Kristen Waterfield: What It Takes to Run One of the Most Successful Schools in the Region
As a seasoned educator and co-founder of The Malvern School for Early Childhood Education, Kristen Waterfield, is incredibly passionate about early childhood education. She took that passion and started a business in 1998 with co-founder Joseph Scandone that today has 24 thriving locations in the tri-state area.
As early childhood education becomes more of a critical topic of conversation in the area, we talked to her about why she set out to change the way preschools were run, and what sets The Malvern School model apart.
Breaking the Mold
With a degree in early childhood education and development, Waterfield’s first exposure to working in the world of education was at a franchise childcare chain. She worked in various positions over the course of seven years, her final position prior to leaving was Director of Operations. And that’s when she began to feel there was something more she could do.
“My view from working with a franchise was that the quality of the program was often compromised depending on the skill set of the franchise or the expectations,” she says.
Her plan was to break the “traditional” education model and make children the primary focus of her school’s “business.”
“We come back to it all the time—it’s a constant process of coming back to the children and providing the best program, best facility, excellent teachers and administrators,” Waterfield says.
Waterfield took her experience as an elementary school teacher and her connection as a parent into consideration when she decided it was time to make a serious change in the way schools introduce children to education.
“I really felt like if I was going to get behind something as strongly as I was behind that business, that I could certainly do it on my own and I could do it with more consistency and without compromise,” Waterfield said.
Behind the Scenes of a Successful School
When Waterfield started her business, she split her time between Frazer and Malvern from 7am until 6pm throughout the week. Nowadays her time is spent managing The Malvern School’s 24 locations from headquarters in Glen Mills.
She might not be spending as much time commuting down Route 30, but she’s still a master of splitting her time equally between managing the educational programmers on one side and the business managers on the other. The two sides work in tandem to ensure the best educational program is put first and high standards are closely followed at each school’s privately-owned location.
From installing state-of-the-art security systems to acing health and safety standards, The Malvern School isn’t just meeting expectations—it’s exceeding them.
When asked what she thinks makes the school so successful, she comes back to the same reason that fueled her passion to start The Malvern School: children.
“We’re talking about these little wonderful human beings and they deserve the best of everything and their parents expect that.”
Waterfield says that the dedication to the children at The Malvern School is clear to the parents as soon as they see their child after the first day of school, and each day that follows.
“The excellent programming is one of the things I’m most proud of, and so many children get to benefit from that,” Waterfield said. “I also feel strongly that I provide a peace of mind to parents. They can go off to work and they know that their child will be safe and cared for and loved.”
That’s what sets The Malvern School above the rest in terms of its curriculum.
“In addition to daily, informal conversations with teachers and directors, we have an electronic communication system, ‘Tadpoles,’” Waterfield says.
Tadpoles allows parents to see their child’s class curriculum, daily activities, teacher messages and a daily photograph of their little one enjoying school.
When parents tour The Malvern School, the staff makes promises to them that their children will have an exceptional experience at the school but what sets Waterfield and the staff at The Malvern School apart is their dedication to this promise—and their passion to do so in every location.This is a paid partnership between The Malvern School and Philadelphia Magazine's City/Studio