Charter school director who oversaw expansion announces departure
The director of Coastal Montessori Charter School announced this week that she will step down. Nathalie Hunt is the second director since the school opened in 2011 and oversaw its move to a new building.
“This decision was not easy. I truly consider this school my first child – a child I had the privilege to nourish and support each step of the way from infancy to adolescence. I love your children and the Montessori Method,” Hunt wrote in the school’s weekly newsletter after announcing the decision to staff.
Hunt said she was unable to comment on the decision beyond that announcement.
Charter schools receive public funds, but have their own governing boards. Ryan Fabbri, who chairs the Coastal Montessori board, said he could not comment on the situation. He said the board is preparing a statement.
Hunt’s announcement led to the postponement this week of a meeting between charter school and Georgetown County School District officials to discuss funding for Coastal Montessori.
The district sponsors the charter school and provides funding through a formula created by state law. Last spring, the district discovered that it had used the wrong numbers in the formula for several years, resulting in an overpayment to Coastal Montessori. The district cut back its payments in fiscal 2018 and for the first part of the current fiscal year. In November, the county school board restored $225,000 to the charter school’s current budget.
Coastal Montessori would like the district to maintain its current level of support, since that was the basis for funding construction of a the charter school building in 2016.
When Hunt was hired in 2013 to replace the first director, Coastal Montessori operated from a vacant wing in Waccamaw Middle School. Lonnie Yancsurak, the first director, had a background in charter school startups, but not the Montessori teaching method.
“We really wanted a Montessori teacher,” said Rob Horvath, who chaired the charter school board at the time. Of eight interviews conducted over Skype, Hunt stood out, he recalled.
Hunt had just completed her doctorate at the University of Texas. She had taught lower elementary classes at Montessori schools in California and Texas.
Although charter schools are exempt from some state regulations, they follow the same accountability standards as other public schools. For Coastal Montessori, Hunt’s experience and education made her ideal to align the Montessori method – a child-centered program in multi-age classes – with the state curriculum standards.
“She was the right person at the right time. We were grateful to have her for all these years,” Horvath said.
Construction of the school’s current facility wasn’t even considered when Hunt was hired. “There was a lot of work that was done,” Horvath said, and that makes the school more attractive to candidates for the director’s job. The school also continues to draw interest from new students, who are selected through a lottery because demand exceeds places, and siblings of current students.
“Somebody walking in now is going to have a pretty sweet deal,” Horvath said, but he added, “the director, the board, the building doesn’t make the school. We’re focused on the kids.”