|First Place Scholars Charter School, Seattle|
Parents are the key to an excellent education for young children. This was proven at First Place Scholars a charter school in Seattle, Africatown/Central District. For 25 years its mission of a high expectation education with wrap around family services for Seattle's poorest elementary age children is not lost in its transition to a charter school. "Parents were at first concerned but are now very pleased with the new School Leader Dr. Linda Whitehead, and the therapeutic environment for learning she has established," says Linda Battle's whose grand children attend First Place Scholars. "
Poor families are highly mobile and for many reasons. Moving can disrupt a child's education. Because First Place Scholars, a free public charter school bears the cost of city wide transportation, when a family moves their child can remain at First Place Scholars. The benefit is in the midst of family turmoil, education for the young student remains stable.
First Place a Neighborhood School
Creating partnerships and utilizing community amenities give highly mobile students and parents a sense of place. Community partnerships span those within in blocks of the school and across the Seattle landscape. Furthest is Islandwood Environmental Camp which First Place students have been attending since its inception more than a decade ago. Sue Byers who is with Islandwood is also a community advisor to First Place. Antioch University brings psychology interns to the building. Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute is a two block walk, and students have this state of the art theater for performance arts that adds to their social and emotional growth. While some of the children are at the theater, others are in Skills and Drills at the Rotary Boys and Girls Club a block away from the school, while others are at one of the two parks within sight of the school building. These partnerships are what gives First Place Students the experiences of being part of a neighborhood and makes the neighborhood the First Place Scholars campus and it is the neighborhood of Quincy Jones and Jimi Hendrix, their Garfield High School is visible from FPS.
Another Community Partner is Village Spirit Center, Directed by Evelyn Allen, who did not hesitate to step in as Board Vice President when asked. She has been a key to what makes First Place work as a multi faceted organization for many years. Village Spirit Center is a spin off of the Catholic Community Services and Housing Black Family Center. Parent, Dara knows the value of a First Place Education that has supplied her family with stability throughout what was trauma filled decade of getting to stability. "My older girls are now honor students at traditional public schools and my youngest is enjoying the same excellent education I have come to expect of First Place." What brought complaint in October from parents is now their favorite feature of the school, the Academic Extended Day has children applying what is learned in the normal part of the school day in activities such as robotics, science, scouting, conversational Spanish and Japanese, art expression are among the favorite. They all bring the social emotional training that supports a rigorous high expectation education. Scouting is both science and social in learning about the environment and anti-bullying. The whole child must be considered and that is what makes the school a great place for my son, Demi told board members. The safety of First Place makes it the first and only place she feels safe leaving her child. "It is my only family right now and is helpful for managing my mental illness and keeping it in control." Next year her pre-schooler will be enrolled in Kindergarten.
Correction Outcomes a Model for Parents
In completing the infamous 38 compliance issues we stepped up to fix, it was much like adopting a child with many needs. First Place Scholars Leadership has modeled for our families and even charter schools not yet opened, the positive outcomes of accepting that there is something not working, collaborating to solve the problem, and staying focused on intended outcomes. The kind of staying focused on getting to better we expect of parents through case management. The need to bring correction has helped us align with parents who must endure corrections to bring their families to functional and students to scholars. Josephine Howell is a former parent and now school board member and knows getting to functional is not easy for everyone, "It has been surprising to see those individuals and organizations, including funders who ducked and took cover, and those who are stepping up as full partners in this work to assure that First Place will always be open and ready to educate poor children.
"We have had analyzing and working with us many who want First Place to work for the students we are educating, says School Leader Dr. Whitehead." Some of who she refers to are; US Dept. of Education, WA State Auditors, WA Charter Commission, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, School Works, WA Charter Association, League of Education Voters, STAND for Children, WA Legislators, Puget Sound Education Service District, WA's Middle School Teacher of the Year, Keisha Scarlett spends evenings and weekends in collegial strategic sessions with Whitehead, and Chair of FPS Education Committee. Catholic Community Services President and CEO Michael Reichart, has extended the full support of what is one of the largest non profit service and housing agencies in WA State.
Now that we have submitted all of the correctives, we are focused assuring everyone has a chance to do something to support the education of our students and services for our families. Giving on May 5, will double your donation and include you in the growing number of individuals who see the value of the work we do.
GIVE BIG TO FIRST PLACE ON MAY 5