My column this week features three longtime Washington educators preparing to launch three separate public charter schools. Brenda McDonald, Kristina Bellamy-McClain and Maggie O’Sullivan are working with the Washington State Charter Schools Association.
These women are bright, experienced and have strong ties in the communities they’re choosing to locate their schools. McDonald’s entry into the Spokane School District should be made easier by the fact that Spokane was the first district in the state to be approved as a charter school authorizer. The district is obviously open to an innovative new school emphasizing foreign languages and STEM studies. The other two women are considering schools in Tacoma and South King County.
I hope these three succeed. Their success can show the ways charter schools can be embraced by public school educators and work within school districts rather than as a separate option operating in a silo. They can succeed by being hyper focused and committed. They will also have to fight what I call the Mother Teresa effect where they burn themselves and their staff out early trying to do too much.
Charter schools are under an often harsh spotlight, but as this Slate article reminds us, studies show charters improving and performing as intended when they were conceived. That is a good option for some kids, but certainly not all. That holds true for traditional public schools, which do a fantastic job educating many kids but, as achievement stats show, not all. Options to meet the varied needs of students are needed.
McDonald’s proposed school, Pride Prep, was greeted enthusiastically in a Spokesman-Review editorial.
This blog post, originally published at 7:00 a.m. on Sept. 20, 2013, was corrected at 7:51 a.m. on Sept. 20, 2013. The previous version incorrectly spelled Mother Teresa’s name.