WEST SEATTLE SCHOOLS: Sudden leadership change at Summit Atlas

(WSB photo of Katie Bubalo, 2018)

Thanks to the Summit Atlas parent who tipped us to a sudden change at West Seattle’s only charter school. Its founding principal Katie Bubalo, who most recently held the title of high-school executive director at Summit Atlas, which also serves middle-school grades at its Arbor Heights campus. California-headquartered Summit Public Schools confirmed to WSB that this is the letter sent last night to families by Summit’s senior director of schools Malia Burns:

We are reaching out to share with you the news that Ms. Bubalo will be stepping down as executive director of Summit Atlas High School. We are grateful for her service to our community and wish her well in her future endeavors.

We’ve heard you and will want to make sure that you have a strong voice in the selection of the school’s next leader. We will be holding two listening sessions to gather input from our families, teachers, and students about the characteristics they are looking for in a school leader. Together, we will create a school culture that reflects our shared values of inclusiveness and collaboration guided by a strong leader at the helm.

We are committed to making the transition a seamless one. I am pleased to announce that Andrea Klein, Summit Atlas Middle School’s Executive Director, will serve as interim executive director of Summit Atlas High School while we search for a permanent replacement. She is very knowledgeable of our school community, dedicated to ensuring students’ success, and has a track record of gaining the trust and respect of families and faculty. Kristina Brawley, our Dean of Culture and Instruction, will continue in her leadership role. She has been an incredible asset to the community since joining this fall. She will partner with Andrea to ensure continuity for students, faculty, and families. I will also be available to support you through the transition.

The listening sessions will take place on Thursday, January 16 at 3 p.m. and Tuesday, January 21 at 7:30 a.m. at Summit Atlas. We hope you will choose to attend the listening sessions and share your thoughts because they will be critical in shaping the future leadership of the school.

Throughout this process, we are steadfast in our commitment to maintaining our focus on students and families and ensuring a seamless transition. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at mburns@summitps.org, Andrea at aklein@summitps.org, or Kristina at kbrawley@summitps.org.

Summit Atlas High School is a wonderful school with an even brighter future. I am proud of the hard work and unwavering dedication of our teachers, students, and families. I’m confident that we will see strong success for our students through the remainder of the school year.

The parent who tipped us to Bubalo’s departure called it a firing and said Bubalo was popular with students, who were writing protest letters to the Summit board and sharing stories today. We asked Summit for comment and their reply was to send us a copy of the letter. The school is in its third year of classes, having opened in August 2017 with sixth and ninth grades, adding grades each year and now up to sixth through eleventh. While charter schools’ operations are publicly funded, their buildings generally are not; a nonprofit footed the multimillion-dollar bill for buying the former church/supermarket site at 9601 35th SW and remodeling/expanding its building to house the school.

21 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE SCHOOLS: Sudden leadership change at Summit Atlas"

  • West side mom January 14, 2020 (7:05 pm)

    Long overdue . A lot of families are finding out the hard way the school is not well runKids are also always getting into trouble with no consequences.Google Summit public schools and read about the nationwide protests recently.  Sticking a kid in front of a computer for most of their learning is not teaching .  Principal’s and teachers need to be accountable .   Parents shouldn’t have to send loads of emails with no response ever by school leadership.  Phone calls never returned. Do your kids a favor and just send them to Sealth , they would be better off and learn more.  Sps has accountability usually , perhaps larger class sizes but not the behavioral and  screen time issues Summit has. 

    • Vega Rietberg January 14, 2020 (8:16 pm)

      As a student at Summit Atlas I would have to respectfully disagree with pretty much everything you have left in this unhelpful comment. Summit Atlas is a school where students aren’t only challenged academically but they are challenged as people, learning way more social emotional and frankly life skills than students at other schools. Being at school today with nearly every student and faculty member crying due to a member of our family being fired, shows just what our school and our community is about. Please check yourself before speaking about the place that so many students think of as a second home and a safe place to learn. Ask your kid if they have a similar experience at Sealth. My guess is they don’t. 

      • MamaLisa January 14, 2020 (8:38 pm)

        You go Vega! Way proud mama here. 

      • T Rex January 15, 2020 (8:25 am)

        WOW VEGA, what a great and articulate response. It is very obvious to me that along with your mother, this school is giving you a great education as well as helping with your social skills and life in general. Being a kid is hard these days, harder than it ever has been. But you are rising above, keep up the good work! 

    • Griffin January 16, 2020 (9:03 am)

      very well put

  • Proud Summit Mom January 14, 2020 (7:54 pm)

    I am sorry to hear that your experience with Summit Atlas has not been good.  My son is a student there, and we have both been very happy with this school.  He is engaged with his instructors, enjoys going to school, and finds the learning platform very effective for him.  His teachers have been communicative with me, reaching out to update me on his learning.  It is very unfortunate that we have lost the principal, Katie Bubalo.  She was the heart of the school, and very well loved.  She will be missed.  

  • 1994 January 14, 2020 (8:28 pm)

    My high school student says the kids are upset by this decision. Too bad there is no explanation of how this decision was reached. Teachers at Atlas, in my experience, have been highly responsive with communication, and even called or e-mailed on the weekend. 

  • Krista Rietberg January 14, 2020 (8:34 pm)

    I appreciate that not all schools fit all families but Atlas has been an amazing fit for our family. Ms. B has been our rock as our daughter adjusted to high school. We came to  this school because we believed in her vision. We are so sad to see her go and will fight to get her back. For folks who have negative feelings about the school or charter schools I respectfully ask that you don’t voice them here. The kids who lost their principal today are grieving. Our community it grieving. Please spare them the negative right now. The point of this article is to express our heart break over losing a great leader and helping our school heal. There are plenty of other platforms for those discussions. 

    • Jethro Marx January 14, 2020 (10:23 pm)

      That’s not the point of this article; the point of this article is to let West Seattle know that there has been a sudden leadership change at a neighborhood school. Do they teach their students that discussion is inappropriate, in the face of grief over a change in leadership? When is it appropriate to raise a point of dissension, if that is still allowed?

  • lox January 15, 2020 (1:22 am)

    I cannot speak to the sudden staff change, but having a son make the transition from SPS to Summit as he began middle school this year has been a game changer for us. He gets much more of the focused help and attention he needs at Summit. They have an excellent program (which is not all screen time, contrary to suggestions made in the comments). We hear from each of his teachers regularly, via phone calls, texts, everything. Sometimes it’s just a call to say my son is doing great. Other times it’s about challenge areas. Good or bad, Summit communicates and never wavers from the mission of helping our kids get ready for college and strive to become valuable contributors to society upon graduation. 

  • Kari January 15, 2020 (5:36 am)

    I have two students in the high school. I would like to say that I was shocked by the email saying that Ms B had stepped down. Ms B has reached out to me a couple of times with phone calls to check in. These calls were initiated by her. I would say that she knew each kid in the school and genuinely cared about the students and the school. She will be hard to replace. My kids are upset by her abrupt termination and participated in the sit in/protest. I would add that EVERY teacher, without exception, has been encouraging and well liked by my kids. I believe Ms B is responsible for that as she did the hiring for the school. 

  • Arbor Heights Resident January 15, 2020 (7:07 am)

    I echo 100% of the positive comments here about Summit Atlas.  My son has been there since day one, and has thrived due to the caring guidance of the teachers and staff, which is the polar opposite of our experiences in SPS for 8 years.   It was definitely a shock to hear about Ms. Bubalo.  She’s been amazing and the kids are absolutely grieving over her departure, as this school is a very close-knit community.  And kudos to you Vega, for exemplifying the maturity and dignity of the students at Summit Atlas, and for dispelling the untruths of this perpetual smear campaign against charter schools.  Its been a breath of fresh air for our family!

  • AnothersummitMOM January 15, 2020 (3:19 pm)

    While I also echo the majority of the positive comments here-because the staff IS AMAZING, there were glaring issues this year of courses going untaught due to not having  teachers for subjects. Specifically, in high school, chemistry and I believe spanish as well went without teachers. Ms Hasbrook left due to “not having the freedom to do the experiments she wanted” this what she told students. Weeks went by that chemistry wasnt being instructed and a parent had to come in to teach spanish. Our student noted those periods to simply be “independant”  or “PLT:Personal learning time”  where they could be trying to attempt content assessments by reading up on the subject matter  by themselves but there wasnt a teacher and a sub couldnt be found. When a chem teacher was hired, it took another couple weeks for her to figure out the learning platform and this was time again, where classes werent running as they needed to be. All in all, its very sad to see Ms. Bubalo go but if shes ultimately tasked with running the school, keeping/having staff but its not running or teaching then leadership has to drop the hammer. The family-like feel at the school is very real and likely more family-like than some have at home. I hope they can find someone that can fill the big heart space that Ms. B is leaving behind and also get things back up to speed and running as it should. 

  • parent of prospective student January 15, 2020 (6:39 pm)

    I have a question that perhaps some of the parents on this thread could answer.  There was supposed to be an “open house” this evening, 6:00 to 7:30 at the school.  Neither the website or the facebook page implied this was canceled, so my family attempted to attend.  The parking lot was empty and no one was in the school.  If this function was canceled  it is unfortunate that it wasn’t posted on their website.  

    • WSB January 15, 2020 (7:08 pm)

      Somewhat ironically, that was in the WSB calendar because Katie Bubalo had emailed us about it … about eight hours before the school announced her departure. They have not been notifying us of changes/closures this week but a parent told us they follow the SPS calendar/closure plans, so I bet they were closed today. – TR

      • parent of prospective student January 15, 2020 (7:55 pm)

        Thank you, and you’re right, I think they were closed today.  It makes sense that the open house was canceled too.   

  • Edward West Seattle January 15, 2020 (10:35 pm)

    Seems to me this Malia Burns and the leadership at Summit Atlas HQ is the problem. Who fires a principal in the middle of the year with no plan? I’ve had a close eye on this place and have been a skeptic from the start but from everything I’ve heard it’s been a good place for students and families in our community. Just like the public schools you have hard working teachers, principals, and volunteers working to do right for the children and then you have the disconnected Betsey Devos types ruining everything.

  • Joe January 16, 2020 (9:10 am)

    Finally she is gone. I know my comment may sound mean but it’s about time. She has mistreated and not been fair to most of the students. She has not solved any conflicts and when conflict like fights happen. There are no consequences. And she was not loved or anything of that sort by most parents. Most parents disliked her, that is why so many students where leaving. The school is split in 2 right now and i feel that this will be the fall of Summit Atlas. 

  • M.S. January 19, 2020 (11:35 pm)

    I completely agree. I don’t know about Atlas, but my son went to Sierra for two years and the “discipline” system at that school was atrocious. Last year,  my son had to turn in his cell phone just to use the bathroom because some other boys tore down some doors and the school refused to discipline them for weeks. The entire school suffered because there were not good systems in place. We are happy he’s back in SPS this year!

  • Julie January 23, 2020 (3:52 pm)

    I am sorry to hear this news. Ms. B. was a strong force building, literally, that school. She made  connections with all the students and seemed to really love and care for everyone there. For me, she was inspiring- opening a school from scratch is not an easy feat. Take good care Atlas community, I know she will be missed.

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