches every day, clean the classroom, maintain the property, and assist in many other ways, including providing workshops to the children in subjects such as English, art, athletic activities, and music.
What have you found most gratifying in the first school year?
First, we have wonderfully engaged children who tell their parents that they love coming to school. Second, we have a terrific parents’ group that exudes an energetic dynamic that leads to collaboration. Third, we have a fantastic teacher who is truly dedicated. She is not only a wonderful instructor, but she goes above and beyond in attending after school meetings and engaging in regular professional development. Despite all the regular school hours, she has not missed a day of teaching since school started in August.
What is your vision for the future of Escuela?
We look forward to expanding the number of families in the school and the number of educational services we can offer. Among those services, we would like to start a bookmobile that moves throughout the community and offers English language instruction for adults at the school after school. We anticipate that these services will be developed in partnership with other Sayulita organizations.
How is the school funded?
We have set up a 501c3 in the U.S. and a civil association in Mexico and rely on individual donations. We provide a substantial amount of support along with others, such as Cap Sparling and Roxy Adams, who have a long history of giving back to the community of Sayulita. We plan to organize local fundraisers in the coming years and increase our outreach by partnering with local businesses and organizations. We very much appreciate all contributions, as we want this school to expand and be sustainable.
How are the funds used?
Ninety percent of the funds go directly into education as compensation to the teachers and for educational materials, such as books and subject-matter materials. The remaining funds help pay for utilities and rent. There are no administrative costs.
How can a person learn more about Escuela and contribute?
They can write to Martha here or Larry here to receive our quarterly newsletter. They can also go to our website. The site provides information on the school, including our handbook and also makes donations easy through PayPal or credit card. If someone prefers to pay by check, they can send it to Escuela Cooperativa c/o Casazza, 175 North Harbor Drive, #5202, Chicago, Il. 60601.