A letter from the Chairman of our Board:
Please take a few minutes to hear an inspirational story and then consider helping:
In 1969, the Albany Free School was one of several hundred freedom-based schools in the United States. The principles of the '60s - remember back then? - were being put into action, and hands-on educational reform was a priority for many idealistic young people.
Most of these free schools had a core group of organizers and teachers with unbending dedication to creating new educational models that work. Some schools were in middle class areas, others in the ghetto. Nearly all operated on a shoestring budget. Some had an angel; none had an endowment.
Today only a few dozen of these schools remain. How has the Albany Free School managed to survive and become the longest continuously operating inner-city free school in the country?
There are many people to thank: our founder, Mary Leue, who was able to parlay a small inheritance into the acquisition of an old Lutheran church building and a dozen dilapidated inner-city townhouses nearby; a resilient community of teachers, parents, students, neighbors and nearby friends who have labored and sacrificed; and the hundreds of people who organized "work parties" to refurbish those buildings for teacher, intern, and family housing.
But the secret of the Free School's survival and growth is the kids. The students are the ones who prove the radical idea that you can trust children, that children who are given responsibility and choices thrive, and that learning is a natural part of growing up. Their success as healthy, clear-eyed and highly competent adults is the real reason for the school's longevity.
Since 1969, well over 500 children have attended the Albany Free School. All of the principles upon which the school was founded - democracy, diversity, community, equality, cooperative learning, self-motivation - remain intact. Today the school is a unique model that is studied by progressive educators from across the country and around the world. It is a teacher-training center for ten to twelve interns each year.
Our fifty-plus enrollment is as diverse as ever, with kids from all races and social classes, some troubled, some thriving, some needing discipline and structure, some needing the freedom to yell without being yelled at, some just needing positive attention, others needing special help to catch up to grade-level in reading, writing and arithmetic.
As has been the case throughout our history, parents are advised that no student may take Ritalin, Prozac, or other biopsychiatric pacifiers. The school's fluid, individualized structure, low student/teacher ratio, and freedom of expression and movement render these potentially harmful drugs unnecessary. When appropriate, teachers work with problem families to help them correct dysfunctional patterns at home, or when necessary recommend that they seek out professional help.
The eight full-time teachers (plus one part-timer) continue to work, as they have since the beginning, for no salary. All school income (tuitions and contributions) are pooled each month, and teachers are reimbursed for their living expenses at an average annual draw from the communal pot of $8,100. Volunteers do all administration. Building maintenance and repairs are dealt with on a pay-as-you-go basis, using cost-cutting skills honed by decades of experience.
The school is now stretched to the limit, and the future is troublesome because:
* Today's world is different from the '60s and '70s. Young people, no matter how dedicated, want to earn a real income (and often need to earn good salaries to pay off student loans). It is harder every year to keep teachers who are tempted by public school teaching positions - for which they are well qualified - where they can earn starting salaries of over $30,000, plus significant fringe benefits.
* Our 130 year-old physical plant is functional, but shabby - too shabby. We need new windows, flooring, lighting, and re-plastering and repainting.
* Tuition is based on a sliding scale according to income. Average tuition amounts to $800 per year, and over 75% of the students are eligible for the federally subsidized breakfast and lunch programs. Parents simply cannot pay more.
In order for the school to sustain itself, we must raise an endowment, the income from which will be used to supplement teacher salaries, to make long overdue repairs to the physical plant, and to help with the maintenance of the school van.
To date nearly $250,000 has been pledged, leaving us with a million dollars to go. If you think you might be interested in joining our growing group of angels, please call the school at (518) 434-3072 and ask for Chris or Nancy. The school's e-mail address is albanyfreeschool@yahoo.com.
All contributions are tax-deductible.
In gratitude,
Ned Foss
p.s: Details of our plan for the survival of the school follow.
The Free School: 2000 - 2005 Endowment Plan and Fact sheet
Average Monthly rental income from contributions $ 5,235
Average monthly tuition payments $ 4,000
Monthly Benefits, special events, donations $ 100
TOTAL INCOME, Annual (10 month school year) $ 93,350
Teacher reimbursements (9 at average of $ $ 675 monthly) $ 72,900
Supplies, utilities, repairs, equipment (no salaries or fees) @ $ 1700/month $ 20,450
TOTAL EXPENSES, Annual (10 month school year) $ 93,350
Note: This total excludes the Federal breakfast and lunch programs run in segregated accounts.
The school needs to pay its teachers $ 16,000 per year salary. We won't pay benefits or living expenses, and the teachers will become employees. This will entail bookkeeping and payroll expenses. So the total cost per teacher per year to the school will be about $amp; 16,000 plus 10% payroll costs, less the reimbursements of $ 8,100 per year that will no longer be paid. Net per teacher is therefore $amp; 6,500.
Annual Teacher Salary contribution from endowment: 9 @ $ 6,500 $ 58,500
Annual $ 16,000 salary plus 10% expenses. $ 17,600
The school desperately needs $ 20,000 of repairs in the next two years, and $ 50,000 over 3 years. We are seeking one-time grants for these repairs, then a monthly fund $ 500 per month.
One time repairs $ 20,000 to $ 50,000
Annual Repairs fund from endowment: $ 6,000
The school van is functional and safe; has 3 years' life left. This will be an ongoing need.
Annual vehicle fund from endowment $ 5,000
So, excluding one-time repair grants, our endowment must generate $ 87,000 per year.
Our 5-year endowment goal is $ 1,250,000, assuming the endowment can generate 7% on investments.
The Albany Free School
8 Elm Street
Albany, NY 12202     (518) 434-3072