July 3, 2014
Spokane Journal of Business | Judith Spitzer
Spokane Public Schools to consider three charter school proposals
Three separate and vastly different organizations met the June 15 deadline to file notices of intent with Spokane Public Schools to open charter schools in Spokane for the 2015-2016 school year, including iLEAD, an organization whose charter was rejected last year by Spokane school board members. The three schools have until July 15 to submit applications.
This is the second year for the new charter application process in the state since Washington state voters approved the charter law in November 2012. A charter school must receive authorization from school districts approved as authorizers by the Washington Board of Education and the state-appointed Washington Charter School Commission. Spokane Public Schools was the first district in the state deemed to be an authorizer.
A charter school is a community-based public school that operates independently of central district management and administrative rules. Charter schools are tuition free and open to all students based on family choice.
Last February, the Spokane Public Schools board voted unanimously to approve a charter school application submitted by former Garry Middle School Principal Brenda McDonald. McDonald is expected to open Spokane’s first charter school, PRIDE Prep Charter School, in the fall of 2015.
In addition to iLEAD, which would use a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade, project-based school structure, established in California, the district received notices of intent from the Spokane International Academy, which would be a K-8, Spokane-based school with a focus on international education standards, and the MOOSE Project, which would operate a preschool for children ages three to five with a focus on those affected by hearing loss.
Jeannette Vaughn, SPS director of K-12 options and innovations, says the district has a team of six people working on the applications, and it will seek guidance from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, a Chicago-based group that helps school districts determine whether candidates fulfill quality standards and principles.
“Our team makes the recommendations to the school board, but NACSA helps shepherd us through the process,” Vaughn says. “The intent is that they help us learn and build capacity so that in a couple of years we will do it alone.”
iLEAD, whose application didn’t win approval last year, must file a new application, Vaughn says, to be considered for charter school status. Vaughn says she believes the group has been taking constructive advice from the district and working on areas where it needs improvement.
One of the problems NCACSA identified with iLEAD’s earlier application was that “specifics for the governing structure for their planned Spokane school were left vague,” according to the Charter School Commisions’ recommendations made last year.
Amber Raskin, iLEAD executive director, says the school has addressed the problems identified last year.
“We now have local board members seated, and are recruiting more,” Raskin says. “We have spent a significant amount of time working with and recruiting local community members and expertise. We feel our application is significantly stronger this time around, in all areas, including the instructional model.”
Following is a synopsis of the three current applicants:
Existing school(s): Two schools operating, one in Lancaster, Calif., one in Castaic, Calif.
Grade levels: K-8
Expected number of students: 200 students in first year, up to 675 eventually
Proposed start: Fall 2015
Funds needed for startup: $750,000 to $1 million
Director/Principals: Dawn Evenson and Amber Raskin, executive directors
Philosophy: iLEAD directors say they will implement project-based learning for students in elementary, middle school. “We plan to engage learners and facilitators in challenging, deeper-learning experiences that explore standards-based essential questions. Project-based learning is about putting the kids in the driver’s seat for the academic journey. It engages the learners by connecting the why with the how and the what. It’s a very empowering way to learn,” says Amber Raskin, executive director.
Spokane International Academy
Existing school(s): None
Grade levels: K-8
Proposed start: Fall 2015
Expected number of students: 160 students in first year
Funds needed for startup: Unavailable
Director/Principals: Travis Franklin
Philosophy: The school says it will focus on challenging students academically, behaviorally, and in developing a global worldview through internationally-focused activities. Spokane International Academy will serve all students, including those receiving specially designed instruction Individual Education Programs and English language learners, as well as identified gifted and talented students.
“Our education program is founded on the premise of preparing students to take advanced high schools courses and obtain a four-year college degree so they can become leaders that powerfully transform their communities by empowering them with three tools: academic skills, essential habits for success and global competence,” says Travis Franklin, Spokane International Academy director.
The MOOSE Project
Existing school(s): None
Grade levels: Preschool for children ages 3-5, eventually K-12
Proposed start: Preschool, 2014; kindergarten, first grade, September 2015
Expected number of students: 20-50 students in first year
Funds needed for startup: $137,400
Director/Principals: Kristi Anderson, executive director
Philosophy: The MOOSE Project stands for The Magic Of Oral and Signing Education. The school proposes to provide quality education, support, and resources through the use of both sign language and spoken word, or total communication, to not only those affected by hearing loss but all children, families and the community.
“We currently offer a play and social group for deaf and hard-of-hearing children or their siblings ages birth to 5, a support and social group for young children ages 6 to 12 affected by hearing loss, and a support and social group for youth ages 13 to 17 affected by hearing loss,” says Kristi Anderson, MOOSE Project executive director.
The family support classes and preschool don’t need charter school status. The group is applying for a charter for a K-12 school that would complement the preschool and other workshops.
Eleven other groups say they plan to apply to open charter schools through the statewide Charter School Commission. The majority of those applications are expected to be for Western Washington schools, although the commission expects to receive proposals from Sunnyside and Yakima.