Why Fairhaven School?

Fairhaven provides students ages 5 through 18 the time and support needed to develop the character traits of successful people. Fairhaven graduates have learned how to think for themselves, how to motivate themselves, and how to work hard. They know themselves. They are law-abiding, articulate, and practiced in working with others. Fairhaven graduates embrace excellence and reject prejudice. They are determined to live lives that are both fun and fulfilling, and are confident in their ability to find meaningful, well paying careers.

At Fairhaven School we prioritize people not test scores. All students who are willing and able to be responsible for their own behavior are welcome, from children who want to explore the world around them to teenagers who want to find and pursue their passion.

Fairhaven is challenging, but the school’s emphasis on innovation and self-motivation provides students with the best possible preparation for an ever-changing future in the Creativity Economy of the 21st century.

Motivated by curiosity and the drive to become competent adults, Fairhaven students grow emotionally, creatively, and intellectually through play, school governance, conversation, the arts, classes, computer activities, reading, and the exploration of nature.

Fairhaven students have the time and support they need to become positive, responsible, innovative adults.

Who runs Fairhaven?

school meeting1

There is no principal at Fairhaven. The School Meeting, which meets weekly and is comprised of students and staff, makes all the day-to-day decisions about how the school is run. It also makes financial decisions and rules about other aspects of the school, including but not limited to, the use of the rooms and educational equipment as well as rules about the conduct of its members. School Meeting elects staff annually, and creates committees and clerkships as needed to carry out its decisions.

Admissions, Bookkeeping, Grounds Maintenance, Aesthetics, and Public Relations are all examples of committees formed by the School Meeting. When a committee leader or an individual expert is needed, a “clerk” is elected. There is, for example, a Clerk who deals with outside authorities — fire inspectors, insurance agents, county officials, and the like — as well as an Office Clerk, a Building Maintenance Clerk, and a Medical Supplies Clerk, among others.

School Meeting is conducted democratically, one person/one vote, following parliamentary procedure; it is run by an elected Chair and recorded by a Secretary. Students learn firsthand what it means to live in a working democracy, with the freedom and responsibility it entails.

Why go to all the trouble of running the school democratically?


Since School Meeting members have the option of full participation, they understand their obligation to uphold the rules and procedures of the school. Children and adults alike come to feel a sense of ownership and control over their own lives and over the school environment. The school’s democracy seeks to achieve that subtle balance between individual rights and community responsibility—each making the other possible — and creates the environment of fairness, tolerance, and respect which each of us deserves.

If there’s no principal, who enforces the rules?

One of the most important committees, the J.C. (Judicial Committee) is given responsibility for enforcing the rules the School Meeting has established. It is the only committee on which every member of the School Meeting eventually serves (much like jury duty). The J.C. receives written complaints of rule violations (Maya left a mess in the Art Room, or Tyler tripped Erin), and hears from both the plaintiff and the defendant, calls witnesses and investigates as needed, then determines whether the defendant has indeed broken a school rule. If so, the J.C. determines an appropriate consequence (Maya can’t go in the Art Room for two days; Tyler must do a half-hour of community service). The J.C. can refer serious incidents to School Meeting, where appeals can also be heard.
Not every dispute must go through the J.C. process. People may work through problems informally when they can.

What role do staff play in school governance? 

IMG_1374With the exception of intervening to stop incidents where someone’s physical safety is in danger, staff do not step in to solve problems or to punish rule infractions simply because they are adults. They too must use the democratic process to address issues that concern them. They are, however, employed in part, to be guardians of the school philosophy and the wellbeing of the school community. Like all other members of the School Meeting, they use whatever wisdom and experience they might possess to influence others toward mutual respect, thoughtful action, and responsible conduct.

Does everyone attend School Meeting? 

Any School Meeting member who cares how the school is run and wants a say in decisions comes to School Meeting. Typically, most of the staff, several older kids, and a smattering of youngsters are in attendance at any given meeting, but some issues draw a big crowd. Other issues spawn “special interest groups” which lobby for a good turnout in order to pass or reject a specific motion. Discussion can be heated and every School Meeting member is entitled to the opportunity to try to convince others. Some might have more influence than others, perhaps because of their longevity at the school, their greater experience or knowledge, their passion, or sheer verbal prowess, but all have an equal vote and an equal opportunity to persevere and become more persuasive and articulate.

Who acquires and takes care of supplies and equipment? 

Beyond the management of the school’s rules, administration, and maintenance, School Meeting can create Corporations. Corporations are groups of School Meeting members interested in a particular pursuit, who want official recognition from the school in order to be able to raise money for equipment and supplies and to govern the use of certain kinds of equipment or spaces.

The Kitchen Corporation runs the kitchen, so the Art Corp. must follow Kitchen Corp. procedures while baking pies as a fundraiser for a new piece of art equipment. Art Corp. goes to School Meeting to request money for a kiln. The Sports Corp. decides that people using soccer balls must sign them in and out. New corporations can be created, and old ones dissolved in response to the changing needs of the school community. Not every group interested in a common pursuit needs to create a corporation. Classes or clubs, for example, can be formed without School Meeting’s recognition.

Who serves on committees, corporations, and School Meeting? 

Anyone School Meeting decides to serve is qualified to do so. Students and staff who wish to run for a clerkship must be nominated at School Meeting and be prepared to answer questions about their qualifications. Admissions Clerk, the Outside Authorities Clerk, the Bookkeeping Clerk, and a few other positions require a great deal of experience, specific knowledge, and credibility in the larger community. Those positions, along with positions no one else wants to hold, tend to go to staff members.

How is the school structured?

Potluck 1

The organizational structure of Fairhaven School is quite simple, but also very different from that of other schools and nonprofit institutions. The School Meeting gathers weekly to manage all of the ongoing internal affairs of the school. All students and staff are full members of the School Meeting, with an equal vote in all decisions.

The Assembly is composed of parents, students, staff, and community members, sets school policies, amends by-laws, sets annual tuition and staff salary rates and approves budgets at yearly meetings. All decisions are made by majority vote. The Assembly generally meets twice every school year.

The Assembly elects a Board of Trustees each year, which serves as an advisory committee, evaluating the school’s adherence to its philosophy and making broad-ranging recommendations as needed.

What is Fairhaven’s Attendance Policy? 

Students at Fairhaven School are required to attend school regularly, and be on campus for a minimum of five hours a day. Most students choose to be at school much longer. Families of students below the age of seven may request exemption from the five day/five hour requirement by speaking with the Attendance Clerk.

The intent of the minimum attendance requirement is to insure the development of a strong school community. Our kind of educational approach works best when parents and students see the school as the center point of their educational experience. Students are most successful when they are invested in using and contributing to the school community and resources.


• 17900 Queen Anne Road • Upper Marlboro, MD 20774 • 301‑249‑8060 • Fax: 301‑218‑3549