Getting to Know the OCP Staff

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Oct 112015
The teachers at OCP are many things—facilitators, co-explorers, models, guides. With their young students—our young children—they take to heart the idea that “the art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.” We think of our staff at OCP as our best resource, while our kids think of them as grown-ups to play with, learn with, trust, love, and grow with. Take a few minutes to get to know Ms. Betty, Ms. Tova, Ms. CJ, Ms. Michelle, Ms. Susan, and Ms. Margie.

Betty Wood,
What is your OCP story?

While working as director of Inman Park Cooperative Preschool, I consulted with [OCP founders] Laura LeDuke and Michelle Davis-Watts about creating OCP. They continued to consult with me as they founded OCP in 2005. Having been on OCP’s Advisory Council and resigning from IPCP, I was invited to interview for director of OCP in March of 2008. Since I had experienced best practices and challenges at IPCP, I wanted to ensure that OCP and I were a good fit. When offered the position, I expected to begin work in August. The OCP board invited me to begin working with them in April and May to orient me to OCP and hire teachers for the 2008-09 school year.  It was definitely a good fit.

What is one thing you’re excited to explore with your kids this year?

The teachers and I have noticed that most of the children enrolled at OCP this year seem to have well-developed interpersonal skills. They are naturally kind and caring. I am excited about working with the teachers and parents in helping the children find the language to clearly express their emotions and communicate effectively with their peers. We already see many friendships forming. Hopefully this year will give the children a strong foundation for creating and strengthening friendships throughout their lives.

What is one of your favorite aspects of OCP’s curriculum, and why is it important to you?

I appreciate our nature-based curriculum. Spending time outdoors is naturally healing and grounding for children and adults. Some of the child’s first experiences are in nature with their parents. The child is curious in exploring nature and learning about their world. Our curriculum supports the child’s exploration and confirms their confidence in the world around them. Bonds established in nature are deeper and more enduring.

Tova Johnson, Chickadees (Younger 2’s)
What is your OCP story?kaymbu-image-20151010-1550(1)

I wanted to teach again, but it needed to be a very special place. OCP is an inspiration on so many levels, and the search for inspiration truly led me here! A simple online search led to an interview, and that led to being the Chickadee teacher.

What is one thing you are excited to explore with your kids this year?

I am excited to explore the spontaneity within the plans! Chickadees will tell you what is on their mind in very interesting ways. So being alert to the little phrases or the looks of wonder or the discoveries they make along the way is what I am excited to catch wind of and infuse into the planned learning!

What is one of your favorite aspects of OCP’s curriculum, and why is it important to you?

I love how OCP follows nature and her seasons for curriculum inspiration. That is definitely one of my favorite aspects of OCP’S curriculum, but there are so many!

CJ Evans, Wrens (Older 2’s)
What is your OCP story?

[Larks teacher] Margie Ashe has been one of my best friends for years. When she started teaching at OCP a few years ago, I thought she had found the perfect job. For a mom of elementary-age kids, the location and hours were ideal, and she always spoke so highly of the OCP community and culture. The following year, when Margie moved to the Larks class, the Wrens teaching job opened up, and I was so excited to apply for the job. OCP has lived up to its reputation. I really enjoy teaching the Wrens class and being surrounded by such fantastic people.

What is one thing you’re excited to explore with your kids this year?

I’m most excited for the fall and our Harvest festival. We just did a planting this week, so the kids are very enthusiastic about tending our garden. They have been watering the plants and seeds diligently. It will be so fun to see the plants grow and harvest them with the children in November! To prepare for the festival, we will work together to wash and chop the vegetables and make soup. I love being with the children through this process and helping them see what they are capable of doing.

What is one of your favorite aspects of OCP’s curriculum, and why is it important to you?   

The thing that I enjoy hearing the most from the children is “I did it!” Their faces are filled with such joy when they are able to accomplish difficult tasks, such as zipping their coat, putting on their shoes, or preparing banana bread for snack. The children are included in all of our daily tasks, and our focus is on the process instead of the end result. This allows the children to try hard things and to grow in confidence as they are able to do more for themselves and each other as we go through the year.

Michelle Bennett, Owls (3’s)
What is your OCP story?

I was working with Betty at Inman Park Co-op, and when OCP decided to start a pre-k program, I came and presented my ideas. They liked it, so I joined the staff in 2007 as the first pre-k (Larks) teacher. I left OCP for a time when my son, Jackson, was born. We came back in 2012 as a co-op family, and Jackson started as a Wren. During his three years at OCP, I subbed frequently, including some long-term subbing. I knew I always wanted to return to teaching, and this year the timing was right!

What is one thing you are excited to explore with your kids this year?

In my class of eight boys, I will be exploring conscious discipline, helping my kids become more assertive and use their “big boy” voices with their friends in the classroom.

What is one of your favorite aspects of OCP’s curriculum, and why is it important to you?

My favorite part of OCP’s curriculum is the idea that process is more important than product. We explore this in many ways in our classroom activities, but it also extends into daily life. I love that the kids are able to live in their own world at OCP, and don’t have to fit into our grown-up world like they do outside of school. We recently did splatter painting in class, and I documented the technique we used to splatter the paint. But then they had the freedom to play in the paint afterward and smear it on their paper, so it didn’t end up looking like a splatter painting. The point wasn’t the final product, but the process and fun we had getting there.

Susan Diamond, Sparrows (3’s)
kaymbu-image-20151010-1551(1)What is your OCP story?

Betty brought me to OCP. I first got to know her when she was the director of my daughter’s preschool, Inman Park Cooperative Preschool, and then I started working with her at Inman Park. When she came to OCP, I decided to join her.

What is one thing you are excited to explore with your kids this year?

This year I would like to focus on the natural world around us here in Georgia. We will learn about trees, the forest, and the creatures who make it their home.

What is one of your favorite aspects of OCP’s curriculum, and why is it important to you?

The aspect of our curriculum that is most important to me is right there in the name, cooperative. My daughter went to a cooperative preschool and I loved that the small size of the school and the parental involvement meant that she became familiar with the other teachers and the parents of her schoolmates as well as the other children. The presence of the parents truly creates a warm and safe community, which is a wonderful step into the wider world for children who have, until that time, been used to the small community of their family.

Margie Ashe, Larks (4’s)
What is your OCP story?

kaymbu-image-20151010-1551I came to OCP as a parent in 2006. We had just moved to Decatur from Cobb County and were so happy to find a like-minded community. I assumed the experience would be primarily for my daughter, but I wound up learning so much here as a parent and as a teacher. Lillian, now in middle school, is still close to many of the friends she made at OCP.

What is one thing you’re excited to explore with your kids this year?

I’ve spent the summer reading about making picture books with young children. My goal is for the Larks to see themselves as writers, even if their books only contain illustrations. Just because a child isn’t ready to transcribe a story doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of creating a story and thinking deeply about the craft of writing.

What is one of your favorite aspects of OCP’s curriculum, and why is it important to you?

I really appreciate our emphasis on process over end product. Making cute crafts that all look the same would not be very fulfilling. I’ve always been inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach, where the curriculum and projects emerge from the children’s interests. What makes my job as the Larks teacher fun and challenging is finding ways to implement the pre-K standards into our child-led curriculum.

What’s New OCP?

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Aug 172015

Written by Kelly Miller


It’s hard to believe, but in a few short weeks we’ll be returning to OCP for a new school year. We’ll exchange stories of travel and adventure from the summer. We’ll notice how everyone has grown over the last few months. We may even go into the wrong classroom on the first day. It’ll be fun to see all the smiling faces and unique personalities come together in new ways, building friendships as we change classes, volunteering with different committees and sharing workdays with families we may have only seen in the hall. We might even miss a friend or two that’s graduated and moved on to kindergarten. As we look forward to these exciting days ahead, some of you might wonder what’s been going on at OCP.

Well, we started the summer off with the latest edition of our newsletter. From the Nest 2014-2015 made its debut in the beginning of the summer. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. We also hired a new teacher assistant for the Lark’s class, Melissa Bower. Let’s give her a big warm OCP welcome!

We’ve been very busy over the last few months with exciting camp sessions. A big thanks to our wonderful camp director, the creative teachers, and all the parent volunteers that made camp so special. The different themed weeks were filled with creative, hands on activities. The classes pretended to camp indoors and roast marshmallows over a fire. One week, there was a dinosaur dig and the next, there was a robot built from cardboard and recycled materials. During green invention week, campers created a marble run. And during farm to table week, classes made bread from scratch. Regardless of theme, the campers shared experiences and discoveries while having a blast. They played outside, created a slip n’ slide and enjoyed towering vegetables in the garden that were planted in the spring. New and old friends came together over the summer as a reminder of what we share during the year at OCP.

Making a robot

Towering sunflowers

With camp coming to a close, we’re reminded school is quickly approaching. So we’re back at it, getting OCP ready for the big first day of the 2105/16 school year. OCP families are coming together to make yet another wonderful year. We have teacher home visits, classroom visits and play dates coming up, which means numerous opportunities for families to become familiar with our teachers and classmates. We’ll have a parent mixer the week before school starts, so go ahead and book babysitters. And of course, orientation day followed by a playgarden picnic.

It’s exciting to have so much on the horizon. Looking forward, we have the start of a new school year. The change of the seasons is approaching as summer slips away, the days getting a little shorter. Maybe you’ve noticed a few leaves falling already or turning yellow? September brings the Decatur Book Festival over Labor Day weekend. Volunteers will be participating in reading activities with children and sharing our experiences from OCP. Don’t forget, we start day trips to the Wylde Center and the Fall Hootenanny in October. So when we ask, “What’s New OCP?” The answer is, there’s always something new happening at OCP.

Presently, we’re all grateful and eager to share new experiences with such wonderful families and friends. Here’s to remembering the special moments we’ve shared and celebrating the adventures yet to come.

Celebrating the Seasons at OCP

 Events, General Information, Green  Comments Off on Celebrating the Seasons at OCP
Feb 232015

By Nancy Rinehart

One of the core values at OCP is our Green Curriculum, where our children are encouraged to connect with nature in their everyday lives, and to be curious and respectful of nature. In keeping with these values, we also incorporate the Green Curriculum when it’s time to have fun with our families! OCP hosts several events throughout the year for our families, all with a component of celebrating the season.

When the leaves begin to color and the air gets crisp in early October, OCP hosts our annual Bonfire (and Hootenanny) for current and past members at the Wylde Center. We celebrate fall with a big family picnic, a bright fire, s’mores, and lots of music. The kids have a blast running through the gardens, checking out the frog pond and the chicken coop, and toasting marshmallows. Grownups have a chance to relax and socialize, and if they don’t mind drinking out of one of our reusable kiddie cups, toasting the new school year with a more adult beverage.

Next up is our Harvest Celebration. This celebration epitomizes the connection with nature and community that we hope to foster at OCP. Earlier in the school year the children helped plant and tend vegetables in the garden beds in the play garden, and just before the celebration they harvest these vegetables. Working together, they make invitations for their families, create beautiful autumn table settings, and prepare soup with their harvest. Family members can join each class for lunch to share the soups, salads, and bread and butter that their children have created.

In wintertime, we celebrate our community with Festivus. (Yes, that’s a Seinfeld reference.) While we have specifically opted not to celebrate religious holidays or holidays that have become overly commercial, every culture has some form of celebration for the return of light in the dark of winter. We gather with our members, old and new, for a magnificent pot luck dinner. We appreciate our teachers and auction handmade items and services created by our members. It’s a great way to get to know the skills and artistry of our own community.

We show love for our families again in early February with Grandparents and Special Friends Day. The children invite their grandparents or other adult friends and relatives to join them in their classrooms for snacks, activities, and outside play. This year we had over 50 visitors, some even flying in from across the country!

We also celebrate the coming of Spring with a Lunar New Year Day and a mini-Holi Festival. The children learn about the traditions of these holidays from the Chinese and Indian cultures, respectively. They love trying the long noodles for a long life, and if you’ve never seen Holi at a preschool – it’s a blast! The kids enthusiastically throw brightly colored powders onto big white sheets strung up in the play garden, with much of it ending up on children and adults alike. It’s grand, messy, spring-time fun!

We round out the year by sending off our Larks (the 4 year olds) with a Fiesta in the park. We welcome summer and wish our graduates the best of luck in kindergarten with yummy Mexican food and lots of playtime.

There is much to celebrate in the turning of the seasons, and at OCP we have a great time observing nature both in school and out all year long!

2015/2016 School Year Admission FAQ

 Education, General Information  Comments Off on 2015/2016 School Year Admission FAQ
Jan 142015

We are currently accepting applications for the 2015/2016 school year. With that in mind, here is a list of Frequently Asked Questions. Email us at to set up a tour or with any questions about our school.

Q: How is a cooperative preschool different from a traditional preschool?
A: Oakhurst Cooperative Preschool (OCP) is a non-profit parent cooperative overseen by a board of parent volunteers. The school is operated by the parents and staffed by a director and professional teachers. Co-op members serve on the board of directors and on committees. They make budget decisions, hire staff, and set policies. Members also help out in day-to-day ways. Parents rotate certain daily responsibilities. For example, parent-teachers assist in the classrooms and rotate the responsibility of bringing a daily snack.

Q: Is there more work involved in a cooperative preschool?
A: For parents, the time commitment is significant but not burdensome. Parents report that they enjoy their work within the co-op because they make a meaningful contribution to their child’s education, form lasting friendships with other families and have the opportunity to learn new skills.

Q: What are the responsibilities of each family?
A: Each family is responsible for four things: tuition, serving as a parent-teacher, serving on a committee, and completing three work days per year. Our tuition schedule is located here: Your parent-teacher days are divided among the other parents in your class; for example, if there are 8 students in your class, you will be the parent-teacher (PT) every 8 class sessions. Our committees run the operations of the school and are listed out here: Each committee meets once per month and assigns tasks to each member. Our work days are how we keep our school running. Work day opportunities consist of working booths at neighborhood events, maintaining the grounds, setting up our family events, working a book fair, and volunteering for our annual 5K road race, Beat the Street for Little Feet held in May.

Q: What is the makeup of each class?
A: Each class has a professional teacher, a parent teacher, and a number of students based on the age of the class. Our 2-year old classes have 6-7 students. Our 3-year-old classes have 8 students. Our 4-year-old/Pre-K class has a professional teacher, a professional teacher’s assistant 3 days per week, and parent teachers fill in the remaining 2 days per week. This class has less parental involvement in order to help better prepare our students for their next school experience…kindergarten!

Q: What are your hours? Are you a full-day program?
A: Our school hours are 9am-12:45pm. We do offer an enrichment class that goes until 1:30pm that is open to potty-trained 3- and 4-year-olds. We offer 2-day programs (Tuesdays and Thursdays) and 3-day programs (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) for our 2- and 3-year old classes. We offer 3, 4, or 5-day programs for our 4-year-old classes.

Q: What is the youngest age you accept?
A: Our youngest 2-year-old class requires students to be age 2 by September 1st.

Q: Where are you located?
A: We are located in the Oakhurst neighborhood in Decatur, GA. Our building is right behind Thankful Baptist Church located on West College Avenue.

Q: What sort of outside play space do you have?
A: We have a lovely play area located adjacent to our school, affectionately known as the Play Garden. It is a fully enclosed space designed by a landscape architect to uphold our core values – a cooperative, green, learning environment. We spend a good amount of time each class day outside (rain or shine!) where the students can ride tricycles, play in the sand area or play house, race around the sidewalk, stroll through our natural garden, or help water their class’s garden plots.

Q: What curriculum do you use?
A: We carefully selected the open and flexible framework of the Creative Curriculum and integrated key elements of other well-known curricula (Reggio-Emilia, Waldorf, Montessori) to create a unique learning experience for young children.

Q: Sounds great! How do I apply?
A: Complete the application ( and send in a non-refundable application fee of $75. For a list of our upcoming tours, please visit our admissions page ( Email with any questions, as we are all very excited to talk about our school!

OCP By The Numbers

 General Information  Comments Off on OCP By The Numbers
Nov 072014

Have you ever wondered about the financial aspects of running OCP? Did you know that the budget for the Committee work you do is one piece of a larger financial budget? Did you realize how important the annual fund and your tuition payments are to how the school functions? This post details the school’s total budget, to provide a clear understanding of how we both make and spend money. The category percentages are based on our projections for the current fiscal year, which runs from June 1, 2014 through May 31, 2015. The projections are based on past years, and are updated each February by Committee Chairs. The Treasurer uses these projections, as well as expected enrollment, to create a budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

First, how does the school bring in money? As you can see below, tuition makes up the largest percentage of our income. However, we would not be able to offer many of the fun, extra activities that our members love without our fundraising events, which make up approximately 10% of our yearly income.

Total Income:

  • Annual fund and other donations – 4.5%
  • Festivus Auction – 1%
  • 5K Race – 4.5%
  • School Year Tuition – 84%
  • Summer Camp Tuition – 6%

Next, where do we spend our money? Each Committee has a budget that they use to implement their portion of the Strategic Plan, which amounts to just under 10% of our budget (remember that 10% of our yearly income made up by fundraising?) The major costs come from our operating expenses, which include rent, utilities, paying our amazing staff, and all the other items that are necessary to run OCP.

Total Expenses:

Committees – 9.5% of budget (as follows)

  • Communications Committee – 0.5%
  • Coop Community Committee – 1.5%
  • Curriculum Committee – 1.5%
  • Green Committee – 0.5%
  • Management Committee – 0.5%
  • Membership Committee – 0.5%
  • Personnel Committee – 0.5%
  • Facilities Committee – 4%

Operating Expenses – 90.5% of budget (as follows)

  • Payroll, Subs, Taxes, and Employee benefits – 67.5%
  • Rent, facilities supplies – 14%
  • Classroom and operating supplies – 2%
  • Technology – 1%
  • Utilities – 4%
  • Insurance, Legal and Professional Fees, and Banking Fees – 2%

Because we are a non-profit, every cent that we make gets put back into our school. Some is held in reserve for use during emergencies; we currently have over 30% of our annual operating budget in our bank accounts. However, during the years that we are able to increase our income, either through full enrollment or additional fundraising, our budget can also increase to allow for special projects, such as last year’s kitchen remodel.

If you have any specific questions about the information presented here, or other questions about OCP’s budget and fiscal policies, feel free to e-mail this year’s treasurer, Caroline Evans (