Every day at Summit is an experience: Finding myself and fostering independence, by Sumayo Hassan

Every day at Summit is an experience: Finding myself and fostering independence, by Sumayo Hassan

Today’s planet faces many tough challenges. High school has helped me understand that while challenges can be daunting, they can be overcome by hard work and innovation. I’d like to study bioremediation, which is learning how to clean up the environment from toxins that degrade our ecosystem and the organisms that live in them.

One of my most memorable experiences at Summit Sierra was seeing — in real-time — the impact bioremediation can have. We conducted an experiment in science class that demonstrated the process of cleaning up radiation from nuclear fallout where we planted mustard seeds. To see this powerful process in-person reinforced my interest and determination to improve our environment and that it’s possible to work toward a sustainable and more livable planet.

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Get a firsthand look this week at Summit Atlas, Seattle's newest public charter school

Get a firsthand look this week at Summit Atlas, Seattle's newest public charter school

Summit Public Schools is inviting the entire community to join them in celebrating the official opening of Summit Atlas, their new public charter school in West Seattle.

In addition to a tour of the building, students and families will be on-hand to discuss why they chose Summit Atlas, and the new school's founding principal will be there to answer questions as well.

Lots of folks with lots of different opinions about charters have never actually been inside of one. I think it's a great opportunity for folks to get a firsthand look at what a charter school really looks like and to hear from the real people involved in making it what it is.

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Dear Gov. Inslee: 'The education of our youth is at stake'

Dear Gov. Inslee,

As you may know on September 4th 2015 the Washington State Supreme Court issued a ruling that rendered charter schools “unconstitutional”. While for some it was a day for celebration and jubilee, for many such as myself it was a day of sadness and surprise. Sadness about how a system setup to protect the rights of the people could fail them us so badly.

For a majority of the last 9 years I have attended St.Therese Catholic Academy. While I was there I encountered countless teachers that helped me to become the man I currently am. Whenever I would encounter an obstacle -- for example not using pencils because I have sensitive ears -- they gave me an unofficial “IEP” and allowed me to put on headphones during tests to block out the noise so I could do my best. However due to some personal issues I had, I left and transitioned to my neighborhood public school.

I like to use the term "you don't really know what you have until you lose it" with the school I ended up moving to, Orca. Orca is a K-8 alternative public school located in Columbia City near Seward Park. As the weeks progressed after I was enrolled I became less and less excited about going to school. I would sometimes stare aimlessly at the clock waiting for the moment when I could leave. I felt as though I had given up on life and didn't really know who to turn to. I was just another number in the educational system.

As the months went on we realized that Orca was not prepared nor willing to help with any assistance or IEP’s either verbal or formal. From the time that we submitted the IEP form in September until the time that I left in March we received no inkling that we had anyone on our side. And that is unacceptable.  

This leads me to Summit Sierra, a charter high school located in the International District. I am going to be honest: when I started thinking about going to high school I dreaded the thought of being lost again. When we first met Ms. Burns I realized things were going to be different. She took the time to individually meet with each of the one hundred and twenty or so students who applied for the school, talk about their concerns and their questions and help them through them. She took the time to memorize our names, hobbies and family members.   

I chose Summit Sierra for a myriad of reasons, including their track record in their California schools and their commitment to diversity. In a recent 2013 - 2014 Seattle Public School district study, African Americans make up only 17.9% of the population yet they account for almost half of all disciplinary action taken against students. Correct me if I am wrong but no parent wants to see their child disciplined unfairly because of their race.

I respectfully ask that you sign the bill to overturn the State Supreme Court ruling and realize the damage that they have done. In a time and era in which students are required by law to attend school, shouldn't they have a choice? I understand that you are asked of things every day. However, when the education of our youth is at stake, is it not worth our time?


Jalen Johnson
Freshman, Summit Sierra High School

Dear Gov. Inslee: 'When I walk into school in the morning, I see my family'


I am Tatiana Villegas, a student and  future graduate at Summit Sierra.

As we have all heard, there was a ruling that charter schools like mine were “unconstitutional.” Not only me, but thousands of students will be forced to leave the school of their choice.

Finding out about this school was an amazing day for me, since I was supposed to go to a huge public school that I knew I would have struggled in. Knowing that the school was small and was productive, I knew I could succeed in this school.

Once I heard out about the ruling, I was in shock -- I didn't believe it. I found out from a friend who attends Summit, and now he is one of my best friends. After the news I was sad. I had made so many new friends from all over Seattle, and some not even in Seattle. I would probably lose connection with most of the people just from distance.

Going to school after the news broke out, no one could believe it. We had a meeting, and as I was sitting with my peers we were not prepared to split up. It’s now been a couple of months after the ruling, and we have all gotten even closer. When I walk into the school in the morning, I don’t just see my classmates, I see my family. If one person is feeling sad, so many people will be there to comfort them, no matter what, because we are a family and we can’t leave one another behind.

It’s kind of funny. Going into this school I knew I was going to have a bright future academically, but I never thought I would socially. This school has helped me open up so much. It was so hard for me just to speak up in class when there was a question, or if I needed help; the people at this school have made me feel more comfortable so that I can speak up for myself. I've had a great experience so far in my first year of high school, and I would love to graduate from high school at Summit Sierra with the rest of my fellow Spartans. The judges, senators, legislators, and many other people are the key to solving this problem, so please don't lock me out of a school where I'm achieving social and academic success, and one based on a 100% graduation rate.

Dear Gov. Inslee: 'Every Child Deserves a Chance to Succeed'

Dear Gov. Inslee,

I know that the Supreme Court came to the conclusion that charter schools like Summit Sierra are unconstitutional. I believe that despite this, these schools can help us in the long run. This is because of how differently these schools operate than the traditional public school.

From experience, I can say that Summit Public Schools as well as other charter schools offer different options to students looking for a good education. Many people believe that these schools are a waste of taxpayer money, but that is not the case. The student body is quite diverse, so it allows people of every race, gender, religion and income the chance to have a great education.

Summit Public Schools in California have a 100 percent graduation rate. This means that literally all of our students will have the opportunity to go to college. This will benefit everyone here in the great state of Washington because there are going to be thousands of new kids ready for college each year when they graduate from charter schools. Everyone should be able to receive a great education, and everyone should be able to go to college.

If Seattle wants to continue being a fast-growing city, it’s going to have make some changes to the school system. Our city and our state need charter schools to make sure this generation and every generation after will have the opportunity to go to college.

And this is the greatest thing about charter schools: they allow students to reach their full potential. These schools push to make sure each student succeeds, not only academically, not only during each school day, but in life. The current public schools attempt this, but Summit Public Schools has perfected it. The individualized approach to learning helps prepare students for college by teaching them how to be a self-directed learner.

At Summit Sierra, and other Summit Public Schools in Washington, we use a program called the PLP (Personalized Learning Plan). It provides information on what we need to do to get into certain colleges. It also allows us to set goals, check assignments, and lets us each work at our own pace.

Being able to self-direct your learning is an essential skill in college, and when all the students graduate, they will use this skill in the workplace. Being self-directed is great to learn at young age, too, because the earlier you learn, the sooner you can be independent.

When a child first enters a Summit School, they will get a mentor. Their mentor will guide them throughout their years in school. The student and mentor will have a bond form between them, as well as with the larger group of mentees.

The mentor program gives students someone to look up to. During the mentor check-ins every Friday, the mentor checks in with his mentees to see how they how they are doing both academically and psychologically. This key piece of the Summit Public School experience of learning allows each child to feel like they matter.

Every child deserves educational options.

Every child deserves a way to show their creativity.

Every child deserves a place to grow.

Every child deserves to go to college.

And most of all: every child deserves a chance to succeed.


Thank you in advance for your consideration,


Kai Worley-Flannell

Dear Gov. Inslee: 'We need you to be strong.'

Dear Gov. Inslee,

My name is Zoe Mitchell, and I am a 9th grader at Summit Sierra Public charter school in Seattle. Last fall, the legislature ruled that charter schools were unconstitutional, and as a student attending a charter school, I feel very lost in the conversation.

Every student shares the feeling of injustice over this plan having been put through without any consideration of our thoughts. This is absurd seeing as how we are the ones who are most affected by this, and we feel that our opinions carry a lot of weight concerning the matter. We have attended this new high school for more than six months and by now have established firm relationships with our teachers and peers.

All of us students would be devastated if our school were to be closed down. All of us have put so much faith and effort into this school. To see it all go down the drain is despairing and leads to some serious doubts about democracy and our government, which is supposed to protect its people’s needs.

Personally, I have had more fun learning here in a few weeks than I've ever had at all the time in my public middle school. There also seems to be a lot of complaining about crowded schools. Don't charter schools take the pressure off and give children more options? They are a public school and should be considered an equal alternative. 

I write this letter to you with the hope that you will take into the consideration the opinions and lives of charter school students and their community. I don't want to leave this school so early in my efforts.

Please sign the charter school bill. 1909 was over a hundred years ago and deciding that a rule written so long ago should affect the education of students in 2016 seems weak. We all need you to be strong.

Thank you for your time. 



Zoe Mitchell

Dear Rep. Santos: 'Why don't you care about my school?'

Dear Rep. Santos,

My name is Olivia Zilavy, I'm a ninth grader at Summit Sierra Public Charter School in the ID, I am one of your constituents, and I am angry.

I’m angry at the situation that the Supreme Court has put me and my family in. I am angry that we have to fight for our right to receive a good education. I am angry that a public school with an amazing track record is being questioned. I am angry that my representative isn’t supportive of something that my family and I believe in so strongly.

I understand that I am only one of the many students that you represent, but let’s just say I’m liking Rep. Pettigrew a whole lot more that I’m liking you right now. I understand that you are adamantly against charter schools, and have been since 2012. I am writing to try and sway your stance on this issue.

Your website talks about how much you care about quality public education, and how much you care about closing the achievement gap. I’m sitting here wondering, if you really care about these issues, why don’t you care about my school?

Despite the fact that nearly half of the freshman class started the school year an average of 3.5 years below grade level in both reading and math, my school, Summit Sierra, outperformed the national average in reading by 40 percent, and more than doubled the national average in math. Washington State has never closed down a low-performing public school, so why are you trying to shut down a school that has made such amazing progress toward closing the achievement gap?

Your website says, and I quote, that, “Washington state must strive for providing education excellence and opportunities for all students to learn.”

My school does that.

If traditional schools aren’t working for students, why shouldn’t they be allowed an excellent, free alternative? When a school has a 96 percent acceptance rate into four-year colleges, in comparison to the statewide high school graduation rate of 77.2 percent, why should it be called into question at all?

My school is effective in teaching its students, has high-performing test scores, and is successful in graduating 100 percent of its students. So why are you trying to take away such an amazing institution, opportunity, and community?

My school offers “level playing fields that allow those who work hard to succeed” (another quote from your website), and provides support for those that need it. If you truly care about the aspects of education that you claim you do, then I’m struggling to understand why you refuse to support a public school that succeeds in addressing all of your concerns about K-12 education in Washington.

I hope this gave you something to think about.


Olivia Zilavy,
Founding class of Summit Sierra Public Charter School