As Fellow Alums, Chandrasurins Get the Picture as MCS Parents

By Al Daniel

Upon sending their daughter, Alma Chandrasurin, to her first day at the Montessori Community School, Carrie Beason and Nic Chandrasurin did not make much of their milestone. They just made an old-fashioned memory.

“We took pictures on our front porch and made sure to commemorate the day,” Carrie said of their August 27 actions.

As it happens, once Alma entered the Toddler room, she became the first MCS student whose parents both attended the school themselves.

“We did not realize we were the first,” Carrie admits. “Exciting!”

Carrie — along with her twin sister Nikki, who is now a social worker in Pittsboro — only attended MCS through Primary. But she cites the experience as a crucial foundation in sculpting her self-assurance. She currently works in alternative dispute resolution as a project coordinator at RTI International.

“My strongest memories are just of being respected as a kid and building confidence in myself and the activities I was drawn to,” she said. “I remember it was such a good feeling to be trusted and empowered in my independence and self-direction.”

Nic’s time as a Pope Road pupil yielded proof that one is never too young to tell old stories. In Lower Elementary, he exercised the freedom to transmit the Thai tales he learned from his father to his peers and guides.

“Being in an environment where I desired to share my background at such a young age was awesome,” he said.

Nic, an architectural designer, was one grade level ahead of Carrie, and stayed at MCS until he was a fifth-year student in Upper Elementary. The two thus overlapped for all of Carrie’s time on campus, although they did not meet in earnest until their paths crossed again in high school.

By the time Carrie was a sophomore and Nic a junior at the Durham School for the Arts, the picture literally took shape. They were enrolled in the same theatre class, and she glimpsed one of his old photos with a familiar theme and backdrop.

“The classic outdoor photos,” she said. “Hugging a tree and looking adorable. They are very cute pictures.”

Both parties went out of state for various college, career, and community service stints before settling back into the Research Triangle, where they wed in 2013. Carrie obtained her bachelor’s degree at Washington University in St. Louis, later spent a month in Macedonia with Habitat for Humanity, and lived in Washington, D.C. for two years. Nic attended the Maryland Institute College of Art and held several Beltway-area jobs.

Once the Chandrasurins started growing as a family, they did not take long to continue their combined come-back-around narrative in Durham. For a year and two months, they sent their daughter to daycare. But once Alma was old enough to apply to MCS, Carrie said, they sought “a more intentional environment for Alma that aligned more closely with our parenting values and her development needs as she continued to grow.”

Their checklist, she added, included “Respect for the individual, listening to the child, building independence.”

Nic and Carrie espouse those values at home, and they each knew firsthand where to look for them in a school. They checked out their new-look old haunts and initiated an unprecedented type of MCS reunion.

A 24-year gap separated Nic’s last day in Upper Elementary and Alma’s first day in the Toddler room. The school’s age now is more than twice what it was then. Older age groups carry out their day’s work in and around newer buildings. What Carrie’s mother remembers as a field — a front yard for the campus, if you will — is now a full-fledged parking lot.

With that said, Carrie declares the added and tweaked facilities “improvements.” Along with the scope of the student body, the structures on campus multiplied to an astonishing degree over the Chandrasurins’ collective hiatus.

“When we attended,” Nic noted, “it was just two buildings and a trailer out back.”

Within the walls, though, the top-notch intangibles have held up. When Alma’s parents went to this year’s orientation, nostalgia took hold. For Nic, the sight of beaded math material rang immediate bells, and he fondly recalled “a sense of accomplishment.”

Some of the personnel have also made for intriguing continuity. Kathy McHugh, who guided Carrie in Primary, is still here on the support staff. Meanwhile, Colleen McHugh, one of Nic’s fellow MCS children of the ’90s, is in her sixth year as a Toddler guide.

“I think this just adds to that sense of growing, maintaining, and coming back to, in a sense, our community,” said Carrie. “This type of legacy involvement in MCS also demonstrates a continuing belief in the Montessori Method and MCS as a powerful and thoughtful organization that people continue to support and be drawn to, which only solidifies my confidence in our choice to get Alma involved.”

Fall portraits in October gave the Chandrasurins a much-anticipated chance to start signifying their own legacy’s presence. From first-day family photos to the first school Photo Day, they are eager to watch Alma’s album accumulate.

Deep into their first autumn as MCS parents, they are already seeing and feeling the expected effects in real time. In a near-reprise of recounting her own formative years, Carrie notes that Alma “loves the outdoors, and we are excited for her to experience all of the outdoor offerings at MCS.”

Outdoorsy they may be, but outsiders they will not be. Alma’s parents are itching for more involvement at school as the opportunities arise. In the meantime, they are thrilled to tackle a new kind of homework assignment.

In another like-mother, like-daughter assessment, Carrie says, “I can see she is gaining confidence in her ability to perform tasks and ask for what she needs.

“She is also very interested in performing these tasks, and we have certainly had to up our game at home, which has been a great motivation for us.”