News & Events
Would More School = Better Education?
Posted on Monday, September 27, 2010
On Monday, President Barack Obama spoke about goals in education reform and said he'd like to see a month added to the public school calendar. Obama's call for a longer school year is generating a lot of discussion. Fifth-grader Jacolby Youngblood said he already spends more time at school than most people do at the office. Youngblood goes to the Kipp School, a charter school on the Westside of Jacksonville that focuses on low-income children. School there is in session from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and every three weeks, the students at Kipp School have class on Saturday. "Our rule is work hard, be nice," Youngblood said. "We be nice to others, work as hard as we can. We give our best on everything we can."
The Jacksonville school is one of 99 Kipp Schools in the country. Its extended hours could become a reality for public schools across the United States. The principal at the Jacksonville Kipp School, Robert Hawke, said he thinks the president has a great idea. Nationally, 85 percent of Kipp students go to college, compared to 20 percent in neighborhood schools. "There is nothing magical we are doing," Hawke said. "We are spending a lot of time teaching our kids, and in that time making sure they learn as much as possible."
Jacksonville businesses build a home for KIPP
Posted on Friday, September 24, 2010
The business community has taken a special interest in a budding chain of charter schools, first rallying to get a Knowledge Is Power Program school in Jacksonville, and most recently blazing through a fundraising initiative. KIPP Impact Middle School, which opened last month on North McDuff Avenue, has become a pet project of sorts for a group of local business titans. Strong support from Patriot Transportation Holding Inc. Chairman John Baker and Acosta Inc. Chairman Gary Chartrand has helped funnel $9 million into the school’s $10 million capital campaign in about six months. “It has been an easy sell to businesspeople because they understand that this is a difference-maker in this city,” Baker said. “It’s not just about making the city a better place to live. It has everything to do with attracting business to the city and making it a place where companies want to come raise their families. It’s a whole package. That’s why it’s so important to me and I think why it’s important to so many other people.”
Baker and Chartrand, the two former CEOs, who now sit on the school’s board of directors, have invested $1 million apiece in it and actively lobbied the business community for donations to get the school off the ground. The efforts recently landed a $500,000 donation from Jacksonville-based Fidelity National Information Services Inc. (NYSE: FIS), adding to other large donations including $500,000 from The PGA Tour and the donation of a 150,000-square-foot former Greyhound racetrack by Howard Korman that the school is now housed in. Chartrand explains why he’s become such a staunch advocate for the schools by reciting statistics such as 30 failing or near-failing public schools in Jacksonville, the majority of which are in the urban core, and graduation rates among Jacksonville’s black males that are at 29 percent. “We wanted to shine a light on what is possible here,” Chartrand said. But getting there has required the financial support of the community. Because state and district revenues don’t cover the full cost of running charter schools — the shortfall is about $1,500 to $2,500 per student annually for KIPP — the onus is on individual donors and corporate philanthropy to help cover the cost of facilities and other expenses that are covered for district public schools.
For FIS, giving to the school, which is a college preparatory school for disadvantaged youth, fitted its mission of charitable giving to education causes. But Baker has made it a personal mission to ensure the success of the school, rallying the business community around the concept of improving educational disparities that have produced a graduation rate of 45 percent in Northwest Jacksonville. The KIPP model certainly has convinced Baker and others that it is capable of producing results. Thanks to a longer school day and year — operating 10-hour school days, Saturdays and a few extra weeks in the summer — and a sharp focus on core values of “work hard” and “be nice,” KIPP schools boast above-average scores on national standardized tests and a college matriculation rate of 85 percent. But it was tough initially convincing San Francisco, Calif.-based KIPP, which has grown into America’s largest charter chain with 99 schools in 20 states, to put its first Florida KIPP school in Jacksonville. The Jacksonville consortium of business leaders who applied for the charter were denied twice, with KIPP citing below-average per-capita education spending. “They didn’t think we were going to be able to raise the money,” Chartrand said. Discouraged by the initial denials, Baker established a KIPP-like model for an elementary school, Tiger Academy, which opened last year. He is now chairman of the board for both charter schools.
His focus now is to not only growing that school, but further expanding the KIPP schools in number and size. KIPP opened last month with 92 fifth graders, and will add sixth grade students next year, and continue adding a grade per year. Baker’s immediate plans are to open a second KIPP academy in the 2012-2013 school year, ultimately housing three schools in the same former dog track facility and branching out to five KIPP charters in Jacksonville. He’s also eager to begin standardized testing to quantify their impact. “I want to make sure we’re making progress and it’s not just warm and fuzzy stuff. I want to put that imprint on it,” said Baker, who this month stepped down as CEO of Patriot and knows he has taken on a sizable project. “It’s sad but true — I’ll be raising money for these schools for the rest of my life. Having run a business for a long time really gave me the experience to know what it took to start a new business, and in many respects, that’s what this is. You have to get people to buy into your dream.” Tom Madjanics, executive director of the KIPP school, said the broader goal of the capital campaign is to raise a total of $14 million, which will cover the costs of the first five years of operation. The $10 million it is now seeking will cover the startup expenses.