FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Local Educator Selected for Prestigious School Leadership and Design Fellowship
Pullman Charter Public School Initiative Announces Plans to Design Whitman County’s First Charter – A Free, Public, Innovative, Montessori-Based K-8 School
Laylah Sullivan, or (509) 336-5909
June 11, 2019
PULLMAN, WA – Yesterday, the Washington State Charter Schools Association (WA Charters) announced that the Pullman Charter School Initiative has been selected for the organization’s prestigious 2019-20 School Leadership and Design Fellowship. The Fellowship offers a pathway to design, apply for, and launch innovative, free public school models that are responsive to the needs of communities and put students on a pathway to college and career success.
The Pullman Charter School Initiative (PCSI) is led by long-time educators in the Pullman community seeking to open Whitman County’s first charter school. PCSI is delighted to announce that Laylah Sullivan, a local educator and business owner, will serve as the lead school designer, supported by a board that holds expertise in school leadership and operation, finance, facilities, and community partnerships. The proposed K-8 school will develop a Montessori-based academic model that is deeply integrated into the Pullman community.
A main focus of the prospective charter school will be on fostering the growth of resilient students prepared to meet both the challenges and opportunities of the future, through developing environmental stewards and global citizens. “We have a vast array of local resources that can be capitalized on to provide students with real-life, hands-on, relevant activities that build their sense of community and increase their understanding of how school skills transfer to use in the real world.” says Sullivan. The founding team aims to foster a collaborative working relationship between the Pullman School District, local businesses, and continue to expand their relationship with Washington State University. An expanded relationship with WSU will allow for access to university-based learning spaces, potential collaborative fundraising opportunities, and a more formalized teacher pipeline through the lens of the Montessori model. The proposed school will also provide local educators the opportunity to observe a local successful Montessori-based educational model closer than that of Spokane Public Montessori.
The Montessori model has deep roots in Pullman. The Montessori School of Pullman (MSP), a local nonprofit public preschool, has been in operation for 50 years. Over the past 6-years, MSP has expanded to meet demand, offering private Montessori education to grades K-4. MSP has worked to spread the Montessori seed throughout the Palouse, including sponsoring several Montessori themed conferences for educators and parents. One of its former educators also opened and is running a very successful preschool through grade 6 Montessori school in Lewiston, ID. “There is demand for a free public Montessori option in Pullman,” said Sullivan. “We are excited to create an option that all families in Pullman can access.” PCSI will submit its charter application in Spring 2020, and if approved, plans to launch as a K-3 in the fall of 2021. It will grow by one grade level each year up until it becomes a full K-8 program. Sullivan emphasized “PSCI’s decision to seek opening of a charter school in Pullman is not a reflection on Pullman School District’s performance. We simply believe diversity in school choice allows educators in general to reach a broader breadth of student needs, particularly those in at-risk populations. I think most educators with experience acknowledge a one-size fits all model is not an effective approach to offering high quality education to all students.”
During her fellowship year, Sullivan will lead community-based conversations to tailor the school’s design, write the school’s application, visit and engage with high-performing charter public school and Montessori models across the country, and benefit from a full range of technical supports. According to Sullivan, PCSI’s vision is to create a K-8 public school option in Pullman that will be a catalyst for positive change. “Our students will be global citizens, environmental stewards, and strong and caring leaders, bringing positive changes to their communities and the world.” The Montessori philosophy, based on decades of research, outreach, and education conducted by Dr. Maria Montessori across the U.S., and around the world, will provide a strong educational backbone for the model, which will be co-constructed with the community, and rooted in the values of inclusion, equity, community, collaboration, and excellence.
Since 2016, twelve charter schools have opened in Washington state, most of which are located on the west side. The closest Washington based charter schools to Pullman are in Spokane. A charter school is an independently-operated public school that qualifies for state funding but cannot raise money through levies and bonds. While charter schools have more autonomy and flexibility than traditional public schools in terms of scheduling, staffing, and programming, they must still meet the basic education and civil rights requirements that govern common schools.