April 12, 2017
During winter, the bulbs underground store what they need to blossom in spring. Similarly, over the last year or so, we, future worker-owners of The Rose Garden, Theresa DiMuro-Wilbur, Josh Boyle, Dasha Nadolinski and I have been gathering what we need to help The Rose Garden thrive in the coming months and years after our fearless leader Judy's retirement.
The four of us, along with Laura Grande, prospective worker-owner in training, have been meeting with Cooperation Buffalo, an organization dedicated to proliferating the worker co-op model throughout Buffalo, led by Cooperative Developers Tori Kuper and Andrew Delmonte. With steadfast guidance from Cooperation Buffalo we have graduated from the Co-op Academy, a 12 week, 36 hour training course that equipped us with the skill sets and tools we will need for the business to thrive and the cooperative to grow. We learned how co-ops operate efficiently and effectively and we learned from Judy herself why she chose this model for The Rose Garden.
Over the 12 weeks of the Academy we have built a new foundation of trust among ourselves as we got to know one another wearing different ‘hats.’ While we know one another quite well as teachers, we’ve been exploring getting to know ourselves and one another as owners and operators of the school. The process has been eye-opening and informative, rounding out the other side of what we do throughout the day.
On the other side of the art of teaching are the systems behind policies and practices. On the other side of the art of teaching are the systems behind policies and practices. On the other side of gently wiping jam from a child's face is financial management. On the other side of teaching how to plant in spring and harvest in fall is strategic planning. On the other side of making morning grain with a small helper is governance.
What Cooperation Buffalo's training has given us is an in depth look at how these two sides of a coin really are yin and yang, halves of a circle, two hands intertwined. When we learn to look at the world in this light, we no longer see "us" and "them;" our black and white lens softens to gray. We learn the why behind what we do and the how of the interconnectedness of the roles; the tenderness of teaching young children and conducting the parade of paperwork marching in and out of the office.
One of the most important pieces for parents to understand about this transition is that just about everything in the realm of the children and their families will stay the same. Teachers will still be teachers, and they will also be doing other tasks such as conducting tours, writing blog posts, posting to Facebook, reviewing time sheets and meeting with the Director. Stephanie will remain in her vital role as Director, managing the day-to-day operations of the Center. Children’s daily activities will continue on as usual. Hours of operation and staffing of the office will be as you know it. Tori and Andrew will continue attending our weekly worker-owner meetings to help strengthen our cooperative meeting skills. The small things that will change will be internal and likely will not be noticeable to children nor families. New owners will join the team as they express interest and meet the proper criteria.
As teachers, and soon to be teacher-owners, we feel confident in our preparedness, well supported by our networks, and excited about the path before us. Please, be emboldened to reach out with any thoughts about this process; we are eager to receive your questions and comments.