Steppingstone School for Gifted Education is celebrating its 40th year of educating gifted children in Southeast Michigan. “When I started the school in 1981, I thought it might last a year,” said Kiyo Morse, founder and Head of School at Steppingstone. “We had 10 students, two teachers, and a one-year lease at the Plymouth Church of the Nazarene. And I was determined to make it work.”
Over the next 40 years, Steppingstone moved several times to accommodate both growth and changing economic conditions that negatively impacted enrollment. It moved to Farmington Hills in 1986 and returned to Plymouth in 2019. It now resides at the Plymouth Arts and Recreation Center. Morse said, with a big smile, “The PARC administrators understand what our value is to the community. They are supportive beyond our wildest dreams. And the PARC community is wonderful. We have access to the swimming pool, tennis courts, the football field. The tenants are available for art, music, and fencing instruction. They are all within a short walk.”
Clearly, Steppingstone outlasted initial expectations. In fact, it outlasted several other independent schools that were both more established and had higher enrollment. Morse attributes this to the curriculum and teaching methodology the school has developed. During what some might see as upheaval and changes of fortune, the educational program that Steppingstone delivered remained intact. “Whether we had 75 students or 5 students, we provided, and continue to provide, a challenging, mastery-based learning environment in which students could grow and develop,” Morse explained. Average student IOWA scores, a nationally normed test of student achievement, did not change. “They are typically in the 95th percentile and most, by the time they graduate, are in the 99+th percentile across the board”, Morse explained.
Since 2019, Steppingstone has invested in marketing and development to get its’ name better known in the Plymouth community. This year Steppingstone’s persistence paid off. From five students, Steppingstone has grown to 11, a growth of 120%. This is due in part to their marketing approach and in part to the transition to on-line learning forced upon students by the pandemic. “Parents began to see what their kids were, or were not, learning”, she said. “It was clear to some of them that their gifted kids weren’t getting what they needed and started looking for other educational opportunities.”
Another factor that has contributed to Steppingstone’s success is its Board of Trustees. A non-profit does not have a board of directors, rather, it has a board of trustees that hold the mission of the school in trust. They donate their time and their wealth because they believe in the mission of the school. Some, but not all, of the trustees have put their children through Steppingstone and have seen how the program has helped their children and families. Their sole employee is the Head of School and they do not interfere in the daily operation of the school. “They are consultants, advisors, and supporters”, says Morse. “These are the people who have kick-started our marketing and community outreach.”
Morse sees a bright future for Steppingstone. “We are in the right place at the right time, we have a strong educational program, and we are small enough to provide the individual attention gifted kids need to learn, and love learning.” Her phone continues to ring with people looking for the right educational environment for their children.
Company Name: Steppingstone School
Contact Person: Media Relations
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Phone: (248) 957-8200
Country: United States