English teacher resigns to found boys’ school

Head of Middle School English Department Jennifer Dohr will leave Harvard-Westlake in June to found a new middle and high school, Beacon School for Boys.

“I am working fulltime to open the doors of Beacon,” Dohr said. “I am tremendously grateful to Harvard-Westlake for 20 incredible years. It’s been quite a ride. The interest in Beacon is just really taking off so it has become apparent to me very quickly that it just wouldn’t be fair to either institution to try to split myself in half.”

Dohr is founding the school with Oona Hanson, a teacher in the upper school English department until 2003, who has earned a master’s degree in English and a master’s degree in Educational Psychology with a focus on single-sex education.

Dohr and Hanson said they are committed to opening the doors of Beacon in fall 2016. This summer they will search for a campus that is within a 15 mile radius of Sunset Boulevard and the 405 freeway.

They are committed to attracting a diverse student body and faculty, Dohr said.

“No matter where our final site ends up being, we will provide a transportation system to make it accessible to as many boys as possible so that the school looks like Los Angeles and not what whatever neighborhood it happens to be located in,” Hanson said.

Dohr and Hanson realized that there are many all-girls’ schools without religious affiliations in Los Angeles.

However, there are no all-boys’ schools without religious ties.

“Los Angeles has three thriving all-girls schools without religious affiliations, and families on almost a daily basis ask those schools, why isn’t there an equivalent school for their son?” Hanson said. “It’s a model common around the country. It’s just not something that we have in Los Angeles currently.”

Hanson said that it is important for parents and children to have options when they are choosing a school.

Dohr and Hanson will use research on how boys learn and have developed curriculum based on that research in the developmental planning of Beacon.

They said they are committed to creating a facility in which boys can really thrive.

“At Beacon we know how boys learn best,” Dohr said. “We are committed to evidence-based, best practices.”

Head of Middle School Jon Wimbish said that a replacement for Dohr has not yet been named, however he expressed sadness over the fact that she is leaving.

“It is sadly true that Ms. Dohr will be leaving the English Department next year,” Wimbish said. “She is embarking on a rather exciting new adventure in education.”

 

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