Originally started as part of the Green Dot Public Schools network, RVLA had the backing of a nationwide network of schools. The mission of Green Dot “is to help transform public education so that all young adults receive the education they deserve to be prepared for college, leadership, and life.” As of a couple of weeks ago, the Washington State Charter Commission approved for RVLA to make changes to their charter contract to separate from Green Dot and become a standalone community centered school.
While Rainier Valley Leadership Academy may be a relatively new school, the community it is located within is not. And that is exactly what the current leadership of RVLA is weaving into its fabric. Shifting the main focus from college, the future of the school will be community driven, scholar led, and leadership focused. School staff want their families and scholars to be prepared for the future of their choice. If they want to go to college, scholars will they have the skills to succeed; if they want to be an artist, a mechanic, or an esthetician, scholars who graduate from RVLA will have the skills to pursue their passions.
Transitioning from Green Dot Public Schools to an independent stand-alone community-based school while simultaneously continuing to educate scholars is no small feat. After the 2019-2020 school year, there will no longer be a centralized office. In place of that, there will be dual leadership that reports to the board: a Principal as the head of academics and a Head of Schools as the head of Development and HR. There is also a stakeholder group made up of families, students, staff, and community members to help guide the transition. Through the Seneca partnership, the school is working towards having cohesive systems and clear data to support their scholars with academics, social emotional learning, and behavior.
RVLA staff and educators are also actively working to decolonize the curriculum. Racism is systemic, and schools are not exempt from this system. To address this, RVLA is taking a critical look at its curriculum and making changes to the way they are educating scholars. Instead of focusing Black History Month on slavery, scholars learn about Black leaders. Instead of celebrating Christopher Columbus Day, scholars are challenged to think critically about the impacts of Christopher Columbus.
As the manager of the Seneca and RVLA partnership, I look forward to seeing how RVLA defines the term community. To get the community to hear the vision of the school, RVLA is attempting to develop their vision with ALL families as their audience.