<< What is the origin of the practice of not paying first-year staff? >>
I believe (I hope) that the author of what you quoted was referring to all
staff in the first year of operation of a "Subury-like" school. Money is
always an issue and starting a school is usually done by people without the
means to pay well. Kids are usually in short supply the first year, so
tuition income is low and startup costs the first year are high.
On the other hand, they may be referring to the need for one to gain
credibility with the school community before one is hired. Since the School
Meeting hires staff, the best way to become a known quantity is to volunteer
or otherwise make oneself useful and valuable to the SM.
At The Highland School, a democratic but not Sudbury inspired school, we
always hired and paid staff from their first year onward, but we were (they
are - Highland is in its 17th year) an out-of-the-way rural school, so we had
to attract folks...they were not abundantly available for volunteering!