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Message from the Head of School

Dana Abplanalp-Diggs, Head of School, with Grauer students on an expedition to thailand  in 2019

Celebrating Our Founding

On August 1, 1991, Dr. Stuart Grauer moved into a borrowed storefront in Rincon Plaza on Encinitas Boulevard, opening a school with a single purpose: to give teens a voice. With two credit cards, a small group of students who had been disenfranchised by traditional public education, an affectionate black Lab named Rita who would serve as the first official school dog, and an unwavering commitment to redefine what a private school looks and feels like, he courageously founded The Independent High School—a successful venture which would be rebranded as The Grauer School.

In June of 1998, after living in the Mississippi Delta and teaching as part of Americorp’s Teach for America program, I moved to San Diego to go to medical school. Quickly, I realized that I needed a job in San Diego for a year to establish residency to pay in-state tuition, and I applied to as many jobs as I could. I found one ad in the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper that read:  "Field, Labs, and Expeditions Teacher.  Contact GS at 2210 Encinitas Blvd. Little did I know that this application would change the trajectory of my life. 

When I was hired, I promised Stuart that I would stay for a year. Somehow, he believed in me enough to hire me anyway. He must have known that I would fall in love with The Grauer School—for I have stayed for the past 25 years. After a lifetime in public schools, I became intrigued with the idea of how to restructure education when you have access to resources, the freedom to create lessons that are meaningful for students, the autonomy to not feel bound by what education should be, and the time and space to develop authentic teaching relationships with your students. 

Over the years, The Grauer School has not only moved from a borrowed storefront into the beautiful six-acre campus we have today, but has succeeded in redefining what a private school looks and feels like. We have emerged as one of San Diego’s best independent schools. Our purpose is unique but simple—to teach and encourage students to become resourceful, intellectually curious and intrinsically motivated, perseverant, self-advocating, and accountable in a compassionate, college preparatory environment.

Celebrating Our Future

My life is certainly better because I met Dr. Stuart Grauer 25 years ago, and I am humbled to have been selected to lead The Grauer School into our next chapter as he transitions into his Emeritus role. Please rest assured that Dr. Stuart Grauer’s educational philosophy, guiding values, and practices will be upheld through this transition and beyond. We have assembled a strong, talented, intelligent, and committed faculty and staff. Many of us have been together for over 20 years and Stuart has taught us well. We are ready for this journey and I am ready to captain our ship.
The Grauer School will continue to deliver the academic, social, and emotional outcomes that we have always promised. We also recognize that this is an exciting era for new ideas and approaches. It is an opportunity to look deeply at three decades of pedagogic practices, how they can be further refined, and how they might evolve as our educational and cultural priorities evolve.
A few years ago, I was introduced to the Japanese concept of kaizen, which revolves around the idea that, rather than making large changes to improve something, you make continuous smaller changes to get to where you want to go. This is a beautiful metaphor to use as we embark upon the school’s next chapter.

Foundational Principles

Our Leadership Team, Dean Team, faculty, and staff are committed to upholding the following Foundational Principles:

  1. The Grauer School is a relationship-based school that fosters connections among students, faculty, and staff. We prioritize face-to-face connections and interactions over digital ones. The quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives. Our small school atmosphere promotes meaningful interaction and conversation, enabling students to relate authentically with peers, teachers, and their world.
  2. We are at our best when we are balancing college preparation with expeditionary learning. Grauer students immerse themselves in a rigorous UC-approved, college preparatory curriculum while engaging in unforgettable exploration around the world. The school was founded on the idea of “learning by discovery” and provides students with opportunities to get outdoors and experience nature every day.  
  3. Our teachers believe that learning is a process and insist on mastery learning.  Grauer students are given a voice in what and how they learn. Our student-faculty ratio ensures that no student gets lost. Individual strengths are nurtured. Mentor relationships form between teacher and student. From admissions to college placement, our students receive the personal attention that makes a difference in their lives.
  4. We offer a values-based education. We collect data on the degree to which our students are mastering our core values in addition to assessing the degree to which they are developing academic content skills. Intellectual curiosity is balanced with resourcefulness, perseverance, accountability, self-advocacy, and compassion.  
  5. We offer a balanced, holistic educational program that gives students access to numerous academic classes, clubs, sports, and enrichment activities. Our students do not have to select one specific area of interest to pursue; rather, they can play sports, be part of our robotics team, create art, and perform on stage. Our faculty works tirelessly to help each of our students develop into a well-rounded person that will impact the world.

The Grauer School is a continuously evolving product of genuine inspiration, courage, and commitment.  Against all odds, our Founder and long-time faculty members built this school on an uncompromising belief that the world is a classroom far beyond our campus walls, and that teenagers will excel when their environment nurtures curiosity, compassion, and an inner, individual voice. Needless to say, these are not the mainstream standards and conventions in American education.

They are instead the foundational beliefs that have fueled The Grauer School for 32 years. They are broad, deep, and inspirational enough to be our constant anchor. But they are also far-reaching enough to inspire new ideas, to discover pedagogic practices in concert with our evolving community and culture, and to usher our graduates to a lifetime of happiness, contribution, open-mindedness, and success.

I am grateful to be part of The Grauer School “family” and appreciate all of the opportunities the school has given me through the years. I pledge to our students, parents, faculty, and friends—and to our Founder himself—that The Grauer School will stay true to its foundational principles while embracing every opportunity to invent and improve. The Grauer School means the world to me and I look forward to beginning our next chapter.

Dana Abplanalp-Diggs
Head of School