Education and Home

Yearly school maintenance and preparation, plus K to 12 building expansion

A POINT OF AWARENESS - Preciosa S. Soliven - The Philippine Star

Way back in 1966, when we first established the first Operation Brotherhood Montessori school, well known women columnists in the country including Betty Go Belmonte, Nang Sevilla and Doris Nuyda expressed delight and wonder how preschoolers can be so focused in work (not play) in front of visitors and newspaper photographers. Instead of workbooks, crayons and play dough, open shelves were filled with one of a kind puzzle maps of the world and Asia, golden decimal beads, Botany and Zoology cards, sandpaper letters, dressing frames, etc. Enrolment suddenly increased. Recalling that the Montessori Casa dei Bambini were in lovely old villas in Italy, OBI president, architect Oscar Arellano rented one of the huge old mansions being left behind in Manila by well known families who moved out to the new villages of Makati like Forbes Park, San Lorenzo, and Dasmariñas.

Renting ancestral homes for schoolhouses

The CuUnjieng mansion (circa 1929) at Escoda St., Paco was our first OBMC school. It had about 10 large rooms on the ground and second floor. It had a wide driveway with two stone Dalmatian dogs and dried-up garden fountain. It accommodated two Nasugbu village teachers we were training for the children of the Taal Volcano refugees who were relocated in the towns of Lemery and Taal. As a non-stock, non-profit OB school project, our austere budget prevented us from building a new schoolhouse. 

When the CuUnjiengs decided to tear it down to construct apartment houses to rent, Max and I were building a new house in North Greenhills. I bought the wide narra floors, the winding narra staircase and the colored tiles to complement the Filipiniana style Architect Formoso designed for our house. Max’s TV show Impact was gaining popularity, so did my own “Montessori for Everyone.” Both ABS-CBN productions, these were beamed weekly all over the country, instantly informing our countrymen how the Montessori system was revolutionizing the education system.

Transforming the Lichauco and Lacson heritage houses into schools

Mr. Arellano helped us relocate to one of two ancestral houses of Ambassador Lichauco beside Xavier Jesuit house in Herran (Pedro Gil St.). Both the historical Sta. Ana church and market were a few meters away. The OBI offices occupied the other house. Enrollment doubled so we rented the Rufino mansion on Taft Avenue. When families from Quezon City requested a school branch, Chito Madrigal gave me her beautiful house on 11th St. along Gilmore rent-free. Then by September 1972 Martial Law was declared. All TV stations were padlocked. Max was arrested together with Ninoy Aquino, Chino Roces, Teddy Locsin, Nap Rama, Monching Mitra, Jomari Velez, Pepe Diokno, Voltaire Garcia and Soc Rodrigo. On December 6 all were released except Ninoy and Diokno.

Although the political situation was unstable, school activities, except universities with student unrest, continued on a normal pace. Demand for OB Montessori preschool grew in Angeles, Pampanga when the DOD school principal Ann Drake requested me to set it up in Clark Field for children of American enlisted men. We decided instead to rent the Lacson mansion along Entierro St. fronting Holy Rosary Parish church. For 20 years between 1966 to 1986 renting heritage home gave a heavy headache since the old electric wiring and plumbing were so damaged that replacing them cost a fortune. Thus having enough savings and conducting fund raising events we gradually bought the properties from our landlords. After martial law bank interests dwindled enabling us to borrow so we could build new school buildings. The next 27 years we were able to provide Montessori schooling for the children of Angeles, Las Pinas and Angeles, Pampanga as well as partnered with mayors and governors all over Luzon to provide for the underprivileged children 156 Pagsasarili Preschools.

The prepared environment of life in schools

To mature the life of the fetus, Mother Nature provided the ideal environment – the womb, completely nourishing, fully ventilated and comfortable until it becomes a full grown infant within nine months. The first three years, the Absorbent Mind, enables the infant to speak and walk by himself in the home surroundings under the watchful eyes of loving parents. By three, the child is scholastically ready to receive instruction in a good preschool. Three sets of “prepared environment” within the classroom will nurture his or her lifelong journey through early childhood 3-6 years old, later childhood 6-12 years old, to the 12 -18year of adolescence until mature adulthood.

Unless the young adult students understand the expense that goes into the professional management of quality schooling, they will have no reason to complain about the increase in tuition fees.

The Environmental Care Office (ECO) is in-charge of the maintenance of the school facilities. Its role is to see to it that the school’s “prepared environment” is pleasant and complete, functional, orderly and safe for all students all year round. This includes the academic offices of the principal and teachers with the support offices of guidance counselors, the library, and the clinic. The administration activities take place in the Human Resource office, Registrar’s office where enrolment is conducted, complimented by the Cashier section, bookstore and canteen. The ECO department also monitors the responsibilities of security guards and school drivers. The Publication office, with its artists and writers help revise and improve textbooks, drill sheets, layout annuals and regular school bulletins. It takes care of school theatre production, and enrolment campaigns besides issuing press releases.

Exceptionally busy repair and construction work-year 3013

As early as January in preparation for the Kto 12 academic program, the expansion of our three year old Fairview branch started, constructing a five storey building for Grade VI to XII to add to the existing elementary school building, Home Economics laboratories, music room and administrative front office.

Meanwhile by February the OB Montessori headquarters in Greenhills, which has the biggest population among the five schools, kept the ECO monitors-in charge of housekeeping and the in-house school engineers in charge of construction and repairs quite busy. A much longer checklist of repairs and maintenance was drawn up for the additional classroom requirements needed for the high enrolment forecast that was successfully met. All purchase requisitions for summer repair and reconstruction works are made out corresponding to a schedule of activities for two months starting the third week of March, right after graduation and Easter, up to the third week of May. A team of skilled carpenters, plumbers, welders and masons are fielded out in the five schools and supervised by our three engineers. The electricians make sure all the air -conditioners work. The wirings are checked, together with the electric insect repellant and proper light bulb replacements are done per classroom and offices. Teams of janitors repaint all classroom furniture and the open shelves traditionally used for the numerous Montessori apparata in both preschool and elementary school classes.

The professional management of high performing schools

A misconception of many is that managing a school is a light and pleasant task since holidays last two months in summer and two weeks every Christmas. The public also tend to associate schools as money-making ventures motivating the owners from a purely business angle.

According to the Dale Carnegie book on The Professionalization of Teaching, professionals provide service while businessmen sell merchandise. Since teaching is a service, teachers could be professionals like lawyers and doctors so long as they have a lengthy period of studies, internship, and continuous attendance of refresher courses just like what doctors and lawyers undergo. Quality teaching has to be complemented with professional school management.

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