17 Nov

Students finding their passions through community partnerships

denice_randleBy L. Denice Randle, Assistant Director, Summit Public Schools-Sierra

At Summit, helping students find their passion is part of getting them ready for success in college, career and life. Students can find their passion in different places so that’s why we give them many different avenues through our expeditions program to explore and dive deep into their interests and career opportunities they’re considering.

Expeditions also give students the opportunity to engage with organizations from the communities our schools serve. From learning break dancing from the world famous Massive Monkees who have roots in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District, just a few blocks from Summit Sierra to learning culinary arts at Coyote Central in the central district, the students learn from experts in their field that have a long standing commitment to the community and young people.

One of the groups we work with helps our students learn and succeed in a skill most fear, public speaking. We.App stands for we act, present and perform and was established in 2012. We.App provides a public speaking program to some of the largest companies in the region and our students.

“Public speaking is a skill you use throughout your whole life,” said Toyia T. Taylor, founder of We.App. “Students will need to speak up for themselves whether that be at school, on the job or at an interview for a scholarship. We help students find their authentic voice and recognize who they are and become who they choose to be.”

During the two-week expedition students learned a new theme like critical thinking, improvisation and presentation and projection to help them write and perform a speech. Every day was filled with rewriting and rehearsing their speech and thinking about their own voice and how they want to communicate their message.

“The kids want to learn and be challenged, they want something different,” said Olivia Thomas, a teacher at We.App. “The public speaking expedition gave students a platform to be themselves, come out of their comfort zone and be more confident while supporting their fellow students.”

At the end of the two weeks, the students participated in an oratory competition with students from other Seattle schools, and one of the Sierra students finished third. We’re proud of all our students for having the courage to try something new and share their voice with the community.

As our students participate in the expeditions they are not only building skills and self esteem that will help them succeed in college and life, but they are also building awareness of what’s going on around them. From Black Live Matter to homelessness the students learn how they can use their voice to be change agents in their community.

We’ve heard from our families that the students are enjoying the process of starting and finishing a project and that expeditions give students a space to talk about real things that are going on in their lives. Our students have told us that while the expeditions are a challenge, they are learning to stick with things. If they can shine in a newfound passion, they can also shine in the classroom.

“Summit has created a foundation for its students that meets them where they are,” said Taylor. “I’m blown away with the type of learning environment at the school. They are truly a family.”

07 Nov

Summit Sierra recognized as a world leader in education

Summit Sierra in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District was featured in the Business Insider as one of the 14 most innovative schools in the world!


We’re incredibly proud of our students in Seattle and Tacoma for their hard work and commitment to personalized learning. Our Washington students have achieved great gains in academic growth and our two school communities are thriving. We’re excited to share the power of personalized learning with more students and educators throughout the state. If you’d like to learn more about personalized learning and our schools come to one of our information sessions. Check out our calendar page to find out when the next one will be in your community.

Spread the word – we’re hiring!
As our schools expand, our Summit WA team is also growing. This is an incredibly exciting time to make a difference in the lives of our students and families and to make a significant impact in public education across the state.

At Summit, the voice of our faculty matters. We value collaboration and faculty input, and we put strong emphasis on personal development. Please help us spread the word about the following exciting opportunities in Washington state:

•  Director of Partnerships

•  Community Engagement Manager

•  Summit Tutoring Corp – Tacoma role available


04 Oct

Welcome Our New Washington State Board Members

Summit Public Schools is pleased to announce a new six-member Washington state board of directors to help ensure students will be prepared to succeed in a four-year college or university, regardless of their previous academic preparation or background. The board members represent the diverse communities that Summit serves in Seattle, Tacoma and White Center.

The board members will be charged with the governance of Summit’s schools in Washington state. These duties include adopting policies, approving budgets and ensuring the schools meet the needs of the communities they serve.

After almost three years of hard work and dedication to Summit’s students and families, Summit Washington’s founding board will transition to an advisory role to ensure a stable and smooth transition for Summit’s faculty, students and families, as new board members adapt to their role.

“I want to thank our founding board members for their leadership in developing a solid foundation and strategic plan for our schools,” said Jen Wickens, Chief Regional Officer at Summit Public Schools Washington. “Their knowledge of the organization will compliment our new board’s deep connections to the communities we serve. This partnership will set us up for success as we continue to provide a high-quality, personalized education to our students.”

Learn more about our new board members below.

kathi-littmannKathi Littmann
Kathi is a passionate education advocate and community builder. Ms Littmann is currently the CEO of the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, an organization supporting Pierce County through charitable giving, grant making, and collaborative leadership. Ms Littmann spent 2 years at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, leading a redesign of professional learning for educators and piloting the program with 23,000 teachers. Since 2002, she has worked closely with charter networks in the areas of strategic planning and model design. She lives in the Tacoma area near Summit Olympus.

Amy Liu
Amy joins from a professional background spanning external and industry relations, grant management, and consulting. Ms. Liu is the past Policy Director for the League of Education Voters (LEV), holds a JD from University of Michigan Law School, as well as a B.A. in Political Science. She is transitioning from her role at LEV and embarking on the next phase of her career. She lives in Seattle.

deanna-sandsDr. Deanna Sands
Dr. Sands’ career spans many roles in education, as a teacher, scholar, and leader. She is deeply dedicated to diversity and inclusive education, and has devoted much of her career to enhancing educational opportunities for people with disabilities. In her leadership roles, she has worked closely with community partners, enhanced faculty mentorship initiatives, forged ongoing partnerships with school districts and has led and supported initiatives to develop or refine doctoral programs in the area of leadership for educational equity. Dr. Sands holds an Ed.D., Special Education Research and Administration from the University of Alabama and an M.A., Special Education, University of Michigan.

omar-vOmar Vasquez
Omar is an attorney at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, with a practice in corporate law, and mergers and acquisitions. Omar has experience advising education-related nonprofits, ed tech startups, and charter schools. Prior to law school, Omar taught AP Calculus for six years in Arizona through Teach for America, and he continues to serve as an active alumnus of the Washington region of Teach for America. Omar holds a JD from the University of Arizona and a B.S. in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School. He lives in the First Hill neighborhood of Seattle, near the Summit Sierra campus.

stefan-weitzStefan Weitz
Stefan has an extensive background in technology and business. Mr. Weitz joined Microsoft in 2002, leading diverse projects across strategy, education partnerships, and engineering. He has served on advisory boards for many startups, ranging from biometrics to advertising to virtualization. Mr. Weitz is currently the CPO of Radial and holds an M.A. in Political Science and Physics from Gonzaga University. He lives in Seattle.

shirline-wilsonShirline Wilson
As a longtime resident of Seattle and the mother of three children, including a student at Rainier Prep, Shirline has come to the Summit Public School Board to join the visionaries who believe that a sustainable world class education system in the Pacific Northwest is critical to the advancement of our goals to significantly narrow the Opportunity and Achievement Gap. A 20 year career spanning Accounting, Information Technology, Business Continuity, Organizational Change and Transformative leadership grounds her in her advocacy for innovation in the education system. When not working tirelessly for kids and families, she enjoys camping, hiking, board games and family time.

27 Sep

Letter to White Center and surrounding communities from Summit Atlas Principal

Dear White Center and surrounding communities,

I am honored to introduce myself as the founding principal for Summit Atlas, a charter public middle and high school opening in the fall of 2017. Like you, I am deeply invested in providing our young people with the opportunities for success they so richly deserve, and I am committed to serving the students and families of White Center. Summit Atlas will be a rigorous, college preparatory school in which every child, regardless of background or circumstance, will graduate ready to become a college graduate and ultimately a thoughtful, contributing member of society.

I am extremely excited to be a part of this community after just having relocated to be closer to my family. My career as an educator began as a college student when I became a volunteer basketball coach for the girls basketball team at a high school in my community. I quickly realized my players were struggling because their individual needs as learners were not being met. Ashley, my incredibly gifted post player, was unable to pass basic math and reading courses; Karla, my shooting guard, desperately wanted to succeed in school and on the court, but was not given enough support as a Spanish speaker. A fire had been lit: I changed my major to Education, and upon graduation from the University of Tulsa, headed to New Orleans where the need to transform the educational system was profound.

In 2011, I began teaching at Sci Academy, a Collegiate Academies high school in New Orleans East. Over my four years teaching sophomore English, my students posted the highest test scores in the city for any open-enrollment school, with 81% of students scoring proficient or higher the last year.

My students there instilled in me the grit and grace it takes to achieve what others may believe to be impossible. Many entered reading years below grade level; they graduated as exceptional readers, writers, and critical thinkers. We exceeded our goals all because my students had a growth mindset, a belief in themselves, and a belief in me. Together, we made our community better.

After teaching for six years, I took on an administrative role, coaching dozens of teachers across our network and designing systems to increase reading growth across three high schools. As a result of our work together, our network experienced its highest reading growth in its eight year history. I am proud to have been a part of Collegiate Academies, which sends over 90% of its graduates to college.

Summit Public Schools shares the same commitment to create educational opportunities for every child. Our personalized model puts students at the center of their own learning, empowering them to be self-directed learners with the habits and mindsets that lead to academic and personal success. We support a world-class teaching faculty who come from the nation’s top teaching preparatory programs and care deeply about each and every child. It is no wonder that Summit students consistently outperform students at neighboring schools, and 95% of Summit graduates are accepted into college.

For me, for us, for others– this motto is part of the vision for Summit Atlas. Education is the key to personal success, for our success as an Atlas team, and for the betterment of our society. I believe there is no more important group of people in our country than our children, and that the school we will create is a precursor to a better country and a better world. I am incredibly enthusiastic to help launch a new public school in our community, to give families a choice when it comes to public education, and to ensure that every student who walks through Summit Atlas next fall gets the world-class education they deserve. I cannot wait to partner with you, your family, and the incredible White Center community.

We’re hosting information sessions for the community to learn more about Summit Atlas. Just click on Seattle, WA on our events calendar webpage to find the Summit Atlas info session near you. I also invite you to save the date for our groundbreaking ceremony on November 15 at the site of Summit Atlas. We’ll post more information about the event on the blog soon.

I would love to hear from you. Please contact me with any questions, suggestions, or concerns. Summit Atlas is our school; I welcome your innovative ideas in building this community together.

Warm regards,

Katie Bubalo
Founding Principal | Summit Atlas
kbubalo@summitps.org | Summit Public Schools Website
We are currently accepting 6th and 9th grade student applications!


23 Sep

Welcome to the new school year and a growing community

By Abigail Cedano, Senior Director of Schools

As the 2016-2017 school year takes off we are thrilled to welcome our new students, families and faculty at Summit Sierra and Olympus. Being new to a community can be challenging and just like our new ninth grade students, I’m also new to the Summit community. Thank you for the warm welcome as I get settled in my new role!

I’m originally from Seattle, my lifelong passion for world-class educational opportunities for all students took me to New York 11 years ago where I was a teacher, assistant principal and founded a public charter school in Brooklyn. While I loved my time in New York, the Pacific Northwest was calling and I was thrilled when charters finally came to Washington! I have seen first hand the power charters can have to give parents options they need to make educational decisions that are best for their child. I was thrilled when offered the opportunity to join Summit and have the ability to support this movement in my home state.

I joined Summit Public Schools this year as the Senior Director of Schools. My role is to support our school leaders across the organization as they build beautiful houses of personalized learning. As I am sure you know, our Washington school leaders are phenomenal and it is a privilege to work with them.

I chose to come to Summit because it is an organization that believes every member of the community is an important learner who brings something valuable to the team. I chose to come to Summit because we believe that when every student is treated as a unique learner, students can not only develop strong academics but they can develop into thoughtful, contributing members of society and that will open the doors of possibility for their futures. I chose to come to Summit because I believe in educational innovation and am excited to be on the forefront of education reform.

As we start the school year, our students and faculty are already building strong communities of diverse learners. Our organization-wide faculty team and our schools have already had the opportunity to experience overnight camping trips. This gives us all an opportunity to expand our comfort zones and get to know each other deeply. During our camping trips we share stories about our lives, try out new activities and show off our talents in the culminating talent show!

At the start of the school year the students also reflect on their school experiences and hopes and dreams for the future. They think through how their high-school experience will support these dreams and they go on a college visit so they can see how all their hard work now can lead to amazing opportunities. Each of these experiences lay the foundation for developing vibrant school communities.

The Summit Sierra and Olympus communities are growing. Next year Atlas in White Center will join us as well. Each school has a story to tell and I’m excited to help our students, families and faculty accomplish amazing things, evolve and grow. Just like the Summit Olympus motto, we’re always rising, always together.

24 Aug

Bill Gates writes blog about his Summit Sierra visit

Bill Gates Jr. visited Seattle’s first public charter high school in May, spending time with Summit Sierra High School students and touring the school, which started its second year this month in the Chinatown – International District. We’re are excited to share with you the blog post he wrote and video about his experience visiting our school.  

During his visit, Mr. Gates spent the afternoon with students and teachers experiencing the model and diving into how personalized learning works at Summit. He learned about Summit’s mentorship program, spent time reviewing the Personalized Learning Plan (PLP) platform, walked through the expedition courses, learned how Summit Reads and Summit Solves build students’ reading and math skills,.and unpacked an integrated Humanities project to better understand the day in the life of a Summit student and teacher.

“At its best, personalized learning doesn’t just let students work at their own pace. It puts them in charge of their own academic growth.” – Bill Gates

“I’m so proud of the Summit Sierra students and faculty, many of whom presented to Mr. Gates to demonstrate how personalized learning works at Summit and participated in facilitated discussions with him,” said Jen Wickens, Chief Regional Officer, Summit Washington. “Our community is an incredibly committed and passionate group of educators and young adults who are extremely proud of the amazing school they’ve built together.”

It’s not too late to enroll at Summit Sierra in Seattle or Summit Olympus in Tacoma. Both schools are growing in their second year and are tuition free and state authorized and approved. Applying takes just five minutes and there is no entrance requirement or tuition. Learn more here.

10 Aug

Summit Sierra – Construction Update

SubstandardFullSizeRender (7)

If you have walked by Summit Sierra or drove by on I-5 you may have noticed construction on the south side of the building. We’ve been making some major improvements and we’re excited to share them with you.

Beginning this month we’ll be welcoming new and returning students and expanding to a 9th and 10th grade high school. As a result, we needed to make space to comfortably house all of our students.

We wanted to ensure that our students would continue to have the best and most inspiring school possible, so we enlisted the help of a design team to create new and innovative workspaces for our students.  

To do this, we added an extra 5,700 square feet, including:

  • Nine new classrooms
  • Two outdoor learning areas
  • A deck and two patios with views of Puget Sound and downtown Seattle.
  • Outdoor learning areas for students and a basketball court for students to use during their breaks.

“I can’t wait to see the faces of our new and returning students when they see the new additions to our school,” said Malia Burns, Executive Director at Summit Sierra. “The new Summit Sierra space offers so many areas and opportunities for students to collaborate, learn and bond with their classmates. With breathtaking views from the second story, students will learn and grow in the heart of Seattle.”

During design and construction the Summit Sierra faculty had an opportunity to give their feedback to ensure the new space met the needs of our students. For example, faculty members were consulted early in the design process and proposed a flexible, open learning environment with spaces that could be used for different teaching activities. The faculty also requested large glass garage doors to help connect classroom spaces with the open spaces. 

As the design progressed, faculty, students and families also had the opportunity to give feedback and propose ideas. One of the results of the feedback is the new basketball court, which was added to give the students an outdoor activity to play while being in a city environment.

The contractor also took special measures to ensure that construction had minimal impacts on the students and community.

“We wanted to create and build a positive and inviting learning environment that worked in harmony with Seattle’s Chinatown International District,” said Kevin Brett, project manager at Kirtley Cole the general contractor for the Summit Sierra construction project. “When you walk into the building the success of the design really shows. It has a community feel that I hope the students will hang out in before and after school.”

Summit Sierra is enrolling now. It takes just five minutes to apply, learn more here.

29 Jul

Tacoma Charter Public Schools Welcome the Community into their Buildings

Summit Olympus photo

Thank you to the 70+ parents, children, and neighbors who joined us at the Tacoma charter public schools open house last night.

Along with SOAR Academy and Green Dot Destiny Middle School, we opened Summit Olympus High School’s doors and welcomed Tacoma families who are exploring their public school options for the upcoming 2016-17 school year. The event gave potential students, parents and caregivers the opportunity to tour the  school buildings, ask questions, meet school leaders and teachers, and hear the experiences of founding families and students who are returning to Tacoma’s charter public schools for the second year.

All three of Tacoma’s small, personalized and academically rigorous charter public schools head into their second year of operation, each school is growing to serve new grade levels in Fall 2016.

“Last year our founding ninth grade students more than doubled the national average for growth in reading, and more than tripled the average for growth in math, putting Summit Olympus in the top third of schools in the nation in terms of math growth,” * said Jen Wickens, Chief Regional Officer at Summit Public Schools Washington. We are looking forward to building on this progress in year two, as we provide even more Tacoma families with a high-quality, personalized, public education.”

RoQuesia Williams’ son is a founding student at Summit Olympus. She also enrolled her other children at Destiny (growing to 6th-8th grade) and SOAR (growing to K-8th grade) last fall. They will each be returning to their charter public schools for a second year. “My eldest son has grown so much at Summit Olympus. Along with his teachers, he has a fantastic mentor who helps keep him on track with his goals.” Williams emphasized how happy she and her kids have been with their charter schools, and in particular, what a great fit Summit Olympus has been for her son. “I love that his personalized learning plan enables him to work at his own pace, and that he gets to choose how we wants to learn.”

Enrollment is open at Summit Olympus, but space is limited. Enroll today, it takes just five minutes to apply, learn more here.

Read the whole event recap at the Washington State Charter Schools Association’s blog.


*Student growth measured using the nationally normed Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment.

21 Jun

Introducing new faculty – Alex Horowitz, Assistant Director at Summit Olympus

Photo on 6-17-16 at 10.13 AMAfter seeing firsthand the inequity in schools Alex Horowitz’s passion for education was sparked.

“Every single student deserves a high-quality education in a supportive school environment that cares about their development,” Alex said. “I’m focused on equitable education and outcomes for all students.”

Alex will be the new Assistant Director at Summit Olympus where he will bring a strong background in special education and an eye for strong instruction. He forges strong relationships with students and families which helps him find the right supports to ensure all students succeed.

“As an educator my goal is to meet kids where they are,” Alex said.  “Every single student has unique needs and can achieve if the school and teacher serves them well and implements the right supports.”

Alex said part of meeting students where they are is helping them find the learning pace that works best for them. He said this helps him find the right strategy for them and cater the teacher’s instruction.

Alex grew up near the Washington, D.C. area. After graduating college, he taught in traditional public schools and charter public schools in California where most recently he served as Academic Dean at LPS Richmond, a school with 99 percent students of color, 95 percent free or reduced lunch and 98 percent first generation college bound. Under his leadership, LPS Richmond earned a Gold Medal from US News and World Report and was ranked in the top 1 percent of high schools nationwide. In addition, he led the school to drastically increase the number of students enrolled in AP courses, make impressive reading and math growth and significantly improve the rate of students attending four year universities. 

Summit’s history of serving students well, its supportive environment, Tacoma’s diverse community and self directed learning model appealed to Alex. He’s also excited to meet the families and students at Olympus.

“Everyone at Olympus is part of building something really special,” Alex said. “There is limitless possibilities when you’re building a school from the ground up. This is a once in a career opportunity that doesn’t come around often.”

For more information on attending Summit Olympus high school visit summitps.org/schools/washington/summit-olympus. Applying takes just five minutes and there is no entrance requirement or tuition.

21 Jun

Introducing new faculty – Bo Mendez, Ninth Grade Math Teacher at Summit Sierra

IMG_2960While most see math and music as unrelated subjects, they have been an inseparable pair in the life and education of new Summit Sierra faculty member Bo Mendez.

“I think that all disciplines are connected in some way, but especially music and math,” Bo said. “They both involve a similar type of thinking and problem solving to create a song or solve a math equation.”

Prior to joining the Summit faculty, Bo taught Algebra II and precalculus at a high school in Federal Way. He also started and was an advisor of the school’s Rubik’s Cube and video game clubs. Bo is originally from Othello, Washington and is a graduate in music education and math from Central Washington University where he was in an acapela group. Bo, his wife and one year old daughter live in Seattle.

Bo is excited about Summit’s model of personalized learning where students work at their own pace through the curriculum. Bo’s biggest strength is building relationships with students. He finds areas where he can meet students where they are and connect and motivate them to accomplish their goals.

“I’m looking forward to mentoring students and getting to know them on a personal level,” Bo said. “I want to share my story and help build them up and send them off with the skills they will need to succeed in college. I have some really cool things planned for them next year.”

Bo had the opportunity to visit Summit Sierra and talk to the faculty and students. He said he saw a tight knit community and students that were excited to be at school.

“The teachers and faculty know the students and the students have a sense of pride about their school,” Bo said. “Some students said the curriculum is hard, but they like the challenge and are supported by faculty that is constantly giving them feedback on how to improve.”

After visiting Sierra, Bo was also excited about the student art he saw, including self portraits and the technology at the school, which gives students greater access to educational opportunities. He also appreciates the opportunities for students to explore community building, learning from guest speakers and participating in college prep workshops.

“Students can find opportunities that will have a positive impact in their lives, but they need support to see them and take advantage of them,” Bo said. “As a teacher and mentor, my job is to help guide and motivate them so they will have success in the pathway they choose.”