A new kind of charter school: Invictus Academy plans to teach non-traditional skills

Charter school founder Gautam Thapar met with parents to discuss the mission and values of Invictus Academy. Photo by Nuria Marquez Martinez

Charter school founder Gautam Thapar met with parents to discuss the mission and values of Invictus Academy. Photo by Nuria Marquez Martinez

Invictus Academy of Richmond is a different kind of charter school, one where students will take double periods of math and English along with communication classes like speech and debate.

On September 27, the Contra Costa County Office of Education approved plans to open Invictus, a new public charter school. Invictus, which has been in the works since August 2016, will be open to students from grade 7 to 12 by fall 2018.

Gautam Thapar, executive director and lead founder of Invictus, noticed that his previous school, Leadership Public Schools, wasn’t able to keep up with community demand.

“The challenge that eventually led us here was that more families wanted to attend than there was space,” he said. “I thought we could create something like that and maybe even build upon it.”

The school’s mission, as stated on its website, is to educate students “to thrive in the college of their choice, solve relevant problems and communicate with confidence.” Thapar places an emphasis on teaching communication skills to his students. This is what sets Invictus apart from other charters, he said.

Thapar traveled to 50 different charter schools, in every region of the country, to look into the strategies that worked and the ones that could be built upon. The Invictus program includes a double period in both English and math, a required speech and debate program and a “deliberate practice period” that will allow teachers to plan a class based on a non-academic subject such as dance, chess or yoga.

“We’re going to be a strict school, but we’re going to be very loving about it,” said Thapar while chuckling.

Celia Sotelo, the parent of a sixth-grade student, is excited about the prospect of a new charter for her kids. She said her daughter is more advanced than the rest of her classmates and Invictus will give her “an individualized program.”

Though the school has yet to find a permanent location, they are hoping to find a space in central or south Richmond. They will apply for a location on November 1 and should hear back from the district sometime in April.

This story has been updated from its original version.

2 Comments

  1. Commenter I

    The proposed head of school only has at most three years of experience as a social studies teacher. He has no other teaching experience, and has never been an administrator. Nice guy, but scary that a school board would approve a school with such a completely inexperienced leader. That’s why WCCUSD school board rightly turned down the petition.

    Not sure why you chose to run a commercial for Invictus. This puff piece is only part of the story. Opening a school with such an inexperienced leader is deeply concerning and you should look into that. Dig RC, dig. I’m expecting more from you.

    It will be interesting to see how “strict” is interpreted here. Will it mean that kids that can’t make it will drop out rather than be worked with?

  2. Gautam Thapar

    I’d like to be careful that the section in this article about LPS-Richmond is not misinterpreted by readers who might mistake my views about LPS-Richmond. I think it is a phenomenal school, one of and perhaps the best of the 50+ schools I visited. It is in the top 1% of all schools in the country, according to US News and World Report. We launched Invictus in part because LPS is consistently full with a lengthy waitlist, and there was demand amongst families for an option like it. We consider them an example to aspire to and a great partner in the work.

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