Approved as an independent, public charter school in December of 2000 under the sponsorship of Hamline University, Avalon School was created by a small group of parents and educators who had the shared vision of providing a different, more democratic learning environment for students in the Twin Cities.
Our founders felt that the traditional assembly-line methodology common in most secondary schools did not adequately prepare young people to become fully actualized members of their communities. In an attempt to meet these needs, Avalon’s starting teachers researched similar schools with progressive teaching models and political structures to find the right combination that would fit their vision.
After collecting data and visiting other schools with similar visions, the founders of Avalon decided to combine Project-Based Learning with a teacher cooperative governance model. This innovative combination would later become the foundation for the Avalon School.
From the beginning, Avalon has been committed to creating a safe, supportive community within the school. We do this by remaining a small community, and by promoting strong student and staff relationships through advisory-based activities, service-learning day events, and field trips.
Avalon students develop strong relationships with both students and staff members through our advisory model; students remain with the same advisor for the duration of their tenure, in both the middle and high school.
Staff, students, and parents all help create and maintain a community that is reflective, adaptive, and renewing. All community members are learners. The school is governed by a teacher cooperative. This shared ownership and governance helps focus all stakeholders and fosters a spirit of commitment and dedication to making Avalon an ideal place to learn. Avalon encourages community-building processes such as circles and conflict resolution practices, giving voice to all participants.
Since our school opened its doors in 2001, Avalon has proudly implemented - and continued to fine-tune - its innovative teacher cooperative governance model, in which all of our staff members assume administrative duties and have equal authority in all decision-making situations
While this cooperative leadership model can be difficult and time-consuming at times, it allows for Avalon staff to operate with full autonomy and equity, as we share ownership for the decisions that are made regarding our programming and budget.
In the beginning of 2005, we pulled two teachers out of their advisories part-time, in order to fulfill the roles of Business Manager and Program Coordinator. Since 2006, two teachers have shared the Program Coordinator role. This strategy allowed for a few teachers and co-op members to increase the percentage of time they spent on administrative duties and decrease the percentage of time spent with students without compromising their authority or decision-making power.
Here's a short clip from high school advisor Carrie Bakken on Avalon's cooperative model: