A Glenville pre-kindergarten school is straying from tradition.
For the 2015-2016 year, Mayfair Nursery School is abandoning the cooperative aspect of its operation as a way of accommodating the lifestyle of the modern family.
The Glenridge Road school was established in 1958 as a co-op. This means the school was run entirely by the parents of students enrolled there, who fulfilled mandatory volunteer responsibilities throughout the year. These duties involved year-round groundskeeping, facility cleaning, general building maintenance including construction, and volunteering as a classroom assistant on a rotating schedule.
Mayfair primarily serves 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds in Scotia, Niskayuna and Burnt Hills. All classes are a half day and are held two or three times a week, depending on the student’s age and program.
The board of trustees and the Mayfair Council govern the school. The board is occupied mostly by former Mayfair parents, while the council is made up entirely of parents with children currently enrolled. The two groups were the ones who instituted the major structural shift.
But this isn’t the only change facing Mayfair this summer, as the school is also welcoming Chris Leggieri as its new lead teacher.
“I’m really excited to start up again in preschool,” Leggieri said. “I think it’s a great fit for me.”
Leggieri’s teaching career began with preschoolers in North Carolina before she moved to New York to teach kindergarten at Mohansen Central School. She comes to Mayfair after taking time to stay home with her own children and gradually getting back into teaching. She was a substitute in Burnt Hills before being offered this position.
Leggieri is also familiar with the Mayfair’s co-op tradition.
“I had a great experience at Mayfair with my oldest child, and I feel like the changes are just going to make it easier for families,” she said.
Leggieri explained how since its founding, Mayfair has been a family- and community-oriented school, bringing parents and students together. She said this priority is what encouraged the school to make such a drastic change.
“The school is showing they understand that many parents work and might have a difficult time fulfilling the volunteer requirements,” Leggieri explained. “We’re realizing times have changed, but we also know we need to make sure to include parents in different ways.”
Throughout the year, Mayfair hosts weekend and some weeknight events to give parents an opportunity to interact with their child at the school and meet with other members of the community. For example, Pumpkin Day in the fall welcomes students and a male figure in their life to decorate pumpkins, and Muffins with Moms is a spring event for students and their female guardians.
“Even though it isn’t mandatory anymore, volunteers are still welcome at the school as often as they want,” Leggieri added.
In addition, Mayfair has hired local companies for the duties the parents used to fulfill. One of these is a landscaping company owned by a Mayfair parent, which will take care of things like cutting the lawn in the summer and plowing in the winter.
Chris Morrison, head of the board of trustees, is optimistic about the upcoming year.
“Chris is bringing a wealth of experience to us, and I have a feeling this is going to be a good change,” Morrison said.
His wife Melissa, also a board member, and his two children also attended the school. He said when the co-op began experiencing slow but steady decline in enrollment, something had to be done.
“When my kids were in school, we had 40 families and that was considered low,” Morrison said. “We’re now down to less than half of that. Mayfair is such a unique school that has a special spot in our hearts, and I would just love to see it flourish.”
He said the decision to drop the co-op aspect of the school was met with overwhelming support, though some former Mayfair parents didn’t want to abandon the “Mayfair way.”
“It was a difficult issue to face, but we just decided we needed to adapt to the times and give parents a chance to come to the school on their terms, not when required,” Morrison added. “I hope the community understands a lot in the school will not change.”
Mary Buckley of Burnt Hills embraced the co-op aspect of the school when her children, now in middle and high school, spent two years each at Mayfair. “It’s a time when parents, very naturally, want to be involved, but I also know life is busy when you have young children,” Buckley said. “This change is supporting parents’ schedules and providing them the traditional nursery school experience, but still letting them be as involved as they can.”
Buckley enjoyed her experience but also welcomed this change.
“I was happy to have the support of the other parents and being around others who were in the same boat,” she added. “The structure of the school doesn’t matter to me, as long as the environment there continues to be nurturing and developmentally focused.”
Kelly Purdy, former president of the Mayfair Council, said the school’s mission and its priority on families has not and will not change.
“The most important part for me is that we can accommodate all lifestyles,” Purdy said. “Cooperative just doesn’t fit with the modern family anymore, so we want to give parents options. If they want to be as involved as they were when the school was a cooperative, they can.”
She added the school’s strong sense of community has left a positive, lasting impression on her children.
“Mayfair brings families together from multiple communities. It’s a really great connection my girls have as they grow older and interact with kids they used to go to school with, like for sports and other local activities.”
Leggieri affirmed this, saying the school has worked hard to build a welcoming, pleasant community, and that won’t change.
“Mayfair strives to feel like its own special community with a support system for parents,” she said. “That’s a mission I’ll absolutely promote to help our school grow.”
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