Newest Cohort of School Leadership and Design Fellows Announced

For Immediate Release | Wednesday, June 11, 2019

CONTACT | Maggie Meyers, or 724.263.9826

Four Groups Begin a Journey to Open New, Rigorous, Equity-Focused Charter Public Schools Across Washington in 2021 and 2022

Seattle—Today, the Washington State Charter Schools Association (WA Charters) announced it has chosen a new cohort for the School Leadership and Design Fellowship (SLDF), a selective school incubation program that helps talented leaders and teams construct innovative, high-quality public educational models, and launch them as charter public schools. The newest SLDF cohort, comprised of four groups, will be the seventh cohort of school models to be incubated through WA Charters. Two groups are on a one-year pathway to open schools in Fall 2021; two are on a two-year track to open in Fall 2022. Historically, teams that have been incubated through WA Charters have been granted authorization to open charter public schools by one of the state’s two authorizers – the State Charter School Commission or Spokane Public Schools.

“We believe that strong leadership and mission-aligned teams are the cornerstones of a great school, and that great schools are key levers for transformational change within and beyond the educational system,” said Chief Program Officer Rekha Bhatt. “Across this cohort, we see four unique and exciting visions, yet they share a few key things in common—a focus on game-changing instructional approaches, a deep commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and post-secondary readiness for ALL students.”

According to Bhatt, “All four models will be co-constructed with communities, as it’s essential that communities actually want the models being proposed. These founders share with WA Charters a deep belief in the power of communities to develop solutions, and they will engage in continuous collaboration with families and community members once the school is operational. Each group brings a track record of success, and we have great confidence in their ability to deliver models that will do nothing short of reimagining the school experience.”

About the Fellows

One-Year Fellowship Pathway

An anchor partner in the “Our Valley, Our Future” strategic plan, Pinnacles Prep seeks to become Wenatchee’s first charter school. Led by principal Jill Fineis and supported by a talented board of directors comprised of longtime Wenatchee residents, educators, and community activists, the secondary 6th-12th grade model seeks to serve Latinx students in south Wenatchee. The school will focus on project-based learning, offer a deep mentorship component, and serve as a broader community hub for south Wenatchee residents. Two board members have secured a Rec to Tech grant and seek to co-locate the school with the program, so that both Pinnacles students and the broader community will have access to a maker space and computer science program. To learn more about Pinnacles Prep, contact and visit

The Pullman Charter School Initiative (PCSI) is led by long-time educators in the Pullman community seeking to open Pullman’s first charter school. Laylah Sullivan, a local educator and business owner, will serve as the lead school designer, supported by a board that holds expertise in school leadership and operation, finance, facilities, and community partnerships. The proposed K-8th grade school will develop a Montessori-influenced academic model that is deeply integrated into the Pullman community, and will leverage local natural, academic, and community resources to develop its students to be local leaders and contributors. A close partnership with Washington State University will allow for access to university-based learning spaces, a formalized teacher pipeline, and potential collaborative fundraising opportunities. To learn more about PCSI, contact Laylah Sullivan at or fbme@PullmanCharterSchoolInitiative.

Two-Year Fellowship Pathway

The Immigrant School seeks to be the Eastside’s first charter public school, designed to meet the needs of students newly immigrated to the region and the first-generation immigrant students. There has been strong demand from these students and their families for an inclusive elementary school option that provides a strong social-emotional and academic core and celebrates multilingualism and cultural diversity. After a rise in bullying incidents against immigrant students in local schools, parent demand for a new school option emerged. The school’s founder—local community activist and founder of Washington’s first PTA for Immigrants, Mohamed Bakr—will spend the first year studying school models locally and nationally that are serving a large population of immigrant students, identifying a strong instructional leader to serve as principal, and honing the school model through a process of deep community engagement. In the second year, the school design team will continue community engagement and partnership-building, and in 2021 will submit a charter application for approval to open the school in Fall 2022. Learn more about the Immigrant School on their website,, launching soon!

Rooted School: Washington seeks to be the third school in the Rooted network. With a mission to ensure that every Rooted graduate leaves high school with a college acceptance in one hand and a high-paying, high-tech job offer in the other, Rooted’s academic model supports students to earn industry certifications while they complete rigorous college prep courses. At Rooted’s flagship school in New Orleans, 84 percent of founding students completed a certification in web design in their 9th grade year. Rooted’s flagship school was also the first newly opened school in New Orleans to beat the state school performance average in 2018. In Year 2, 62% of our sophomores earned two or more industry-recognized credentials in tech. Rooted Founder Jonathan Johnson will spend the first year of a two-year pathway holding meetings with community members to identify a local community that demonstrates demand for the model, hiring a local principal, sourcing talented board members, and building partnerships with local tech partners. In the second year, the design team will write a charter application, and the local principal will split time over the year in Washington, continuing community engagement, and in New Orleans, being immersed in the Rooted model. To learn more about Rooted School: Washington, visit

About WA Charters

The Washington State Charter Schools Association is a statewide nonprofit that advocates for and supports high-quality charter public schools that meet the needs of systemically underserved students. To learn more, visit