As 2020 draws to a close, we are humbled and grateful to be part of the Washington state charter public school sector. It has been a challenging year, and one that our growing sector should be proud of. The switch to distance learning was met with flexibility and ingenuity by our talented leaders, educators, and support staff, while students, families, and advocates, together with their schools demonstrated unwavering dedication to more equitable systems in the face of the dual pandemics of systemic racism and COVID-19, compounded by a divisive presidential election season.
Our growing sector of charter public schools is built on the shared principle that every student deserves access to an excellent education no matter their zip code. Community and equity are the foundation of Washington’s charter public schools, and we are proud to see how that foundation remained unshaken throughout this incredibly trying year.
In the face of a global pandemic, our school leaders and teachers worked tirelessly to prove that distance learning does not have to feel distant. Every student attending a charter public school was met with understanding, patience, and flexibility. Our schools pivoted to meet the needs of their community. Whether it was providing meals for families, technology for scholars, or working with community partners to deliver basic necessities, our school communities came together. Without that community, our response to COVID-19 would not have been as successful.
2020 was also a year of national reckoning. In May, like much of the nation, our community was heartbroken by the murder of George Floyd. While George Floyd is just one person in a long list of Black lives lost to racist violence, his death was a catalyst for a powerful, sustained and collective movement for racial justice. In this environment, WA Charter’s looked inward. We considered our community and our students. This moment pushed us to further look at ourselves and to do more to break up the racist inequity woven into the fabric of the American public education system.
We are proud to work with our schools who are acting to address systemic challenges facing Global Majority students (students of color). Washington’s charters are working to further anti-racist understandings, delivering decolonized curriculums, hiring and supporting Global Majority staff members, supporting swift and necessary action, and engaging students, families, and partners in deep conversation. At WA Charters, we remain committed to acknowledging the role we have played in our system’s inequities, engaging deeply with one another, and bringing about lasting change through our collective practices.
In a year that tested our state, nation and world many different ways, we could not be prouder of how our charter public schools have built on a strong foundation and thrived. From providing meals and technology to families, to considering and addressing our role in a broken system, our sector has grown and adapted, and we will continue this journey together.
We are incredibly proud of students like eighth-grader Aileen and charter alums Jimena and Kamaria, who have persevered and thrived in circumstances that nobody could have predicted, and Kenadie and Korbin, who are successfully navigating early parenthood and high school during the pandemic. We are inspired by parents and founding staff like Nyaria and Yadira at Impact Public Schools, Halma at Why Not You Academy, and Angela and Brittany at Catalyst Public Schools, and so many more. And we find strength and hope in the work of leaders like Rooted School’s Jonathan Johnson in Vancouver, who are bringing new charter public school options—and opportunities for economic mobility—to students in new regions.
Because of these individuals, and many, many others in our sector, we look forward to 2021 with great hope. We anticipate the renewal of high-performing schools across our state, and the growth of our sector with the opening of new schools in the fall. And we could not have gotten here without the unwavering support of community members like you.
Warm wishes for health, healing, and happiness in the new year.
Patrick and the WA Charters team