Westside Neighborhood School celebrated its 35th anniversary with a beach-themed soiree on March 12 at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel. Attendees bid on auction items to raise funds for the school’s academic and artistic programs, while enjoying dinner, games and performances by the Mudbug Brass Band and singer Dee Lewis Clay.
It’s been an impressive journey since a small group of parents in the Westchester area came together with the idea of starting an independent nonprofit school that embraced diversity.
Founders Marty and Sandy Luboviski, Michael and Dianne Landis, and Rich and Lynn Allen worked with other local families, neighbors, businesses and community organizations to make their dream a reality. In September of 1980, Westchester Neighborhood School opened with five teachers and 54 students in grades one through six.
The school has grown rapidly over the years. In 2005, WNS relocated to its current campus at 5401 Beethoven St. in Del Rey and changed its name to reflect the move. WNS now employs more than 100 hundred faculty and staff members serving approximately 450 students from developmental kindergarten to grade eight.
Head of School Brad Zacuto, who arrived in 2008, has implemented a series of best practices that include project-based education, a co-teaching model, and the integration of social/emotional learning into the curriculum.
Zacuto has encouraged students to use their imaginations and embrace a growth/maker mindset. “We won’t let the idea of failure slow us down,” he says. “If our first idea doesn’t work, we just say not yet!”
In collaboration with San Francisco-based non-profit Common Sense Media, he strives to make WNS a model school for smart use of technology and good digital citizenship.
Learning is not just for the kids, however. Teachers regularly participate in professional development and the school hosts presentations for WNS parents and the public. For example, educator and psychologist JoAnn Deak comes to speak about the latest findings in child development, learning and brain research. There are also monthly book club discussions of books that are relevant to the mission.
Earlier this year, some of the original WNS families and faculty reconnected for a “First Decade”-themed 35th anniversary celebration, marveling at how far the school has come.
— Regan Kibbee