This past Tuesday (July 15, 2014), we officially submitted our proposal of Sunnyside Charter Academy--a fully inclusive, parent involved, blended learning school--scheduled to open in the fall of 2015! Charter schools are free, independent, public schools governed by nonprofit boards.
This is our second application to the Washington State Charter School Commission. We submitted our first application in November 2013 and came very close to being approved. This round, we knew exactly what needed to be fine-tuned, and worked very hard at creating what we believe is going to be an exceptional, high-quality school.
The mission of Sunnyside Charter Academy is 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.
Our vision is to provide innovative options where educators and families collaborate to empower students to strive for academic excellence; to offer academically rigorous curriculum to prepare students for college; to provide a safe, inclusive learning environment for all students regardless of ability or background; and to build community pride through principles of cooperation, integrity, gratitude, charity, and work ethic.
For this round, only 7 schools turned in applications compared to the 23 applicants from last November. 4 of the applicants, including our school, submitted proposals to the commission, while the other 3 have been submitted to the Spokane School District, which is authorized to approve its own charters.
The 4 proposals to the Washington State Charter School Commission include:
1) Sunnyside Charter Academy
2) A bilingual school in Clark County
3) Another Green Dot Middle School in South Seattle (two others were approved for Spokane and Seattle last round); Green Dot is a CMO interested in opening many schools here in WA
4) A school in Pierce County that is also focused on inclusion called "Village Academy"
From the first round in November, we learned that the charter application process in the state of Washington was very rigorous. It was a process that left us exhausted and not quite sure we would be up for the task again so soon. Many organizations submitted letters of intent to apply during this round and last round, but a little under half of the applicants submitted actual proposals because it was so laborious. Washington state's charter school law is considered one of the strongest charter laws in the nation. The state and those authorizing charter schools aren't messing around. They are serious about only approving high-quality schools that, as the commission's strategic vision states, "significantly improve student outcomes, particularly for at-risk students".
We are serious too! We wouldn't be applying again and putting ourselves through this process so soon after not getting approved, if we weren't passionate about it and didn't believe in this cause. Sunnyside Charter Academy was founded by Brittany and myself--just two moms who want to bring another educational option to kids here in Sunnyside. Since last summer we've grown and become a nonprofit organization with a governing board of 7 highly skilled individuals determined to make this school happen.
As of now, our application has just been deemed "complete", so we are moving on to the next step which involves sending 10 copies of our 450+ page application to the commission. Our application will be meticulously reviewed by select members of the commission, as well as an evaluation team of 4 to 6 members from across the country. We will then travel to Renton, WA and be interviewed in August by this evaluation team. Our board will be asked a lot of hard questions at the 1 1/2 hour interview about our educational model, financial capacity, and governing board abilities. In September we will speak at a public forum attended by at least 3 members of the commission where people from Sunnyside (and the Lower Valley) can come and speak on our behalf and support us in our effort. By the beginning of October, the commission will vote and decide if our school should be approved based on the results of our application, interview, and public forum presentation.
During the next couple of months, the members of our Development Committee will be actively involved in community outreach efforts. We will be posting more blog and facebook posts explaining in detail what our school is about. We will also be asking members of the community to send letters of support to the commission and/or speak on our behalf at the public forum. We will also be sending out postcards and posting flyers requesting supporters to attend our public forum (date and time TBD). We hope to show the commission that parents and community members here in Sunnyside want their voices heard, and want to be partners in their children's education.
We are confident that our proposed school will impact Sunnyside and the surrounding community in a positive way. We look forward to bringing a high-quality public charter school to this area. We are grateful for all the support and help we've received so far from parents, educators, and community organizations. We will continue to forge ahead in this arduous process. Wish us luck!
To get involved and help support Sunnyside Charter Academy, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.