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Dr. Maureen O'Shaughnessy: How to start a micro-school

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

Starting her own micro-school, Lead Prep:

Dr. Maureen O’Shaughnessy is the founder of Lead Prep, a micro-school that avoids the one-size-fits all system and allows students to thrive as themselves! She is also the host of the Education Evolution podcast.

Maureen was a school assistant principal when she ended up going around the world to study internationally. She brought her kids back to the US for high school and thought there would be more choices for English for her child with autism and ADHD. So, she created a 6-12th grade micro-school that personalizes the school experience so that all types of learners feel welcomed and are in an environment where they can thrive.

Maureen went in this all by herself. The challenges for her in creating this school alone was figuring out the space and buy-ins, as well as the funding and logistics to make it all happen. A piece of advice from Maureen is to listen and absorb the knowledge you need to create your vision a reality, know yourself and stay true to yourself to keep your passion alive, and be willing to flex.

Additionally, doing market research is extremely important for starting a school. Find out where the need for the school is, what the need specifically is, and reach out to communities that could provide the resources or recommendations for your school such as Microsoft or Google. Going into this process alone is hard, so be intentional.

In addition to Lead Prep, Dr. O’Shaughnessy started a podcast, Education Evolution, where educators come on the show and provide knowledge that one may not receive in the classroom. Her goal is to plant the seeds to give others knowledge outside of the classroom.

Go to or to connect with Dr. Maureen O’Shaughnessy.


Sean McCormick 0:00 What's up educators. I'm Sean McCormick, a former public school teacher turned education entrepreneur. And you may not know this, but I once spent a summer in the misty fjords of Alaska, catching king salmon and working in a lodge. If you have a cool story about how earn more tutoring has impacted your life, send me an email at and I'd love to share it on an episode. This week on Earn More Tutoring. I talk with Dr. Maureen O'Shaughnessy about her experience of starting a micro school in Seattle, teaching in South America and her concept of signing bonuses for teachers who enrich the school culture. Welcome to Earn More Tutoring. Our mission is to eradicate educator poverty. I'm Sean McCormick, the creator of the become an online executive function specialist course. My guest today is Dr. Maureen O'Shaughnessy, founder of Lead Prep, as well as the Education Evolution podcast. Welcome to the show Maureen. Dr. Maureen O'Shaughnessy 1:10 Thanks for having me, Sean. Sean McCormick 1:12 So I'm so excited to talk to you. Because one thing that I really was excited to hear about was you've been teaching all over the world, which I just think is awesome. Because I know so many of our listeners, they want to bring their their skills around the world. So I was wondering, maybe you could give us kind of a I know it's tough because we as we discussed, we both done a lot in our in our careers. But maybe you could give us a little overview of what led up to creating lead grout. Dr. Maureen O'Shaughnessy 1:36 Sure, yeah, I was a school assistant principal, and finishing up my doctorate when my daughters were one and three. And then it was like, Okay, let's head to international schools I studied in Mexico and Spain and love living in other cultures. So we ended up hopping around the world for 10 years. And I brought them back to the US for high school, we did another little interim in Costa Rica. But coming back to the US, right, I did have so many more choices with English as the language of instruction, I was surprised that I could not find a good fit for either daughter. And we tried six or seven models. So I helped them graduate early. And I decided I wanted to start something that would be small and personal, and could adjust for a kiddo with autism, ADHD, and a kiddo that was on turbo mode and jumping grades and wanted relevance and wanted voice. And so in the Seattle area, I created sixth through 12th grade microscope, and we have two separate campuses that cap at 30 Each and love getting to personalize, contextualize and give children a much larger voice than they usually get Sean McCormick 2:45 one amazing thing. Can you talk a little bit more about what a micro school is? Because I think that I just love that word, you know, and also the idea that it can be so personalized. So maybe tell us a little bit more about how that's different from a normal school or you know, I guess a charter or public school? Yeah. So Dr. Maureen O'Shaughnessy 3:00 I was asked that question on Good Morning America in the summer of 2020, when pods and micro schools were coming around, and I wish I had an eloquent, you know, sophisticated answer, but micro school small school. And truthfully, that's not the solution. I could have rows of desks, I could have a textbook, I could have everybody on the same page. In a large group or a small group. It's the potential magic of a small school, especially like ours, we have a one to six ratio, where kids can go a little slower, go a little faster to Hey, could I do it this way? Or how could I use poetry to get my social studies assignment done? So it's the magic, the possibility, the relationships, and the love that we can put in when we're a small tight community? Sean McCormick 3:47 Yeah, it's so important those relationships, as we've, we've discussed in the past that you're able to establish those and and when those get lost, it's hard to really, to really help students. What had been the challenges with starting a school Dr. Maureen O'Shaughnessy 4:01 a ton. I had started two other microscopes and worked in a third. I started a school within a school as a high school teacher. And the challenges there were by in figuring out the resources, the space and everything, but we had kids with facilities, we had teachers with salaries and benefits. And then I started my career school for international school services in the Andes. Again, we had all the tools, and it was tiny K eight and then remote online. It was pre online remote learning for high school kids. The big challenges this time around is that I'm funding it myself. You know, that's huge. So I would suggest others if you can collaborate with a business, or if you could be a school within a school. It takes a lot of energy to figure out the funding and all of the logistics so if you can share resources with something that's already established...

Check out the full interview below!

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About the author:

Sean McCormick is a parent, husband and international executive function coach. He is the founder of Executive Function Specialists, an online coaching business which guides middle, high school, and college students in overcoming procrastination, disorganization and anxiety by teaching time management, prioritization and communication skills so they feel motivated, prepared, and empowered.

He has also spoken about executive function at prominent venues including the Association of Educational Therapists' National Conference, at the Athenian School and on the Qualified Tutors Podcast.

Sean is regularly featured across media channels for his expertise on executive function, ADHD and special education.

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