At a glance
Location: Montpelier, VT
Industry: School for children with disabilities
Number of employees: 45
Conversion date: 2015
Professional support from
The New School of Montpelier is 45-employee worker cooperative school that serves students with severe disabilities in Montpelier, Vermont. The private business was founded in 2005 and began exploring options for the owner-director to exit as she looked ahead to other projects. Driven to find an option that ensured the highest quality service, the business was sold to its employees in 2015. The Vermont Employee Ownership Center provided training and organizational development services to shepherd the transition. The state agency granting renewal in 2016 called the system of governance “highly unusual yet apparently quite effective.”
- VT Digger – Employees Purchase The New School Of Montpelier From Founder As A Worker Cooperative
- VEOC – Elias Gardner on the New School of Montpelier Becoming a Worker Co-op (video)
- Project Equity – Financing Case Study: New School of Montpelier
- Seven Days – Public to Private: Could “Conversion” Become a Trend in Vermont Schools?
- 2016 State Board of Education Renewal
About the company. Founded in 2005 by Susan Kimmerly, The New School of Montpelier (Vermont) is a day school serving students ages 6 – 22 with severe disabilities whose needs cannot be met by their school district. This primarily includes children and young adults with autism, cognitive disabilities, and challenging behaviors, often related to trauma. To quote the co-op’s business plan, the school provides “a safe and encouraging environment for our unique learners. Our staff uses therapeutic components based on strong relationships with students to help them be successful.” At the time of the sale to the co-op, the school had served 60 students from 24 schools, with 22 students currently enrolled and 45 employees. The School has a reputation for providing a loving and safe environment for its students, many of whose lives have been greatly improved as a result.
About the transition to worker ownership. The process began as Susan Kimmerly began to consider her succession planning options. She was not interested in selling the school to the most likely buyers, mostly for fear of what would happen to the quality of service. Susan first learned about employee ownership after Marcel Rocheleau, her husband and co-owner, attended a seminar offered by the Vermont Employee Ownership Center (VEOC) entitled “Selling to the Employees: Employee Ownership as a Path for Business.”
Susan and other employees decided to learn more about the process at the VEOC’s annual conference, after which they reached out to Don Jamison, program director at VEOC, to discuss next steps. Susan liked the idea of selling to employees, and felt that the cooperative ethos would be a good fit for the school and the culture of caring that had developed there over the years. After gauging interest with the current employees of New School, VEOC proposed to provide the owners and employees with program management services designed to facilitate a transition from the school’s present ownership and governance structure to a worker cooperative structure. VEOC worked with New School to find the right service providers, educate staff about worker cooperatives, help New School establish committees to lead the company through the process, and more.
On March 30, 2015, approximately two years after the contract with VEOC was signed, the New School of Montpelier formally became a worker cooperative through the purchase of all the company’s stock from the school’s founders and subsequent issuance of one share to each of the 24 founding co-op members. The leadership transition is still currently underway.