|Pictured: 7 out of the 9 commissioners for the WSCSC. Left to right: Margit McGuire, Chris Martin, Steve Sundquist, Larry Wright, Cindi Williams, Kevin Jacka, and Dave Quall. (Not pictured: Trish Dziko and Doreen Cato)|
Charter Commission Culminates First Application Process
Commission thrilled by public participation in application process as they prepare for new round of proposals
The Washington State Charter School Commission culminated its first round of charter school authorization on January 30th, 2014. Public participation in this process has been extensive, and the commission is excited at the prospect of further community involvement with the next round of authorization. The first authorization process in Washington State began with 28 notices of intent received on October 22, 2013. Of those notices, 18 non-profit organizations submitted 19 proposals by the November 22, 2013 deadline.
During the first three weeks of January, 2014 the commission traveled from Spokane, to Yakima, Hoquiam, Seattle, Renton, and Tacoma, holding a total of 9 public forums. The forums represented a chance for applicants to present their proposals to the community that they intend to serve, and for the community to discuss the applicants. The community turnout was substantial with a combined attendance estimated at over 800.
In the weeks leading up to the January 30th authorizations, the commission office received over 150 written comments about the proposed charters. The commentary showed an engaged dialogue around the applicants, a clear interest in the authorization process, as well as growing public interest charter school law.
On January 30th, the commission approved 7 charter schools:
Excel Public Charter School, Kent: Excel was formed by a Washington State team led by Adel Sefrioui (Executive Director, STEP Ahead) and will grow to serve grades 6-12. Excel Public Charter School will provide all students an academically rigorous, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) focused, college preparatory program that will help them achieve both academic and personal success in college and career. Additionally, there will be opportunities for high school students to complete STEM internships with local companies.
First Place Scholars Charter School, Seattle: First Place currently operates a private school serving students facing trauma. They will be utilizing their experience to re-launch as a public charter school educating and stabilizing students living in poverty and with multiple traumas, including homelessness. The school’s mission will focus on helping students to rise above their personal circumstances, accelerate academically and prepare for college and career.
Rainier Prep, South Seattle: Rainer Prep was formed by a Washington-based team led by veteran educator Maggie O’Sullivan, who was a teacher for six years and has served as a principal in Federal Way since 2004. Rainier Prep's mission is to enroll every graduating eighth grade student into a college prep high school program, to prepare every scholar to excel at a four-year college, and, ultimately, to ensure that every scholar is ready to serve as a leader in their community.
SOAR Academy, Tacoma: SOAR Academy was formed by a Washington-based team led by veteran educator Kristina Bellamy-McClain, has worked in public education for 13 years, most recently as a principal in Seattle. SOAR will offer a small, intimate, classroom-based, personalized environment. SOAR’s mission is to provide students with a rigorous, engaging, and personalized educational experience, preparing them to become productive members of a diverse, global society and equipping them academically and socially for success in and through high school, college, and beyond.
Summit Public Schools – Olympus (Tacoma) and Sierra (South Seattle): Summit Public Schools currently serves approximately 1,600 students from diverse communities in six schools located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Ninety-six percent of Summit students are accepted to at least one four-year college or university, with graduates on track to complete college at double the national average. The Commission has noted Summit’s educational model in its recommendations, including its rigorous courses, creative teaching models, high-levels of school involvement and participation and a defined path to success for students.
Washington State Charter Middle School #1 (Green Dot Public Schools), Tacoma: Green Dot Public Schools was founded in 1999 in direct response to the poor state of public high schools in the Los Angeles area. Green Dot schools are purposefully located in some of California’s most underserved neighborhoods and its student population is largely minority and low-income. Today, Green Dot currently serves more than 10,000 students in the Los Angeles area with plans to expand to Memphis, Tenn. The Commission noted in recommendations that Green Dot has strong curriculum and instructional design, with an emphasis on college preparatory work.
The commission is confident that these schools will deliver an outstanding, innovative, and impactful education. As well, the commission applauded the efforts of those applicants not approved in this round. Of high mention was Sunnyside Charter Academy whose mission was to provide a challenging, enriching, and meaningful education that nurtures and respects the individual student and the diverse community of learners in an inspiring environment. The application proposed a K-8 school to open in Sunnyside, WA in 2015. Sunnyside Charter Academy showed a highly developed educational program design and organizational plan. The commission encouraged Sunnyside Charter Academy to address certain financial questions, and reapply to the next round of authorizations.
The Commission looks forward to the next round of authorizations, scheduled to begin with the release of a request for proposals on April 15, 2014. Notices of intent are due June 15, 2014, with proposals due July 15, 2014. The commission is applying the experience gained throughout this process, with an eye towards increased public interaction and outreach. With the range of applicants in this first round, the commission eagerly awaits the upcoming proposals, and their plans to educate at-risk students in Washington State."