Recognizing the need
The Monarch School, which grew to become The Monarch Institute, was founded in 1997 in response to a critical need in our region—to serve children with neurological differences who required a program that provided cognitive, emotional and social development components. Before The Monarch School existed, many families were forced to send their children to residential, out-of-state schools.
Building the foundation
We conducted a feasibility study, comprised of research and focus groups that included educators, psychologists, parents and community members. We needed to affirm the need and determine if the Houston community would support its first therapeutic day school. The results were overwhelmingly positive, the need was great and the support was assured.
During the first year, Head of School Dr. Marty Webb and a Director of Development worked full time to lay the foundation for the school. We then formed an Executive Board from the four original co-founders. We recruited an Advisory Board of parents and community members and a Professional Advisory Board of psychologists, special educators, neurologists and psychiatrists. We developed a database of friends of the school, created a business plan and secured seed money through an annual fund, foundation grants and a gala fundraiser. Gradually, we hired a small but competent initial faculty. Our vision was beginning to take form.
But finding and securing a site proved an enormous challenge, which wasn't solved until late in the spring of 1998. Just before the school was to open in August, we were able to lease ground space at the Houston Mennonite Church, where three modular buildings were placed. The next and equally formidable challenge was to educate the community about the opening—and uniqueness—of Houston's first therapeutic day school.
We opened our doors in the fall of 1998 to 23 students. At that time, there were seven teachers, three part-time psychologists, a secretary and a Development/Admissions Director. Evaluations at the end of the year were overwhelmingly positive, and community support for the school continued to grow dramatically.
Growing and expanding
Each year after, we grew in size and support. By the third year, enrollment had tripled. We were using all of our classrooms in the portable buildings, as well as all of the rooms in the Houston Mennonite Church. We had hoped to place additional portable buildings on the property, but zoning did not allow it. And so we looked for additional space and found it five blocks away in a business park. We renamed the original site our Apprentice Campus.
The Craig and Lee Williams Challenger Campus opened in the fall of 2001, after a summer of intense remodeling. The additional 7,000 sq. ft. included five classrooms, a woodshop, a fitness room, a large community meeting room and several offices. Two years later, we added an additional office suite for the Learning Center and the Life Academy, bringing the total space of the Challenger Campus to 10,000 sq. ft.
Beginning in the spring of 2002 and culminating in August of the same year, the co-founders who formed the original executive board resigned and were replaced by a board that included Dr. Webb and was more representative of the parents and community. We wrote new bylaws, and the board began taking a proactive role in strategic planning for the future.
Things looked bleak in 2005, when we lost our lease, but MetroNational Corporation stepped forward with a generous 90-year lease on 10.75 acres in West Houston. Having this piece of land allowed us to begin an aggressive capital campaign, which resulted in the completion of the Chrysalis Building in August, 2009.
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