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Montessori summit to educate parents, celebrate 30 years

University Montessori program chair Beth Bronsil to deliver keynote speech

02/24/04

Parents of Montessori elementary school students are gathering at Xavier's Schiff Family Conference Center on Sunday, Feb. 29, for an education seminar designed to teach them what their children are learning and how.

The Montessori Education Parents' Summit, which runs from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., also doubles as a showcase for Cincinnati's Montessori schools, which range from private preschools to numerous public elementary schools and the nation's first public Montessori high school.

Beth Bronsil, chair of the University's Montessori teacher education program who began teaching Montessori in 1968, said 2004 is a turning point for Montessori education in Cincinnati because calls for testing students are increasing at the federal and state levels.

"It's an important time because with all the emphasis on testing and No Child Left Behind, I think that they don't emphasize the importance of seeing each child where they begin and moving from the beginning point for each child instead of moving from a testing point," Bronsil says. "I'm very concerned about that. We want No Child Left Behind, but we want children to move ahead from where they are and not from where people want them to be."

Bronsil is delivering the keynote speech about the Montessori philosophy and method at the beginning of the program. Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Alton Frailey is addressing the audience at 4:25 p.m. And Keith Jackson, a Xavier basketball standout and a Sands Montessori graduate, also is speaking.

In between, parents have an hour to attend education sessions led by Montessori certified teachers who are explaining and demonstrating instruction at different age levels-ages 3 through 6, 6 through 9, 9 through 12 and junior and senior high school.

Children ages 3 and up are invited to attend the summit and will be kept busy with crafts, games and other activities on the concourse level. Student volunteers from Xavier and Clark Montessori High School are directing the children's activities.

The Ropin' Rockets jump rope team from North Avondale Montessori is performing at 2:00 p.m. to kick off the program. The Suzuki Strings, a group of Montessori students playing stringed instruments, are performing toward the end of the program, as will an African drumming class from the high school.

Montessori education became a popular fixture in Cincinnati after the Cincinnati Public Schools' decision in the mid-1970s to create a group of magnet schools that would help reduce middle-class flight to the suburbs and promote school integration by drawing students from across the district to schools that offered special programs. Montessori was one of the first alternative programs offered when the district opened Sands Montessori, the nation's first public Montessori school, in downtown Cincinnati in 1975.

The district now has three other Montessori elementary schools-North Avondale, Dater and Winton-and the newest program at Clark Montessori High School in the Hyde Park neighborhood. Clark is one of only two schools in the district to earn the state's highest "excellent" rating with Walnut Hills High School for the 2002-2003 school year.

A number of other Montessori programs are available in private schools, including the University's Montessori Lab School for ages 3 through 9. The Cincinnati Montessori Society lists 48 private and public Montessori schools in the Cincinnati metro region, though Bronsil says not all schools are listed.

The summit is co-sponsored by Xavier's Montessori education department and the Cincinnati Public Schools' Montessori parent groups with support from the Cincinnati Montessori Society. Admission to the event is free. Parking is available. Those who plan to attend may RSVP to Vanessa White, president of the Sands Montessori parent organization, at 513 363-5054, or at vanessawhite38@yahoo.com.