GHC will celebrate its 20th anniversary as a charter

By Lily Angel & Isabel Hicks

Granada Hills Charter (GHC) will celebrate 20 years of academic excellence as an independent charter school on July 1. The school currently ranks fifth among the best charter high schools in California and is known for its rigorous courses and exceptional performance in all areas of academics. The TK-8 campus also recently received a California Distinguished School award.
In 2002 Granada Hills High School began the process of becoming a charter which took over a year and included many rounds of meetings and petitioning of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).

As an independent charter, the school would become independent and able to create its own curriculum and policies, though still receiving public funds unlike a private school.
“It was a very intense time. But we ultimately, without the Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent’s recommendation, made it onto the LAUSD board’s agenda. We started working towards becoming a charter in the summer of 2002 and in late May 2003, the board finally approved us,” CEO Brian Bauer said.
In order to be approved as a charter, the school had to first write a charter petition. This document outlined all of the school’s goals and requirements as well as the changes that would take place once it became a charter school. According to the charter school law in California, the school needed the support of its teaching staff in order to convert to independent charter status. Not only did almost every teacher support the drive for independence, all classified staff and administrators rallied for the school to move in this direction.

Additionally, the school was able to count on considerable support from the community. Many parents at the time feared LAUSD would require the school to switch to a year round calendar and were therefore in support of the school becoming a charter.

With the support of the community and the majority of the LAUSD school board, the school was granted the status of a charter school for a one year period after a successful 5-2 vote.
“Although most schools have a year to a year and a half to prepare themselves to launch a charter, we had only six weeks after being approved,” Bauer said.

Despite only having six weeks to prepare before the start of the 2003-2004 school year, the school successfully met the requirements and established itself as a charter school.

For teachers, the decision to become a charter was not necessarily an easy one.

“When the teachers voted to become a charter school, they gave up their lifetime health benefits offered by LAUSD,” Administrative Director Julia Howelman said. “People have to buy additional insurance to cover the gap in Medicare coverage, which can be expensive. LA Unified and some other districts cover that gap for the lifetime of the person. There were many discussions about this decision, and people had to make a choice between a teaching environment where they could grow professionally or maintain their existing benefits.”

Despite the challenges, many teachers saw the switch to a charter school as a positive step towards a more supportive and professionally enriching teaching environment. They were willing to make the sacrifice in order to have more freedom to teach what they thought was appropriate for the community at Granada.

The transformation of Granada Hills High School into a charter institution has brought about significant changes, including greater autonomy over its curriculum, budget, and expenditures. This shift has had a profound impact on the school, propelling it to consistently earn high rankings and establish itself as a premier school in the state of California.

“I believe going charter allowed us to take control of our destiny and shape how we wanted to move forward as a school. It is like going from being a renter to an owner. As a renter, you rely on the landlord to fix things and have little control, but as an owner, you have the responsibility and authority to make changes and improve the property. There was a strong desire for this kind of ownership at Granada,” Bauer said.

Since becoming a charter, the school has been able to provide programs like International Baccalaureate (IB), Advanced Placement (AP) Capstone, Global Business Finance (GBF), and New Media Academy, along with expanding its offerings in visual and performing arts. More than ten years ago, the school launched its highly regarded Independent Study Program, iGranada, and almost four years ago was approved by the LAUSD Board to offer a grades TK-8 program. Those programs and many others have been possible at GHC due to the flexibility and resources afforded the school by its independent charter status.

“Granada has provided me with many opportunities, in and out of the classroom,” senior Brinda Garg said. “As a part of the IB program, I’ve been able to take classes and learn in depth about topics I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise learn about.”

The school has also taken steps to provide more resources to its students, including paying for Advanced Placement (AP) exams, increasing the number of counselors, and creating a wellness center. These changes have contributed to the school’s overall success and helped to solidify its position as one of the top high schools in California.

“I sent my child to Granada because I heard it was a good school with a great academic reputation. I was also impressed with all of the class options, including a variety of different electives, languages, and AP classes. I also liked that they took security and safety seriously.” parent Katell Dogat said.

GHC has several events in the works to celebrate the school’s 20 year anniversary as well as to thank the community for its support.

The festivities kicked off with the celebration of National School Choice Week on January 22.
“We’re still brainstorming, and we’ll want to engage with our students on what would be the best way to showcase our appreciation and celebration,” Bauer said.

For the tenth anniversary, the school had a weekend long student fair that also served as a fundraiser.

“I even got in the dunk tank. Needless to say, that was a successful fundraising booth,” Bauer said.

Charters are designed to allow schools to innovate and make changes, which GHC has been doing continuously for 20 years.

“We are proud of what we have accomplished in the past 20 years, are committed to continuing to provide our students with the best education possible, and are eager to see what the next 20 years brings for our school and community,” Bauer said.

Author: Plaid Press

Granada Hills Charter High School newspaper