For Immediate Release: May 8, 2014

For Immediate Release | May 8, 2014

WA Charter Schools Association’s Inaugural Conference Kicks Off

More than 300 Teachers and Leaders Gather to Collectively Develop Strong New Public Charter Schools; Seahawks and Super Bowl Champion Russell Okung to Give Keynote 

SeaTac, Wash. – Today, the Washington State Charter Schools Association (WA Charters) will launch the first annual two-day Washington State Charter Schools Association Conference. Themed A World of Opportunities: Putting Washington on the Map, this conference represents the first time WA Charters has brought public charter school champions and founders together since the historic passage of the Washington Charter School Initiative. This assembly – occurring during the week commemorated nationally as National Charter Schools Week – will lay the groundwork for strong new charter schools in Washington.

“What stands before us is a world of new education opportunities,” said WA Charters interim CEO Marta Reyes-Newberry. “With the first public charter schools opening soon in our state, this inaugural conference will position Washington to create these new public schools to meet the needs of children and families in communities across the state.”

The conference keynote address will be delivered by Seattle Seahawks and Super Bowl Champion Offensive Tackle Russell Okung at the May 8 evening dinner event. Okung will speak to the critical need to provide all children, particularly those in Washington’s urban areas, with a strong public education. Okung is the founder of the Up Foundation, which seeks to give back to the community by reaching out to children of single-parent homes while offering them hope through activities and information on the importance of a good education and social responsibility.

Joining Okung as keynote speakers will be Don Shalvey, deputy director at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Margaret Fortune, president and CEO of Fortune School. Widely recognized as a leader in public school reform and the charter school movement, Shalvey oversees the Gates Foundation’s efforts to advance college ready rates in states, school districts and in high-performing charter school networks. Prior to joining the foundation, he was the founder and CEO of Aspire Public Schools – one of the nation’s first charter management organizations – and has also spent the past 40 years in public education where he is widely recognized as a leader in public school reform and the charter school movement.

Fortune is responsible for the meteoric rise in student academic achievement at the diverse Sacramento High School in Sacramento, Calif., once an under-performing high school on the brink of a state takeover. Through her leadership, Sac High was re-launched as a charter school which now boasts the third highest rate of performance in the city.

Featuring regional and national leaders in the charter school movement, more than 300 conference participants will also learn best practices for empowering students from all backgrounds, benefiting from the lessons realized by charter schools and other public schools nationwide over the last two decades.

Hoping to inspire future charter school teachers, the conference will host the Teacher Pass, an opportunity for current – and aspiring – educators to explore Washington’s growing public school sector and their potential roles in it. Made possible in part by a generous donation, the Teacher Pass will feature sessions specifically designed for teachers including a panel of former public charter school educators. 

The conference will further include topics such as: leadership and advocacy; operations; policy and law; and teaching and learning. A complete overview of the conference’s sessions and activities can be found at:

For members of the media interested in attending conference sessions, Russell Okung’s dinner address, or for interview opportunities with speakers and charter school founders, please contact David Richey at

WHAT:          WA Charter Schools Association’s Inaugural Conference
WHEN:         May 8-9, 2014
WHERE:      DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Seattle Airport
18740 International Blvd.
Seattle, Wash. 98188

Public charter schools will open in communities across Washington over the next two years, with the first such school opening in Seattle this fall.  These new public school models aim to give parents additional options to consider when looking for the right learning environment for their children. Charters are independent public schools that are allowed to be more innovative in exchange for being held accountable for strong student academic outcomes. They are tuition free and are open to any student living in Washington. Eight public charter schools have been approved to open their doors to students in 2014-15 or 2015-16.

Nationally, public charter schools are becoming neighborhood schools of choice. Demand from parents is at an all-time high. More than 2.5 million students currently attend charters and more than one million student names linger on charter school waitlists.

 About WA Charters
The Washington State Charter Schools Association (WA Charters) is a statewide nonprofit organization that supports the start-up of high-quality public charter schools, with a focus on serving academically and economically underserved communities. WA Charters focuses on three key areas of support: providing information about charter schools; supporting leaders to grow high-performing public charter schools; and providing support and services to help charter schools operate. To learn more about public charter schools in Washington, please visit: