WA Charters Welcomes New Leader

For Immediate Release | July 31, 2014

WA Charters Welcomes New Leader
Public Servant, School District Leader, Charter Authorizer, Veteran and Parent Thomas Franta Appointed as CEO

– Washington State Charter Schools Association (WA Charters) today announced that Thomas Franta will lead the association as chief executive officer beginning Aug. 11. Interim CEO Marta Reyes-Newberry will resume her position on the Board of Directors now as president.

“We are thrilled to announce the appointment of Tom Franta as WA Charters CEO. Committed to the belief that all children deserve a quality public school education, Tom brings tremendous knowledge and experience to Washington’s charter school movement,” said Reyes-Newberry. “We know Tom will work tirelessly to support the startup of high-quality charter schools across our state with a focus on serving academically and economically underserved communities.”

A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Franta has spent the majority of his career in the public education system. Franta successfully worked to bridge the gap between public charter and traditional district schools focused on improving outcomes for underserved student populations in New York state and Minneapolis.

“I am truly excited about this opportunity to lead Washington’s public charter school movement. As the first person in my family to earn a college degree and as a parent, I know how important it is to have access to quality public schools,” said Franta. “As our state’s charter school movement grows, we stand ready to support educators and new leaders as they seek to open up new doors of opportunity across the state for thousands of children.”

Most recently, Franta served as the Director of Office of New Schools for Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS). Overseeing MPS’s innovative and autonomous schools, Franta worked with local charter schools to develop meaningful partnerships including sharing best practices and securing facilities in vacant district buildings. Through his leadership, MPS launched the very first District/Charter Collaboration Agreement drawing on some of their high-performing charter schools’ best practices in helping develop teachers at traditional public schools.

“Truly committed to advancing our state’s public charter school movement, Tom Franta brings years of experience to WA Charters. He has a proven record of supporting the highest-quality charter schools and will be a tremendous asset to our state’s charter founders and future leaders,” said WA Charters board member and adjunct professor of education at Northwest University Dr. Joel Domingo. “From his service as an administrator and authorizer, he will also bring a depth of experience working with districts to help meet the needs of all students in Washington’s public education system – whether they attend a public charter or traditional public school.”

Previously, Franta served as the Associate General Counsel at the Charter Schools Institute of the State University of New York (SUNY) where he was involved in overseeing all facets in the development of public charter schools. For one of the nation’s most reputable charter school authorizers, he analyzed more than 150 public charter school applications for authorization and renewal, ensuring that every application met or exceeded SUNY’s rigorous performance and accountability standards.

Franta also spent several years in the legal profession, having worked at O’Hara, O’Connell & Ciotoli, a law firm that specializes in public school district law. In this role, he often worked closely with district superintendents, school boards, and teachers unions to collaboratively resolve disputes.

Joining the Marines out of high school, Franta served honorably from 1994 to 1998. Following his service, through the GI Bill, Franta became the first in his family to earn a college degree at the State University of New York College at Plattsburgh, and he later was awarded a Juris Doctor degree from the Syracuse University College of Law.

“We are pleased that WA Charters has made a strong selection in Tom Franta to lead the growing public charter school movement in the state,” said National Alliance for Public Charter Schools president and CEO Nina Rees. “We are encouraged by Tom’s commitment to advocate for strong authorization and accountability practices while maintaining the freedom and flexibility that public charter schools need to serve their students well.”

Public charter schools will open in communities across Washington, with the first school opening in Seattle this fall. Voters and parents in 2012 approved up to 40 charter schools in the state over a five-year period. In the past year, a total to 31 groups have expressed interest in opening charter schools in Washington, 28 have applied and eight charter schools have been approved.

About WA Charters
The Washington State Charter Schools Association (WA Charters) is a statewide nonprofit organization that supports the startup 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 the critical support and services to help charter schools operate successfully. To learn more about public charter schools in Washington, please visit: www.wacharters.org.