8 new charter schools approved, first to open in fall

SEATTLE -- The Washington State Charter Schools Association approved 7 new charter schools and turned down 19 applications statewide at a meeting Thursday night.

Seattle will open the first in the fall, First Place Scholars, a privately funded elementary school for homeless children.  The school has currently been in operation for about 25 years as a social-service agency in Seattle's Central District.

The other six schools plan to open in the fall of 2015:

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    WA Charters Leadership Fellows Kristina Bellamy-McClain of SOAR Academy, Maggie O’Sullivan of Rainier Prep and Adel Sefrioui of Excel Public Charter School joined First Place, Green Dot Public Schools and Summit Public Schools Olympus and Sierra campuses to become some of the first charters approved in the state.

    “Our Leadership Fellows Kristina Bellamy-McClain, Maggie O’Sullivan and Adel Sefrioui, along with the teams from First Place, Green Dot and Summit have worked tirelessly to develop fantastic public charter school proposals to serve local families. Joining with PRIDE Prep as the first public charters approved to open their doors, these schools will soon be providing a high-quality education to students whose needs are not currently being met within the traditional public school system.

    “While some prospective school founders were not approved tonight, the Commission’s decision now gives them the opportunity to strengthen their charter applications to re-apply this summer. WA Charters is poised to support prospective founders in developing high-quality charter schools focused on best serving academically and economically disadvantaged communities in our state.”

    SOAR Academy, Rainier Prep and Excel Public Charter School, approved tonight by the Commission – along with PRIDE Prep approved last week by Spokane Public Schools – were founded by local public school educators and WA Charters Leadership Fellows. SOAR Academy was founded by Kristina Bellamy-McClain, a public school teacher and leader for the past for 13 years. Intending to serve Tacoma students in kindergarten to grade eight, SOAR will seek to attract a highly diverse student population in a traditionally high-minority, high-poverty and underserved area of the city.

    Started by Maggie O’Sullivan, a public education leader with 18 years of teaching and leadership experience, Rainier Prep will be a public middle school, grades five to eight, located in South King County. Through an approach that includes deep authentic and personalized learning in math and literacy, Rainier Prep will strive to achieve radically different outcomes for diverse scholars, many of whom come from families in poverty.

    Founded by local education leader Adel Sefrioui, Excel Public Charter School will provide students in grades six to 12 with an academically rigorous STEM-focused college preparatory program. Empowering them to become agents of change in their communities, Excel’s aspiration is to see students graduate from the colleges of their choice and return to play an integral role in the economic sustainability and cultural viability of the Kent region.

    Approved along with local educators are two of the highest-performing charter nonprofit organizations in the country – Summit Public Schools and Green Dot Public Schools. Summit Olympus will serve grades nine to 12 in Tacoma and Sierra will serve grades nine to 12 in the South Seattle region. Serving diverse communities in the Bay Area, nearly 100 percent of Summit graduates have been accepted to at least one four-year university. Green Dot will open a public middle school, grades six to eight, in the Southeast Tacoma area. Operating in some of the Los Angeles’ highest-need communities, students attending Green Dot schools are nearly four times more likely to graduate ready for college than students at neighboring schools.

    From now until July, other prospective founders will have the opportunity to strengthen their charter applications and re-apply, or submit new applications to the Commission or to approved school district authorizers.

    About WA Charters
    The Washington State Charter Schools Association (WA Charters) is a statewide nonprofit organization that supports the start-up of high-quality public charter schools, with a focus on serving academically and economically disadvantaged communities. WA Charters focuses on three key areas or support: providing information about charter schools; supporting leaders to grow high-performing public charter schools; and providing support and services to help charter schools operate. To learn more about public charter schools in Washington, please visit: www.wacharters.org.