Stacy Zhong and Lulu Bath. Photo credit: Will Austin
Because of competition for too few spots and long waiting lists, Stacy Zhong failed to find an Eastside private school for her son. Lulu Bath’s friends kept asking her for boarding school recommendations in western Washington, but she found that the options were limited. While others may have been daunted by this lack of options, Zhong and Bath saw it as an opportunity.
The longtime friends (20 years) and long-term business partners decided to create Washington Preparatory School (WPS). They envisioned a college preparatory school for sixth- through 12th-graders that included a boarding option for international students.
Now, three years later, WPS will welcome its first 60 students in the fall. Those sixth- through ninth-graders will enter the school’s temporary front doors while its permanent campus of 11 buildings on 13.5 acres of land is being built across the street on State Route 527 in Bothell.
On the roster: Zhong’s own children, a 10-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son, who are most excited about the school’s robotics program and after-school option to learn how to build video games. (Bath is also a mom; her children are now adults.)
Zhong and Bath — who co-own the popular Asian Food Center chain of food stores — met with ParentMap to discuss their vision for the future. (WPS’s interim head of school and International Baccalaureate (IB) coordinator, Joe Kennedy, also joined the interview to give further insight into the school’s programming.) Here are their aspirations for WPS, the community and their students.
What makes WPS stand out?
Bath: From our own business background, we know that students need more influence in how to build a business. [We’re also] focused on project-based learning. We want our students to be able to think more creatively.
Kennedy: You look at the elements of being an entrepreneur, and our founders are the embodiment of entrepreneurship. We’ll teach students how to apply what they know into real-world pursuits … [For example,] our STEEM program is different than traditional STEM programs because we added entrepreneurship to science, technology, engineering and math (hence the extra “E”).
WPS will offer the IB curriculum rather than the often better-known Advanced Placement (AP) option. Why?
Zhong: The IB program is based much more on creativity than AP programs, where more memorization is required [for passing AP tests]. IB asks students to know the reasons for the results.
Kennedy: The IB program builds balanced, inquisitive and reflective students, and it plays to the students’ strengths. Students learn there are no right answers. The goal is learning how to sit at the table with others and learn to figure out what you need to build a path.
What are you most looking forward to with the school opening?
Zhong: We’re excited for students to have the chance to go to top-rated universities. It’s also been great to see the community excited about our school’s great program.
Bath: In 20 years, we’ve done a lot of business together, but with this school, we’ve focused on education. [It’s been great] to help contribute to the community.
How does your experience as entrepreneurs who work together influence your work creating a school?
Bath: We know to trust each other.
Zhong: We also know how to find the right people and tell them our dreams for a top-notch education for each student. One step at a time with the goal in mind, we’re building a beautifully designed school with a great team of leaders.