Local charter school organizers optimistic about second attempt

“The comments were very encouraging,” Erin Martin, co-chair for Charter Schools of Sunnyside, said of last Thursday’s Washington State Charter School Commission meeting.

Joshua Halsey is the executive director for the commission. He said the commissioners offered Charter Schools of Sunnyside input regarding the recent proposal for the Sunnyside Charter Academy.

“Commissioner Dave Quall told the group he was impressed with the proposal,” said Halsey.

He said that Quall told the Sunnyside group it made an error in choosing to change the opening date for a charter school in Sunnyside from 2015 to 2014.

Halsey said the commission would also like to see board members who more closely match the community of Sunnyside because most of the board is made up of a specific segment of the population.

“The proposal would also be strengthened if the board had a person or two with strong fundraising experience,” said Halsey.

He said the fundraising is important in the area that did not meet the standards set by the Washington State Charter School Commission.

It is in the financial area of the proposal that concerned the commissioners. Charter Schools of Sunnyside stated $1.6 million is needed to operate Sunnyside Charter Academy. Halsey said the one individual on the board with a strength in fundraising had experience in raising just $80,000.

“The belief is that the board needs someone with a stronger record,” said Halsey.

Martin and Charter Schools of Sunnyside co-chair Brittany Weaver are encouraged by the comments made by the commission.

The Washington State Charter School Commission held a full-day meeting and was able to provide the local group with insight into the proposal process.

There were eight commissioners present for the vote, according to Martin.

Halsey confirmed the commission denied the proposal for Sunnyside Charter Academy by a 6-2 vote.

Martin said, “The commissioners reviewed several reports and public comments, as well as support letters.”

She said there were a total of 19 applications from organizations hoping to be among the first charter schools to open in Washington state.

“There were some deliberations, but representatives from the various charter school applicants were not given any response time,” Martin said.

The feedback from the commissioners, however, was invaluable, she said.

She and Weaver said the proposal Charter Schools of Sunnyside submitted needs some fine-tuning.

“We are so close…we feel from this learning experience we have a better understanding of how things are done,” said Martin.

Weaver said attending the meeting was beneficial. She said the group had been uncertain until nearly the last moment as to whether or not they would attend the commission meeting.

Martin said attending the meeting provided Charter Schools of Sunnyside an opportunity to see that the commissioners are deeply invested in the success of charter schools in Washington state.

“They want charter schools to succeed,” said Martin.

Weaver said the commissioners also support grassroots efforts like Sunnyside’s.

She said, “We are grateful for the insight of the commission and see the denial as the better path for us.”

Weaver believes the additional time provided to re-submit the application will provide Charter Schools of Sunnyside the opportunity to provide a stronger financial proposal.

“We can open when we originally planned,” she said.

The next application deadline is July 15.

Martin and Weaver are confident they will have a proposal that addresses the financial issues outlined by the Washington State Charter School Commission.

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