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The Evolution of the Cooperative

At Stevens, we know from experience that students thrive when we are deeply engaged in partnership with their families. Since the first playgroup was organized in 1946, three years before the school’s incorporation, the Cooperative has been a collective endeavor in service of our students and their education. Every parent and guardian has a role to play. Today, that means choosing a Cooperative job, joining our classrooms to share family experiences, and voting on Board members and amendments to the school’s bylaws. But how did it all look over the past seven and a half decades? Take a peek at how vital our families have been in bringing the Stevens mission to life.


In the early days, parents/ guardians were required to assist their child’s teacher for the equivalent of five days each semester, a program “designed to bring about better understanding between children, parents and teachers.” 


After two decades of fundraising events like card parties, film screenings, square dances and book fairs, a new class of school officers was elected and began planning the first-ever outdoor flea market. This parent-planned and operated event later became known as the Antiques and Crafts Fair, which the school continued to host well into the 1990s.


The mid-1970s marked the school’s expansion from nursery programming to Kindergarten. Up on Hudson Street, parents helped design a stage and theater for the new classroom and built an outdoor playground area for students.


As the school completed its elementary school expansion in the early 1980s, parents continued to assist teaching various classes, especially for visual arts, dance and music. Families also provided support for field trips and ensured the buildings were maintained. “A child does not go to Stevens Cooperative School, the whole family goes,” said Jack Deisler, P ’84. 


The classroom visit experience only continued to be enhanced after a milestone move to 301 Garden Street in the early 1990s. Family Project Days created new ways for students to share the school experience with their parents, with school- wide activities like cooking chili and jewelry making on the schedule. 


As Stevens expanded to middle school, parents built new storage areas for classrooms.


Prior to the parent space committee’s support with the purchase of 301 Bloomfield Street, parents spent the late days of summer ensuring space was ready for a new school year.


Over a decade into the 21st century, the Cooperative evolved to meet the changing needs of both the school and families. Events like the Harvest Festival and the Auction (now known
as the Gala) continued to offer opportunities for families to work with school administrators on event planning and logistics or day-of operations.


The first Membership Meeting of the 75th anniversary school year also kicked off a new year of Cooperative jobs. For this school year, families chose from over 30 committees, from Alumni Engagement and Cabaret to Financial Investment and Technology Support.

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2023 Issue of SCOOP.