Hrag Hamalian To Head New Charter Middle School In San Fernando Valley

Tuition-free Valor Academy now accepting applications for next year’s 5th graders

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Hrag Hamalian (left) at the LA Unified School District Boardroom

LOS ANGELES—Following 18 months of planning and preparation, educator Hrag Hamalian has earned the approval of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to launch a charter middle school in the San Fernando Valley. The new school, Valor Academy, will open its doors this fall with a class of 5th-graders. It will add a grade each year until it becomes a full-fledged, 5th-8th-grade middle school. With plans to be located on Woodman Avenue, Valor Academy is a tuition free, public charter school, which will serve North Hollywood, Arleta, and Panorama City. Although any California resident may apply, seats are limited to 120 5th grade students in 2009.

“We believe that our children are our most precious resource, and that top-notch education is crucial to preparing a generation of achievers and exemplary citizens, especially in a time of economic uncertainty,” stated Hamalian, who will lead the school as its principal. “Valor Academy is being established to address the longstanding educational crisis in the Arleta-Panorama City-North Hollywood area, which is also home to a growing number of Armenian families,” he continued. “We are launching the area’s first-ever charter middle school, and our goal is to put every one of our students on a clear path to college.”

According to Hamalian, Valor Academy will place equal emphasis on educational excellence and character-building. Toward this end, he explained, the academy will feature a longer school day, a highly qualified corps of teachers, free tutoring, a disciplined school culture that aims to foster self-respect and initiative, frequent communication with parents, and an overarching focus on literacy and math.

A former member of the Teach for America Corps, Hamalian was associated with Locke High School in Los Angeles, where he served as a biology teacher, department head, and co-founder of the School of Math and Science. He has spent the past two years working in a school-leadership residency with Building Excellent Schools, a nationally recognized incubator for new schools. Studying and analyzing over 25 of America’s highest performing urban charter schools, Hamalian has drawn from the country’s best practices to lay the foundations of Valor Academy. Many of his achievements as an educator are chronicled in the book Relentless Pursuit: A Year in the Trenches with Teach For America.

In fulfilling his vision for Valor Academy, Hamalian worked closely with Valor Board chair William Ryan and community leaders, elected officials, and the LAUSD. “I would like to express my deep gratitude on behalf of the entire Valor Academy Board of Directors to all those individuals and organizations that have been so supportive,” Ryan said. “As a result of their incredibly generous work, we have reached this milestone and are poised to open our doors in a few short months.”

Ryan continued: “As a charter school, Valor Academy is a tuition-free public school that the LAUSD permits to operate with more freedom compared with a conventional public school, in terms of innovative teaching methods and curriculum. Valor’s mission is to provide middle-school students in Arleta, Panorama City, and North Hollywood with a rigorous education that will prepare them for top-flight high schools and colleges.”

Valor Academy is currently accepting student applications for the 2009-2010 school year. If more than 120 5th grade children are signed up, a lottery will be held at the end of the sign-up period to determine admission, Ryan said. Applications and further information are available at the school’s website (www.valoracademy.org).

Although Valor Academy has secured core public funding to open the school, a mix of additional and ongoing assistance is needed to ensure the envisioned quality and full range of its services, Hamalian said. “Opening a successful charter school designed to produce the strongest academic outcomes is an all-encompassing effort that cannot be realized by a small team,” he explained. “It takes the dedication of many like-minded people bound by a commitment to improving the lives of our children.”

To meet this goal, Hamalian said, community members can help in a variety of ways. They can make donations (Valor is approved by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit); volunteer to sign up families for the school, attend fairs, pass out flyers, and spread the word; become community partners to provide the school with in-kind products and services such as uniforms, printing, and afterschool programs; or invite Valor Academy personnel to community events where there might be families interested in the school.Valor Academy is also hiring employees, including teachers and various staff members. For more information, visit www.valoracademy.org or call (818) 528-5467.

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