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In the early 1980s Kitty Williams (now Bravo) and her former husband, Farmer Steve Williams, lived on 5 acres of land with their two young daughters in their small, old-Florida home on Ashton Road in Sarasota, FL. Farmer Steve dreamed of an organic farm, while Kitty dreamed of a Montessori school; both dreamed of making the world a better place. They established Countryside Montessori School, in January of 1984, on a side porch of their home, with just five children, and Steve farmed the land. During that winter and spring, the garage was remodeled, and they applied to the zoning department for permission to officially have a school on the property. In August of 1984, the garage classroom opened with about twenty children: ages 2 years 11 months to 6 years old. By the fall of 1985, the porch had been enclosed and a second Primary classroom was opened, bringing the total enrollment to about forty students.

By 1987, the school expanded to include an Elementary program with just a few first graders continuing from the Primary class. A Toddler classroom was established in a small building on the roadside that had been Farmer Steve’s produce store. Within a year, the Elementary class expanded to first through third grades with Primary moving to the small classroom that was once the produce store.

Countryside kept growing, and in 1989 they built a spacious classroom with natural light for the expanding Elementary class. Now the school had three Primary classes, one Lower Elementary class, and a group of very enthusiastic, committed parents.

During the 1990s, the dream kept growing and the Williams restructured the school as a non-profit with the hope that they could continue through the high school years. With the help of some parents, they acquired the portable buildings, which they remodeled to expand the Elementary program. By the fall of 1993, they had three Primary classrooms, two Lower Elementary classrooms, and one Upper Elementary classroom.

On the school’s 10th Anniversary, after a decade of growth and dreams, Kitty and Steve, along with a dedicated group of families and staff, began to partner with the Montessori Foundation and became the Foundation’s “lab school.” So many things were accomplished during the 90s. They changed the school’s name to NewGate School (gate being an acronym for “global awareness through education”). After changing the name to NewGate School, they purchased one hundred acres of land for future development of a second campus, and added a Toddler class, another Upper Elementary class, and a 7th & 8th Year class (Middle School) at Ashton.

The dream wasn’t done yet! In the 2000s, NewGate opened its second campus on Clark Road and added the high school. In their 20th Anniversary year (2004) two beautiful things happened. First, a peace pole was erected in a lovely place in the center of the Ashton Road Campus in honor of Kitty’s work in Montessori for world peace. Second, NewGate had its first high school graduate! Big dreams were accomplished, and big challenges presented themselves. However, faith and determination did not wane and NewGate pushed forward with renewed assistance from the Montessori Foundation. When the Clark Road Campus closed, all students returned to the original campus on Ashton Road.

By the time the 30th Anniversary came around the school’s recovery was well underway, and in 2016, a new campus for the Secondary students was purchased in Lakewood Ranch. Now, in 2024, NewGate’s 40th Anniversary year, we have three campuses: the Ashton Road Campus; the Lakewood Ranch Campus; and the Global Campus (a virtual campus for Secondary students from around the US and the world). We serve children and adolescents from Toddlers through High School.

NewGate is proud to be the “lab school” of the Montessori Foundation (MF). Being the lab school of the Foundation means trying new ideas based on our tried-and-true Montessori principles. We have spent a lot of time developing models and systems for other schools to use as they grow and expand organizing new programs to enhance the already existing Montessori curriculum; creating a model for Montessori Secondary schools; sponsoring teacher training programs; and cultivating a community of respectful adults who mentor and guide children and adolescents by doing their best to live out the principles of peace.

Written by Lorna McGrath, NewGate Board member, with the help of Kitty Bravo, Founder of the School, and Lauren Speed, ‘long-time member of the NewGate faculty and adminstrative team.