Though Dennis Frayne has been a teacher all his life, he sees deficiencies in the current public education system that hinder kids from adequately learning and enjoying education.
“I think that our emphasis on testing and assessments is unnecessary, not useful, and actually harms education because teachers have to teach to the test,” Frayne said. “We put an enormous amount of pressure on kids. We focus on things that are not necessarily important. Everyone needs to do the same thing, learn the same thing, get tested on the same thing.”
Motivated by that disenchantment, Frayne—who lives in Lake Forest and has taught in public and private schools—is looking to open a new private K-12 school in South Orange County called USASB Unschool Academy of Art, Science, and Business.
“Unschooling,” as Frayne said, represents an alternative to how public schools currently educate kids. The USASB Unschool Academy intends to be a large school that can serve 1,000 students.
“Project-based. Student-centered. Kids doing what they want to do, following their interests,” Frayne said of the envisioned curriculum. “Helping them in an entrepreneurial way. Not sitting in classrooms and desks and through lectures, but more hands-on, doing things, learning that way. No grades. No tests. Not participating in what are considered national standards, national assessments, all that kind of stuff.”
An exact campus location has not yet been chosen. Frayne, and a team of parents and teachers he is putting together to open the school, are considering Dana Point, San Juan Capistrano, Laguna Niguel, and other towns in South County as options. The projected opening is for the 2023-24 school year.
Though Frayne has put up some initial money into the opening steps, he and his team plan to pursue funding more aggressively as plans move forward. He is also open to donor funding and aims for the school to eventually be self-funded.
“I feel like I’ve striven to take what I consider the best ideas from the education scholars and philosophers out there, and other schools that are doing things differently—Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio-Emilio,” said Frayne, who has a master’s degree in teaching and a doctorate in Educational Leadership. “The times are changing. Kids are growing up differently than they used to. The world of work is different in a lot of ways. I feel like we need new education strategies.”
Another aspect of their curriculum is potentially running small businesses within the school, Frayne said.
Many kids now hate school as is and even drop out, he said.
“We can do better by those kids,” Frayne said. “I decided I wanted to build a school. I wrote a lot about it privately and then put together a plan and started talking to people about it. Now there’s so much interest out there.”
Frayne has held interest meetings and gauged public interest through Facebook. The next meetings will be on May 11 at 10 a.m. and May 14 at 2 p.m. at 30110 Crown Valley Parkway, Suite 108, in Laguna Niguel.
“The people that come to the meetings are generally pretty enthusiastic,” Frayne said.
Visit usasb.org for more information.