Ken Woolcott is a multi-faceted and talented entrepreneur whose accomplishments are manifold. Aside from being an attorney and business owner with over 20 years of experience in the biotech and high tech industry, he once held a minority interest in the former Seattle Supersonics, and has been passionate in his pursuit to bring a pro-basketball team back to Seattle. Now he has brought another new venture to life and this time it’s in education. He’s leveraging his assets and his business acumen to build the downtown Seattle-based Emerald City School.
The newly minted Emerald City School serves students with learning difficulties/differences in grades one through nine, including those who have been diagnosed with specific learning disabilities (LD) such as dyslexia (reading), dysgraphia (writing), and dyscalculia (math). The school has also been designed to meet the needs of a whole range of children with attention challenges (ADHD, ADD), Executive Functioning difficulties (problems with planning, organizing, strategizing, paying attention, and remembering), and autism (at the milder end of the spectrum).
Ken Woolcott was inspired by his son Spencer, who had learning challenges that weren’t being met by the Seattle Public Schools. After researching both public and private schools, Woolcott determined that none of the available programs were a good fit for his son.
What began as a personal mission for Woolcott expanded into a much larger vision. He recognized that other children had needs similar to his son Spencer. From a business standpoint, Woolcott determined that there was a market and a need for a new school. He also felt that he was bringing tremendous value to the greater community by providing more options to parents to help them meet their children’s educational needs.
Right now, the Emerald City School has an elementary school and a middle school serving grades 1 through 9. As those children mature, the school will keep adding grades. The school has about 12 to 16 students, double the number of students compared to when the school started a year ago.
Nicole Nichols, special education teacher and a Seattle-based leader in education, was recently named as the school’s Executive Director. “Emerald City School is a learning community that provides a safe and nurturing environment,” she said. “Research-based and results-based interventions and curriculum are carefully selected for students based on learning profiles and responses from each student.”
Ken Woolcott notes that Education is highly subjective and highly fashionable things come and go. “I’m very dedicated to an evidence-based, research-based method of developing curriculum to students with learning challenges,” he said. “Our philosophy is not based on fads or magic bullets. Emerald City School offers students a research-driven, evidence-based curriculum.”
Much of the school’s Learning philosophy is based on the research and findings of Marshall H. Raskind, Ph.D., who is the school’s Director of Education and Research and is widely recognized as an expert on learning disabilities. According to Ken Woolcott, “Being a small school is one of our greatest strengths because we have developed intimate relationships among the parents, children, staff and teachers.”
Another great strength is the downtown location of the school that takes advantage of some of Seattle’s finest museums and non-profits. The school has a great relationship with the Pacific Science Center, the Space Needle Corporation and the leading-edge museum EMP.
Woolcott notes that most learning disabilities are life-long issues, which is why the school fosters a culture of self-advocacy for the kids to understand their challenges and to learn how to advocate for themselves. The school focuses on imbuing students with a love of lifelong learning and of acquiring the success attributes that they will carry with them on into adulthood.
“We’re not a tutoring center,” Woolcott points out. “We have some incredibly happy kids who can’t wait to be at school. If you want to be at school, then that’s a good start in life.”