Archive » June 28, 2012
Open doors with new principal at Olive Grove
By SaraLloyd Truax, Staff Writer
With a new leader at the helm, Olive Grove Charter School is throwing open the welcoming mat to students looking for the flexibility and intimacy of a more individualized education.
With a long history of leadership in the realm of independent study from the elementary grades right through to adult education, Tom Littlefair has taken on the role of principal at the WASC accredited program.
“I love it. I love it,” he says enthusiastically of the school that offers a free public education complete with all course materials (including text books), field trips, live labs – and so much more, he adds.
There is a comprehensive elementary school program where students not only study at home at a schedule that meets the family’s needs, but it also offers kids many opportunities to come to school to take classes with their peers.
But no matter what grade a student is in, Olive Grove students will meet with their teacher individually every week to ensure they are on track and understand what they are being asked to do, says Littlefair.
“For students that need a little extra help, we offer additional in-classroom teaching for core subjects such as math and English,” he says. Olive Grove is not a diploma mill, but rather a place where students can make that all important individual connection with teachers.
“We have high expectations for our students. They need to meet with their teachers weekly and complete all of their course work on time,” Littlefair says. And because Olive Grove students are not required to sit in a classroom for six hours a day, they have more time to explore the things in which they are interested.
With a stack of year-end evaluations in hand, Littlefair is going through them one by one – looking for strengths they can build on and where the school can improve. “What I am picking up on is that students like the small classes sizes and personal contact,” that Olive Grove offers.
For the high school student, Olive Grove offers the opportunity to get a jump-start on college at the same time they are enrolled in high school through the dual enrollment program. (See Valley Journal, Sept. 9, 2010, “For some, dual enrollment offers safety in numbers.”)
Students can attend Allan Hancock, Santa Barbara City or Questa College and their course work counts toward both high school and college, explains Littlefair. All of the standard high school courses are offered at Olive Grove, as well as fun extras such as career essentials, service learning, criminal justice or criminology, anthropology and driver’s education – just to name a few.
“We are a home study program, but are moving toward a blended learning program,” Littlefair explains. Last year, 59 students graduated from the high school program at Olive Grove. “We even have a Grad Night for our students.”
The total enrollment over the years has fluctuated from 318 to 500. “We have great teachers,” Littlefair boasts – including one who just won the Foot Network’s Cupcake Wars.
In addition to home study and distance learning, students are able to enroll in ROP classes at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School at the same time they attend Olive Grove. And Littlefair is looking into setting up CIF-recognized sports teams, he says.
All of Olive Gove course work is CSU and UC approved, and their registrar makes sure those students who enroll so they can focus more time on athletics graduate with NCAA approval and are eligible for college participation.
Wet labs are offered for many of the science courses in two-hour blocks on campus, where students also come to participate in art courses.
The program is self-paced and provides a great opportunity for students who have fallen behind to catch back up. “The small setting really meets the needs of a lot of kids,” the new principal explains.
“We’re trying to be as progressive as we can be,” says Littlefair, who has been on the job only about a week, but he has ideas and enthusiasm in abundance already.
Students interested in enrolling at Olive Grove Charter School should call (805) 693-5933 to make an appointment for a preliminary intake. For more information, visit olivegrovecharter.org.