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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Pride Prep charter school gets three-year conditional reauthorization

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)

Spokane’s largest charter school will stay in business for at least another three years.

During a special meeting Wednesday night, the Spokane Public Schools board approved a three-year reauthorization for Pride Prep.

In a 3-1 vote, the board agreed to staff recommendations and to accept Pride Prep’s proposal for addressing academic, fiscal and other problems recently brought to the district’s attention.

The board’s meeting was the third in five weeks on the topic of Pride Prep, a project-based school serving about 700 students from grades 6-12.

After approval of the reauthorization, board President Jerrall Haynes sympathized with families about the lateness of the process.

“Over the last few weeks, some of these conversations have been tough at times, and frustrating even,” Haynes said.

“But I think we’re all here for the same reasons, and that is to serve our community and students to the best of our abilities,” Haynes added.

The district, however, plans to keep a closer eye on the 6-year-old charter school.

Among the main academic conditions, Pride will submit an assessment plan at the beginning of the school year that includes several tests; along with intervention plans in any areas where students are lagging.

The school also will provide supplemental mathematics support for all middle school students using a program called Teach to One.

Financial goals include the paying down of current debt; no new debt in the fiscal year that begins on Sept. 1; and preparation of a financial plan to achieve a positive net margin of at least 5%.

The school said a new payroll management system, instituting new time-off policies and reimbursement controls, and updating financial systems implemented in 2020, will continue.

The board added a request from director Mike Wiser for information on high staff turnover and satisfaction levels at Pride Prep.

Board member Aryn Ziehnert, however, said the district needs to be mindful of its boundaries as the authorizer “and how much we can get into the nitty-gritty of that.”

Board member Jenny Slagle said she “had no doubts” that the academic and financial conditions would be met. She still voted against the reauthorization because of “issues with the senior leadership,” particularly Pride Prep Superintendent Brenda McDonald.

Audits showed that school documents had been altered for the purposes of reconciling employee time off.

McDonald did consulting work for another charter school, but the Pride Prep board said in a statement that it had no concerns that the work impacted the school.