Local charter school offers different place of learning

Evin Brown has been at the school since second grade.

by Rebecca Wicks

Ventura Charter School for Arts and Global Education is a progressive school. It’s the kind of school where students call teachers by their first name. It’s the kind of school that doesn’t just worry about how students learn, but about their emotional, physical and social well-being. It’s the kind of school that allows teachers a lot of control over what they teach. And, it’s exactly the kind of school founders Mary Galvin, Lisa Hildebrand and other teachers envisioned when they left the Open Classroom program at Blanche Reynolds to start the charter school.

“We wanted more autonomy in terms of what we were teaching and how we were being administered,” said Galvin who serves as the school’s director of operations. “We wanted to build a school that was relationship-based, a place with hands-on learning, where students really engage and grapple with issues and problems.”

Galvin, Hilderbrand and others were originally denied authorization to form a school by the Ventura Unified School District, which allowed them to go to the Ventura County of Education. The County approved the charter school in 2006. Today the charter school is a K-8 public school of choice which means it does not charge tuition. While the school rents the space from the local school district – it shares a campus with DATA Middle School on Ventura Avenue – it is independent from the district.

Galvin admits the school is at capacity at this point with 415 students and 25 homeschool students, but has no current plans to move. The school after all, promotes itself as a “small school” with a “big experience.” Part of that experience is one that works to foster a different way for students to look at themselves.

“We don’t like to hear anyone say they are ‘horrible’ at math,” explained Galvin. “We try to help students understand they may struggle, but an overwhelming task can be broken down into bits and pieces. We work hard to build a growth mindset and perseverance.”

This idea of support and critical friend groups abound in everything from writing projects to artistic endeavors where students are encouraged to create multiple drafts and edits of their work. Similarly, the school works to teach students conflict resolution skills and how to express their feelings beyond being mad or sad.

“You’ll find our students use complex language if they are in a conflict,” said Galvin. “It’s part of how we want them to embrace our inquiry-based learning and learn about and to be leaders in their community.”

The school has become a popular choice for many families in Ventura who have to submit an application in late February for the following fall school year. Once applications are collected, places for admission are granted through a lottery.

Eighth grader Evin Brown has been at the school since second grade. The 14-year-old’s favorite subjects are history and science. He enjoys that that school is smaller.

“Everyone is friendly,” said Brown. “We work in groups a lot of the time and have a lot of projects, which can make learning a little easier.”

Brown participated in the school’s PHD, or Project of Your Heart’s Desire. In the program, every 8th grader spends months working on a project they are passionate about. Brown decided to do his project on how a newspaper is created and published, using his grandfather Sheldon Brown, the publisher of the Ventura Breeze as his mentor and main resource.

“ I learned how to create and publish a newsletter. It was fun and I learned a lot.”

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