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Charter school bid receives support

The Excel Public Charter School received a largely positive reception at the Washington Commission on Charter Schools' open forum Jan. 15.

Excel presented its charter school plan alongside two other charters, Coral Academy and Cedar River Academy.

During the discussion section of the presentation, several detractors questioned whether the schools' ambitious goals would be practical or necessary within the district. The complaints centered on whether the schools ambitious plans — longer school days and more days in the year, a non-expulsion policy for failing students — would be practical when implemented.

"I know that I work 10 hour days most days as a teacher, I don't know how they're gonna do it," said Becca Ritchie, who works for the Renton School District. "By the time 2:30 rolls around, they are tired, they are excited about what they've learned, but they also just want to go home and veg. You're gonna put those kids in a 10-hour day situation — high teacher burnout — those are the concerns."

Ritchie also mentioned that the charter schools have a checkered history, pointing to the Kipp Charter School program as an example.

Kentlake High social studies teacher Theresa Turner chimed in, saying that Excel would pull resources away from districts that could be used to improve public school programs.

"We're trying to get librarians, we're trying to get counselors, we're trying to get fifth-grade music put back into our elementary schools, and its really important that we do that," Turner said. "We're providing quality education for our students, and the problem is that this takes away from the public schools."

Adel Sefrioui, heading Excel's efforts to open in Kent, believed the forum was very successful in for publicizing Excel's plan and showing the commission how much community support the school had attracted."I think the forum went really well," Sefrioui said. "I think there was a tremendous display of support. Thirteen of the 15 speakers spoke in support of our program, including parents and teachers from the union."

One such supporter was parent Katie Elliott, who lives in Kent and has children in the district.

"Adel explained his initial concerns with charter schools, and how they were going to override those concerns," Elliott said.

Sefrioui said that he felt he had already addressed many of the concerns Ritchie raised during her public testimony in his overview of the school, such as its non-expulsion policy.

He also refuted Turner's assertion that the Excel would draw resources away from the district.

"That's not true because we're not part of the district, we're part of the state. We don't take money away from the Kent School District," he said.

Because the school receives state dollars instead of Kent dollars, Sefrioui said there's no need to worry about the district allocating money away from existing programs.

Sefrioui has reached out to Turner and Ritchie to discuss their concerns in greater detail.

The Excel Public Charter School is one of 18 schools vying for state funding to become one of the first eight charters in the state, and will operate with more autonomy than a public school while still receiving state funding.

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