(Future Destiny Middle School Students at Welcome Family Dinner Event)
On August 24, 2015, 200 6th graders will begin their first day at Destiny Middle School in Tacoma, the first Green Dot school in Washington state.
While public charter schools have long been an option in other states, the Washington electorate only approved the authorization of charters in 2012. Through the passing of Initiative Measure 1240, Washingtonians tacitly agreed that “many of our public schools are failing to address inequities in educational opportunities for all students.”
Washington is a state that desperately needs more choices for families and students. In 2013, the state ranked 41st in the nation in high school graduation rates for low-income students. In 2014, state test results in middle school reading, math, and science showed a pronounced gap between low income students and their more affluent peers. There is apparent and consistent inequity in both academic achievement and disciplinary practices across ethnic lines.
Our families and communities demand something better.
Washington is in an enviable position. By being able to look back over 20 years of charter authorization across the country, the state is able to identify and implement the programs and policies that have been proven to work. It’s a special opportunity to be at the forefront of an emerging movement built on proven best practices at the outset.
Doing this work requires the full support of the community. We recognize that voters have approved the creation of a small number of charter schools and that the charter movement must earn the support of parents and the broader community. We know that families recognize the powerful and positive impact of a high quality public alternative to a traditional public school, and that we will earn their trust by building authentic partnerships and getting so all our students. Only when we’ve proven ourselves can we claim to have earned the trust placed in us by the people of Washington.
We have been working tirelessly to be an open and involved community partner in Tacoma this past year. At Green Dot, we rely heavily on our stakeholders. We know that in order to build a responsive, inclusive and truly accessible school, we cannot do this work alone. Destiny’s doors will open next month thanks to months of deep work with a multitude of community partners and families. I want to especially thank those families who joined us early on, and who visited Green Dot schools in California to see and meet our students, families, and communities and give feedback on our model.
Our founding families and community members have been our earliest supporters in Tacoma. Together, they chose our name Destiny Middle School, to reflect not only the city, but to remind each student that their destiny involves a high quality education that will extend beyond high school.
Last Tuesday, we held our final meeting with our Community Advisory Committee, a diverse group of community members, parents, and students who meet monthly to give input into the design of Destiny Middle School and shape the early decisions of the school. Yesterday, representatives from that committee held a welcoming panel with teachers on their first day of professional development to discuss open lines of communication and building authentic relationships with families. Our collaboration with the Tacoma community will now integrate into daily school operations once the school opens, and we are excited to extend our reach to new communities, including sharing best practices with other districts and charters, to make sure all of our students succeed.
Destiny Middle School will grow into a full 6th-8th grade middle school over the next three years, with our students and staff reflecting the diverse population we serve. Like all of our Green Dot Public Schools, Destiny is publicly-funded and free to attend. Destiny Middle School will share the Green Dot mission of preparing students for college, leadership and life and is open to all students.
Teachers at the Heart of Destiny
In just a few weeks, our inaugural class of students will learn about what makes Green Dot Public Schools unique. But our teachers already know.
This summer, our educators, under the leadership of Principal Genny Cadena, are spending three and a half weeks on professional development learning our values and academic model and building a culture focused on transforming the public education system to prepare all students for college, leadership, and life.
At Green Dot, we hire strong leaders and provide teachers with support, collaboration time, professional development and typically higher pay and benefits, as compared to other surrounding public schools.
We know the effectiveness of a classroom teacher is the single most important school-based factor in student achievement. That’s why we invest in our educators, and why our students and families will notice the highly effective teaching in our classrooms from day one. We have worked with our teachers to create a personalized and reflective culture of learning at Destiny Middle School.
I want to thank our remarkable Destiny staff for signing up for this founding year as we launch the Green Dot team here in Washington. Our teachers are at the heart of our work and impact, and they together with our communities they will set the course of our organization.
The Road Ahead
Next year, Green Dot Washington will open a middle school in South Seattle. We are already laying the groundwork for this new school, and we know the success of Destiny Middle School will help pave the way for our educators in the Seattle community.
I want to thank everyone in Washington state who has supported our work from the outset of this journey and also thank those of you who are a part of our communities in California and Tennessee. You have seen firsthand the success of Green Dot Public Schools over the past 15 years, and we look forward to continuing to share our progress and success in Washington state.