Cassi Clausen is the original founder of The Open School. She has a Bachelors from Westmont College, a Masters of Education from UM St Louis, and a Masters of Arts from University of London, Goldsmith’s College. Cassi taught Spanish and English and coached Mock Trial at a private college prep high school in St Louis from 2002-2005. Cassi also tutored in Spanish and English off and on for about 8 years. All of these educational experiences have led her to dedicate her life to giving a voice to kids and advocating for respectful parenting and education. Her journey specifically began in 2007 when she took a trip to the Summerhill School in England. This trip inspired her to create her own self-directed democratic school. After three years of fundraising, recruitment, and public relations, Cassi sprang The Open School to life in the autumn of 2015 and became the original staff member. In addition to having doubled down and graciously volunteered half of her home to act as a temporary campus during the first year and being an integral part of The Open School’s internal affairs, Cassi often speaks at conferences, college classes, and events (and you can request her to speak at yours). Cassi holds strong interests in entrepreneurship, public speaking, mock trial/debate, governance, theater, and literature.
Aaron Browder is a programmer, writer, and chronic dabbler in creative pursuits. He obtained a BS in Engineering Physics from the University of Oklahoma and then spent five years developing software. After a foray into volunteering with educational programs (one a tutoring program and the other in a public preschool), he realized that something was missing in the way our society addresses children. He began reading up on child development and education and ultimately stumbled upon Free to Learn by Peter Gray, which led him to other books on authentically learner-centered education; he read everything he could find on Sudbury schools and unschooling, working his way through most of John Holt’s books. After this, Aaron decided to switch careers, applying to The Open School and diving right into his role here. Beyond completing administrative duties and playing with students every school day, Aaron has written a children’s fantasy novel and a nonfiction book on children’s autonomy. Read more about Aaron in this article.
Miré Molnar completed her BS in Sociology from New College of California and an MFA in Media Design from Full Sail University. Mire’s primary areas of passion are located at the intersection of creativity and human relationship, which stem from her guiding principles of critical thinking, service, and spirituality. These core drivers have oriented her within a vast array of industries. With an early career in music, Miré enjoyed touring with a full-time rock band and published a song on a Disney movie soundtrack that went gold. As an educator, she worked at the alternative schools Holden High School and the Orange County School of the Arts (OCHSA). In the nonprofit sector, Miré was the Chair of Fundraising for the Ndebele Art Project Africa. During her time with this organization, she produced a number of lucrative fundraisers and traveled to Zimbabwe. Over the years, Miré has also discovered her love of multimedia, which especially became evident to her while launching her mother’s full-length documentary project, The Milky Way. In her free time, Miré fights for social and environmental justice, practices yoga, and spends time with her family. Recently, she began apprenticing under her father, a master lapidary artist, to learn the stone-cutting trade. Today, as a long-time fan of the Sudbury model, Miré enjoys learning from students and sharing herself and her skills as a staff at The Open School OC. Read more about Miré in this interview.
Eric Barajas graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Education Studies in 2018. Eric’s strong interest in life stories and varied experiences led him to create a podcast in the summer of 2017 where he interviewed members of his community and spoke about varying topics including education, liberty, and history, accumulating over 4000 (podcast) downloads and around 10,000 (video-streaming) views. During his time at UCLA, Eric worked with Dr. Gerardo Ramirez, studying working memory, creativity, cognitive fixation, and math anxiety, and after realizing the delay between research, policy, and implementation, Eric decided to take his research into the classroom and teach. After graduating, throughout the 2018-2019 academic year, Eric worked as a special education teacher with a mild to moderate Education Specialist Credential at a public charter high school in South LA. As an educator, Eric began to observe the inherent nature of traditional schooling that authors John Taylor Gatto and Murray Rothbard described, recognizing that most students were not actually learning or developing skills and were simply going through the motions of schooling. While researching alternative educational practices, Eric stumbled upon the Sudbury Valley School, which further prompted him to read works by Daniel Greenberg, the founder of the Sudbury Valley School. After cementing his heavy critique of traditional schooling and teaching methods, Eric searched for self-directed democratic schools in Southern California and found The Open School.
Ben Page helped found The Open School and worked as a staff during its first two years. He holds a BA in religious studies from Carleton College and an MA in human development and social change from Pacific Oaks College. He is a certified Forest Therapy guide and a Carrier in the Way of Council, a restorative circle practice. Read more about Ben in this interview.