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It has been said that ‘We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us’, and in our 30th anniversary as an independent school, it is important to reflect on the beginnings of Chrysalis Montessori School.

In November 1989, a group of parents who shared the Montessori philosophy decided to start a new school. A meeting was held that November and continued weekly for the rest of the year. These gatherings started simply as explorations of the possibility of starting a school and the name “Chrysalis” emerged during this time and has continued to this day.

The biggest initial obstacle for this group was finding a venue. So many considerations needed to be explored such as zoning issues, neighbours’ rights to protest, health regulations and numbers of toilets to name a few! Eventually one member of this intrepid group, who had connections to the North Perth Cricket Club, uncovered the Charles Veryard Pavilion on Bourke St, North Perth. So, within 3 months of the first meeting, the Chrysalis Montessori School doors opened to 23 children in February 1990.

In 1990 the school operated under the then Federal Labour Government’s “New Schools Policy” which required 2 years notification for new schools, as well as needing 50 full time equivalent students, before such schools were eligible for funding. This meant that Chrysalis had to exist for 2 years before receiving federal funding and had to achieve a massive growth in enrolments in that same period.

In the first year the school went from 23 to 45 students (the maximum allowed at the Charles Veryard Pavilion). The school needed to be packed up and set up every day, which also included tables and chairs 3 times a week. Shelves on castors were rolled down the corridor from the “Umpires Room”. The Children’s House was in the pavilion room, with the primary class spilling into the change rooms! Fran Cramphorn, Karen Melzack and Paul Doherty (Principal) were the initial teaching staff of Chrysalis Montessori School. There was a reliance on volunteers for administrative and cleaning support from a tight and connected school community. Towards the end of 1990, the Health Department informed the school that it could no longer stay at the Charles Veryard Pavilion site as it was not a suitable venue and so the school began its search for a more sustainable venue. One nearly eventuated in the form of a shared relationship with an international college in North Perth. Also explored was a shared site option with Quintilian and Moerlina Schools at their now existing location as well as the old drive-in movie site in Bold Park! However, none of these options eventuated.

During Term 1, 1991, an advertisement for a building zoned commercial or educational was found close by, our present Parkland Road site. Whilst a low interest loan was obtained, this property was valued at a “fire sale” rate, insufficient to secure the loan. Six families overcame this short fall by agreeing to stake their own homes as surety. The site was at that time occupied by an existing school operated as a business called Cygnet Montessori School. So, the two schools ran simultaneously for a term, Cygnet was eventually sold as a business and continued operating in Tuart Hill for several more years.

It was now time for the school to grow and by the end of the year Chrysalis had 100 enrolments and had reached a funded target of 51.4 full time equivalent students. This year also marked the origins of our community rituals, “The Winter Solstice Festival” and the “Christmas Concert”. Pascale Hanrion, the school’s longest serving staff member, who retired in 2018, was also involved and crucial to both.

The story continues and many incidents and challenges have been experienced and overcome by the community over the years. I would like to close with powerful words from the first Chrysalis Montessori School principal, Mr Paul Doherty.

“However, it was during those early years that the Chrysalis community was most connected. Indeed, some of the struggles already mentioned made us even more so. I think of the children who were students of Chrysalis’s early days and realise just how much empowerment they really absorbed. They certainly lacked in material and staffing resources, but this was more than made up for with the concepts of individual responsibility, creativity and a wonderful sense of community, so powerfully modelled all around them. The educational proof, always asked for but impossible to demonstrate in those early days, is finally there when I see those same students now as young adults, forging their way in life.”

Every child matters every day.

Mark Panaia


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