Summit Atlas Public Forum
By Greg Harrington
On Thursday, September 29th, I attended a public forum event for the potential Summit Atlas School tentatively scheduled to open in the fall of 2017. The purpose of the sparsely attended event was to provide information to prospective parents and interested community members. As a West Seattle resident, tax payer, veteran educator, and admitted critic of charter schools I am particularly interested in how this particular school will impact my local area.
The forum was led by the hopeful future principal Kathryn Bubalo, a recent arrival to the Northwest from teaching in New Orleans Charter schools and a graduate of Relay Graduate School of Education (RGSE). RGSE, an institution created by charter schools for charter schools, has had significant questions raised about the efficacy of their program by the Washington Post, and many other media outlets.1
The presentation consisted of about 15 minutes of general information about the school and its program – nearly all of which is already available on the Summit webpage. One interesting piece of new information was that the remodeling of the school location is set to begin “in a month” and is being done “by great people who work with the underserved”. No other specifics were mentioned or provided.
There were roughly 3 prospective parents in attendance including one parent new to the region from California with prior connections to Summit and another with a student currently in a private middle school looking for “a free high school option with smaller class sizes”. The remainder of the people present – about 10 or so – were either Summit employees or people with unacknowledged ties to the Washington State charter industry.
The most glaring omission from the presentation was the legally required notification of the pending Supreme Court challenge to the legislative “fix” the charter industry secured during the spring legislative session. Under the new law, RCW 28A.710.030 (5), charter schools must:
“…through web site postings and written notice with receipt acknowledged by signature of the recipient, must advise families of new, ongoing, and prospective students of any ongoing litigation challenging the constitutionality of charter schools or that may require charter schools to cease operations.”I raised this issue with Ms. Bubalo, who thanked me for “keeping her honest”, and she did acknowledge the lawsuit, but assured the small group of parents that the Charter school’s lawyers are certain that the law will stand. She also later suggested to me that the need for this notification didn’t apply to this meeting since Summit Atlas is not yet open.
(Editor's note; I think Ms. Bubalo is wrong on this point because the charter has been accepted by the Charter Commission. But I'll ask them. As well, any "certainty" on the constitutionality of the new law is unfounded. We heard this with the last charter law and look what happened there.)
Overall I was left with the impression that the Summit organization in Washington, while certainly idealistic and enthusiastic, is inexperienced and somewhat disorganized. Charter insiders also seem to be completely perplexed by anyone passionate about high quality public education and opposed their efforts to remove the public from the public schools. Apparently the idea of using their idealism and enthusiasm to improve the existing public schools is anathema to them.
Greg Harrington is a NBCT in Social Studies with 20 years teaching experience in public schools.