How Oak Farm Began
LORENE DEKKO SALSBERY, FOUNDER
Only when I reflect on past roads taken can I see the connection between myself and what was to become Oak Farm Montessori School. School never made that much sense to me, so I am sure it is with great surprise to those who knew me as a student, that they would one day find me starting a school, a school I would teach, administrate, and lead to be a model of excellence. I would ask myself: “How many people find school meaningful?” “How many do well in our current system, and is it possible others would want something different for their children as well?” While my two daughters were finishing their toddler years and beginning their primary years at a Montessori school in Fort Wayne, I began a new position at the Dekko Foundation as President. I had the opportunity to tour 25 different public and private school systems in Iowa, Alabama, and Northeast Indiana, speak with their superintendents, observe classrooms, and meet numerous teachers. As a collective group, we would attend Bill Daggett’s International School Reform Conferences, and be engaged with him in discussions on how to make our schools better. This gave me exposure to the issues surrounding education from kindergarten to high school. But, what about our youngest children? I was hearing that the brain is formed by the time a child is six years old. Visits to 30 day care centers, church ministries, and home providers were conducted, as well as traveling with fellow foundation grantmakers to the National Association for the Education of Young Children. This was my professional life, while personally I was attending parent education nights, engaging in discussions with the directors, serving on their board, attending Montessori conferences and volunteering at my children’s school. Eventually, the question that was bound to arise, as it does with most of us who understand school reform and Montessori was why are we reinventing the wheel?
Choice, choice, choice. Montessori trusts the children with choices, yet adults cannot choose an educational system that reflects their family values. Well, you can, but you must have money. Money to pay taxes and then money to pay private tuition. On my dad’s grave is the inscription, “Only the educated are free.” Freedom – the freedom to choose, the freedom to be educated, but first you must have money. At this point, I knew our choices in Northeast Indiana, and there was not a single non-traditional choice for people in the counties where I grew up and had known people for a lifetime. I thought, this is what I can give back to the community.
The Dekko Foundation became interested and supportive because it fit my dad’s ideals about education, financial freedom that comes with education, a free market system – hopefully someday, entrepreneurial spirited students, problem solvers and lifelong learners. My dad talked about all of these things as I was growing up and long before they were popular topics. I think he would be proud. Most importantly, I think I have served God and may He continue to bless this school. And, as many of my stories in the lower elementary classroom have ended – this is how Oak Farm Montessori School came to be.