CharterFolk X Vol 22 – Jen Wickens, Setting an Entire State on a Trajectory for Positive Impact

Good morning, CharterFolk.

Today we are pleased to recognize Jen Wickens, Co-Founder and CEO of Impact Public Schools in Washington State, as CharterFolk Extraordinaire.

Rarely do you find a leader having a level of impact affecting the trajectory of an entire state’s charter school movement. But so it is with Jen.

It starts with having developed earlier in her career the instructional chops needed to make a profound difference with kids and families. The school where she first served as principal – Envision’s Impact Academy High in Hayward, California – was widely respected during her time there and has remained among the highest performing in the state.

When voters approved a statewide ballot initiative making Washington the 42nd state in the country to approve a charter school law …

… Summit Public Schools committed to establish some of the first schools under the new law. Jen jumped at the chance to become Summit’s Chief Regional Officer for Washington State. Within three years, Jen and her team had opened two new Summit schools along side six other operators in communities across Washington.

One month after Summit’s first schools were opened – before paint was dry on their new campuses – Washington’s Supreme Court ruled charter schools unconstitutional in a case brought, no surprise, by the Washington Education Association.

It was a dire moment, one requiring charter school leaders like Jen to assure parents that the charter school movement was not giving up on them.

Nor were CharterFolk going to give up in general. They committed to build the advocacy strength needed to overturn the decision. Jen played a key role, helping to found the Washington Charter Schools Association, which led the legislative and legal work needed to craft the advocacy solution.

Three years later, they achieved it.

Through all that period, Jen never wavered from helping create a trajectory that would best protect charter schools for the long term. That included founding Washington’s first state-based charter management organization – Impact Public Schools.

Impact has opened new schools in communities across Washington …

… keeping the interests of kids front and center as they’ve gone …

… and generating outstanding results in the process.

Through it all, Jen and Impact have shown an extraordinary commitment to meet the needs of their students and families. That only re-doubled during the Corona crisis when Impact was among other charter school organizations across the nation recognized for adjusting instructional practices rapidly and successfully.

In addition, Jen created a GoFundMe campaign raising $100,000 to provide every Impact family with a computer, internet connectivity and food and other basic sustenance to help address the most immediate needs arising during the pandemic. It led to her being recognized as a local hero.

If you have 60 seconds, I encourage you to hear how Impact parents talk about the commitment Jen has brought to making sure that every family is supported at this moment of unprecedented need.

And to top it all off, even amid all the challenges of Covid, Impact managed to get new charters approved allowing them to open two more campuses this fall.

This is the spirit of keeping front and center the needs of kids and families that has allowed Impact and the entire Washington charter school community to remain on stride despite the many challenges that have been thrown against it.

An entire community of CharterFolk has made extraordinary contributions over the past decade to help bring about this great result. But at the center of so much of it has been Jen.

It’s why we couldn’t be happier than to recognize Jen Wickens today as CharterFolk Extraordinaire.