August 12, 2016
Greetings Illinois Montessorians:
I can't say how thrilled I am to be writing this welcome as your new AIMS Executive Director. I am continually amazed and humbled by the commitment the AIMS Board members make to serving the Illinois Montessori community, and it is truly an honor to work for and with them.
The state of Illinois is fortunate to have such cohesive, enthusiastic community leadership in Montessori. This is a great time and state to get involved because of the positive and insightful work that has been achieved by Sharon Damore in her five years as executive director of AIMS.
Sharon was key in bringing to fruition last year, through her work in policy and advocacy. the first ever Montessori Public Policy Initiative State Leader Retreat. MPPI hosted representatives from 21 states in a cutting edge program of dialogue, to share strategy and information. Sharon also attended the BUILD QRIS conference last year in Washington, DC. Her presence, networking and key information about QRIS progress across the country has been invaluable as we continue to work to improve the positioning of our Montessori schools with Illinois regulatory agencies. Also, Sharon was the major force behind the AIMS Administrator Symposium with key state regulatory representatives last December. The valuable dialogues from that event have developed into major policy initiatives I am able to move forward this year. Your participation in the symposium enabled AIMS to speak with a necessary unified voice to the state, and also contributed valuable financial support to the association in a year when we did not host our annual conference.
It would not be possible for me to mention everything that Sharon has done for AIMS in the recent past, but I will also say that last year her energetic initiative brought us to the first ever state partnership with the American Montessori Society on their annual fundraising gala. With the support of so many of you, we were able to achieve our fundraising goal and close our budget gap for the year. More importantly, Illinois made a powerful positive statement about our Montessori community to all of the conference attendees from around the world, and supported AMS in the most attended conference in memory.
I am personally grateful to Sharon for mentoring me through the last couple of years. She approached our relationship as a partnership from my first days as AIMS president, and that partnership has enabled me to acquire the knowledge and experience that I will need as I take over the executive director role this year. Sharon's guidance will greatly benefit AIMS as we will not lose ground on all of the key initiatives that are ongoing.
Sharon's work as the AIMS executive director has been exemplary as she has built a model for years to come and created a positive network of relationships for continued work. While her leadership will be missed on a day to day basis, Sharon will continue to volunteer on selected projects for AIMS.
Looking forward to this 2016-17 school year, I am grateful to be working with Cheryl LaCost as AIMS president. Cheryl brings diversified management experience to this role in addition to her many years in Montessori. I can see that our relationship will be collaborative and productive and look forward to the work we will be able to achieve together.
This year, the AIMS board has chosen to move our annual conference to the conference center at Benedictine University. This new venue gives us the opportunity to expand in a fiscally conservative way as we explore the possibility of welcoming more attendees and expanding our professional development offerings at the conference. The call for speaker proposals is now out on the AIMS website home page. The deadline for proposals is September 2, 2016. Please pass the word on and encourage your staff and colleagues to submit a proposal. Our community offers such a richness of knowledge and experience that is so valuable to share. I am thrilled to announce our keynote speaker for the 2017 AIMS Conference: Pathways to Excellence, will be Molly O'Shaughnessy, President and Director of Primary Training at the Montessori Training Center of Minnesota.
We have been so grateful to Audrey Perrot and her staff at Near North Montessori School for their gracious accommodation of our annual conference these past years. The welcoming way they have hosted has enabled the conference to be available at an unbelievably low cost as well. This year's registration will be at a slightly higher rate, although still very reasonable in comparison to other options.
The board has voted to make some changes to membership dues for the 2016-17 year, including a small increase in the membership fee. Membership registration will open August 15th. All schools that have not renewed membership by September 1st will be removed from the online directory as their membership lapses. Schools that renew after September 1st will be re-listed after they renew. Any schools renewing or applying for membership after October 15th will be charged an additional $25. Conference registration for member schools will open on November 15th.We are hoping that these changes will help control the flow of membership renewals and conference registrations to make the process smoother.
I wish you all a smooth and positive beginning to the school year.
Welcome to another year of growth for Montessori in Illinois!
AIMS Executive Director