Seattle U News: Law Student Wins State Approval for Charter School

Feb 19, 2014 | Articles, Updates

Seattle University News
Feb. 13, 2014

A state commission has approved seven new charter schools for Washington and one of them — a science- and technology-focused school in Kent — is the brainchild of a Seattle University School of Law student.

Adel Sefrioui, 28, will graduate this spring and then spend the next year finalizing plans and preparations for Excel Public Charter School to open its doors in August 2015. The school will eventually serve students in grades 6-12, but will start with just grades 6 and 7, adding an additional grade each subsequent year.

Sefrioui said he hopes to create a school “that redefines what excellence looks like” by following the 90/90/90 principle: 90 percent of students come from low-income families, 90 percent are ethnic minorities, and 90 percent meet or exceed high academic standards.

As the son of immigrants — his dad is from Morocco and his mom is from Iran — Sefrioui was raised to value learning above all else. Education, his parents taught him, is the great equalizer in society.

In affluent neighborhoods, families have access not only to standard public schools, but also alternative schools, schools with special programs, and private schools. Kids in low-income areas don’t have those same choices.

For those reasons, Sefrioui decided that Kent, particularly south Kent, was the perfect place for a charter school. Washington voters in 2012 approved a law that allows public funding of charter schools; Sefrioui submitted his application last November. He met regularly with a team of business people and teachers to come up with the 466-page plan.

Kent is among the most diverse areas in Washington, with 142 languages spoken there. Of the children in the area his school will serve, 75 percent receive free and reduced lunch, 15 percent are English language learners, and 11 percent qualify for special education.

The two driving educational philosophies at Excel will be the excellence of all teachers — Sefrioui’s staff will receive eight times more professional development than public school teachers get — and increased academic rigor and expectations. Excel will have a nine-hour school day rather than 6.5, and a 193-day year, compared to 180.

The school’s curriculum will focus on science, engineering, and technology with the goal of preparing students to be successful at local companies like Microsoft, Boeing, and Amazon, as well as in fields like medicine and biotech.

In creating this charter school, Sefrioui said he hopes to provide a model for innovation that all schools can follow. “We need proof points that innovation can be sustainable and replicable,” he said. “The goal is to make sure that every public school is fantastic.”

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