Our History & Community

The Siskiyou School is the second incarnation of a Waldorf school in the Rogue Valley. The first school operated for 20 years between 1980 and 2000, beginning in Jacksonville as The Light Valley Waldorf School and eventually moving to Ashland and renaming itself The Waldorf School of the Rogue Valley. In June 2000 the Waldorf School of the Rogue Valley suddenly announced that it was closing its doors due to financial difficulties. A Waldorf community of over 140 students and families was left adrift.

Three months later when the new school year began, four classes of teachers and parents from the old school, committed to going forward one way or another, had figured out a way to carry on though they’d lost their campus and school support system. Independently, each found a room to rent to hold class. Parents agreed to pay the teachers directly, and teachers agreed to accept whatever the parents could afford. Class teachers hired specialty teachers to round out the program of their students. The era of the pod classes was born.

Within a year after the closing, a “Core Group” of parents and teachers applied to AWSNA for status as a Waldorf school seed effort and became known as the Siskiyou Initiative. They held a vision that one day they’d find a new campus and create a new base for Waldorf education in Ashland. It took six years for that vision to take root.

New, independent “pod classes” continued to form each year. Parents who wanted to make sure their children, too, got a Waldorf education found Waldorf trained teachers to hire and encouraged them to form a class and join the growing flotilla of pods. While pod life was exciting and freeing, with a pioneer spirit prevailing among teachers and parents, the yearning for stability, predictability, and “being together again”, all in one place, grew. In 2004, the collection of pods—seven in all—began to call itself the Siskiyou School. The pods still operated independently. They were scattered around town, there was no central administration, no set tuition, no salary scale or benefits for teachers, no agreed upon academic standards and expectations for the classes. But they were bound in spirit…and vision!

Then in the spring of 2006 the way opened. A church property, which included an empty field in back, came up for sale. The property had been one of the sites where for six years pod classes had rented space to hold classes. Even though many other sites had been explored over the previous years, this Clay Street site was tried and true, right in town, and with the potential to meet all the needs of a full school.

A handful of parent leaders saw its potential as the site for the new Waldorf school and moved quickly. Within three months, everything came together. A family agreed to lend “the school” the money to buy the property. A capital campaign was organized and $700,000 was raised in six weeks, ensuring that a real school could be built on the empty backfield. With that certainty, the Board of the Siskiyou Initiative hired an administrator to form a school out of the pods.

On September 11, 2006, just days after the 2006-2007 school year opened, a groundbreaking ceremony was held and construction crews began excavating the foundations for the new classroom buildings. Eight months later, in May 2007, a school-warming ceremony marked the completion of the first classrooms and honored those who had ensured continuity between the old school and the new. For the first time since the closing of the old school seven years prior, all Waldorf classes in Ashland were together on one site.

As we enter the 11th year on this campus as a full school, we are excited and confident in our future. Enrollment is strong, with a 30% increase in numbers since the 2006 groundbreaking ceremony. Due to careful financial management by the Board, our tuition is still one of the very lowest in the country for a full Waldorf program, and the school is very healthy financially. In 2014-15, thanks to generous donors, the school was able to purchase a property adjoining our Clay Street campus, providing much welcomed additional classroom and outdoor space, and a second garden property on the south side of the school.  We have also successfully navigated our first big transition in leadership. In the summer of 2015, upon the retirement of Catherine Razi, our founding administrator, the school has welcomed a new Head of School, Lisa Barry.

We welcome your interest in our school and invite you to come visit!

Governance Model

The “Four Pillars” governance model, adopted by the Siskiyou School Board and faculty in the fall of 2006, is based on collaborative leadership among the Board, Faculty, Parents, and Administration. Each pillar has its well-defined sphere of expertise and activity. The Board carries the school’s finances and legal affairs. The faculty, in conjunction with our Pedagogical Director, holds the pedagogical program. The parents are tasked with “creating a mantle of warmth” by doing what they love in service of the school and helping organize events which build community and raise money to support the school. The Head of School heads the administrative team and acts as the school’s point person, holding the whole and supporting the work of each group to ensure good communication and collaboration among them. Each body has a part to play; all are needed to carry the work of the school.

Our Faculty & Staff

The Siskiyou School staff is comprised of both full and part-time teachers and an office team. The teachers are all imbued with a love of teaching and children, a shared commitment to the ideals of Waldorf education, and a willingness to keep talking about the children until everyone’s sure their needs are truly being well met. Working in concert with our Pedagogical Chair, the faculty holds and guides the pedagogical program of the school. The teachers are supported by the Administrative Team, which carries the work of the office. Collegiality among the staff is high with daily sharing of experience, knowledge, support and friendship.

Class Teachers  Our eight class teachers are the main holders of their classes. They teach the main lesson curriculum and the core skills to their students; they oversee their students’ academic progress; they guide their social and emotional development; they organize field trips and outings; and they keep in communication with their parents through regular conferencing and class meetings. They are the point person for their students, the parents of their students, the other teachers of their students, and the school administration for all matters regarding individual students within the class or the class as a whole. 

Specialty Teachers, Subject Teachers, and Class Assistants  Each day, several teachers in addition to their class teacher teach students in grades 1-8. Specialty teachers bring handwork, music, games, Eurythmy, woodworking, gardening, foreign languages and our ACORN program to the students. Students generally see each of 4-6 specialty teachers two times a week throughout the year.

To make sure all students are met at their own level and experience success in the core skills, subject teachers work with small groups in language arts and math. Subject teachers with remedial training work with those needing the most support. Class assistants support class teachers in grades 1-4 during main lesson, the two-hour period that begins each day. They lend a hand with everything from organizing materials, passing out supplies, giving support to individual children having trouble going with the flow, leading certain activities, and helping the kids don their gear on winter days.

Parent volunteers round out the classroom support, helping with handwork in grades 1-8 and with reading groups in grades 1-4.

The Administrative Team  Five people carry the work of the office. They work as a team to ensure that all the work gets done, with each person having certain areas of primary responsibility. The Office Manager and Office Assistant coordinate the day-to-day running of the school, including fielding and directing parent and teacher requests, answering phone calls, scheduling classes, ordering supplies, handling campus maintenance problems, etc. The Director of Development hosts the social life of the school, coordinating parent help in organizing festivals and events both to build community and raise money for the school as set out by the Board. The Bookkeeper/Business Manager tracks tuition payments and expenditures as well as all the paperwork related to insurance, school security, etc. As defined by the school’s Four Pillars governance model, the Head of School holds the whole and supports the work of the office staff, Board, Faculty, and parents to ensure that goals are met and effective collaboration takes place.  She also makes sure the teachers have the support they need to deliver the program to the children.

The Board of Directors  Overseeing all is the Board of Directors. The Board has between 8-10 members at any given time. Board members are all parents of the school. A representative of the faculty as well as the Head of School and Pedagogical Director joins them at their monthly meeting. The Board holds an annual “State of the School” meeting each winter to present their work to the parent body and field questions. They also hold a daylong retreat each fall attended for part of the day by the full faculty. The Board’s main responsibility is making sure the school is financially sound and that legal affairs are in order. The Board’s most active committee is the Finance Committee; it meets at least once between each of the Board meetings. The Board works with the faculty and administration to define long-term goals for the school including any capital improvements.

It does take a village!