Spokane North Notes
A weekly bulletin of the Spokane-North Rotary Club
November 10, 2014
Editors: Chuck Rehberg and Sandy Fink
Program Coordinator and Photo: Jim Minkler
               Field trip: The next club meeting, Nov. 17, is at North Central High School’s new science building, just south of Howard and Washington streets.  If you have not already signed up, please register with coordinator Sandy Fink so the proper number of meals can be catered – and they are not school lunches.  The meeting with NC Principal Steve Fisk and four students, followed by a tour, starts promptly at noon on the third floor of the new building.  Parking is limited and details will be shared with those who have registered.
               Board meeting:  Club directors and officers meet at noon, Wednesday, Nov. 19, in the Library Conference Room at Lincoln Center.  Other members are welcome to attend.  Please let President Jon Heideman know if you are coming.
Chartering a new course in education
               Pride Prep will be one of Spokane’s two new charter schools next fall and school director Brenda McDonald talked about the programs and the possibilities at the Nov. 10 club luncheon.
               Joining her was Pride Prep staffer Johnny Whitmore, the school’s “solutions strategist.”
               Pride Prep will open for 6th and 7th grade classes next September in the former Social Security Administration building at 811 E. Sprague.  Pride Prep envisions an enrollment eventually of 100 students in grades 6-12.
               Also opening next fall is the Spokane International Academy, a K-8 charter school housed in the former St. Patrick’s Catholic School in Hillyard.  School director Travis Franklin, formerly a Mead educator, spoke to the club earlier this year.
               Charter schools were allowed in a 2012 statewide initiative, narrowly passed by voters after three failed attempts.  The Washington Education Association and a few other groups have challenged the program in state courts.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation contributed $7 million to open and support charter schools.  Washington becomes the 42nd state to allow the charter programs, which have a special mandate to help at-risk students, especially those whose families live in poverty.
               Spokane School District 81 is the “authorizer” of Pride Prep and will ensure that educational goals are reached.   However, Pride Prep operates independently with its own seven-member school board and has raised $1.7 million in “startup funds.”  State funding doesn’t begin until the school opens.
               “We have high quality schools in Spokane, but a number of kids are not succeeding,” said McDonald, former principal at Garry Middle School in northeast Spokane.  “Some students don’t do well moving from class to class in a six-hour day, she said, adding “less than 30 percent of kids in poverty attend college.”
               Pride Prep is an “open-concept” school with small classes, non-traditional approaches, one-on-one tutoring and special projects for students, she said.  Classes will have a certified teacher and a qualified assistant.
               Asked how the class-size mandates from court cases and this fall’s initiative will apply, McDonald replied, “That will not be an issue.”
               The state’s first charter school, First Place Scholars, a K-5 program, opened in Seattle’s East Central neighborhood this fall when a private school for homeless students was converted to a charter school.  The 2012 initiative created a Washington Charter Schools Association and provides for up to 40 charter schools statewide in four years.
               Pride Prep will have longer school days, typically 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and a two-week longer school year than other Spokane schools, according to earlier reports.
               McDonald said students will have breakfast, work with staff on a plan for that day and meet in groups or individually, “based on where they are at” academically.  In the second half of the school day, there will be classroom projects and she hopes to connect with community and business partners who will interact with students to provide workplace experiences.
Whitmore, a Whitworth University graduate, said, “We will look for a chance to get (students) out of school, connect with partners and create something.  We are building options.” He said some students may study gardening for a week, then get “a chance to learn and act” with area gardeners and landscapers.
               With regard to extracurricular activities, McDonald said, “We won’t have a football team, but we may have volleyball and basketball, sports which require fewer athletes.”  In arts programs, she said, either the school will offer programs or certain students may travel for specialized offerings like dance.
               Students for Pride Prep are recruited through various outreach efforts, including visits to the West Central, East Central and Northeast Community Centers.  At West Central’s Halloween Party last month, Pride Prep staff took 10 pounds of gumdrops and boxes of toothpicks and invited Holmes Elementary-area students “to build whatever” from the materials, a good example of non-traditional learning.
               Of the Pride Prep location, McDonald said, “We wanted to be neighborhood neutral.  And we are happy to be close to downtown and to the university district.”
               Missions and mottoes help define the vision for Pride Prep.  Its mission is “to empower youth to thrive in college, careers and life through a personalized and innovative learning environment.”
               It’s motto: “Lead today. Inspire tomorrow.”
               In response to a question, McDonald said Pride Prep “is not a drain (on district resources); it’s another solution.”