WA Charters Statement on Commission’s Decision About First Place Scholars

Today, the Washington State Charter School Commission rejected a motion to revoke First Place Scholars’ charter contract, instead imposing a twelve-month probation with additional conditions that the school must satisfy in order to remain in operation for the 2015-16 school year. The Commission will continue to closely monitor and evaluate of the school’s compliance, with monthly votes on whether or not the school is meeting the imposed conditions.

For 25 years, First Place Scholars operated in Seattle’s Central District as a community-based organization and tuition-free private school, willing to serve the most underserved student populations, including homeless youth. In 2013, the school endeavored to expand upon its mission, and applied to become a public school. Given its mission, and as stewards of public school funding, First Place Scholars has a great responsibility to provide an excellent education for every student.

Over the course of the 2014-15 school year, First Place Scholars struggled to meet this standard. But the school, responding to the immediate needs of their students and staff, also rapidly made significant improvements in order to provide a stable, high-quality education to every student entrusted to its care.

Today’s decision was based on First Place Scholars’ response to the conditions set out in the Commission’s June 3, 2015 letter, which provided the school a final opportunity to demonstrate its ability to deliver a high-quality education to its students. At today’s meeting, the Commission staff provided an analysis of the materials that the school submitted in response to the letter, citing that the school had fully or partially met most, but not all, of the terms of the June 3rd demands.

At WA Charters, we believe that every public charter school in our state must provide a high-quality education for every student and we take the concerns of the Commission very seriously. At the same time, however, public charter schools must be afforded flexibility and a meaningful opportunity to meet their increased accountability standards. WA Charters is hopeful that First Place Scholars will take advantage of the support and resources available in order to focus on making necessary improvements before school begins again in the fall.

We know that the current board at First Place Scholars is focused on continuous improvements and efforts to make sure every student’s needs are met and that all students are receiving a high-quality education. We are hopeful that the school’s board will continue to address the conditions it needs to satisfy in order to stay open.

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