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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Pride Prep hopes ‘to be held accountable’ by Spokane Public Schools as its charter renewal looms

Elias Baldwin Bonney, right, a senior at Pride Prep in Spokane, listens as school founder and Superintendent Brenda McDonald talks about the school Tuesday, April 27, 2021 in the hall at the school. Baldwin-Bonney is planning to pursue a theater major at NYU when he graduates.  (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)

All signs point to an extension for Spokane’s largest public charter school.

On Wednesday night, the board of Spokane Public Schools is expected to grant a conditional reauthorization for Pride Prep, which has struggled to meet some academic and fiscal benchmarks outlined by the state.

As Pride Prep’s authorizer, Spokane Public Schools is required to monitor the performance of charter schools in its area, submit an annual report to the Washington State Board of Education and determine whether each contract merits renewal, nonrenewal or revocation.

Documents submitted this week by both parties recommend that Pride Prep’s charter will be renewed with conditions. The timeline will be determined on Wednesday night.

Pride Prep Superintendent Brenda McDonald said recently the school welcomes the chance “to be held accountable for doing what we are saying we are doing.”

In a 47-page letter posted this week, the Pride Prep board of directors outlined proposed steps, along with letters of support from students and their families.

It began: “The Pride Prep Board of Directors accepts full responsibility for the metrics that the school has not yet met over its charter term on the Financial, Academic, and Organizational Performance Frameworks. Our board members, along with the Superintendent and school administrative teams, have been and will continue to remediate issues and address unmet targets.”

The school proposes to submit an academic assessment plan at the beginning of the school year, which includes, but is not limited to, use of MAP and other testing two to three times per year and classroom-based assessments aligned to its International Baccalaureate curriculum.

The school also plans to provide an intervention plan for any areas in which students are lagging, and will give supplemental mathematics support for all middle school students.

A review presented to the Pride board in the 2018-19 academic year compared with other public schools in the district shows Pride Schools receiving several D’s in scores related to proficiency, progress and attendance.

It also shows failing grades for scores related to accountability.

Scores dropped again the following year, prompting a shift in emphasis toward a more rigorous International Baccalaureate program.

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of data McDonald said she believes would demonstrate progress.

“We see promising data from math assessments and interim assessment scores,” McDonald said. “Our kids are exceeding the benchmarks on the PSAT.”

Regarding its financial problems, Pride Prep said in the letter that it “projects to meet all financial metrics” by Aug. 31.

The school also plans to incur no new debt in the following fiscal year and will continue to pay down all debt in accordance with existing terms.

It also proposed a budget and financial plan “to achieve a significant positive net margin (at least 5%) to further increase the organization’s cash position and overall financial standing.”

Other steps include a new payroll management system, instituting new time-off policies and reimbursement controls, and updating financial systems implemented in 2020 that will continue to be used.