Parents, Community Members and Policy Makers Celebrate Seattle’s First Public Charter High School

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Before an energetic crowd on Wednesday, Summit Sierra ninth graders, parents and educators talked about the first month of school, the community they have built and their disappointment over the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that the state charter law is unconstitutional.

Jen Wickens, Summit Washington Chief Regional Officer, said Summit Public Schools, which opened its doors in both Seattle and Tacoma last month, is in the midst of their most historic moment yet. And the school community is ready to fight for their school.

“The families fell in love with their school, the students fell in love with their teachers. They built a community and they now know what it feels like to be in a public charter school and they will fight for that and their voices will be louder,” Wickens said.

Rep. Eric Pettigrew, who championed public charter schools at the state level, addressed the crowd Wednesday. He praised the beautifully remodeled school space in the International District, the diversity of the students and the teaching and learning that was happening in classrooms.

“I see kids from all over the world represented right here. They are all working together and they are excited about one thing – and that’s learning,” Pettigrew said. “Congratulations to all of us for getting to this moment. But we have a lot more work to do. It is a battle, because we are doing something different.”

Diane Tavenner, Founder and CEO of Summit Public Schools, urged the attendees to help advocate on behalf of Summit students and families to continue to have the choice of public charter schools. She said charter schools have always faced challenges, but they will overcome because students and families deserve the option.

“We always figure out a way to overcome, because you are about to see why we have to – our students,” Tavenner said.” Someone has to do this for these kids who are here today, and for those kids who want to be here in the future.”

Tavenner also said that “being a charter means you have local control and local authority.” She said by giving families a choice in school options, charter schools are held accountable by the entire school community.

Summit Sierra Executive Director Malia Burns led a panel of parents and students, which included a lively discussion about the success of the first month of school.

Jerald Flowers, 14, said he’s looking forward to meeting with his mentor this week to talk about both short-term and long-term goal setting for himself, academically and behaviorally.

“The one thing that really struck me about Summit Sierra is just the general positivity of the school,” Flowers said.

Parent Natalie Hester Johnson said she has already seen the confidence in her daughter grow, including in math and science. She credits the teachers for working with her one-on-one and helping her set her own pace for learning.

“Everyone here wants my daughter to be as successful as my husband and I want her to be,” Hester Johnson said.

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