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Private School/attrition and alumni donations


Hello Michael,

I am a new Board of Trustee member of a private Montessori school that currently enrolls approximately 360 children from age 18 months to age 15, ending at 9th grade.  Classrooms are multi-age containing 3 grade levels in each program ( ie lower elementary is gr 1-3, upper elementary grade 4-6, Junior high grade 7-9)   I am serving on a task force exploring the possibility of developing a full high school program through 12th grade.  The main driver of this task force has been parent interest, mine included as I have 2 children at the school. Many staff members are also very supportive.  Other influencing factors  include the recent purchase of a permanent home with enough space to accomodate a  9- 12 grade population of at least 80 students (and possibly more)  and the recent announcement that the surrounding public school district is planning to change its HS and JH enrollment demographics.  Currently, the HS enrolls 10-12th grade and JH enrolls 7-9th, but this will change to a 4 year high school and a junior high enrolling 6-8th grade as early as 2017.

My questions then are two:   Would a high school program help prevent possible increased attrition caused by the changing enrollment demographics in the nearby school district?  As our UE program now ends in 6th and JH ends in 9th, we are concerned that enrollment in these grade may drop precipitously as these will soon be the new entry level grades for JH and HS in the local ISD. Additionally,  would a high school program enhance our long term alumni donations, a cornerstone of our long term financial stability?  

I would appreciate any opinion or advice you can give me.


Congratulations on your appointment.  I fear I have little to offer here, as my experience is in Alumni Relations, not in fundraising.  That said, a few suggestions:
-Have you actually asked parents in an organized way?  A survey of current parents would let you know intentions as of today.  (I would not be concerned about placing the idea in their head.)
-you best resource for questions of retention and attrition would be to other Montessori schools who have gone through the same thing.  There should be both a national governing body and national and state/regional associations.
Every institution is a stepping stone to the next.  While a longer stay may increase loyalty, involvement, and giving, more depends on a few things:
  •teaching students about what it means to be alumni (you get to define that) while they are still students
  •SHOWing them by bringing in alumni to share expertise, tutor, mentor
  •highlighting giving by alumni at all levels, great and small
  •beginning alumni contact and programming right after they leave, and continue it to keep the sense of connection

I hope this has been helpful.  Best of luck!


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Michael Wall


I am available to take questions on Alumni and development programs for college and K-12 schools. I do not take questions on closed for-profit schools.

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