R.I.P. New Earth Academy

11 Sep

Since Hallie arrives tomorrow evening, I suspect I will be spending less time at the computer. This is not a bad thing, unless you’ve become used to my reasonably frequent updates over the last few weeks. Before then I figure I should write about what’s been going on.

New Earth Academy is dead.

Alright, so I have a flair for the dramatic, but still, it’s more or less dead. If it’s alive, it’s only as an idea.

When we started New Earth Academy last year we had 6 students and this number grew to 8 within a few weeks. It seemed like we’d get up to 10, even 20, within months. Everyone loved the idea. We had 5 full-time staff members and a cute (but too small) building. Every other week (or so it seemed) we had a parent, or an acquaintance, or a staff member, or a potential parent, or someone else of significance say “Oh, I can get money from stones. Money is everywhere, there’s lots of money, don’t worry about money. You should just get a grant! I love to fundraise, do you need help with fundraising?” Or something to that effect. We had parents volunteer to do fundraising for us. We had parents writing grant proposals for us in exchange for tuition. We even had a parent (who is also a real estate agent) find us a great building and help us try to purchase it. It cost one million dollars, none of which we had or have. “Don’t worry about it, there’s money in this town, we can raise money, I know people, money is everywhere. Even if nobody else is interested I’ll consider buying it myself.” He actually said that. We didn’t end up purchasing this building, and neither did he. Also, he took his son out of the school before the year was over. We never got any money from any people who “helped” us fundraise. We never got any of the grants we applied for. Over and over again this happened to us, someone new comes along and promises that they can help us, only to have them give us absolutely nothing in return, and leave us. Again and again.

It was, perhaps, irresponsible to start a school and take in students without a sustainable infrastructure to support the place, but we kept having positive signs and assurances from people peripherally (and more closely) involved that money wouldn’t be a problem.

We were out to save the world, not run a business, what did we know?

To skip to the end, since the rest isn’t all that interesting anyways, we ran out of the little money we had, and we lost the lease on our building and have to vacate it in a week. (This means we have a building full of stuff and no place to put it.) We’re down to two staff members (Womark and I). Most of our students are gone. We only have two students still enrolled, and only one of them is actually paying us. We’re currently working out of a small Neighborhood Center next to Rhea’s house. They’re awesomely giving us free “rent” in exchange for us tutoring a bunch of their students (the local neighborhood kids) for two hours each day we’re there. So to the extent that we’re still operating, we’re now New Earth Learning Center, or New Earth Tutoring Service (NETS?), or something. What we’re going to do with Paul and AJ (the two students we still have) I’m not yet sure. Neither are they.

So New Earth Academy is dead, but as a year-long experiment in alternative, holistic, individualized education it told New Earth Center for Learning a lot. We learned that the approach taken by New Earth Academy can be successful, but in order to be so it requires a fairly massive amount of resources (financial and otherwise). We also learned that until a system for organizing said resources is in place and operational, trying to start and run New Earth Academy (or any school like it) is a waste of energy as well as potentially irresponsible.

And that’s what I’ve been up to for the last few weeks. The bright side (if there is one) is that since Womark and I are now the only people “working” at the school, I’m getting paid about half of the tuition money we’re getting in, which is pretty decent. It’s more than I’ve been paid for the last year at least.

Thus is my Joy disseminated.

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