Applications Due: January 31, 2023
Start date: July 1, 2023
The Wetherill School offers a warm and secure first school experience that fosters independence and responsibility, and nurtures cognitive, physical, and social-emotional development in each child through a creative modified Montessori curriculum and exploration of the outdoors.
The Wetherill School was founded in June 1976 by two visionary Montessori teachers Florence Schmidt, Elwood Schmidt and Joell Taggart. Florence died in 1980 and Joel and Elwood Schmidt, Florence’s husband lead the school until 2012 when Marie Conti joined as head of school. The school is a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation governed by a Board of Directors. The 2022-23 school year is the school’s 47th year.
Florence and Joell were known for their warmth, skill with young children, and insight into human behavior. The present Wetherill staff members are dedicated to providing for the children the unique climate of caring, acceptance, and love of learning that the founders envisioned when they established The Wetherill School. The school is named in honor of Madelyn Wetherill who was a close friend of Florence Schmidt and an advocate of creative early education.
The school has successfully provided a nurturing, creative early childhood education for children of the Main Line area since its inception. Many alumni have returned to enroll their children and several alumni have served on our Board of Directors.
Wetherill is located in the Gladwyne Presbyterian Church in a beautiful quiet and secluded residential neighborhood on a spacious wooded 7-acre property in the heart of Philadelphia’s Main Line. The school leases classroom space from the church but has no religious affiliation.
The current Board of Directors is composed of current parents and alumni parents currently numbering eleven members, who serve 2-year terms and the head of school as an ex officio member. Members may serve up to two consecutive terms. Officers, including a President, Treasurer, and Secretary may serve up to two 2-year terms. The Board is currently engaging a consultant to guide the formation of a strategic plan.
Wetherill’s Associations and License
The school is licensed by the Pennsylvania State Board of Private Academic Schools and a member of The American Montessori Society (AMS) and on the Society’s Pathway of Continuous School Improvement Level 5. Wetherill is also a member of the Philadelphia Area Independent School Business Officers’ Association (PAISBOA).
Montessori education focuses on the child, the teacher, and the environment. Founded in the early 1900s in Italy, the Montessori philosophy and method sparked a worldwide revolution in education the whole child. This innovative thinking shaped a new type of learning environment designed to support the interests and needs of each individual child. The Wetherill School continues to embrace many tenets of this philosophy, combining them with best practices in early childhood education but incorporating open-ended and imaginative materials into the environment and using the great outdoors and mother nature as additional sources of exploration and knowledge building.
Early Childhood Morning Classes: In the Early Childhood program, children ages 2 years 7 months by September-6 years combine to form a community of learners. This multiyear Montessori cycle offers a unique experience for each child and provides opportunities to advance socially, emotionally, and academically. The curriculum encompasses individualized learning of mathematics, language arts, practical life skills, science, and cultural studies.
Kindergarten (FDK and PMK): A leadership year for every child, Kindergarten culminates from the foundation laid through the previous years at Wetherill. The child solidifies essential knowledge, thinking skills, and strength of character – all necessary to flourish as capable children today and successful adults tomorrow. Children who are 4 years 7 months by September 1 are eligible to attend the full-day Kindergarten program which includes a half day homogenous grouping and half day multi-age grouping. The PM Kindergarten group consists of children who come from the morning classes in the various elementary schools in Lower Merion School District and join our full-day kindergarteners.
Admission and Enrollment
The Tuition for 2022-233 Mornings (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday) 9:00-12:00 $7,300 5 Mornings 9:00-12:00 $9,525 5 Mornings/3 Afternoons (T, W, TH) 9:00-3:00 $12,995 5 Mornings/5 Afternoons 9:00-3:00 $15,550 Full Day Kindergarten 5 AMs + 5 PMs 9:00-3:00 $15,850 5 Afternoons Kindergarten Enrichment 12:00-3:00 $9,300 Kindergarten Activity Fee $100
Enrollment for 2022-23
Morning Early Childhood Classrooms: Total 48
Classroom 1: 12
Classroom 2: 18
Classroom 3: 18
Afternoon 4-year-old PreK : 14
PM Kindergarten: 30 (includes 9 full-day kindergarteners)
Children who complete preschool and/or kindergarten at The Wetherill School successfully move on to the area public and private schools. The head of school maintains relationships with other school entities in the Main Line area to guide families toward the best schools for their children.
Faculty and Staff
The school has a dedicated and experienced staff of twelve. Each class has an experienced teacher certified by the PA Department of Education and the American Montessori Society along with an assistant. Three teachers teach all day until 3:00 while one kindergarten teacher arrives at noon to teach one of the PMK groups and one teacher teaches half day. We also have a part-time administrative/marketing assistant and remote business manager.
Future Leadership of the School
The Board of Directors seeks an outstanding educator with a deep commitment to quality early childhood education and a thorough understanding of the Montessori philosophy to steward the remarkable legacy of The Wetherill school. Wetherill’s strengths are many, its opportunities for the future are being explored, and there is uniform agreement about the qualities and skills to be sought in the next head of school.
Strengths of The Wetherill School
There is deep appreciation for the warmth and support that envelop children, parents, faculty, staff, and alumni families at Wetherill, instilling a commitment and loyalty that are distinctive qualities in this community.
- Parents feel welcomed and encouraged to be actively involved, creating a sense of community that feels like a ‘second home.’
- Faculty/Staff genuinely care for and respect one another, creating a cohesive, team approach to their work with children and parents.
- Board members typically represent current and alumni parents, providing valuable continuity and stability to their stewardship of the school.
- Alumni often return to the school with their own children.
- Wetherill maintains a strong reputation in the area.
Stability of leadership: Wetherill has had only three Heads of School in its 47 years of existence and the long tenure of many faculty and staff is notable. This continuity, coupled with the extended support of Board members noted above, ensures the school’s future. Faculty/staff: Teachers and staff members, many with long tenures at Wetherill, develop valued partnerships with parents. Children form close relationships with their teachers who have high educational standards and empower students to make decisions and be independent.
Quality of program: Wetherill’s program provides children with an outstanding foundation for their future educational paths. Students become confident, curious learners and leaders with practical skills including executive functioning, problem solving and conflict resolution as well as an appreciation of the natural world around us. The proven success of the Montessori philosophy in the hands of AMS-certified, long-tenured teachers, and the breadth of the program, including Spanish, music and movement, and environmental studies are additional components of Wetherill’s outstanding program. Wetherill’s finances provide a strong foundation ensuring its future success. Solid enrollment: Advertising and word of mouth by current and past parents have all helped Wetherill maintain solid enrollment. The school’s beautiful location is also a plus.
Fiscal Viability: The Wetherill School has maintained a surplus budget for many years with tuition income and fundraising income. A strong annual gala auction fundraiser and annual giving fund have enabled the school to complete special projects and capital purchases and enabled our investment fund to reach $1 million last year, though recent stock market volatility has affected that balance. The school has no debt.
Challenge and Opportunities
The Wetherill School has been successfully serving children of the Main Line for 47 years and is in strong fiscal health. However, as with all schools, some challenges are currently facing the school:
Possible full-day kindergarten implementation in the local school district, which will impact the PM Kindergarten enrichment program
Aging building concerns and lack of space for growth and improvement in the physical structure
Succession planning for staff
Competition from area nursery and Montessori schools that offer more program options
Summary of the Search Process
The Board of Directors seeks a head of school to assume the position on January 3, 2023 or on July 1, 2023. The Wetherill School is an Equal Opportunity Employer that does not discriminate on the basis of actual or perceived race, creed, color, religion, alienage or national origin, ancestry, citizenship status, age, disability or handicap, sex, marital status, civil union status, veteran status, sexual orientation, genetic information or any other characteristic protected by applicable federal, state or local laws. Our management team is dedicated to this policy with respect to recruitment, hiring, placement, promotion, transfer, training, compensation, benefits, employee activities and general treatment during employment.
Candidates interested in this position are asked to submit the following materials by December 1, 2022.
- Cover letter addressed to the Search Committee, The Wetherill School
- Statement of Educational Philosophy
- A list of five or more references with contact information, including phone numbers and email addresses
- Up to three letters of reference (optional)
Qualities/Skills of the Next Head of School
The historic stability of Wetherill’s leadership sets the stage for a successful transition for the next Head of School. The Board of Trustees seeks an outstanding educator with the following experience and attributes:
An experienced early childhood educator and administrator.
A deep understanding of and commitment to the Montessori philosophy of education. Classroom teaching experience is essential and Montessori certification is an asset.
The ability to articulate the value of the Montessori approach to current and prospective parents and serve as an inspiring role model who understands the needs of each individual child and family.
Serving as a steward of the Wetherill legacy and having a vision for the future to preserve the school’s strength and stability.
Demonstrated success in recruiting and retaining faculty and staff, and guiding this team, and an understanding of adult learning to support their personal and professional growth.
In-depth knowledge of child development, particularly the early childhood years, and the ability to use that expertise to educate parents and guide faculty and staff.
Desire to be actively involved in the Montessori world of education regionally and even nationally.
Strong interpersonal qualities are especially important in the Wetherill community.
Excellent emotional intelligence: a warm, visible presence that fosters the close-knit community that is a hallmark of Wetherill. Knowing each child and their family is an expectation.
An authentic, transparent communicator and good listener who can respond objectively to address issues of concern. An articulate and passionate spokesperson for Wetherill with the ability to generate positive feelings to support the school. Excellent leadership experience and skills are essential. This includes:
Significant experience as an educational leader and administrator with a strong work ethic and ability to work collaboratively with all constituencies, and seek help when needed.
Confidence and an ability to provide prudent financial oversight with the Treasurer of the Board and the Business Manager.
Eagerness to partner actively with the Board to ensure the best interests of the school.
Minimum of a Bachelor's degree and preferable Master's Degree. Montessori certification preferable but not required.