The Center School was founded in 1981, under the umbrella non-profit organization, Northeast Foundation for Children. Sharing a desire to create a new educational model, the founding members—including Ruth Charney, Marlynn Clayton, Jay Lord and Chip Wood—all pooled their time, resources and energy to create the first Center School class.
The guiding philosophical belief was that social, emotional and cognitive development at different ages of childhood should be the key factor in deciding what and how to teach each age group.
Inside the Conway Street building, all classes were mixed-aged groupings with the now characteristic Center School names: Pre-Primes, Primes, Middles and Uppers.
As the school and staff developed, so did the education model. Soon, demand for information about this education philosophy grew as well.
The staff began developing and offering workshops on literature, block-building, room design and classroom management. Several teachers published books on these topics and the Center School’s work began to gain a wider audience.
To help share their educational philosophy with the wider world, a publishing division was established. The first book to be published was A Notebook for Teachers by Marlynn Clayton, followed by Ruth Charney’s book, Teaching Children to Care and Ellen Doris’ book Doing What Scientists Do. All met with great acclaim.
By 1989, the three different types of work—consulting, publishing and classroom teaching—began to crystalize into three distinct divisions.
Over the next 10 years, the foundation grew, purchasing the Abercrombie School in Greenfield and the ‘Yellow House’ (an adjacent building on the property), and eventually building The Marion Bliss Finer building on campus to house classrooms and an all-purpose room for assemblies and school functions.
The Northeast Foundation for Children and the Center School separated into two independent entities in 2001. The Center School incorporated as a non-profit in January of 2002 and purchased the school buildings (Brick Building, Finer Building and Yellow House) from NEFC.
The Center School is governed by a board of directors made up of parents, alumni parents, staff and community members.
Our founders (left to right): Jay Lord, Ruth Charney, Marlynn Clayton, Chip Wood