How to Build A School in 30 Years or Less:
The Grauer School Campus Completion
The Grauer School final campus completion has begun and, at the end of a projected eight months of construction, a complete, permanent campus will at last be in place: "The conclusion of a series of miracles, far too many to recount here and far too outlandish to narrate in one sitting," Dr. Stuart Grauer remarks.
What does it mean to build a school? This particular series of miracles started with a simple phrase, "Learn by Discovery." Grauer has assisted many school start-ups since its 1991 beginnings, and notes, "a strong founding vision and purpose is core to all subsequent efforts."
The occasion pictured above is the first day of the construction to complete our performing arts complex, the final multipurpose building to complete the Grauer quad and main campus. Dr. Grauer's pickaxe in this photo is from Guanajuato, Mexico. A ranchero presented it to him 16 years ago at the conclusion of a week spent with students building a house in his tiny village, in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity.
I was happy to feel this old blade sink into earth again after all these years, especially on this occasion," he reminisces. Dr. Grauer considers this pickaxe to be among his most prized possessions. "Traditions and symbols are treasured components of all great schools.
Dr. Grauer in Guanajuato, Mexico - 2002
Of course, sustained philanthropic giving is, too. For the groundbreaking photo, Dr. Grauer held a street sign which hung in the entryway of the school for three full years, awaiting this groundbreaking—which took five years of planning and fundraising: "Justice Way." This sign will be hung inside the Justice Center building as a permanent reminder of the years of dedication along the "Way." The main forum of this complex will host hardwood floor activities such as theater, dance, and exercise. The early manifestation of this vision was named "The Justice Center for the Performing Arts" and was made possible by the magnanimous, early-on Schiappa family gift. Many gifts and uses followed as the project evolved, though the building funding, planning and zoning took some years beyond what we originally hoped.
It took three different capital campaign committees over those five years! In the last year, a parent campaign team consisting of Alexia Bregman, Stacia Dawson, Molly Reid and Greg Tibbits worked along with school development associate Clayton Trosclair and Stuart Grauer to create new opportunities for newer families, as we added whole new dimensions to the complex. This great committee strategically helped bring in the final gifts to bring this project home, and they were instrumental in some of the late design features, which could never have been envisioned had this project not developed gradually and organically. Ultimately, this final building complex, starting with a simple dance/theater space, evolved into a wide collaboration—it is the synthesis of the visions of all stakeholders—and collaborative synthesis like this is the key to creating a great school.
"When I think of how many times this project was or could have been derailed, scuttled, mired in politics, or left us in debt, I hardly know where to begin. I admit it was lonely at times, too, an understudied aspect of leadership. Perseverance is a core value of The Grauer School that all successful schools feature, and we needed all of it for this one—and tenacity," Grauer reflects. "The perseverance to build a school does not lie in the decades spent—it is found in diverse terrains you must run, expected or wild, and in never failing to pick up one after the other."
Another exciting, key element of the larger complex is a rooftop deck with garden boxes and outdoor classroom facilities. And, at last we will have offices for our theater department and our athletic department, as well as a restored barbecue lanai—and what is more important than school celebrations! All of this is thanks to our magnanimous parents who gave and gave—Grauer is parent-built.
Construction on The Grauer School's newest building
Great schools need leadership coming from various fields of expertise. The most important gift in service for this final phase, as for in each of three earlier phases of Grauer's land and buildings development was the expert project management of board member David Meyer, namesake of our Meyer Hall. It was he who shepherded this project from its birth, and helped us find the right architect and builder. "David knows how to take a vision and set it into permanent, durable form, while insisting only on the highest quality," noted Dr. Grauer. "He is a master, a perfectionist who demands the best of everyone and sweats details few others see or will ever see. I can only hope that someday others will say the same of me with respect to educational programming. Through service, and constant caring about the details, we can all enlarge the scope, periphery, and meaning of our life's work."
Grauer reclaims the essential and prototypical meanings of 'school.' This complete campus will be one of the nation's best examples of a model, classic small school campus. For hundreds of thousands of years, children educated themselves through self-directed play and exploration. Youths are the most natural learners in the world. By retaining the native surroundings in the school's pristine coastal sage and maritime chaparral ecosystem, marrying our architecture with the surrounding shapes and tones, and then, in class, focusing passionately and daily on giving students choices in what they do and in valuing their personal voices, The Grauer School may have more in common with traditional schools than do today's institutionalized, comprehensive schools.
—Dr. Stuart Grauer
At The Grauer School, our completed campus will help ensure that students for generations to come can engage in the free pursuit of their own interests, while still having as strong a college preparation as they want. Small schools do this best, and no school balances these two like Grauer, as is born out consistently over years of ongoing qualitative and quantitative research—another element essential to school quality—the Grauer program is reflective in every way.
A great school is far more than just classes and teachers—it is a complete community. Our new center will be a hub of constant creative student expression as well as a place to share with the wider community as we connect with artists, community groups, and families from our community and around the world.
The Grauer School campus completion will be the realization of three decades of commitment, a testament to strong values and a permanent monument to student voice and agency.