History and Founders
In 2001 Mary Coppola and Susan Burns met at an open preschool in South Charlotte where their children were students. It was a long drive, and the two of them talked together about a dream for a similar preschool closer to home. They decided to start a non-profit progressive preschool in the University area. They based the school on the philosophy developed by Sue Riley, a highly respected early-childhood educator in Charlotte, who offered her wisdom and guidance as the school got off the ground. The vision for the preschool was that it be neither for-profit nor religious, and that it promote freedom of thought and action for young children, and embrace a strong sense of visual aesthetics. Mary and Susan selected the Piedmont Unitarian Universalist Church because of its convenient location, wooded grounds, attractive classrooms, and reasonable rent (Susan being on the PUUC Board at the time). The preschool is separate and independent from the church, but close in spirit. The doors opened on October 16, 2001 with one multi-age classroom of three-to-five year olds. In January of 2003, a two-year-old class was added, and then in the school’s third year the four/five-year old class was inaugurated, with great success.
With each passing year the challenges have grown but the spirit of the preschool is strengthened as new teachers are hired who add their valuable experience to the program, and families who come to the school realize that it is a unique place in the University Area. Nowhere else is there a non-profit, non-sectarian school where the children are encouraged to be creative, free-thinking, independent individuals.
In 2005 Mary and Susan turned the school over to the parents in order to spend more time with their own children that have all aged out of the program. The parents decided that they would all pull together to help preserve this vital part of the community and ensure it would be available for future children. Sharon King stepped up to become our director/chair of our newly formed parent council and has been working closely with other parents to continue the work of Mary and Susan. The parents on the council have put their hearts into continuing the tradition of allowing children to develop their minds and bodies at their individual pace. This nurturing environment, respectful of each child’s individuality, is unique among preschool programs.
“Be the change you want to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi
“Play is Powerful” – the PPP