The scene at the first recess ever at the Spokane International Academy. DANIEL WALTERS PHOTO
First Day of School The Spokane International Academy marks the city’s first real experiment with the world of charter schools BY DANIEL WALTERS
t’s the first day at a new school for Brayden Goldner. His mom and his dad look on proudly as the little blond first-grader stands on the school’s concrete steps, wearing slacks, dress shoes and a blue polo shirt bearing the official Spokane International Academy logo. “I went to Sheridan [Elementary] last year for kindergarten,” Brayden says. “I used to have more friends at Sheridan.” But with the unshakable confidence of a first grader, he knows he’ll make more.
In fact, last Wednesday (Aug. 26) is the first day at a new school for everyone here: the first day of the firstever charter school in Spokane. Until an initiative narrowly passed in 2012, charters — schools that use public funding but have their own governing structure — were illegal in the state of Washington. Charter schools, like traditional public schools, are tuition-free. But spots are limited. The parents dropping their kids off today had to win a random lottery for their
kids to enroll. “I’m gettin’ real tired of the public school system, and the way it’s operated,” says Max Goldner, Brayden’s dad. He has another other son attending PRIDE Prep, the project-based charter school for sixth- through 12th-graders also opening this year in Spokane. “We just thought they weren’t getting the education that they deserve.” For seven years, the school has been a dream of founder Travis Franklin, and he’s only 31. He called in every favor he had to make this happen. And there’s a chance it could fail. The extra freedom given to charter schools to experiment can lead to success or utter disaster: The first charter school in Washington state — a former private school for homeless children called First Place Scholars of Seattle — was plagued by financial problems, misused funds and mass staff resignations. It narrowly survived being closed. For Franklin, after a year and a half of planning and strategizing, today is a chance to test-drive his plan in the real world. At breakfast, a gaggle of kindergartners petitions ...continued on next page
SEPTEMBER 3, 2015 INLANDER 13