Starting from scratch: Five principals work together to create their dream schools

Five fellows from four very different schools are spending a year helping each other design new schools that they believe will help close historical gaps between students who are black or Latino and their white and Asian peers.

With less than a year to plan, Principal Angela Bogan has a lot of ideas for what students and parents will experience when her new school, Sartori Elementary in Renton, opens next fall.

“When you walk in the front door, the first thing you’ll see is a family room,” Bogan said.

In that space, she would like to provide drinks and light refreshments for parents as they learn about homework and school policies — or make an appointment with school staff. The campus also could welcome families for after-hours English classes.

As for curriculum, Bogan wants a focus on science, technology, engineering and math, with each teacher specializing in one subject, which is unusual for an elementary school. And she’s thinking about partnering Sartori’s preschool students with fifth-graders to create a “community of learners.”

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That’s part of the vision she shared on the first day of training last month with other principals and principals-to-be who are part of a new school leadership “incubator” in Seattle. Dubbed the School Foundry, the yearlong program has an inaugural class of five fellows: one each from the Renton and Seattle school districts, two from a new charter campus opening next year in Tukwila and another from an alternative high school in the rural Methow Valley Schools.

The training is financially supported by the Los Angeles-based ECMC Foundation, the philanthropic arm of a nonprofit that handles student-loan collection.

The fellows will spend the next year helping each other design schools that will focus on raising the performance of student groups that, on average, often lag behind their peers. Each fellow has committed to opening a new or transformed school in 2018-19.

“The current prevailing educational systems … are broken,” said Jeff Petty, a former teacher and administrator who has worked in both public and charter schools.

“We don’t need to tweak them. We don’t need them to get a little better,” he added. “We need to blow them up and reinvent school, and a piece of that is leadership development.”

Petty, who now leads the Puget Sound Consortium for School Innovation, partnered with…

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