Student at Manhattan Free School
57 year-old Pat Werner is the principal at The Manhattan Free School in East Harlem, New York, and while the school is anything but free, she might as well be.
With 18 years of experience in the New York public school sector, Werner’s salary last year was a mere $3,000. While society recognizes that education professionals are grossly underpaid and over worked, $3,000 is unfathomable.
But it was Werner’s choice to accept that minimal pay. Her school is all about idealistic Utopian education and learning for the sake of learning. The students at her school are taught to only learn what they feel like learning, with no tests or grades given.
The school’s budget is only $100,000 a year, mostly because the school only hosts 23 students between the ages of 5 to 18. The average student pays $15,000 (the normal fee) but some students only pay $1,500- $3,000.
The school, which opened in 2008, only has 2 full time teachers, as parents and volunteers often step in to teach some classes. Those classes can be anything from comic book making to language arts, because, after all, it depends entirely on what the students chose to learn at that moment.
While it may sound like an all-day free period, Werner claims the school’s programs teach children to actually enjoy learning. “It comes down to trust,” Ms. Werner said, “the trust that given time, they’ll find their passions, and when they do, they’ll be eager to learn.”
It sounds nice, but I have yet to see how to make a comic book or modeling with Play-Doh a prerequisite on a college application.