26 April 2013

In case you missed The Onion this week...http://www.theonion.com/articles/professor-deeply-hurt-by-students-evaluation,20130/

Now, spread your wings!

13 February 2013

Lunchtime talk

Just gave a lunch talk about Atala to our local Kiwanis group. What an awesome group of people! I got to give the history of Atala, how we started, where we're going. They were very engaged, asking specific education-related questions, trying to figure out how we assess if we don't emphasize standardized test, etc. What a super experience!

Spread Your Wings!

12 February 2013

English Pirate?

Here are our Facebook stats from the last 3 weeks. I love that we have an English pirate commenting on our pages...  :)

English (US)
English (UK)
Spanish (Spain)
English (Pirate)
French (France)

31 January 2013


83%—that's how many of our families re-enrolled for next year during the month of January. We have more students re-enrolled than the total enrollment from our first year of existence. Super exciting!

Spread Your Wings!

29 January 2013

Academic Wars

So nerdy, so true...I bet it was a current professor who made it. They have waaaay to much time on their hands! That being said, it's really funny:

21 January 2013

Fiscal Fitness

So if you know me, then you know I can't stand exercising. It's boring, there's no goal, no competition, and generally no point. Because I stink at exercise, I am not competitive, so there's no use doing it. I'm trying to find unique ways to get fit including bike riding with Liam (my son). This seems to work a lot better than just running in circles around the neighborhood. We've been biking to my old lady friend's house, which is 3.7 miles round trip. We usually eat pretty healthily and are really trying to monitor our portion sizes. But there's always room for improvement.

While I'm not particularly physically fit, Atala Montessori is fiscally fit! I've been working on all our tax statements for this year and learned a lot. First of all, we went from loosing around $80,000 in our first year of business to loosing only $8500 in our second year of business. While you may look at that and say, 'wow, they are loosing a lot of money,' the first figure represents all the money we put into the school to get it started—the building renovations, the purchases of workbooks, furniture, computers, and all the other equipment associated with a school. Did you know that those little kiddy toilets found in most schools cost $400 a piece? And that doesn't include the installation! The requisite drinking fountains are $800 per fountain! Everything adds up quickly. So loosing only $80 grand is not bad for our start-up year. Last year we only lost $8500, but keep in mind we opened up a new classroom. So we had many renovations and purchases, but for a single room (which helped a lot).

This is we should finally be able to bank something and really start saving for a permanent building, a final home for Atala. We really want to stop renting and have something that we own—the land, the building, and the business.

With all this, I am so proud to say that as of this month, the school has grossed $1,000,000 since its inception! We have, indeed, Spread Our Wings!

17 January 2013


OK so I have to admit it—I fell asleep yesterday before I had a chance to post. I am looking forward to the 3-day weekend so I can begin to plan my entries over the upcoming months. I need a strategy, a goal, in writing this blog. Right now (as you know if you're actually reading) it's more of a diary. I want to get back to the reasons I left academia and how frustrating that situation was, while this new opportunity to own my own business has been exhilarating (well, at least 80% of the time). More on that after the weekend...

Spread Your Wings!

15 January 2013

Rodeo Days

Homestead is home to the furthest southern rodeo in the whole US and Atala is participating in every event we can. Our children in first through eighth grade will be demonstrating square dancing, line dancing, and the Virginia reel next week. Then we're having a rip-roarin' time next Friday at the Redland Riding Academy where we will ride horses, go on a hayride, work on some arts and crafts, play with the farm animals, and enjoy a fabulous BBQ lunch with Charlie (no "s") Rib Shack. Finally, next Saturday we are building a "Little Red Schoolhouse" float for the rodeo parade. I'm definitely looking forward to next week!

Spread Your Wings!

14 January 2013

Re-Enrollment Time!

After only one week into the re-enrollment period, we already have 17% of our student body enrolled for next year. So we are rocking and rolling along!

Next week is our Rodeo Week at Atala—complete with square dancing, a parade, and a special day at a riding academy where all the kids can ride horses and ponies, enjoy a hayride, and eat some awesome BBQ courtesy of Charlie (no "s") Rib Shack.

Having a great time at school these days. Having a hard time keeping up with posting everyday, but I'm doing my best. :)

Spread Your Wings!

11 January 2013


Somehow I missed a day yesterday! I don't know how it happened other than I got tied up in meetings at school and then had choir practice at home. After that I was wiped out, ordered Chinese food, and watched Family Feud until I fell asleep. The glamorous life of a business owner...

My son is learning to be quite the entrepreneur—he started a balloon business this past year. He makes swords, dogs, fairy wings, you name it and he'll try to make it for you. Sells things for $1 a balloon. He makes an average of $30 per hour and has earned a lot of spending money in the past six months. Tomorrow he has his first official job—a birthday party for a 1-year-old little boy. Liam (my son) is excited and nervous all at once. He's told everyone at least three times that he has a job tomorrow. So proud of himself and he should be!

We had a business meeting with our angel advisor today. Lots of good advice about how to weigh our options and figure out what's best for us, not to be pressured by people who want to "help us," but lay out a solid business plan where we and our business benefit the most. So grateful that Patti (one of the partners) knows him personally. We all feel like we can trust him and that's important as we move forward.

Anyway, enough for today. I'm sleeping in until at least 7:00 am tomorrow!  :)

Spread Your Wings!

09 January 2013


Totally random thoughts tonight. I'm too tired to think straight...

We have our first couple of re-enrollments in already. Returning parents have until the end of the month to let us know if they plan on returning next year. After spending the bulk of the day running the projected numbers for next year, I have come to the conclusion that our preschool has 2 spaces left! We have 4 spaces for the toddler room, the Upper Elementary room has 19 students! We are busting at the seams. All is good. No, all is great!

Met with someone who wants to help us identify properties and get the financing situated. We'll see if it works out. Right now we're all kind of holding our breath to see what happens.

Just tried out for Jeopardy online. Hoping I make it to an open audition. I'll keep you all posted.

Spread Your Wings!

08 January 2013


Passed our DCF renewal inspection with flying colors!

Interesting tidbit about DCF is that our licensing person actually busted the lid off the Rilya Wilson case. It's very newsworthy given that Rilya's "grandmother" (turns out she lied and really wasn't her grandmother) is now on trial for the little girl's death and our licensing agent is the one who actually discovered that the girl was missing for quite some time. What a horrible case!

Today was crazy—bank meeting at 7:15 am to network with other local businesses, three tours at school today, lunch with friends, and then home again at about 5:30. Tomorrow morning I have my one day a week to open, which means the kiddos and I need to wake up at 5:30 am. Totally stinks, but it's my day and it's only once a week.

Anyone out there reading? Let me know.

Spread Your Wings!

07 January 2013

Fall Out

There were several follow-ups to the post about academics having a cushy job. The one being cited on Facebook is by http://www.forbes.com/sites/emilywillingham/2013/01/06/do-college-professors-have-less-stress/.

Ms. Emily Willingham, apparently also a recovering academic asserts that, "No one I know in academia is disengaged in this way from their work, and indeed, given the kind of intellectual commitment and mental engagement becoming an academic requires, why would they be?"

Really? I have taught at Oberlin College, Dartmouth University, and Florida International University. I now hold a visiting position (to assist in teaching the Galapagos Study Abroad course) at the University of Miami. So other than the community college experience, I have seen a lot different types of colleges, taught in at least three different regions in the US, and taught both graduate and undergraduate students. And Ms. Willingham doesn't know anyone who is is disengaged with their job in academia? Seriously? There are always burnouts in academia and because of unions (which I like) and other mechanisms in place to protect profs, the deadbeats are allowed to live out their career teaching basically nothing to non-majors while raking in a full salary.

And while I have experience grown men running down the hall yelling at each other, pounding their fists on the table and walking out of meetings, I find that type of bad behavior ridiculous and part of the problem of the misconception of what academics are doing. Since I have also been approached by an older colleague and kissed full on, then been made to think that I "gave him mixed signals," I can also tell you that that is stress. Yet no one came to my side to help when I complained.

I have also had younger staff members working for me in the Dean's office who complained that the Dean (yes, the chief academic and fiscal leader of the college) asked her to create "funny" pictures placing the head of a University Vice President on a Cialis ad. Hilarious, right? Isn't that harassment? No, apparently not according to FIU.

Let's talk about the "real world" Ms. Willingham. Isn't that hysterical when an older male dean talks non-stop about Pinus elliottii, emphasizing the word "pinus" time after time? The laughing and snickering in between pronunciations is something you'd expect out of a 5th-grade boy not the 60-year-old leader of an academic institution, right? Such puerile conversations are not considered harassment at all, but rather witty, academic discussion?

While I appreciate that I actually had to look up the word, "sinecures" which is used in Ms. Willingham's article, I don't believe anyone in the original article she's trying to rip apart used that term. Next time, figure out what is being critiqued before you go and defend the other side.

Spread Your Wings!

06 January 2013

CNBC article

Read it and weep: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/least-stressful-jobs-for-2013-162058604.html

My dad has said it for years—university professors have "cushy" jobs. Well, now CNBC agrees. I think it's funny that all the university professors are in an uproar right now. Let's see—you pretty much set your own hours, most don't go in five days a week and even if they do, it's certainly not 9-5 hours, you have Fall Break, Winter Break, Spring break, and summers off. While there are things you must do like research, it's largely done on your own time in your own space. The articles says the median salary is $62,000 and that's for 9 months—not a bad deal at all!

The downside? You have to pay for your parking space. Oh yeah and you have to try to teach a group of students, many of whom think they are entitled to be there earning a degree. That was definitely a downer for me.

I love my new role in education, working with young students who love learning and aren't so jaded by life that they think they know more than you do (well, a few of those middle school students might not agree with me...). These kids are sponges who think it's cool to read "Little House on the Prairie" or conduct Mentos experiments to see what liquid will produce the biggest blast. My daughter got two guinea pigs for Christmas this year and without hesitation named them Mary and Laura! My son is very excited that January is Rodeo Days month in Homestead so he gets to put on his rodeo gear and work on his square dancing moves!

So while university professors may not have the cushiest job, it's right up there, in my opinion. They should be thankful they have the job they do and stop complaining when people point out that they're not doing hard labor somewhere working on a construction site for $25 an hour or standing up all day working the line at MacDonald's for $12 an hour.

Spread Your Wings!

05 January 2013

Keeping my resolution

Day 2 of keeping my New Year's resolution to write here everyday. If you happened to find me and read some of my older posts, you'll quickly learn that I used to be a music professor. I worked in an academic setting for 18 years before giving up tenure, a six-figure income, and what most people would consider a "cushy" job to launch a school along with four friends of mine, all of whom have taught my two kids.

This year has been a success for the school on so many counts. Most of all, we are financially stable, everyone is receiving a salary every month (that didn't happen the first and second years—we, the owners, went without pay or half pay for several months), and we have two different groups of people seeking to "help" us by either renting custom-designed spaces to us or by finding and identifying property and financing that might be available to us. We have some important decisions to make in the next few months. Everything is very exciting and moving full steam ahead.

I am gearing up to teach sound recording and editing to my middle school students. I used to teach this to college students, but technology is moving so quickly that what seemed difficult to learn 20 years ago is now passé to children in the 10-12 year old range. They have grown up with iPads, iPods, and iPhones thanks to their parents wanting a silent vacation trip. These kids know how to download apps without thinking twice about it. It's really quite amazing and I am definitely looking forward to working with the class on more advanced techniques not available through free apps on an iPhone.

That's it for today. I'll try to keep things more interesting in the future, but right now I'm just getting back in the swing of things.

Spread Your Wings!

04 January 2013

Back in the Saddle Again

My New Year's Resolution is to start writing here everyday. Not sure what will come out or how long I will be able to keep it up, but I'll my best.

This fall was literally a blur. School started and it seemed like I didn't sit down and catch a breath until New Year's Day—and even then my family hosted 150+ people at our 9th Annual Burns-Leider Pig Roast.

Best news for the school is that Atala is now accredited! We received our APPLE accreditation in the fall and are applying for a second accreditation this spring. We are now able to offer Step-Up scholarships and help a wider group of students and we also off McKay scholarships. We are gearing up to be able to offer VPK awards to our current family, but there are no plans to use this as a recruiting tool. We'd like to help out our current parents as much as we can.

We have nearly doubled our student population in two years. We need to raise our capacity again, which is an awesome thing. We will end this school year with at least 80 students!

We are currently on Winter Break and will return to school on Monday. Not much else to say today or I won't have anything to say tomorrow.  :)

Spread Your Wings!