Inside this issue:
Member Profile: Charlestown Playhouse  |  Jump in!  Portland, 2020  Welcome New Member

August 2019
Vol. 49 No.6

Cooperatively Speaking
The Latest News from PCPI
I recently had the pleasure of attending a conference about nature-based education. One of the speakers was from a cooperative preschool in Santa Barbara, CA. In my experience, it is unusual to come across presentations about co-ops at non-co-op conferences, so I made sure to attend her workshop about increasing the "nature-ness" at her school.

After she spoke, I hung around to say hello and to mention our co-op connection. We spent some time talking about how lucky we are to be part of such great communities on either side of the US, then she told me a story that brought me to tears.

Not long ago, my new friend's house was caught in a devastating mudslide. In her escape, she was covered in mud and forced to leave everything behind. Along her terrifying journey, it was the parents from her co-op who carried her to safety, ensured she had a place to stay, and even delivered shoes and clothing to her when she had none. 

Co-ops exist to educate children and families, but strong communities are an undeniably beautiful by-product.

Cooperatively yours,

Dianne Rose, M.Ed.
Editor, Cooperatively Speaking

Member Profile: 
Charlestown Playhouse
Phoenixville, PA
Charlestown Playhouse, or Playschool as it is known locally, has a long history in the cooperative world. Playschool got its start in 1936 and has been operating continuously ever since, making it one of the very first and longest running in our nation. 

The founder of Charlestown Playhouse, Elizabeth Foster Stonorov, was better known as "Miss Betty."
Miss Betty playing with children.


The  school's founder, Elizabeth 
Foster Stonorov, was well known in the Playschool community as  "Miss Betty". Miss Betty  started the school as a playgroup in her home. In 1938, she and her husband, modernist architect Oskar Stonorov, bought an old church that they re-designed to be a place for play and community-gathering. The building is still serving as a home to Charlestown Playhouse today.

The welcoming exterior of Charlestown Playhouse.

The distinctive design features of Charlestown Playhouse make the building uniquely suited for children. The iconic oak tree with its tire swing, visible from most classrooms, anchors a natural play yard where children are as apt to explore the woods as they are to play in the sand.  Miss Betty directed her husband to include an interior 2-story sliding board which is still used by the children today.  

What child wouldn't love a 2-story interior slide?
Erik Erikson talking with Miss Betty at school.

Playschool was recognized very 
early on as a leader in providing
the very best of opportunities for young children and their families. Erik Erikson, renowned developmental psychologist and friend of Miss Betty, did some of his research on young children's block building at Charlestown Playhouse. 

The Charlestown Playhouse community has long demonstrated deep dedication and commitment to children and families. Many of the school's parents and staff members are also alumni of the school.  Director  Faith Koons, who retired in June, was a great example of this dedication; she  attended Playschool as a child in the 1950s/1960s, came back as a parent in the late 1980s, and joined the staff in 1992 as a teacher before taking on the director role in 2008. 

Many of Playschool's teachers have been with the school 10 or more years.  Jean Lacey is 91 years old and still comes to the school every day to visit with the children. Miss  Jean says her claim to fame is having both Faith Koons (recently retired school director) and Kevin Bacon as former students in her two's class.

While Charlestown Playhouse has been an active parent co-op for over 80 years, the school has always been a Director-run co-op vs. a parent-run co-op. The Board of Directors, made up of parents and community members, oversees the financial health of the school. The Board hires the Administrative Director and the Education Director, who are then responsible for hiring the teaching staff. The  Board and the Directors work together to set school policy.

Playschool has 5 classrooms and approximately 75 children from around 65 families. To support the school, parents are responsible for fulfilling co-op requirements: 
  • One parent from each family is asked to help in a classroom one day per week throughout the school year (not in their child's classroom).
  • Parents spend 4 hours at each of the school's work parties (one in fall, one in spring), and 8 hours helping at each of the school's 2-week long consignment sales (one in fall, one in spring, 8 hours at both), 
  • Parents donate at least 2 hours towards the spring Auction. 
Families who are unable to meet any or all of these requirements have the option of a buyout for $25 per hour. This helps to ensure accountability and the added funds of the buyouts are a welcome addition to the school budget, so it's a win-win for all.

Children celebrating May Day at Charlestown Playhouse.


Many thanks to Playschool Kindergarten Teacher Kathleen Blass and Director Faith Koons for their contributions to this article.

Jump Right In!

PCPI is an all volunteer organization, and our work is a direct reflection of our members. The more people who are involved, the stronger our community and our connections. 

While we are an international organization, most of our work is done from the comfort of our own homes.  We collaborate through conference calls, email, and a virtual office. 

We have plenty of opportunities for you to get involved, and we're always open to new ideas!
  • Newsletter contributors - Do you have an idea for an article? Is there something you'd like to share about your school or community? Are you interested in being a regular contributor? Contact to get started.
  • Membership Value - what would you like to see as a benefit to members? Share your thoughts with our membership chair.
  • Publication Review Team - we are working on reviewing and modernizing some of our publications.  Would you like to be a part of the editing team? We'd love to have you!  Let our committee chair know you're on board.
  • Public Visibility - We want to let everyone know how great our co-ops are! Social media, local and national news, legislative action - we'd love to hear your ideas about how to spread the word. Touch base at
See something that sparks your interest?  Let us know!

60 Years Already?
PCPI will celebrate its 60th Anniversary in 2020. Plans are underway for the next Annual Meeting, which will be held in Portland, Oregon April 16-19, 2020.

Have photos or memories to share?  

Photos and other memorabilia from the 50th Anniversary in Indianapolis to 2019 are being collected now. Please contact us if you have print or digital photos or other items that you think would be of interest, and we'll coordinate a transfer. 

Would you like to be on the planning team?  

Planning a party is better done with friends.  If you'd like to be a part of the 60th anniversary planning fun, please contact us.    

Welcome to Our Newest Member!

We'd like to offer a warm welcome to our newest member school,  Smithtown Nursery School, in Smithtown, NY.

We look forward to getting to know you better!
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