Chapman Law Alumnus Puts Passion to Work as Co-Founder of Local Charter School
Establishing an elementary school may seem like a departure for a consumer rights attorney such as Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law alumnus Kalman Hutchens (JD ’08). However, this passion project made perfect sense for the father of two who is also the husband and son of educators and an involved community member. In 2016, Hutchens joined with three other parents (including Chapman University alumna Michele Asay ’99) and a former elementary school director to found Kinetic Academy, a Huntington Beach public charter school serving students from transitional kindergarten through fifth grade.
“It is hard to believe that five people came together a year ago to start this school and soon 325 students will have a place to learn and grow,” Hutchens said of his experience. “It was not in my plan, but I believe that putting time in your community pays so many dividends.”
The school focuses on STEAM coursework (in the areas of science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics), and includes dedicated lessons in financial education, foreign language, and physical education. The Academy currently has 230 students and will grow to 325 next year when it will also add a sixth grade. In 2018, the school will add seventh and eighth-grade classes as well.
Hutchens became involved in charter schools when a family member’s daughter began attending a charter school near her and thrived under that school’s STEAM focus. When his own son began kindergarten at a public school, he was generally pleased but wondered if something could be done to reduce class size and include foreign language education. “I spoke with other parents about starting a school that would have a lasting impact on the community,” he said. “A strong academic foundation remains vitally important, but it is also valuable not to let all of the arts and practical skills fall away.”
Hutchens helped with the legal work necessary to establish the Academy and now sits on the school’s board of directors. As a board member, he handles everything from managing co-counsel and offering input on legal matters to day-to-day tasks such as installing a new phone system. He is grateful to former professor and current Fowler School of Law Dean Matt Parlow, whose classes provided tools he drew upon to tackle the project and increase the school’s occupancy.
He has no regrets about the added workload required to balance his legal career and his new academic responsibilities. “Marry the reason you went to law school with the passions in your life, and things tend to work out,” he said.
Hutchens is a founding partner of The Law Offices of Hutchens & Hutchens, practicing in the firm’s Huntington Beach office. The litigation firm focuses on lemon law and auto dealer fraud cases. While in law school, he externed with the Honorable Robert N. Kwan of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California. He works successfully in all aspects of practice including trials and appeals.
Above, from left to right, co-founders of Kinetic Academy: Michele Asay ’99, Kalman Hutchens (JD ’08), Jeffrey Ball, Bret McCarroll, and Bre Sarrow.