History of the Village School 

The Beginning:
The Village School first began as an idea over coffee in the late fall of 1997 between Sally Noedel (Bigongiari), Mary Kate Edmonston and Matthew Bigongiari.   Matthew was an experienced Waldorf teacher having worked 8 years in the Waldorf movement. Both he and Sally (who had been a Waldorf Pre-school/Kindergarten teacher) loved the methodology but had also experienced what they felt was a euro-centric and a sometimes dogmatic nature  of Waldorf schools. They first approached the Eugene 4J school district with the hopes of starting an alternative public school with Steiner methodology, but were dissuaded. A small group of interested parents and teachers began meeting and planning in early 1998. By this time, it looked promising that Oregon would pass some kind of charter school legislation (which it did in May of 1999).  In February of 1998, Sally’s ‘Chalk Talk’ article in The Register-Guard resulted in nearly a hundred families expressing interest in the project.  Over the next year, a core group of 7 people (the founding board) worked on developing the project by incorporating, and by writing the charter proposal and federal start-up grant proposals. These included: Alison Cantril, Andy Peara, Mary-Kate Edmonston, Kay Cosby, Wendy Strgar, and Sally and Matthew, with help from Chanin Santiago, Ron Constable and Lou Favrou.  In red July of 1999, a front page of The Register-Guard featured an article, “Couple Plan New Course for Students” and increased exposure, legitimacy and interest in the budding school plan.  

The original charter proposal was rejected, but, after persistence, public support and an appeal to the Oregon Dept. of Education, The Village School was accepted by the 4J district board in July of 2000. The Village School officially opened its doors in August of 2000 to thirty-seven K, 1 and 2 grade students in the Easter Seals building (later Tamarack Center) in south Eugene. In August of 2002 it moved to the Willard building with over 100 students and continued to reside there and grow into a full K-8 school and more than doubling in size over the next 13 years. In this time, the school:


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Our Founding Faculty and Staff:
Staff that helped establish the school with a tenure of nine or more years before 2018-19 include (starting in 2000-01): Alyson Byas, Matthew Bigongiari, Donna Crispin, Kay Cosby, and Andy Peara (starting in 2001-02): Anil Oommen, Sally Grimsrud and Andy Traisman, (starting afterwards) Jon Bilenki, Justin Boe, Alison Cantril, Shannon Powell, Sue Romatz, Matthew Rutman, Emily Swenson, and Susanne Woelbing.

​​We own our school:
In the Fall of 2015, The Village School Foundation purchased the former Dunn School at 3411 S. Willamette St. (ironically, the first home of the Eugene Waldorf School) from the Eugene 4J School District and began a large scale renovation under the leadership of board president and parent, Mike Magee. The Village School moved in on June 29th, 2016, remarkably, only 2 blocks from its original site at the Tamarack Center.  The current school enrollment is close to 225 with healthy waiting lists for most grades.
Past to present:

The Village School was Lane County’s first charter school and amongst the first charters to open in the state of Oregon.  It was the first Waldorf-inspired charter school in Oregon. It has hosted the Waldorf-inspired Charter Schools of Oregon Conference and continues to support other Steiner methodology public schools in the state.  

ORS 338, the Oregon charter school statute states, that charter schools are intended to, “…be created as a legitimate avenue for parents, educators and community members to take responsible risks to create new, innovative and more flexible ways of educating children within the public school system. …and to create an atmosphere in Oregon’s public school system where research and development of new learning opportunities are actively pursued.”  In addition, “It is the intent that public charter schools may serve as models and catalysts for the improvement of other public schools and the public school system.”
The Village School’s foundation is based on philosophies of Steiner/Waldorf education, blended with other contemporary educational and social practices. Over its nearly 20 years of service, it has grown from a staff of around 6 people to more than 40.  With its strong and committed teaching and administrative staff, its remarkable core curriculum, Steiner methodology, class overnight trips in  grades 4-8, class plays, annual events with other schools including Greek and Medieval games, and track meet unique and diverse amazing music, spanish, handwork and specialty programs, electives in grades 6-8, a  wellness program for staff, a commitment to local and mostly organic scratch kitchen food program, organic garden and its annual Walkathon (which supports many environmental organizations in the community) The Village School holds an essential place as a thriving, developing  and model learning community in the state of Oregon. As such, it exemplifies what a charter school could and should be.

Our Whole Lives

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The Village Middle School (7th and 8th grade)
In 2009 the Village Middle School as it looks today was born. Previous to 2009, our upper grades in form and function were virtually indistinguishable from the lower grades. Our students although developmentally different, were experiencing the same program with one Main Lesson teacher teaching all the major subjects. Classes in grades 6-8 historically were small, attrition was a regular challenge as our middle grades were trying to find their best architecture and methodology. Prior to 2009, there was a perception that the Village School was an excellent and safe K-5 choice with some questions about how a K-8 Village School education would hold up through high school and beyond. At that time there just wasn’t enough data to present to families. This was an understandable unknown. Many families took the leap on faith, some did not. When Justin Boe was hired in 2008 he came with a perfect matching skill set to Andy Traisman. “Mr. T” had a Humanities/Language Arts background, Justin brought a background in Math, Science, Art and outdoor education. Together in 2009 they proposed a differentiated program where they would share the 7th and 8th grade, each teaching to their strengths as specialists. Andy became the Humanities, Language Arts and drama teacher for both grades and led the 7th grade drama trip to Ashland, Justin became the Math, Science and Art teacher for both grades, Andy led Health and Human Sexuality education which evolved in OWL (Our Whole Lives), Justin led the 8th grade trip.  In a very short time the middle school grades filled, attrition was significantly reduced, our graduates (and their parents) came back with successful high school and college experiences to share and our middle school evolved into a program that met the unique developmental needs of our 7th and 8th graders. At the beginning of the 2017-18 school year we had full enrollment of 84 students in grades 6-8, with the 6th grade participating in Friday enrichments (elective) in mixed classes with the 7th and 8th grade. This was virtually unimaginable back in 2001 when the school began. By all measurements, the Village Middle School has been a success and for over a decade our program has attracted students from throughout Lane County.

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The Revolutionary Village Kitchen


The Village School shared the Willard Site with another charter school until 2011, after which it was given the freedom to create its own food service and garden. The Village Kitchen  was launched in response to parent interests in organic, locally sourced food and the inspiration and energy of parents since the school’s founding. Toña Aguilar and Stacey Black. Parents and staff created a garden with chickens and bees and converted to a vegetarian breakfast and lunch menu with as much locally sourced and organic food as possible. Many in our school community went from never eating a school lunch to only eating a school lunch.​

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