Update: I asked the Washington State Charter Commission staff about the letter of intent as I had gone back, read the WAC and realized that anything in it was "nonbinding" (including the fact that the letter of intent doesn't mean anyone has to follow-thru). Here was their reply:
The purpose of the Notice of Intent (NOI) is two-fold:
First, they help us as staff plan for the upcoming application cycle.
Second, per WAC 108-20-010 (1) a NOI is a requirement of the application process. As you pointed out, the NOI is nonbinding. Information submitted on an NOI does not prevent an applicant from submitting a different application from what is suggested in the NOI.
End of update.
As I previously reported, Green Dot has submitted a letter of intent to the Charter Commission to open their second Puget Sound region charter school this time in "south Seattle." A couple of readers alerted me that Green Dot had two open houses this week, one in the SW and one in the SE, to meet parents. I attended the SE one held at the Boys and Girls Club on MLK, Jr. Way tonight.
It was to be a two-hour meeting (that should tell you something right there - a two-hour meeting on a warm summer night?). Green Dot was nice enough to have dinner available for attendees. Sadly, by my count, there were four parents (two of them from one family) there.
The majority of people - about 10 of them - were either with Green Dot, wanted to open a charter school, were with other ed reform groups or were with Washington State Charter School Association. It's a little sad when there are more charter people than interested parents.
But Green Dot is laying the groundwork out...over two years. Yes, that seems odd to me as Green Dot is one of the most established (and I would say, well-respected) charter groups in the country. They are expanding in many directions and one Green Dot person said she just got moved to Memphis, TN. And yet they need two years to figure out South Seattle parents and what they want in a 6-12 school. They plan to have multiple parent outreach events over the two years.
I'll be frank. I think they do want to understand the area but given that the overwhelming majority of their schools serve low-income minority students, I think they have a pretty good grasp of the challenges/needs of these students.
Nope, I think they are laying the groundwork to get either parents or teachers to sign a petition to take a Seattle public school. That's just my take but I have a hard time believing they need two years to pull this together.
Their letter of intent says "new" charter school but I'll be willing to bet that they can change that and make it a conversion. But they need the groundswell of parents to rise up and sign that petition. That will take time.
As for the meeting, a lot of bright, shining faces (some from TFA), and very facilitated by none other than former Executive Director, Bree Desseault.
What happened is that we got divided into groups - from handout questions - of either "parents", "teachers" or "administrators." (We didn't get to choose what we were.) I was in the parents group which was good because we actually had three parents in the group.
One parent, who was African-American, was soft-spoken but firm about how regular public schools did not seem to be working. Her objections were about lack of friendliness coming into the school as well as communications.
One Green Dot person asked about how SPS communicates and another parent mentioned newsletters, robocalls, snailmail (and I threw in the website but she said it was terrible to navigate).
(This parent also said that she had children at two south-end high schools and one had sent a letter to her student saying that the student was NOT to contact the counselors in the first 10 days of school about schedule changes. Not good.)
I said very little because the first question had been, "Imagine you are a parent/guardian at a great 6-12 grade in this community. Use the space below to describe the 3 things you like most about the school." When asked, I said that I didn't live in the community and did not feel qualified to speak for parents who did live there. I said I had heard many things but didn't want to comment.
I was feeling restless because there were so few parents and it felt awkward. I was also surprised that nothing was being said about Green Dot itself (although there were glossy handouts). I was ready to leave.
But before I left, there was one odd moment where I could not believe what was said (and not said).
One parent said that there needed to be cultural competency at schools which everyone agreed was true. But then that same person stated that the schools needed to understand that children had to stand up for themselves. That rules at school did not always apply to outside of school and it was confusing to students.
The context was that if a child hit her child at school (say, in a bullying incident), her child should be allow to hit back. She said that the outside world was a place where these kids needed to be able to stand up for themselves and it was difficult if they couldn't at school.
I was both astonished and saddened. I'll start with the latter. It is sad to think that parents believe their children have to toughen up and be ready to fight - physically fight - to either stand up for themselves or actually defend their person. No child should be made to feel that way. (This parent did say hitting was not right but could be justified.)
This parent had said earlier that it felt like school officials, when asked about policies or issues, seemed to circle the wagons to protect themselves and not act in the best interests of students. She said they seemed worried about getting sued. I think she's probably right.
So why was I astonished? Because there was a Green Dot official - at the table - who sat there mutely. He did not say, "Well, here's what we do at Green Dot." He could have said that they work with children to find ways to resolve conflicts without physical force. He could have said that legally there is no public school or district that could encourage or endorse physical force between students because (1) endorsing fighting would not work out for any student and (2) yes, that would probably mean a lawsuit.
No, he said nothing. Green Dot wants to be so liked and encouraged in this community that an official they brought in said nothing when a parent said she wanted her child to be able to physically defend himself at school.
Now, I left at this point so I don't know what the discussion was after that but the time to have said something was in that moment. I know at least one regular reader was there and maybe he/she could fill in the blanks. But I'm pretty disappointed in Green Dot.