6 charter contenders emerge from expert study

Applicants liked by review panel include 2 who want to start schools in Tacoma

Staff writerJanuary 28, 2014 

The state Charter School Commission released a series of reports Monday indicating that only six of 19 charter school applications statewide — including two in Tacoma — were deemed ready to roll in the next year or two.

The six applications that earned positive reports from expert teams hired by the commission include two from experienced California charter operators that want to launch charter schools in Tacoma in fall 2015.

Two other Tacoma-area applicants did not win endorsements.

Applications recommended for approval include Summit Public Schools, which currently operates six charter schools in the San Francisco Bay area. Summit submitted two applications to open two charter high schools, one in Seattle and another in Tacoma. Both got a thumbs-up from the review panel.

An expert panel also recommended approval for Los-Angeles-based Green Dot Public Schools, which runs 14 high schools and five middle schools. Green Dot wants to open a middle school in Tacoma.

The expert panels looked at educational, financial, management and governance plans laid out by each applicant.

The state commission is scheduled to meet Thursday in Seattle to weigh the merits of each application and make its final recommendations for approval.

Commission Chairman Steve Sundquist said in a news release that Monday’s recommendations “do not necessarily reflect which charter operators will be approved.”

The commission’s Thursday recommendations will be reviewed by the state Board of Education to ensure that applicants are in complete compliance with applicable regulations.

No more than eight of the independent publicly funded schools can open in a given year. The law permits a total of 40 charter schools statewide over five years.

Two other charter proposals from Washington state-based groups had also targeted Pierce County. Experts recommended that both be denied.

One, called The Village Academy, comes from a nonprofit organization called The Ducere Group. It was founded by Calyn Holdaway, a Gig Harbor military mom of special-needs kids who wants to start a school to serve both special-needs students and others. She said that the application process was rigorous and that the time frame to complete it was tight. But she said she plans to keep fine-tuning her plan and will resubmit it to the commission in June.

“We will not quit until we have a charter approval,” Holdaway said Monday.

The other Tacoma charter proposal that didn’t make the cut was called SOAR Academy. It came from a former Seattle school principal, Kristina Bellamy-McClain. She had been selected for a one-year fellowship by the Washington State Charter Schools Association, which offered guidance in the development of charter school applications. Bellamy-McClain was not available for comment Monday.

debbie.cafazzo@ thenewstribune.com

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