Sebastopol Charter was founded by Greg Haynes, who had been a parent, teacher, and administrator at Summerfield Waldorf School and Farm. He dedicated himself to creating a K-8 charter school with the depth, beauty, and rigor of a private school guided by the core principles of Public Waldorf education, but without the tuition that was a barrier for many families. A group of parents and teachers joined together and held a weekly study group on the educational model developed by Rudolf Steiner, and out of those meetings the school was formed.
The school’s founders believed that academics must be accompanied by the arts and practical skills in order to prepare students effectively for the 21st Century. They prized creative thinking, deep exploration of content, experiential learning, music and arts instruction; author Howard Gardner has noted that our school embodies his multiple intelligences.
In 1995, the school opened its doors to a single kindergarten class in rented space. The following year we added another kindergarten and a first grade. Each subsequent year a new first grade was added and in 2004 the first eighth grade class graduated.
The school quickly outgrew the renovated bank building in downtown Sebastopol, and in the late 1990’s purchased and built the building at 200 South Main Street. The state does not provide charter schools with buildings, land, or funding for capital expenses. Prudent management, parent donations, and loan funds from the Rudolf Steiner Foundation made the acquisition possible. As of July 2010, the non-profit foundation that supports the school, the Charter Foundation, paid off the mortgage and now owns the building free and clear.
Sebastopol Charter has been successful in recruiting and retraining high quality teachers. In addition to state certification, every class teacher has formal teacher training, the equivalent of more than two years of full-time training, studying child development, curriculum and teaching the arts and music. The average years of teaching experience is more than 14 years; the cumulative teaching experience for full-time certificated K-8 staff is more than 170 years. Half of the class teachers have lived abroad for extended periods.
Sebastopol Charter’s success has inspired scores of other public schools to offer a curriculum inspired by the principles of Public Waldorf education to any child, regardless of ability to pay. The school is now widely regarded as one of the leaders nationwide, with families and teachers moving from far and wide to become a part of the community.