Chad Carvey isn't exactly a stereotypical principal. But then, Mary Collins Charter School at Cherry Valley, where he will take over in the fall, isn't a stereotypical school.
It is one of only three charter schools in the district, one of only two year-round schools. It is the only kindergarten through eighth-grade school. And when it opens July 17, it will have the only principal who is also a ventriloquist, gourmet cook, musician and auctioneer with a red-tailed hawk as a companion.
Before going into education, Carvey was a carpenter and a cowboy. He has a successful auctioneering business, and until recently, he and his wife lived on their boat. He believes school should be fun, but he is also serious about setting the educational bar high for his students.
Cherry Valley has 422 students and a waiting list, although there are vacancies in the middle school grades.
He also wants to dispel the misconception that, although Cherry Valley emphasizes visual and performing arts and environmental education, it is a less rigorous academic school. Cherry Valley's results in California's STAR test have been mixed.
"We've scored 830 (800 is considered the standard for a satisfactory API score) without making the STAR test our focus," Carvey pointed out. However, he acknowledged, "our similar schools scores are in the tank."
He said the scores will improve, but that will not be the focus at Cherry Valley. "The STAR test measures just one small slice of academic learning," he explained. "We want our students to have a deeper level of learning, built on learning that is meaningful."
Carvey said a more realistic measure of a Cherry Valley education is the success its elementary students achieve as they progress through middle school and high school. "We're seeing really high scores in the middle school, and our students do very well in high school," he pointed out.
Carvey has a strong background in technology. In a previous position, he wrote the technology plan for the entire district. However, he noted there is more to education than technology.
"We are going to be on the cutting edge in our use of technology, but it is a tool that needs to be used appropriately," he said. "Other things, like music and art are also important."
Among the many things that make Cherry Valley unique is its high number of Individual Education Plan students — those needing Special Education. Carvey said 20 percent of Cherry Valley students are IEP students.
On the other hand, Cherry Valley has a low percentage of English learners. "We would like to have more," the new principal said. "We want to increase our diversity."
Carvey said there will be no immediate major changes as he moves into the principal's office. "I see myself as a guardian of an amazing program," he said.
While Carvey intends to hold students to high academic standards, he also intends for them to have fun. "School shouldn't be a job," he explained. "We want to make school a joyful experience."
To make that happen Carvey intends to do fun things like challenging students to read in creative ways. "I don't know what I'm going to do yet," he said. "I kissed a cow on a reading challenge at my last school."