In the early 1990s - two members of our Southern Indiana community, Barbara Burke Fondren and Glenn Fondren began to explore options for educating their own children in New Albany, Indiana. Barbara had begun her career as a teacher after earning her degree in Education from Indiana University. When they began this research, they happened to view an episode of the show “60 Minutes” about Montessori education. Barbara could not believe that she had never heard of this method during her education. Barbara and Glenn became determined to make sure that a school offering the Montessori approach to educating children would be offered in our community.
Initially, the hope for the school was that it would be able to be a part of the New Albany Floyd County public school system. Even though the Superintendent at the time, Ed Adams, was very supportive of Montessori education, it was too expensive for the district to take on as a goal. Barbara quotes herself as saying “Well, if I find the money...will you open the school?” Thus began her research about how a school could be funded as part of the school system, or opened independently. Initially, because of the options available the school was founded in 1998 as a private, non-profit organization, with two goals Barbara gave to the Board of Directors - add an age level each year through high school and eventually be tuition-free (possibly a Charter school).
In the late 1990s, there was a movement to create innovative, independent, Charter schools to improve the educational environment and options in the nation. Indiana was considering this option, and after years of lobbying by Barbara and other school leaders, as well as support by key Legislative partners like Teresa Lubbers, the Charter School law was passed in 2001 in Indiana. After meeting with staff, parents and learners, there was a consensus of the members of the school that they would agree to the additional requirements of becoming a public Charter school, and applied for authorization from Ball State University. Since then, Community Montessori has been a tuition-free, independent, Charter School for grades K-12 serving any family that resides in the State of Indiana.
The school began with only 59 learners enrolled, but added an age level each year until the school has now reached capacity with over 600 learners ages birth through age 18. The school also offers infant and toddler care through the Community Nurtury, and tuition-based Early Education for ages 3 and 4. The Charter School maintains a waitlist of over 100 throughout the year and has a retention rate higher than 95%.