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Ashé Preparatory Academy Approved to Open a K-8 School in Skyway/West Hill

For Immediate Release | Friday, June 22, 2018

Contact: Maggie Meyers at or (724) 263-9826

With Unanimous Support, Washington State Charter School Commission Authorizes Culturally-Responsive Model Designed to Develop Tomorrow’s Leaders

Seattle, WA—Families in Skyway/West Hill will have a new K-8 public school option starting in 2019-20, following yesterday’s unanimous vote by the Washington State Charter School Commission to approve Ashé Preparatory Academy’s application to open a charter public school.

Ashé Preparatory Academy (Ashé Prep) will serve 450 students in grades K-8 from the Skyway/West Hill (SWH) community. It will join twelve other charter schools in King County, Tacoma, Walla Walla, and Spokane, and will be open to all students, with an emphasis on delivering an empowering, culturally-responsive model to systemically underserved students in SWH.

Ashé (ah-SHAY) is a philosophical concept from the Yoruba of Nigeria, West Africa that affirms the power to make things happen and produce change. Ashé Prep’s model is based on three major design elements: civic and community-focused projects at every grade level, culturally-responsive teaching methods, and a focus on student leadership development.

Founder and board chair, Debra Sullivan, previously served as dean for the Praxis Institute, a culturally responsive teacher professional development organization, and is the author of the book Cultivating the Genius of Black Children: Strategies to Close the Achievement Gap in the Early Years (Redleaf Press, 2016).


Debra Sullivan, third from right, with Ashé team members and community supporters, following yesterday’s vote to approve the school’s charter.

“Ashé is the culmination of all of my experience. Since fifth grade, I have wondered, ‘How can school be different?’ Literally, I have spent 50 years thinking about how we can create student-led and empowering places of learning for kids,” said Sullivan. “Ashé  is all about cultivating the genius of children. I am excited for the opportunity to create a school based on what research tells us works, rather than on fixing what doesn’t work—particularly for children of color, children learning English, and children from families struggling with poverty.”

Since 2015, Sullivan has partnered with WA Charters, and has participated in a fellowship through the Association’s charter school incubator program. With Ashé now authorized, Sullivan will participate in WA Charters Strong Start program, which provides technical assistance on school startup and compliance in the year leading up to school launch in Fall 2019.

“We are thrilled for Ashé Prep and SWH families and have utmost confidence in Ashé ’s rigorous, responsive, and radically student-focused and community-driven program. We have no doubt that this public school will transform outcomes for kids who are most in need of high-quality educational options and create leaders who will be change-makers in their community,” said WA Charters CEO Patrick D’Amelio.

“The Commission congratulates Ashé Preparatory Academy, Dr. Sullivan and her team, and the communities and children Ashé will serve,” said Steve Sundquist, Charter School Commission Chair. “We engaged in one of the most rigorous approval processes in the country. Ashé and its thoughtful model is really going to go a long way towards serving all children academically and building self-esteem.”

Ashé Prep is an integral part of a larger collective impact project – the ambitious, multi-year Skyway West Hill Action Plan (SWAP) – underway in unincorporated King County, an area located South of Seattle with limited governmental services and resources and residents who face significant economic instability. SWAP focuses on cultivating community talent to revitalize the region through four initiatives: (1) Healthy, Connected Neighborhoods; (2) Smart, Sustainable Growth; (3) Thriving, Educated Youth and Community; (4) Economic Prosperity and Affordability; and (5) Culture, Art, and Innovation.