Our Democratic Model

Nea prides itself on building a sense of community and belonging.

Democratic communities require members to participate in citizenship, leadership and self-governance to be successful. Nea provides learners at all grade levels with age-appropriate opportunities to have a voice in the community, to lead and inspire others, and to learn mediation and conflict resolution skills.

Research indicates that positive peer-driven activities result in: (1) team spirit and more supportive relationships; (2) greater psychological well-being, social competence, communication skills and self-esteem; and (3) higher achievement, greater productivity and enhanced learning outcomes. As children work and make decisions together, they inevitably assume leadership roles, acquire conflict-management skills, discuss and clarify concepts and issues, develop as citizens and unravel the complexities of human relationships within a given context.

At the Lower Village (grades TK-5), democratic practices are built into the everyday classroom in the form of learner voice and choice, leadership, community building, and restorative justice circles. At the Upper Village (grades 6-8), Nea is structured as a small-scale democratic society. Its Leadership Class, Judicial Committee, and weekly learner-led assemblies are the learner-led and facilitator-advised bodies that bring Nea's democratic model to life.

Citizenship and Self-Governance in the Lower Village (TK-5)

Learner Voice and Choice

Learners in the Lower Village participate in one or more "Choice" periods each week, when they can choose from a variety of activities such as creating art, building with Legos or Kinex, playing a game, interacting with friends, researching a topic of interest, or catching up on classwork.

Learners also vote to select the two electives they will have each trimester. Electives are multi-grade across TK-2 and 3-5.

Contemporary Community Citizenship

All Lower Village learners participate in a monthly assembly called Contemporary Community Citizenship, where they share information, discuss issues, celebrate successes, or watch presentations and performances by fellow learners, staff, or guests. They may also break into small group discussions and activities revolving around interests or concerns voiced by the learners themselves. Each small group is facilitated by a team of 5th-grade learners and includes representatives from each grade level to share perspectives and ideas.


5th graders who are interested can join the Lower Village Leadership Team. This group meets at lunch time and plans the monthly Contemporary Community Citizenship activities.

Restorative Justice Circles

In their homerooms, TK-5 learners participate in weekly Restorative Justice Circles, where they have the opportunity to share hurt feelings, mediate conflicts, and restore good relations.

Citizenship and Self-Governance in the Upper Village (6-8)

Contemporary Community Citizenship

Each week, Nea learners and facilitators gather for Contemporary Community Citizenship, affectionately known as CCC. CCC is a whole-school meeting that may take place in classroom-sized "small groups" or as a school-wide assembly.

CCC empowers Nea learners to weigh in on issues that are important to the school community. Learners can propose changes to the operational rules and make decisions about the use of resources (e.g., purchase of specific equipment, use of funding for field trips, etc.).

In CCC, learners come together to discuss  issues that are important to the school community, from concerns as mundane as noise levels and cleanliness to those as complex as sexual harassment and community relations.

CCC elects learner representatives to the Nea Board and can take legislative action by making, discussing and voting on formal proposals that relate to the policies and operations of the school.


Nea's Leadership Class takes on the executive functions of the community of learners, similar to a student council. The class meets once a week and conducts its business using Robert's Rules of Order.

Leadership deliberates and votes on proposals submitted by the community, such as proposals for new clubs, new rules, or new public art at the school.

Leadership is also responsible for: planning CCC agendas and activities, coordinating the calendar of learner events, codifying changes in the rule book, enforcing community rules, supporting the smooth operation of day-to-day affairs, and coordinating and facilitating the annual Nea Constitutional Convention.

Leadership offers learners the opportunity take part in the management of their own learning community, providing meaningful, real-world experience with self-government.

Constitutional Convention

Every year, learners and facilitators gather for Nea's annual Constitutional Convention, where they review the state of the school and the educational and community experiences that it provides. The Leadership Class organizes discussion sessions on a variety of topics and each learner chooses a few sessions to take part in.

Learners participating can work on proposals to change or revise Nea's Rule Book--a living document that specifies a code of conduct for the entire Nea community, including learners, facilitators, parents, and community visitors.