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History of ISM

History of ISM

The International School of Monterey opened in fall 2001 as California public charter school number 429. In its first year of operation, ISM comprised 54 students and five teachers, with a kindergarten class, a combined kindergarten and first grade class, and a combined second and third grade class housed in three classrooms at the David Avenue school site in Pacific Grove. The next year, ISM expanded to include fourth grade and relocated to the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District's Larkin School campus in downtown Monterey. The school then added a grade level each year after through the 2004-2005 school year.

ISM moved to its current MPUSD-owned Manzanita School site in Seaside midway through the 2004-2005 school year. The larger campus allowed ISM to expand for the 2005-2006 school year, adding its first eighth-grade class and doubling to two classes at each grade level from kindergarten to fourth grade. Grades 5 through 8 were then doubled to two classes one grade at a time over the next four years until ISM reached full buildout with two classes at each grade level from K through 8 for the 2009-2010 school year.

Over the course of its history, ISM has thrived and built an admirable reputation, evidenced by the following...

  • Monterey County's first IB World School
  • The first public charter international school in the world 
  • Dual accreditation by the Council of International Schools and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Selection as a “model charter school” by the California State Superintendent of Public Instruction
  • Awarding of a charter schools dissemination grant to share ISM's successful model with other public schools
  • Tens of thousands of volunteer hours performed by families, students, staff, and board members
  • A waiting list consistently larger than the actual number of students enrolled
  • California standardized test scores consistently among the highest in Monterey County

How ISM Was Founded

As related by founding board member Joanne Storkan in early 1999

In 1995 a Waldorf teacher, Mrs. Linda Dormody, decided to disassociate herself from the Waldorf Independent Studies Program. In an effort by some parents to retrain Mrs. Dormody as their children's teacher, a group was formed called the North Monterey County Arts-Integrated Independent Study Program in Carmel Valley. This was an  extremely successful venture that sadly ended at the end of 1996 when Mrs. Dormody announced her pregnancy and retirement from teaching.

Though the group disbanded and went separate ways into different schools, two of the parents kept in contact. In an effort to recreate some of the incredible learning experiences the children in this program had, Lisa deMondesir and Joanne Storkan, two of the parents, decided to continue to look for a similar program.

Since 1994, Lisa deMondesir had continued to look abroad at schools as her husband is a French citizen and the family had lived in Europe for many years. Lisa felt that the best school she had visited was in Lausanne, Switzerland, where Robert Landau was the head master. She felt that his educational philosophies, combined with the International Baccalaureate curriculum, was the perfect atmosphere for all students and most closely resembled the ideals of Linda Dormody.

In 1998, Lisa learned that Robert Landau, who had since accepted the job of director of a school in Indonesia, was looking to relocate. Lisa asked Joanne and Dean Storkan if they would like to bring Robert to Monterey to see if he could start an international school on the Peninsula. Robert, in turn, understood that this would be an entrepreneurial decision for him as there was no school or board to pay him per se or offer him a contract.

Before Robert arrived, the Storkans set up a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization to begin soliciting funding. The nonprofit received some grant money and personal contributions from families and friends. Thus, we were able to pay Robert a consulting fee and cover his expenses.

We soon realized after our first public meeting in May 1998, that there was a keen interest in this type of education. The two main stumbling blocks were finding the donations necessary for starting a private, independent, international school, and a school site.

We next turned to the possibility of starting a charter school which would guarantee some money that would help in defraying the cost. Though no official board existed, Fred Miller, a local businessman, headed our committee. Soon to join our group were Gordon Freedman, Ingrid Tower,  and Margaret Elwanger. As of March 1, 1999, a new group will be appointed as the first official board of the International School of Monterey. Robert Landau has accepted a job in Prague for the 1999-2000 school year. However, this will not affect the status of the school nor its expected opening as a charter in the year 2000, after a private, independent, international preschool opens in September 1999.