Community Spotlight II

Welcome to the Community Spotlight.  Each week, Park Central features a member of the community who lives, works in, or is a regular visitor of the central corridor of St. Louis.  This person may be front-and-center or be working behind the scenes, may be a local entrepreneur or a dedicated customer, a long-time homeowner or a new apartment dweller.  We will bring you the folks who generally make life special in our neighborhoods.

This week we catch up with John Carroll, Director of Development for City Garden Montessori.  City Garden Montessori is a Charter School serving grades Kindergarten through Eighth grade. Their student body is comprised of students living in the Botanical Heights, Forest Park Southeast, Shaw neighborhoods.  The catchment area also includes portions of the Southwest Garden and Tiffany neighborhoods in the City of St. Louis.   City Garden Montessori is an award winning learning institution giving City families a viable choice for the education for their children.

Headshot john carroll

Where are you from?  How did you start working at City Garden Montessori?

I’m from Omaha, Nebraska, and I came to St. Louis to attend SLU. I started at City Garden as a part-time aftercare worker. I then added duties as the P.E. teacher, substitute teacher, executive director and board of director’s assistant. I then spent as year as the Development Associate, the first, full-time position we had for fundraising and development. The work was exciting, and our parent volunteers helped us through that first year.

Tell me more about City Garden Montessori.  What is your position and what are your duties?

I am the Director of Development. I oversee and execute our fundraising programming, with the help of our awesome Assistant Director Rasheen Coleman and our amazing Executive Assistant, Debra Fox. We work with a variety of parent and community volunteers to host events and expand our circle of supporters.

Where does your student body come from?  How do families apply for admission?

The majority of our students come from Shaw, Forest Park Southeast, Botanical Heights, Tiffany, and the Southwest Garden neighborhoods. Applications for the lottery for next year (2014-2015) are due this year by Friday, February 14. More information is available here.

At what level are City Garden Montessori students involved in the community?

Our students are very involved in the community, as many of them live in this neighborhood. They have a micro-economy project selling City Garden logo apparel, they visit the Botanical Garden, they volunteer on different projects, and helped us host and staff our first Fall Festival in 2013.

How long have you worked in the Botanical Heights neighborhood?  
What  significant changes  have you seen?

 We have been in our school building on Tower Grove Avenue since July 2012. The area has definitely seen a lot of new housing sold by UIC, a large percentage of which have gone to City Garden families and families applying to the City Garden lottery. It’s great to see so many new businesses and restaurants doing well in the area. It’s also delightful to see that development in the Grove is continuing. I’ve only lived in the neighborhood since May 2013, but I love it!

What do you want to see happen the most in the neighborhood where City Garden is located?

I would love to see City Garden continue to increase its presence in the neighborhood, and grow further into our dream of becoming a true community center for all groups in our catchment area. I would like to continue building on partnerships with local businesses and organizations to form a strong coalition of St. Louisans who support easy access to high-quality public education. I would love to see St. Louis build a strong culture around supporting teachers and schools that meet the academic and cultural requirements on our children.

I would love to see a movement form around ending the effects of racism in education, specifically around closing the achievement gap here in St. Louis.  To quote from an article I admire:

“Consider…that this country has spent hundreds of millions (perhaps billions) of dollars in the last two decades on attempts to decrease the achievement gap without any major change on the national level. It is clearly time to risk new approaches— ones based on addressing the root causes of the achievement gap.
Building and sustaining healing communities to end racism is challenging. The issues related to racism and other forms of bias are complex and often emotional. People often deny that racism interferes with relationships or affects institutional policies (“I don’t see color.” “I treat everyone the same.”) They may be fearful of talking honestly about racial issues, or feel hopeless or cynical about the possibility of change. It is easier to have one-day workshops celebrating diversity, to develop new curricula, buy “test prep” programs, write reports, and pressure teachers, than to talk about personal experiences with racism. But without the ongoing and persistent attention of a healing community to the elimination of racism, it will not go away.”

by Julian Weissglass. The article can be found here.

What is your favorite experience or story from the neighborhood?

I love being walking/biking distance to so many of my favorite institutions, the Grove, the Central West End, South Grand, and having both Forest Park and Tower Grove Park so close is incredible. I love the diversity of the neighborhood, and the fact that City Garden pulls a very diverse student and parent body together. I’ve met so many fun and interesting people through my work finding new investors in City Garden’s vision of a diverse, successful, neighborhood Montessori school. Anyone who would like to get involved, please get in touch with me via email at


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