Becoming a Licensed Pilates School: 10 Years Later

September 2018 /

Like many ventures based on belief and passion, when we initiated the Fletcher Pilates Program of Study, we dove in head-first. Our vision was crystal clear, but we had yet to identify the steps and processes involved in creating a true vocational school.

Our unified vision was to create a school based on the Fletcher lineage of the Pilates method – rooted firmly in a “classical” Pilates foundation, as developed and taught to us by Ron Fletcher. We also realized that time was of the essence. Without Ron’s direct involvement, input and approval, it would be impossible to capture and delineate this program. Our Pilates lineage would most likely be diluted, and eventually lost, if we didn’t follow through.

While our purpose was clear, each step in the process led to 10 additional steps. Identifying and cataloging our comprehensive program was the fun, collaborative part. Matching the administrative processes and details to the precision of our approach to the Pilates method is where the real work began. This involved everything from establishing policies and procedures, examination and evaluation processes, to maintaining student records and day-to-day operations to develop and mentor faculty. The list was seemingly endless, requiring every bit of our not-so-free time.

Why We Pursued Licensure

The only other program operating as a Pilates school at the time was The Pilates Center (TPC) in Boulder. In many ways, TPC paved the way for doing things the right way, without cutting corners. The sisters, Amy and Rachel (Taylor), were graciously open with us and shared the necessity of state licensure for a vocational school. They explained that licensure not only differentiates a school from the studio business, it also protects the student, and the public, from fly-by-night or under-developed ventures. We would need to outline our educational offerings and processes and be fully bonded. This explanation made perfect sense at the time, so we embarked on licensure without a second thought.

At first, this process seemed like a lot of busy-work, responding to irrelevant questions and needlessly formatting our program to match state requirements in a way the state could relate to and understand. As the State Licensing Board had little to no knowledge of what Pilates is, much less what a Pilates school should look like, it was a learning process for both sides. In retrospect, this process has been a blessing as it made us consider every aspect of the way we manage our school, from the consumer/student perspective. By undergoing state licensure, we established processes and procedures such as:

  • • Creating our Catalog and Enrollment agreements, which define our attendance policies, payment and refund policies, procedures for withdrawal and re-enrollment as well as defining our relationship to other programs within our industry with transfer of credit/previous experience policies.
  • • We also had to look at our internal processes by defining requirements for faculty and continued faculty development to ensure the consistency and delivery of our program over time.
  • • Additionally, while we know our Pilates curriculum does not fit into a traditional educational model, it has given us the opportunity to develop our program by refining the curriculum, materials, and evaluation/assessment, viewing it through more of an educational lens. This has created more accountability for both faculty and students without losing the experiential and exploratory process that Ron always expressed was so important to understanding Pilates.

Having this catalog in place has been invaluable when it comes to dealing with student issues. There is a very clear and consistent process for dealing with students. So when something comes up, such as a student needs to leave the program for personal reasons or they don’t complete a part of the program requirements, we have a policy in place and can point to the catalog and say “this is how we deal with this situation.”

A Decade Later: What Comes Next

At this point, we’ve been state licensed for over a decade. This made the PMA’s Pilates School Approval Program very straight-forward to participate in. We also see both state-licensure and the Pilates School Approval Program as a template for the next obvious step – national accreditation – which will not only increase our credibility, but also enable students from countries outside the US to apply for visas to study short and long-term with us. The credibility that comes with accreditation could also open up more funding options to students. And eventually, if the accredited school receives Title 4 approval, we could even offer Federal Financial Aid.

When we embarked on state licensure, we had no idea it would set our school apart – or establish a road-map for both internal operations and future professional opportunities. It was simply the next obvious step in creating a school.

The PMA’s Pilates School Approval Program

The PMA Pilates School Approval Program provides a template for state licensure. This initiative offers a benefit to current and future Pilates schools to help us all professionalize our industry. The dedicated PSAP staff members patiently walk applicants through this process, answering questions every step of the way. If this service had existed when we first embarked on state licensure, it would have made our process so much more straight-forward and easier.

We strongly encourage each of you who are running Pilates schools, large and small, to take advantage of this school approval service provided by the PMA. It is a benefit and a gift to our Pilates community.