NEWS RELEASE FROM KIPP
NEW YORK, NEW YORK– July 9, 2009 – KIPP announces that Maisie Wright, one of 17 KIPP Fisher Fellows for 2009-10, will open a new public charter school in the Arkansas Delta. The Fisher Fellowship, which prepares aspiring principals to open and run new KIPP schools, is a year-long leadership training program that begins this month with a summer Institute at New York University. KIPP Delta is also announcing an opportunity to three Delta communities to sponsor this new KIPP school.
The new KIPP charter middle school to open under Ms. Wright’s leadership will be situated in one of three communities: Pine Bluff, West Memphis, or Blytheville. KIPP Delta will select the location of its new school by a competitive application process that will measure such factors as community support, parent demand, and availability of facilities and funding. On July 9, KIPP Delta is making available a request for proposals (RFP) to leaders and organizations in these three Delta communities through its website at http://www.kippdelta.org.
“I am so pleased that Maisie Wright will be the leader of Arkansas’s first KIPP Delta school outside of Helena,” said Scott Shirey, Executive Director of KIPP Delta Public Schools. “Ms. Wright was an outstanding teacher at KIPP Delta College Prep and she has the skills and knowledge to ensure that all of the students at her new school will reach their academic potential.”
Ms. Wright’s training will help KIPP Delta reach its goal of having 12 KIPP schools in up to four Arkansas Delta communities by 2019, which will collectively double the number of college-ready seniors in the region. Most recently, Ms. Wright was a math and science teacher at KIPP Delta College Preparatory School in Helena. She got her start in education as a corps member with Teach For America in the Delta after graduating from Cornell University in 2006.
“After a seven year track-record of success, we are thrilled that KIPP Delta is poised to expand outside of Helena,” explains Teach For America Executive Director Ron Nurnberg. “Scott Shirey and the other KIPP principals are part of a growing number of Teach For America alumni who are choosing school leadership and the Delta as their long term home.”
KIPP Delta has raised nearly $5 million dollars towards its goal of having $8 million by 2013 to support operational growth for its first phase of expansion. Recent donations to KIPP Delta include $1.5 million from the Walton Family Foundation and $447,500 from the Louis Calder Foundation, which will support the KIPP Delta Elementary Literacy Academy.
The Walton Family Foundation matching grant will help KIPP Delta with start up and infrastructure costs associated with expanding to a wider region, including transportation for students who are in remote rural locations. To help seed further fundraising, The Walton Family Foundation will match any funds that KIPP Delta raises for three years as long as the match does not exceed the grant amount for that year.
“We wanted to support KIPP Delta’s expansion because of its strong academic success and its talented leaders and teachers,” said Kathy Smith, Senior Program Officer for Arkansas Education Reform Initiatives at the Walton Family Foundation. “We are excited that Ms. Wright will be moving into a leadership position and we look forward to seeing how KIPP Delta will transform the educational landscape for underserved students across the region.”
In 2000, Doris and Donald Fisher, co-founders of Gap, Inc., partnered with KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) co-founders Feinberg and Dave Levin to replicate the success of KIPP’s first two schools by recruiting, training, and supporting new KIPP principals. The Fellowship begins with a five-week Summer Institute at New York University that includes seminars from NYU professors and KIPP educators, and residencies at KIPP schools across the country. In early 2010, the Fellows return to their home regions to begin laying the groundwork for opening their new schools that summer.
“I’m honored to be accepted into the Fisher Fellowship, where I will receive invaluable training and mentoring to lay the groundwork for opening a high-performing public school in the Delta,” Ms. Wright said. “I am looking forward to the year ahead and to building my school from the ground up in 2010.”
The 2009 Fisher Fellows class is diverse and has strong education qualifications. About 60 percent of the Fellows are people of color, the most diverse since the program started in 2001. In addition, 70 percent of the total applicant pool identified themselves as people of color, an important number, as 96 percent of KIPP students are African-American or Latino/Hispanic. This class of Fellows also has a record number of alumni from Teach For America (70 percent). All three of KIPP Delta’s current school leaders, including Mr. Shirey, are Teach For America alumni.
The new KIPP school will build on KIPP Delta’s growing reputation for academic excellence. KIPP Delta College Preparatory School, the first KIPP school in the region, served 260 students in grades five through eight. In spring of 2008, 86 percent of KIPP Delta College Prep’s eighth graders scored proficient or advanced on the Arkansas Benchmark Exam in math, compared to 56 percent of students across the state. Last year, KIPP Delta College Prep was one of only three Arkansas schools to be named a 2008 Blue Ribbon School by U.S. Department of Education.
This summer, Amanda Johnson is opening KIPP Delta Elementary Literacy Academy to begin preparing students for college as early as kindergarten. The new KIPP elementary school will start with roughly 50 kindergartners and 50 first grade students, and add a grade each year to become a full kindergarten through fourth grade elementary school in 2013, which will serve 375 students.
“KIPP Delta is setting a new standard for rural education in the Delta and across the country,” said KIPP Foundation CEO Richard Barth. “With KIPP expanding outside of Helena, there is tremendous opportunity ahead for students in the Delta to reach excellence and climb the mountain to college.”