Friday, August 23, 2013

Ready or not...

After spending a long, exciting day on the other side of the mountains in Everett, Washington, advocating for a charter school in Sunnyside, this is what greeted me when I came home (along with my five energetic children): our shipment of materials to begin our new school year.  Apparently Luke can't wait to dig in!  

I look forward to our second year of blended learning, and am so grateful for the public resources available that make this possible.  Taking advantage of an Alternative Learning Experience made available through the Richland School District Three Rivers Homelink, we receive curriculum from so that I can teach my 3rd, 5th, and 7th grade sons math, language arts, science, and history.  We will go to Richland every Tuesday where the boys will spend the day taking workshop classes such as Lego Robotics, Drama, Photography, Sculpture Extravaganza, STEM and Science Chef and where they will meet with their certificated teachers to report on the progress we are making at home.

My daughter will begin kindergarten here in Sunnyside at Sun Valley Elementary where my 3rd grader attended a few years ago, and where we know several of the incredibly talented and kind teachers and administrators.  My 7th grade son will be taking orchestra and STEM and playing football at Sierra Vista Middle School where we have been equally impressed by many of the teachers and staff.

Studying exercise physiology 15 years ago and splitting my time between the science and P.E. departments (with a minor in Italian to round out my education with some arts), I walked past the School of Education building nearly every day, and never gave a second thought to studying education.  Never would I have imagined how passionately I would feel about teaching children.  A year ago when I ventured into the world of online education and, dare I say it, "homeschooling" my children, I didn't realize that along with the opportunity of teaching my children firsthand, I would also be preparing myself to better understand the inner workings of the education system.  As much as I would love to now, I don't have the time to get a degree in education in order to benefit my own kids in the midst of their elementary and secondary educations.  But as I am taking this "crash course" in teaching, I believe now more than ever in the collaborative relationship between educators and families that is critical to student success.

I look forward to this year of learning with my kids, but I also look forward to the creation of a charter school in Sunnyside.  I look forward to collaborating with educators to help achieve academic excellence not only for my kids, but for many other Sunnyside kids as well.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What a Great Public School Looks Like

Credit:  Washington State Charter School Association

For Families What Are Public Charter Schools
Commonly Asked Questions
Why Families Support Charter Schools
How Families Can Get Involved
What Does a Great School Look Like
Additional Questions
While the right school differs for each child, there is a lot of research that confirms key elements a public school should have in place to ensure all of its students are set up for success. Below is a checklist that can help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of your schools.

1. High expectations are communicated to students frequently
In schools with high student achievement, students clearly know the difference between high and low expectations—and they are regularly encouraged to set high goals for themselves.

2. Extra help for those who need it
Every school should have a system in place to identify kids as soon as they start to struggle, and should reserve time and resources for the immediate help those kids need to stay on course.

3. Family and community involvement
Students thrive when their schools encourage positive relationships among families, educators, civic organizations, businesses, and other community members.

4. Strong leaders who support their staff
Every school needs a skilled principal who supervises and supports personnel effectively, is seen as a leader among staff, and keeps the school running smoothly. These leaders invest in the professional development opportunities their teachers need to become even better.

5. Teachers professional development directly supports student learning needs
All teachers should have enough time to plan lessons, carefully review student performance, and continuously improve their teaching. This will help ensure they can tailor their instruction to meet the needs of each student.

6. User-friendly information on school results
Families should be able to easily access information on how well a school is serving all of its students. This includes information on a school’s graduation requirements, graduation and dropout rates, and student performance on state tests.

7. Ground rules set the tone for respectful behavior
Effective school leaders build a climate of trust and respect, encourage peaceful solutions to conflict, and respond directly to any bullying, verbal abuse, or other threats. As a result, teachers are respectful to the students, and students are respectful to their classmates and their teachers.

8. Structured classroom routines
Unfortunately, many students don’t have stable family lives. Schools that can create a safe, structured environment see more respectful and engaged students—and better academic results.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Resource list

For those of you who came to last night's bbq Q&A meeting (8/3/13)...THANK YOU!  Thank you so much for your support.

I promised you a copy of some Charter School resources and websites that we have so far.  So below is a basic list of important resources where you can find information regarding Charter School application and start-up here in Washington State.


Washington State Charter Schools Association
o This association is designed to help guide us in the right direction when applying to become
a charter school. They are our advocates too. They provide webinars, seminars, and other resources for charters here in Washington State. 

Washington Charter school Resource Center:
o Another resource center.

Washington Charter School Commission:
o This is our State Commission board. They will most likely be our Authorizer when we apply to become a charter school.
o Our State’s charter law and rules for application are located here. 

Washington State Legislature:
o This is the WA state legislature page on the new Charter School laws. Click on each section to get further details.  There are 26 sections to our Charter School law.  I would highly recommend you read through each section to know what rules we must follow when opening a charter here in Washington State.

Charter School Tools:
o Online resource center for Charter Schools across the country. You can click on Washington
State and it’ll pull up resources and information in our area.  I just found this tool the other day, it seems to be pretty helpful.

Hopefully we will see more of you back tomorrow (and maybe some new faces) for our Monday Workshop:
You're Invited! And bring a friend!
What:  Charter School Training Workshop
Where: Sunnyside Library Conference Room
621 Grant SunnysideWA
When: Monday Aug 5, 2013 10am to 5pm
Lunch on your own 1-2pm

Join us with special guest, Jon Braack, as he guides us through what it will take to open our Charter School here in Sunnyside.  He will teach us about the 3 different phases of opening a charter.  The phases include: 1) Strategies and tools on what we need to do NOW until Application Deadline. 2) What we will need to do from the time we get approved until first day of classes 3) And finally, the fun part! School Design! This is the part where we get to design what our school looks like.
Hope to See you there!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Creating our Non-Profit Organization

Did you know that in order to apply to open a Charter School, we need to be an established Nonprofit organization?

Last week the Washington State Charter School Association (WSCSA) taught a webinar on the basics of starting a nonprofit organization. There weren't any slides or powerpoint presentations, so I (Erin) will do my best to review what was discussed.  

But first and most important: here are a few links to look at.  These are very helpful resources when starting a non-profit organization.  Washington Attorneys Assisting Community Organizations.  This is an organization that can help us find Lawyers and legal help pro bono.  They offer free legal clinics in Seattle.  They also have many resources on their website.  One major essential resource is:

How to form and Maintatin a Nonprofit Corporation in Washington State. Including this link to a 200+ page handbook discussing all the tips and tricks.

I learned most of what we need to know from this handbook, not from the webinar.  From what I understand, here are some of the necessary steps we need to take to form a Nonprofit:

1. Set up a board of Directors.  This is the governing body.  The board manages the business affairs of the corporation.  (ie. policy, budget, hiring, and other major decisions).

2. Decide on a Name.  Look at the handbook for a list of legal requirements of a name.

3. File Articles of Incorporation with the Secretary of State.  Sign and file.  When this happens you are legally a nonprofit. 

4. Set up Bylaws.  These contain rules adopted for the regulation and management of your organization.  Bylaws are not filed with the Secretary of State, but are provided to the IRS with the application for 501(c)(3) status (we'll get to this part later).

5. Have first organizational meeting.  This is where initial board/directors must 1) Adopt bylaws 2) Elect officers 3) Adopt a conflict of interest policy 4) Decide on a fiscal year 5) Open a bank account  6) Approve any legal documents 7) Ratify Organizers' actions/Approve reimbursement of Expenses.  We have to start keeping minutes of the meeting at this time, and organize them in a binder.

6. Obtain an EIN.  Federal Employer Identification Number.  This is called form SS-4.  It must be completed and filed with the IRS.  After you do this, the Secretary of State will send us a "Master Business Application" that includes state tax registration, and employer registration.

7. Hold regular meetings.  Duties of the Board and officers are covered at regularly held meetings.  The purpose is to have strong, solid management of this organization.

8. Obtaining Recognition as a 501(c)(3) organization.  This is the biggest part of becoming a nonprofit that receives tax exempt status.  It is an IRS form called 1023, and it is probably just as detailed as our charter school application will be--well, maybe not as detailed, but it's still alot of work!  Don't fret yet!  We technically have up to 27 months to get this completed as a new organization.  But we want to get it done as quickly as possible.  This part must be done in specific ways that are laid out in another form called "Form 1023 Instructions".  And the above mentioned handbook can also help in this process.

These 8 steps are just a few essential actions needed to help us get closer to opening the school of our dreams.

We need help in acheiving this!  If you or someone you know would like to help out in this process please contact us!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Charter School Facilities

Today I participated in a webinar titled "Charter School Facilities: The Pursuit for Equity" presented by Education Week. You can view all of the slides here.

There were two presenters: first, Jim Griffin, former president, Colorado League of Charter Schools, and current president, Momentum Strategy and Research, who is part of the Charter Schools Facilities Initiative and analyzes data from over 1,000 charter schools in 12 states.  On average, these schools are spending 8.5% of their operating dollars on their buildings. 

The most cost effective facility scenario would be using existing facilities owned by school districts.  In this case, charter schools are only paying 1.8% of PPOR-- per pupil operating revenue.  In cases where the charter school purchases their own building, they put 9% of their PPOR toward building expenses, and renting from a private owner is the most expensive scenario-- paying 10% of PPOR.

Only 10-30% of charter schools have facilities that meet or exceed industry standards and roughly 32.6% of charter schools have classrooms that meet or exceed grade level standards.

About 26% of charter schools do not have computer labs (nor mobile labs.)

38% of charter schools do not have kitchens that are compliant National Student Lunch Program guidelines, which is significant because NSLP is a major factor for determining financial need and therefore funding; implications of NSLP go beyond just feeding the kids.

Two questions that the Department of Education has asked and the CSFI will investigate this year are:
* Do classroom size, kitchens facilities, and access to gyms and computer labs relate to school performance outcomes for charter schools?
* Do lower performing charter schools spend less on their facility than higher performing charter schools?

The second presenter was Ricardo Soto, senior vice president, legal advocacy, and general counsel for special education and facilities, California Charter Schools Association.  He offered useful information on assessing the needs for the facility and calculating the amount of space needed.

Unique to California is Proposition 39 which states that "School districts are obligated to provide charter schools with equitable facilities to district facilities" regardless of whether the district is the authorizer, provided that at least 80 district students are served by the charter school.

We need to find out if there are any such provisions in Washington State. 

What existing community spaces in Sunnyside might work for our charter school?

Who are some real estate professionals and architects that might be able to help us in this process of site selection?