Washington Charter School Resource Center
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The mission of the Washington Charter School Resource Center (WCSRC) is to improve the quality of education for all children in the state of Washington.

Jim and Panel


December 17, 2012

Dear Friend,   

Over 160 educators, parents and community leaders gathered on Saturday, to learn how to improve public education for the children of Washington through the passage of I-1240. 

It's hard to summarize all the information and wisdom that the public charter school experts from around the country shared with us from 9-5 on Saturday.  Debbie Cafazzo, the education reporter from The News Tribune, wrote her article for the Sunday paper. But, here are our favorite moments from Saturday:

  1. At the beginning of the day Jim asked how many educators were in the room and we were thrilled to see that over 80% raised their hands.  These are the brave and talented educators and dreamers who want to create new public school choices for the children and families of Washington.

  2. Dr. Yvonne Chan:  Once again Yvonne wowed the audience with her enthusiasm, positive energy and example of what's possible when you have the freedom to create charter public schools.  She first spoke in Washington at our 1995 conference.  Yvonne was the founder and first principal of the Vaughn Next Century Learning Center that now serves over 3,000 students in Los Angeles in grades PK-12.   This was the first "conversion" of a traditional public school to a charter school anywhere in America.  Dr. Chan used California's charter law in 1993 to turn a habitually failing public elementary school into a beacon of hope in her community.  Dr. Chan began her education career as an elementary school teacher in 1968 and went on to serve as a charter school principal, and even served two terms on the State Board of Education.

  3. Marta Reyes:  As one of the other speakers said at the end of the day, he was so impressed by Marta, Yvonne and the other "Mount Rushmore" of California charter school leaders coming up to Tacoma to support Washington. Marta began by reminding everyone that improving public schools for at-risk children is the civil rights issue of our time.  Marta spoke to the crowd about the importance of charter schools being accountable and effective.  Her experience is amazing, including founding one of the first charter schools in California, co-founding the California Charter School Association, and serving as the first State Director of the California Division of Charter Schools. We are so lucky that she now lives in Washington State and hope to see her appointed to the Washington Charter Schools Commission because there is simply no one else living here with anything close to her qualifications for that job.

  4. Debi Lorence:  Breaking the mold of podium speakers, Debi Lorence, the founder of Oregon's MITCH Charter School, brought cookies and the mike into the audience to ask, "Why are you here today?"  We heard from a principal who said he was tired of doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome, to the parent who just knows there is a better choice for her special needs children, to the retired teacher who said that public charter schools gives her the desire to return to public education.

  5. The parade of dreams!  We heard from educators who founded or currently operate ten different, successful charter schools from California, Oregon, Idaho and Minnesota, All of these speakers want to help duplicate their successful models here in Washington.  They shared their struggles and successes and hopes for Washington's educators and community leaders.  You can find the contacts for all the speakers and their websites at the agenda link on our homepage.

  6. Saul Spady:  Our son Saul introduced Jim's final presentation.  Saul grew up with the 18-year struggle to bring the choice of public charter schools to Washington.  He honored us with an articulate and emotional tribute.

  7. Fawn's closing speech asked all of the educators to "be brave and strong" for the children of Washington.  It's often hard to be a charter school leader within the current educational culture but everyone must stay focused on doing what's best for the children and for the education profession!

So what's next?  We are so excited to work with Washington's future charter starters and build on the positive energy from Saturday.  WCSRC will continue to send you key information about the law and great contacts that will help you create the public school of your dreams.  

For those of you who have had trouble joining our Facebook page, here is the link.  Please go to our Facebook page, "friend" the Washington Charter School Resource Center, network with the other charter starters there, and share your favorite part of the conference.

We videotaped all the sessions so stay-tuned for the links, powerpoint presentations, and Jim's detailed summary of the new law.  Please share these links with your coworkers, friends and family.


Jim & Fawn Spady
Washington Charter School Resource Center