Tuesday, September 24, 2013

SKY Partnership Presents at Grand Prairie Symposium

If you were school-aged prior to the 21st century, you can attest to the fact that school choices were extremely limited.  Standard in most households, was that you either went to your neighborhood school or to the private school that your parents insisted that you attend.   

How exciting to know that those times have changed!  The new standard in education now is Choice.

Grand Prairie ISD recently held a one-day symposium at the University of Texas in Arlington to bring awareness to the growing need and desire for choice in education. 

The UT-Arlington event titled, “Choice: Its Role in Public Education Today, “ attracted state leaders, school superintendents, principals and national experts in education reform.  Speakers at the symposium included SBISD SKY Partnership’s MandelĂ© Davis, Project Manager, Mike Feinberg, Ed.D, founder of KIPP Houston Public Schools and Grand Prairie Superintendent, Susan Hull, Ed.D

“Folks want to make choices, they want to be responsible for their student’s education.  Meeting the needs of our parents is what we have to do,” Dr. Hull said.

Susan Hull, Ed.D, Superintendent of Grand Prairie ISD and
Mandele Davis, Project Manager, SKY Partnership

Grand Prairie ISD currently has 39 district schools. Thirteen of the 39 are Schools of Choice that include Garner Fine Arts Academy and Dubisky Career High School, both of which are highly sought after programs. 

In addition to Dr. Hull’s keynote talk, the SKY Partnership team presented insights and a first-hand look into the benefits of a public school district partnering with charter organizations. "Simply put, adding charters increases choice.

Charter schools alone are not the answer, but a great opportunity," Dr. Feinberg said.

SBISD through its SKY Partnership now offers middle school charter programs at two campuses. KIPP Courage College Prep is housed at Landrum Middle School; YES Prep at Northbrook is based at Northbrook Middle School. Over time, these programs will offer a high school charter program at Northbrook High School.

In other compelling speeches, speakers noted that we are no longer living in the days of yesteryear, but we must live in the now and hardwire our students to be successful in whatever career path they choose.

Other symposium presenters included Texas State Senators Royce West of Dallas and Kelly Hancock of North Richland Hills; J. Puckett, senior partner and managing director of Boston Consulting Group; Todd Williams, executive director of Commit!, a Dallas-based, nonprofit educational group; and David Anthony, CEO of the Austin-based nonprofit, Raise Your Hand Texas.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Knights Gear up for the Fall Athletic Season

7th grade Knights football team en route to their 2nd touch-
down of the game.  Knights win with a final score of 34-6.

On Monday, cheers came from the stands and bleachers as proud parents, teachers and fans came out to kick off the Northbrook Knights Fall athletic season.  With talented athletes from both Northbrook Middle and YES Prep at Northbrook, the Knights football and volleyball teams have created the perfect formula for a  winning season!  

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

SKY Partnership Welcomes Students to Year Two!

Some walked, some came in cars and others arrived in big yellow buses. That’s right! It’s back to school for Spring Branch ISD’s Landrum and Northbrook Middle Schools, KIPP Courage College Prep at Landrum and YES Prep Northbrook, better known as the SKY Partnership.  

YES Prep Northbrook opened its doors to students on Aug. 8th and KIPP Courage opened Aug. 19th.  Landrum and Northbrook Middle Schools both welcomed students on Aug. 26th.

Eric M. Schmidt, KIPP Courage School Leader, welcomes
 students on the first day of class
Each new or returning student at KIPP Courage was welcomed with a handshake and a smile on the first day of school. “I was nervous, at first but now I’m fine.  I’m excited to learn what I’m going to do!,” exclaimed Mayra Martinez, a new 5th grade KIPPster. 

Students, teachers and administrators at all four schools have high expectations about the upcoming school year.  All are interested in building a culture of community.

KIPP schools have developed a culture of community, family, character and success.  “We want our kids to have that culture,’’ states Eric Schmidt, School Leader at KIPP Courage.   Inside and out of the classroom, students are consistently reminded of the high expectations that are built around character strengths.  

Positive quotes line the hallways of both Landrum and Northbrook.  All students are expected to model and live character strengths such as grit, self-control, curiosity and optimism to name a few.   Inspirational quotes are scripted on the walls and hanging from the ceilings to motivate and remind each student that they have what it takes to succeed and accomplish their dreams.

KIPP Courage and YES Prep have both doubled in size. “We’re excited,” YES Prep Director Cendie Stanford said.  “Doubling in size both in adults and students in just one year is rewarding.  It means that we must be doing something right.  The word is out and we are on our way.  We’re twice as big and this year will be twice as good in all kinds of ways,” she also said.

With several days of professional development and intensive training around team building, KIPP Courage, Landrum, YES Prep and Northbrook teachers are better equipped to build a culture that will help students have a successful year. Teachers are just as motivated and eager to embark on this new school year as the students.  

 A student in Hannah Swanson's class
gets work done while seated on an
exercise ball
Hannah Swanson’s 6th grade Humanities students walked in to find that they had exercise balls in place of chairs.   Earlier this summer Hannah, their KIPP Courage teacher, spent time researching ways of keeping the brain active and pliable during learning.  Studies have shown that exercise or stability balls help students focus.  With permission from her school leader, Hannah decided to validate her findings by utilizing this alternative seating in her classroom. 

If the first few days and weeks of school are an indication of how the school year will end, then it’s clear that this year will be a great one!

See the link below to read about other SKY Partner first day preparations and activities.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Students Participate in KIPP and YES Prep Summer Sessions

New and returning Rockets gather on the opening day of
YES Prep Northbrook's summer session
For the incoming YES Prep Northbrook 6th graders, yesterday marked the end of their summer session. The Rockets have spent the last days in YES' summer session to prepare them for the start of the 2013-2014 school year.

The session kicked off last Tuesday, when all students anxiously filled the Northbrook Middle School cafeteria to meet their school leaders and staff. The orientation is designed to introduce the new students to the YES Prep culture and to reinforce the cultural standards and expectations to all returning students.

YES Prep Northbrook School Director Cendie Stanford says that "onboarding new Rockets allows both students and teachers an opportunity to learn about the school culture, make new connections, and identify ways their behaviors will help make their school a wonderful place to be from day one. Students learn about the importance of family, systems, and how they can be successful and who around them will help make this possible."
New KIPPsters checking in on
their first day of KIPPnitizing

KIPP Courage, which hosted their summer session in June, welcomed all new and returning KIPPsters for a week of programming often referred to as "KIPPnitizing." Sessions included introducing new KIPPsters to the KIPP Courage characters values, such as self-control, social intelligence and gratitude. Students learned about their Character Growth Cards, which hold them accountable for positively demonstrating and understanding the values on a 9 week cycle.

KIPPsters also learned new chants, oftentimes a hallmark of the KIPP culture. In one session, students filled the Landrum Middle School cafeteria and learned the words to "Write Baby Write." They clapped their hands to keep the beat while they chanted about the importance of literacy, proclaiming, "Now I have made the choice to change the world with my voice!"

For both KIPP and YES Prep, the summer session is a way to introduce students with the expectations around their culture of high-expectations and no excuses. Students are reminded about the importance of not only working hard, but of being nice. Particular emphasis is put on the importance of being a contributing member of their positive team culture, and the benefits that are associated with doing the right thing. After all, hard work and focused efforts deserve rewards. More on that in our next post...

Watch a video of the KIPPsters practicing "Write Baby Write" below:

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

YES Prep Rockets Participate in Inaugural Recommitment Ceremony

Rockets are awarded as SBISD's MediaFest 2013 Winners
Last week, the YES Prep Northbrook students participated in their first annual Recommitment Ceremony. Family members, community supporters and teachers filled the Northbrook Middle School gym to support the Rockets as they celebrated their accomplishments and successes during the inaugural year of the charter program.

A tradition for all YES Prep campuses, the Recommitment Ceremony is designed to reengage families of current students, recommit to YES Prep's vision of sending every student to college, and to honor students with character and achievement awards.

John Lazarine, parent of a YES Prep Rocket, addresses the
families in attendance
Speakers included Founding YES Prep Northbrook School Director Cendie Stanford, YES Prep Northbrook parent John Lazarine, current student Marco Caballero and incoming Co-School Director Victor Cota. The program also featured a musical performance by students Lizette Cisneros and Courtnee Stanford. Students Chyna Rogers and Henrry Rivera helped facilitate the ceremony.

Ms. Stanford thanked her students and staff for their commitment to an exciting and rewarding first year as the inaugural class of the YES Prep Northbrook program within Northbrook Middle School. Co-School Director Mr. Cota spoke to the program saying, "This is a system that can be tough and requires a lot from the community, but I've seen it work and it is powerful."

Julian Noyola and Jasmine Razeghi with  YES Prep Northbrook
School Directors Cendie Stanford and Victor Cota
Mr. Lazarine reflected on his daughter's transition to the charter program and spoke to the parents about their important role in their students' educational experience. "We are on a journey and this ship has taken off," he shared. Lazarine encouraged parents to "stay with your students throughout the ride."

Keynote student speaker Marco Caballero thanked his teachers for their guidance and direction this year and said his experience has helped him "believe in [him]self, no matter what."

Awards included SBISD's MediaFest 2013 winners, Honor Roll and Perfect Attendance Awards, Classroom Achievement Awards, and named Rocket Character Value Awards. Students Julian Noyola and Jasmine Razeghi were each named Rocket of the year. Both were nominated by their peers and teachers for having consistently demonstrated what it means to leave the school's core values in and out of school.

As families of the YES Prep Northbrook Class of 2019 left the ceremony, they pledged their continued support by signing a banner that read, "I am re-committed to the journey." While 141 6th graders move up to 7th grade, the School Directors and staff are preparing to welcome 145 new 6th graders for summer orientation as the program grows into its second year.

Monday, June 3, 2013

SKY Partnership Welcomes District Visitors

It is written in the SKY Partnership Compact that "through modeling what a functional and productive compact can look like, our collaboration will be a model for other Texas and national school districts and charters." Throughout this inaugural school year, the partnership has been fortunate to welcome visitors from across the city, state and nation to learn about our work.

Individuals from Spokane ISD and the Bill & Melinda Gates
Foundation meet with the WAIS Leadership Team.
Two weeks ago, the SKY team hosted a group of individuals from Spokane ISD in Washington state and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Over the course of three days, the group visited both a KIPP and YES Prep fully grown-out campus, the SKY partnership site at YES Prep Northbrook and Northbrook Middle School, and Westchester Academy for International Studies. The visit also included conversations with the SKY Superintendents, district and school leadership, as well as Spring Branch ISD board members.

In November, Washington state passed legislation allowing charter schools to operate in the state for the first time. The Gates Foundation choose the SKY Partnership to spotlight as a model of what is possible when district and charter schools work together.

City and district leaders from San Antonio and El Paso
spend the day with the SKY Partnership team.
Last week, the partnership welcomed a group of district and city leaders from San Antonio and El Paso, Texas. The visitors, who also came to learn about the unique way in which SBISD and KIPP and YES Prep are learning from one another while providing opportunities for students, toured KIPP Courage at Landrum Middle School and met with district and school leaders as well as board members from both SBISD and YES Prep.

While it is an honor to showcase the work of the SKY Partnership and share our initial learnings, there is much work to be done. The partnership has been preparing to double the program size at both KIPP Courage at Landrum and YES Prep Northbrook as they welcome incoming students for the 2013-2014 school year. Additionally, planning for the YES Prep at Northbrook High School program began in February of this year. The high school program will open in the fall of 2015 as the inaugural YES Prep Northbrook middle schoolers advance to 9th grade.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Houston City Council Member Jack Christie Visits LMS & KIPP Courage

LMS Principal Luis Pratts, TFA Staff Amanda Hagemann,
LMS Teacher Meredith Cook and Council Member Jack Christie
In classrooms across Houston last week, Teach For America teachers opened their doors to local supporters and elected officials to showcase their work. At Landrum Middle School, 7th grade math teacher Meredith Cook hosted former Spring Branch ISD Board Member and current Houston City Council Member Jack Christie.

Cook, who graduated from Texas A&M and is a first year Teach For America corps member, was teaching a lesson on personal financial literacy. As students worked to plan a mock 4-day Texas vacation within their given budget, Council Member Christie helped feed questions to check students’ understanding of unit concepts.
Council Member Christie questions students during a personal
financial literacy unit in LMS teacher and TFA Corps member
Meredith Cook's 7th grade math class at Landrum MS
Cook is one of six TFA corps members at Landrum Middle School. Landrum Principal Luis Pratts praised his TFA teachers as “an energized group who bring a lot of passion to the job.”

Council Member Jack Christie, who served as President of SBISD’s Board of Trustees, was appointed Chairman of the Texas State Board of Education from 1995-2000 . He is currently Houston’s At-Large Position 5 Council Member.

Earlier this fall, Christie spoke at KIPP Courage at Landrum’s Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, celebrating the opening of the new charter program. During this visit, he returned to KIPP Courage to see the program in action. Christie also spoke to the Landrum students about the importance of their academic learning and how the skills they are acquiring now will benefit them in the future.

Cook says her teaching experience at Landrum has been very positive. “My first year at Landrum has been so much more than I could have hoped for. I have an incredibly supportive team and students and families who have welcomed me into their lives.” The Teach for America Visit Week gave her the opportunity to celebrate the transformations taking place in her students’ lives every day. “Getting to share that experience with Jack Christie,” Cook said, “was such an honor.”

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Early College Exposure for LMS & KIPP

On Monday, April 30th, a group of seventh graders from Landrum Middle School and sixth graders from KIPP Courage at Landrum spent the day as prospective college students on a visit to Texas A&M. The visit is part of the mission of both Landrum and KIPP Courage to expose students to college campuses early and give them a taste of what the college experience is like.
Landrum and KIPP Courage students visit Texas A&M

The 91 KIPPsters earned the trip by having demonstrated positive behavior traits that are tracked as part of KIPP’s character education.  The 18 Landrum Students were all pre-AP students and were identified as positive role models in the community. The group also included 7 KIPP teachers, 2 Landrum teachers and chaperones from the KIPP Courage community.

The morning included a tour of the campus, led by a current A&M student, a visit to Kyle Field and a trip through the Memorial Student Center.  Landrum art teacher Andres Bautista arranged for eight of his former Landrum students, all now current students at A&M, to eat lunch with the group and answer any questions they had about the college experience. “I think that by meeting these former students, [our current students] realized they too can to go college,” said Mr. Bautista.
Students view insects in A&M's Entomology Department

Before starting the journey back home, KIPP Courage teacher Jazmin Castillo, an A&M alumna and Entomology major, arranged for the students to tour the Entomology Department. Led by two current doctoral students, the visiting KIPPsters and Landrum Lions were given the opportunity to examine various insects under specialized microscopes.

When asked to reflect on the trip, Landrum 7th grader Anel Sosa noted, “My favorite part of the Texas A&M trip was walking around campus looking at buildings, especially the library. I learned that students over there take everything seriously, especially the tests…they are also very proud of being there, learning as many others learned before them.”

KIPP Courage 6th grader Jabril Diop added, “I learned that it takes hard work and patience to get to college. I would consider attending Texas A&M because it seems like a great place to learn on and off campus.”

KIPP Courage students visited nearby Rice University last fall. In May, they will embark on a three day “Tour de Texas” to visit a selection of colleges and universities in San Antonio and Austin. In March, a group of Landrum students attended Xplore UT, an event which included a tour, a meal at the dining hall and the opportunity to attend a Longhorn football practice and march with the Longhorn band. The trip was offered as part of Landrum’s T-2-4 district initiative.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The NMS & YES Joy Factor

In a field outside of Northbrook Middle School, mixed groups of Northbrook and YES Prep teachers looked out at three wooden platforms and waited for their directions. "Using two 2x4 planks and without anyone touching the ground," they were told, "you must successfully get your team of 8 across three wooden 'islands.' The first team to successfully cross the islands wins!"

Northbrook and YES Prep teachers attempt to successfully
complete the "Island Crossing" challenge.
Immediately, teacher teams began strategizing, brainstorming, hearing each other's tips and tricks for how to successfully complete the challenge. Minutes later, teachers were huddling together to appropriately weigh down one end of a plank, extending an outstretched hand to help a team member in the crossing, or cheering on their teammates as they successfully reached the other side.

"Island Crossing" was one of a series of team-building opportunities that Northbrook Middle School Principal Valerie Johnson and YES Prep Northbrook School Director Cendie Stanford arranged for their sixth joint professional development session. While sessions in the past focused on sharing academic and pedagogical best practices, this one was all about celebrating the "joy factor" and allowing the two teams of staff to come together in a creative and fun setting.

Teachers use each other for support and balance in the
"Surfing" challenge.
At nearby stations, other mixed teams navigated challenges such as the Human Spider Web and the Rope Swing. Teachers laughed over unsuccessful attempts, collaborated to come up with winning strategies and cheered each other across finish lines.

The day ended with a spread of ice cream sundaes served by Northbrook and YES Prep students. Teachers were thanked not only for their efforts out on the fields, but more importantly for their teamwork and dedication in their classrooms each and every day.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

YES Prep Northbrook: Redefining Possible

On Tuesday, April 30th, more than 7,000 members of the YES Prep family celebrated their 13th annual Senior Signing Day. Students and staff from all of YES Prep's 11 campuses, along with the families of graduating seniors, YES supporters and community partners gathered in the Toyota Center to witness this year's 298 seniors declare their college acceptance decisions.

YES Prep Northbrook's first class of Rockets fill their section
in the Toyota Center for YES Prep's Senior Signing Day
As the newest YES Prep campus, the 141 Northbrook Rockets kicked off the school roll-call. Led by 6th grade Chris Espino, they chanted, "We are the Northbrook Rockets, we show up every day. We come to learn, we don't come to play!" For a clip and full text of the Rockets' roll call, see below.

YES Prep President Jason Bernal highlighted the accomplishments of the graduating seniors, 90% of whom are first generation college-bound. Combined, the seniors have earned nearly $10 million in scholarship dollars to date.

Keynote speaker Kevin P. Charous, a leader in the national education reform and parental school choice movement, addressed not only the seniors but all of the YES students, reminding them of the importance of service. He asked the students to be driven by their excellence and not misled by their success. "It is not just about you," he declared. "It is about us. Do something."

For the YES Prep Rockets, this was a day to not only celebrate the seniors who have come before them, but also to recognize their place in YES' mission to "Redefine Possible." In 2019, the inaugural YES Prep Northbrook students will prepare to begin their next four years in college. They will be given the opportunity to celebrate their efforts and accomplishments on that very stage, which yesterday felt alive and full of promise.

YES Prep Northbrook Rockets Roll Call Chant:

"We are the Northbrook Rockets, we show up every day,
We come to learn, we don't come to play.
We rep that "Y"
That's why we're so fly.
We're so hip,
We're in the SKY Partnership.
Do whatever it takes, 
We've raised the stakes.
Our vision's so clear,
In 2019, you'll see us here!"

Monday, April 15, 2013

KIPP Shares Culture with LMS

For the team at KIPP Courage, Kickboard is a beloved tool that supports their culture of high expectations and character development. A software platform designed to help educators build school culture and manage their classrooms, Kickboard allows teachers to track and analyze student behavior. 

As KIPP Courage is housed inside of Landrum Middle School, Landrum Principal Luis Pratts and KIPP Courage School Leader Eric Schmidt have worked to calibrate the cultures across the two groups, creating ways to share LMS best practices with KIPP and vice versa. During a shared professional development meeting on Friday, KIPP Courage teachers introduced Landrum staff to Kickboard and shared the ways the program supports their work.
KIPP Courage teachers Hannah Swanson and Ryan Hambley
demonstrate how they use Kickboard in their classrooms

In one presentation, KIPP 5th grade math teacher Ryan Hambley and 5th grade humanities teacher Hannah Swanson were clear that while the program does not directly fix student behaviors, it does provide accountability for the pedagogy and belief that each of the KIPP teachers live by and work to develop in their students.

Since its inception in 1994, KIPP has valued character development as central to its mission. In every KIPP school, there are seven highly-predictive character traits infused into school life: zest, optimism, gratitude, social intelligence, grit, curiosity, and self-control. Teachers incorporate these traits into their lessons and help recognize and develop them in their students.

As Hambley and Swanson walked LMS teachers through the Kickboard system, they shared a piece of the KIPP Courage culture that lives within the Landrum campus walls. This meeting followed a previous joint professional development session when KIPP and LMS teachers shared their learnings after having co-observed each other's classrooms. As teachers from both schools learn from each other about expectations and systems used, the two groups continue their efforts to establish building-wide best practices to serve all students.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Chicago Public Schools Visits the SKY Partnership

From left: Dick Streedain, Ellen Sales, Liz Kirby, Mandele
Davis, Dr. Mahalia Hines, Michael Durr and SBISD
Superintendent Duncan Klussmann on CPS' SKY visit
On Tuesday, April 9th, the SKY Partnership hosted visitors from Chicago Public Schools (CPS) in an effort to share lessons learned around our collaborative work and inform their participation in district charter collaborations.

Chicago Public Schools Board Member Dr. Mahalia Hines was joined by CPS Area Superintendent Liz Kirby, Principal Michael Durr of CPS’s John Hope College Prep, KIPP Fisher Fellow Ellen Sale, and a longtime KIPP Leadership Coach, Dick Streedain.

Chicago Public Schools is preparing for co-location arrangements in an effort to consolidate schools and utilize space available across their city. In one arrangement, Sale will open a KIPP middle school in Durr’s high school building this fall.

The visit included a meeting with Superintendent Klussmann, visits to each of the SKY sites and conversations with campus leaders, lunch with two members of the SBISD Board of Trustees and a conversation with SBISD’s SKY Partnership team.

One of the SKY Partnership’s objectives is to be recognized as a replicable model across our city, state and nation. Chicago Public Schools' visit was a wonderful way for the SKY Partnership to share our process, progress and lessons learned to help inform Chicago’s collaborative work.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Shared Professional Development at NMS & YES

Northbrook Middle School Principal Valerie Johnson gathers her staff six times a year for in-house professional development opportunities. YES Prep Northbrook School Director Cendie Stanford's school schedule releases students early on Wednesdays so that teachers are given time to plan and prepare for their classes.

YES Prep's Deion Brown leads a session on "Classroom
Routines & Procedures" for NMS and YES staff.
In an effort to create more opportunities to bring their staff together, Johnson and Stanford worked to align their schedules so that the Northbrook Middle School Professional Development days coincided with YES Prep's early release Wednesdays. Doing so has allowed the two school leaders to offer joint professional development opportunities for Northbrook and YES teachers.

On Wednesday, April 10th, the two groups gathered for an afternoon of differentiated professional development sessions, their fourth combined meeting of the year. Staff members indicated their preferences in a survey and chose from sessions led by a mix of Spring Branch ISD and YES Prep Northbrook teachers.

YES Prep Northbrook 6th grade Math teacher and Grade Level Chair Deion Brown led a session titled "Classroom Routines and Procedures." Brown shared strategies and techniques around classroom management, setting high expectations and creating consistency.

NMS's Jose Moreno and YES Prep's Angelica Hickerson
lead a session on using "Class Dojo."
A few doors down, YES Prep 6th grade ELA teacher Angelica Hickerson and NMS 8th grade Math teacher Jose Moreno teamed up to lead a joint session on using "Class Dojo," a behavior management software program. Hickerson and Moreno shared their perspectives on how each uses the program in the classroom, and encouraged participants to create accounts for their own rooms.

The NMS and YES Northbrook staff will come together again for their fifth gathering on May 1st. In the meantime, the two teams of staff left their sessions yesterday as a unified whole ready to return to their classrooms and implement the strategies they learned.

Monday, April 1, 2013

KIPPsters Perform at Landrum Middle School Auditorium

KIPP Courage students showcase their theatrical talents at a
recent performance in the Landrum Middle School Auditorium.
One of the unique features of the SKY Partnership is the sharing of Spring Branch ISD electives at the program sites. While KIPP Courage and YES Prep Northbrook students receive their core academic content from KIPP and YES teachers respectively, the students also have access to SBISD electives at their host campuses. As the programs expand by a grade level each year, students will also have access to the home campuses' athletic offerings.

At KIPP Courage this year, students choose from elective offerings including band, orchestra, karate and choir. At YES Prep Northbrook, students currently have access to theater, band, choir, art and orchestra. Electives are taught by SBISD teachers and are designed to bring students from the charter program and the host campus together in blended settings.

On Wednesday, March 27th, students from KIPP Courage's theater class presented their rendition of Sleeping Beauty to an auditorium filled with classmates, parents, teachers and supporters. At the close of the show, students received well-deserved praise for the time, effort and dedication they put towards their first performance.

Friday, March 29, 2013

SKY Partners Meet at Planning Retreat

YES Prep Northbrook School Director Cendie Stanford and
KIPP Courage School Leader Eric Schmidt review partnership
outcomes and milestones during planning retreat.
On Thursday, March 21st, the SKY Partnership Steering Committee spent half a day together at a planning retreat. Members from Spring Branch ISD, KIPP Houston, and YES Prep Public Schools gathered together to recognize and celebrate the efforts it took to successfully open the two SKY programs in July 2012.

In addition, the group was led by SKY Project Manager Mandele Davis through strategic planning conversations to ensure the partnership continues to meet its goals as the first school year comes to a close and the two programs prepare to welcome a second class of students.

The SKY Steering Committee is comprised of key leaders from each of the three partner organizations. The group meets on a bi-monthly basis to ensure the three organizations are aligned in the partnership's work, and that the partnership is progressing to meet its identified outcomes and milestones.

Rockets + Knights = R'ights

Northbrook Middle School Knights work with
YES Prep Rockets to untangle a web during
a culture building afternoon.
On the afternoon of February 14th, Northbrook Middle School Principal Valerie Johnson and YES Prep at Northbrook School Director Cendie Stanford brought the Northbrook Middle and YES Prep Northbrook 6th grades together for an afternoon of culture building.

Students filled the gym as they performed their newest chant: "We are the Knights and the Rockets and we are preparing for success, we show up every day to give our best. We are the "R’ights, that’s right! The Rockets and the Knights!" NMS and YES Prep Northbrook staff members led mixed groups of Knights and Rockets through various teambuilding activities and challenges.

As students untangled their way through human knots and tallied up points for collaborative teamwork, they proved that they really are one student body working together towards success. The day culminated with students engaging in friendly pick-up soccer games, walks around the track, or just time spent enjoying the beautiful weather as classmates...or "R’ights".

Teacher Collaboration at KIPP Courage & Landrum Middle School

KIPP Courage School Leader Eric Schmidt and Landrum
Middle School Principal Luis Pratts facilitate a conversation
with their staff during a joint professional development day.
In an effort to build more intentional avenues for collaboration between the KIPP Courage and Landrum Middle School staff members, KIPP School Leader Eric Schmidt and Landrum Middle School Principal Luis Pratts arranged for their teachers to observe each other’s classrooms.

After the co-observations occurred, they gathered the KIPP and Landrum staff members in the Landrum library to debrief about the process. Teachers shared lessons learned, suggestions for ways to increase access to each other’s classrooms and content, and their desire to continue learning from one another moving forward.

What happened in the library this day was so much more than a joint faculty meeting. Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Pratts were leading their staff members in rich and meaningful collaboration, addressing them as one body of educators working towards one collective goal: being the best educators we can be for all of our children.

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