Letter to Kirkpatrick Elementary Families – December 5, 2014

DOWNLOAD this letter as a PDF.

Dec. 5, 2014

Dear Kirkpatrick Elementary School Parents,

We are writing to tell you about an important change being planned for your school next year. The change would primarily affect next year’s Kindergarten and 1st grade classes (students who are currently Pre-Kindergarten age or in Kindergarten this year), and we want to be sure you have all the information and opportunities to have your questions answered.

The state and our local school district measure student achievement at all schools to determine if students are receiving an education that will prepare them for success in life. Based on the data measured by the state and our school district, unfortunately, Kirkpatrick Elementary School is not currently giving students the high-quality education they deserve.

District and school leaders are developing plans to improve all low-performing schools in Nashville, including Kirkpatrick. The school district has looked closely at Kirkpatrick’s challenges and needs, and believes the school could benefit the most from a partnership with a charter school in order to provide extra attention and support for the students in the school. Charter schools are independent public schools operated by a separate organization approved by the School Board.

The School Board authorized KIPP Nashville as a public charter school operator to convert a low-performing school starting in the 2015-2016 school year, and we are considering their support in transforming Kirkpatrick into a high-performing neighborhood school. KIPP currently operates two high-performing neighborhood public schools in Nashville and just opened Collegiate High School this summer in East Nashville. KIPP Academy Nashville and KIPP Nashville College Prep are both rated in the top performance category on the annual review of school performance by the school district. KIPP Academy Nashville, located at the Highland Heights building in East Nashville, has also been identified by the state of Tennessee as a “Reward” school, which means it ranked in the top 10% of the state in academic gains made by students. KIPP is committed to serving students in East Nashville with a community school that offers strong college preparatory education, a safe character-building culture for every single child and supports for students and families to and through college.

KIPP’s plan is a “phased conversion” for Kirkpatrick, which means they will begin by operating only Kindergarten and 1st grade next year. KIPP will then add an extra grade each year until they operate the entire school. This allows them to provide individual attention to students, get to know the community, and build a positive school culture. During this time of transition, MNPS would continue to manage the other grades and share the school with KIPP. This is called “co-location” and it means that if KIPP transforms Kirkpatrick, students in the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th grades next year will not be part of the KIPP school.

We want to know your opinions on the needs at Kirkpatrick. A parents’ meeting with KIPP’s leaders will be held at Kirkpatrick on Monday, December 15 at 4 p.m. School representatives will also be in your neighborhood in the coming weeks to talk with you personally.

Alan Coverstone                                                                Jesse Register
Executive Officer for Innovation                                          Director of Schools
Metro Schools                                                                   Metro Schools

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Kirkpatrick being considered for this transformation partnership with KIPP? Kirkpatrick has the highest need of all elementary schools in the district. Fewer than one in five children at Kirkpatrick are at grade level in math, reading and science. Teachers and parents have shared that their children need strong psychological supports and other wrap-around services. There is also a need for much stronger parent engagement so students come to school every day, stay in their school and have consistent educational support at home.

What does this mean for my child? Under this partnership, KIPP would operate kindergarten and first grade at Kirkpatrick starting in the 2015-16 school year. Metro Schools would operate grade 2-4, with one more grade going to KIPP each year until 2018-19. The district will also continue to operate the prekindergarten classes at Kirkpatrick. While KIPP operates lower grades, the upper grades at Kirkpatrick would also implement a full turnaround strategy. Metro Schools is committed to serving the 2nd – 4th grades in the school next year and until KIPP eventually serves the entire school. This helps families (for example, keeping siblings together and ensuring every zoned student still has access to the same neighborhood school) and gives the schools an opportunity to collaborate.

Is this a final decision? The Director of Schools is ready to recommend Kirkpatrick for a KIPP partnership. It is the highest need school and fits well with the KIPP model. A final decision will be made once there has been additional communication and engagement with parents.

Will students be offered any other school choices? Yes, and Metro Schools will work to make sure parents are fully informed of the school options available to them. Families can choose from a number of schools in the community, like:

  • KIPP at Kirkpatrick in grades K-1;
  • Kirkpatrick Elementary in grades 2-4;
  • Explore Community School in grades K-1;
  • Lockeland Elementary School, with transportation provided by MNPS (available to those who apply through the school selection process);
  • Rosebank Elementary School, with transportation provided by MNPS; and more.

District staff will make personal contact with each family to make sure they understand their options and can make an active choice of which school they want to attend.

What can you tell me about KIPP? KIPP is a respected local public charter operator and its two neighborhood schools in Nashville have great results. They just opened their third school, a high school, this school year. Families are encouraged to visit the website, www.kippnashville.org, attend the upcoming parent meeting, and take a tour of KIPP schools. KIPP representatives will be visiting homes in the coming weeks to talk with families and schedule tours.

What comes next?

  • Parent meeting at Kirkpatrick, December 15 at 4pm
  • Parent survey distributed on December 16
  • Tours for Kirkpatrick parents of KIPP’s other two schools in December and January
  • Home visits from a school representative

Dr. Register identifies Kirkpatrick Elementary School for KIPP partnership

MNPS-KIPP collaboration would improve opportunities and outcomes

Director of Schools Dr. Jesse Register today identified Kirkpatrick Elementary School for a turnaround partnership with charter operator KIPP Nashville starting in the 2015-16 school year.

Today’s announcement comes after careful analysis of many factors including data, instructional observations, student needs and parent and faculty input. The thorough assessment led to the identification of Kirkpatrick as the elementary school in East Nashville with the greatest need for the type of transformational model offered by KIPP, which is a high-performing public charter network in Nashville.

“We have the opportunity to give students in a chronically low-performing school access to a proven, highly-effective school model,” Dr. Register said. “This is the right school for a KIPP partnership. Kirkpatrick is a high-need school with unique challenges. The proven skills and strategies KIPP brings to the table match well with Kirkpatrick’s needs. They can have a greater impact and make more of a difference here than at other high-need schools in the area. We are grateful to have such a willing and capable partner join us in giving more high quality educational opportunities to children in this community.”

In June of this year, the Board of Education approved a charter with KIPP to partner with Metro Schools to improve a consistently low-performing Metro elementary school and asked Dr. Register to select the school. Parents and faculty were notified today that Kirkpatrick has been identified as the preferred school for a KIPP partnership. District administration and local leadership of KIPP will work closely with parents and faculty over the next several weeks to develop a partnership plan to best serve the needs of the students and families of Kirkpatrick.

Under this partnership, KIPP and Metro Schools would collaborate to improve outcomes for all children in all grades at Kirkpatrick. KIPP would operate kindergarten and first grade starting next August. Second through fourth grades would remain under operation by Metro Schools in 2015-16, with one additional grade going to KIPP each year through 2018-19. All students in all grades who currently attend Kirkpatrick will still be guaranteed a spot at the Kirkpatrick campus.

A similar partnership model was completed last year at Cameron Middle School, now Cameron College Prep, which is operated by LEAD Public Schools. That partnership led to both the charter school at Cameron and the grades remaining in the traditional school being named Reward Schools last year by the Tennessee Department of Education.

KIPP is a national charter organization that currently operates two middle schools and one high school in Nashville. KIPP Nashville schools are consistently rated among the highest performing in Nashville, earning the “Excelling” label on the district’s Academic Performance Framework (APF). KIPP Academy Nashville, located at the Highland Heights building in East Nashville, has also been identified by the state of Tennessee as a “Reward” school, ranked in the top 10 percent of the state in academic gains made by students. The school was also recently named a finalist for the 2014 SCORE Prize.

“Even though this model of starting a school is new to us, the fundamentals of what KIPP Nashville brings to the table are a great fit for Kirkpatrick,” said Randy Dowell, executive director of KIPP Nashville. “There is fertile ground for big improvements at this school. Strong academics, a focus on each student’s well-being and building young minds to prepare them for college: that’s what we’re about and what we can offer to Kirkpatrick families. We are prepared to support the community any way we can.”

Kirkpatrick Elementary has the greatest need of all schools eligible for a partnership with KIPP. It is the lowest scoring elementary school in East Nashville on the district’s Academic Performance Framework and had steep declines in academic achievement over the last three years.

In analyzing data, observing the school and speaking with teachers and families, a few of the biggest needs at Kirkpatrick were identified as:

  • fewer than one in five students are at grade level in reading, math and science;
  • students need comprehensive wrap-around services including psychological supports and resources to combat concentrated poverty in the area; and
  • the school needs strong parent engagement to keep children in school and help families support educational opportunities at home.

KIPP is well equipped to address the needs at Kirkpatrick through its whole-child and an instructional model that places equal importance on academics and social and emotional development. The KIPP school at Kirkpatrick would strive for high growth and overall achievement while giving students a well-rounded education. Instruction would focus on individualized learning with two teachers in core classrooms, daily small group instruction in reading and math, evidence-based curriculum and interventions and full offerings for art, music and extra-curricular activities. There would also be a full-time mental health counselor at the school, as well as special education teachers to support students in every grade.

Amy Galloway would serve as school leader for the KIPP grades at Kirkpatrick. Dowell personally chose her for this position after a rigorous selection process. She is in her 9th year with the KIPP network and has been an elementary assistant principal and School Leader. She also completed the Fisher Fellowship program, an intensive, one-year KIPP leadership program to develop founders and leaders of new schools. She has a bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts from Penn State and a Masters in Education, with special education certification, from Chestnut Hill College. She most recently served as co-leader of KIPP Philadelphia Elementary.

“I am ready to dive into a partnership with the students, families and faculty at Kirkpatrick,” said Galloway. “Our goal is to work with school leadership so we can build on the foundation already in place. The teachers have developed strong relationships with families and the school has deep roots in the community. We want to respect that and build on it so we can give every child in the community a high-quality education.”

Outreach to Kirkpatrick families continues with a callout today informing them of the planned partnership with KIPP. Letters explaining the partnership in greater detail will go home tomorrow in student backpacks. The letter will also invite parents to a meeting on Monday, Dec. 15 where district, school and KIPP leaders will speak with parents and answer their questions about what this transition could mean for their children. A survey will be mailed home to all families zoned for Kirkpatrick on Tuesday, Dec. 16. This survey will collect input on how a KIPP turnaround partnership can best serve all students and families. These additional communications and opportunities for engagement will take place prior to a final decision being made.

Parents will also be fully informed of the school options available to them. They can choose from a number of schools in the community, like:

  • KIPP at Kirkpatrick in grades K-1;
  • Kirkpatrick Elementary in grades 2-4;
  • Explore Community School in grades K-1;
  • Lockeland Elementary School, with transportation provided by MNPS (available to those who apply through the school selection process);
  • Rosebank Elementary School, with transportation provided by MNPS; and more.

Tours of other KIPP schools will be available in December and January so families can make informed choices about what school would best serve their children.

School-based budgeting gives power to the principals

“Knowledge about the needs of students is greatest closest to the student… School leaders require the ability to make decisions based on their knowledge, expertise and professional discretion.”

In a world of principal autonomy and school-based decision making, what is left for the central organization of a modern school district? Where does it fit in, and what role does it have to play?

Here in Nashville, the role of central office is changing dramatically. The top-down management structure is disappearing. In its place is a knowledge and support organization designed to provide central services, study and share innovative practices, develop leaders and keep schools accountable. In fact, this change is already reflected in the district budget and in a pilot program working in 15 schools right now for school-based budgeting.

What is school-based budgeting, and what does that look like?

At these 15 schools, principals have direct control over $6,300 per student (on average), meaning they can spend that money as they see fit. That number is expected to increase over time. The rest of the money goes to central services like transportation, food services, human capital, textbooks, building services and more.

SEE the school’s individual budgets.

The idea is to bring powerful decision-making power right into the schools, where the most knowledge about individual students lives. Next year, this program is expected to expand to 50-60 schools and could go district-wide by 2015-16.

During that time the whole concept could go even further, putting 100% of per-pupil funding on school level budgets. That would greatly expand the level of flexibility and discretion given to each principal and ensure funding is distributed equitably based on individual student need. In that scenario, school leaders would “buy” central services from the district, and there would be certain non-negotiable services like the Board of Education.

This is a culture change, moving central office to a system of specialized support for schools and giving more decision-making power to principals.

How bad is the overcrowding in Antioch’s elementary schools? See for yourself.

Lakeview Elementary School currently has ten portables on campus. They have requested another seven portables for next year. If approved, these seventeen (17!) portables would house 280 students.

Take a look at what the Lakeview campus looks like this year:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Imagine seven more portables in those pictures. It doesn’t look good, nor does it serve students the way they deserve. In the next few years Lakeview will inch closer and closer to 1,000 students in a building meant to serve only 650.

Something needs to be done to help Lakeview students and families. And it needs to be done now.

That’s why we need to start right now by approving the purchase of a piece of land on Smith Springs Road. It’s ideally located to relieve overcrowding at Lakeview and nearby Thomas Edison Elementary. The longer we delay, the worse it gets for families at Lakeview and Thomas Edison.

If we started the process right now, it would still take until the fall of 2015 to open the doors on a new school because of standard planning and construction times. We can’t afford any more delays.

Contact your Metro Council Members TODAY and ask them to vote to purchase the land. We need to start planning for this school, and we can’t do that until we own the land.

  • Email all Council Members using this email address (councilmembers@nashville.gov) or go to the Council website to find your district’s representative.
  • Make phones ring in support of needed schools in Antioch. All Council Members’ phone numbers can be found on the Council website. Here’s how to contact Antioch area and at-large Council Members:

Robert Duvall
District 33
robert.duvall@nashville.gov
862-6780

Jacobia Dowell
District 32
jacobia.dowell@nashville.gov
731-3177

Fabian Bedne
District 31
(habla español)
fabian.bedne@nashville.gov
829-6226

Karen Johnson
District 29
karen.johnson@nashville.gov
977-6721

Duane Dominy
District 28
duane.dominy@nashville.gov
862-6780

Megan Barry
At-large
megan.barry@nashville.gov
480-3008

Ronnie Steine
At-large
ronnie.steine@nashville.gov
862-6780

Tim Garrett
At-large
tim.garrett@nashville.gov
859-1047

Charlie Tygard
At-large
charlie.tygard@nashville.gov
256-7146

Jerry Maynard
At-large
jerry.maynard@nashville.gov
862-6780

Myth vs. Fact: Building a new school for Antioch

MYTH
There are no elementary age students in the area.

FACTS
Lakeview and Thomas Edison Elementary Schools are overcrowded. Right now Lakeview serves nearly 900 students in a building meant for 650. Overcrowded schools mean portables, large classes and increased difficulty serving students in a building and grounds designed for fewer children.

There’s no denying it. These schools are packed to the rafters and need relief. On top of that, the Antioch area is the fastest growing in the city. We currently have six projects in the planning stages for adding classrooms to this area of Davidson County, and the demand keeps growing.

The need is clearly there, but what about this specific school? What sort of impact would it have?

In the proposed (not final) zone for a new elementary school on Smith Springs Road, there are 400 elementary age students currently attending Lakeview and Thomas Edison. That doesn’t count students in optional schools or students who will reach elementary age before the school is built.

The immediate impact of a new school opening right now on Smith Springs Road would be 400 fewer students at Lakeview and Thomas Edison. In the two years it would take for the school to open, that number will be much larger.

Ask teachers at Lakeview or Edison and they will tell you: that means welcome and sweet relief from a serious overcrowding issue.

MYTH
The school would cause major traffic problems on Smith Springs Road.

FACTS
We never build or renovate or expand without considering the impact on traffic. We commissioned a traffic study from an independent civil engineer who graded different areas of Smith Springs Road an A-F scale. Separate grades are given for different times of day to give a complete picture of traffic throughout the day.

As it is now, the road rates A’s and B’s. There is one C, given to the intersection at Smith Springs and Anderson Road during morning rush hour.

Existing Traffic Study - Resized

Looking into the future when an elementary school sits on the property, traffic doesn’t look much different. There are a few more areas rated C, but added delays would not be significant.

Projected Traffic Study - Resized

Any development on this property would have an impact on traffic. It’s a large piece of land with just two houses on it. No matter what this land becomes in the future, it will bring more traffic with it. But we believe strongly in respecting and enhancing the neighborhoods we serve. We want to minimize the impact. That’s why our plan calls for installing turn lanes in front of each school entrance. We also plan to build sidewalks all along the property line on Smith Springs Road.

Ordinarily we would connect those sidewalks with the city sidewalk system, but there are no city sidewalks in this neighborhood. The Metro Planning Commission has recommended sidewalks be installed on Smith Springs Road. That recommendation is before the Metro Council right now.

MYTH
There are other properties better suited for a new school.

FACTS
There aren’t. This is the best available property for our needs. Here’s why.

Picking a site for a new school is a long and complex process. A lot of thought goes into choosing just the right spot. The property on Smith Springs Road fits several key criteria for a new school:

  1. It sits in the middle of a high-need area. We need more classrooms in this area, and this site is well suited to provide them.
  2. It’s available. This is surprisingly important. In an area that’s seeing a lot of development (like Antioch), it can sometimes be tough to find an available property at the right price.
  3. It’s already well-suited for construction. We need our property to be relatively flat and easily accessible to families. This property isn’t filled with hills and rises. In other words, it won’t require a million dollars worth of digging before construction can begin.
  4. It’s in close proximity to all needed utilities. This includes water and sewer, which can be expensive if not already present. It also comes with the needed water pressure for fire services, which can also be expensive to make from scratch.

There was one other piece of property on Smith Springs Road that looked promising, but it was much smaller and would have been more difficult and costly to develop.

Some have suggested the former Starwood site as a perfect location for an elementary school. In theory this isn’t a bad idea. But in reality it’s a long way from ideal.

To start with, that property is directly across the street from Mt. View Elementary School. It doesn’t make sense to build one elementary school right next to another one. How do you draw the zones? Why build a new school where one exists already? In addition, it’s too far away from where it’s needed most: Priest Lake.

We didn’t make this choice lightly. School site selection is a long and involved process that looks a lot of different factors. This property on Smith Spring Road checked off all of those factors better than any available property in the area.

MYTH
New schools would reduce property values.

FACTS
New schools on Smith Springs Road would add public green space, community meeting space, ball fields and playgrounds to the neighborhood. They would also bring high-quality education to the neighborhood in brand new facilities.

Neighborhood schools add value to their communities.

MYTH
Metro Parks wants to buy the property for a new public park, but can’t because we want to build a school.

FACTS
This is not true.

While Metro Parks officials expressed interest in the property years ago, they currently have no plans to pursue it. Parks Director Tommy Lynch personally assured us of this fact. Any rumor to the contrary is completely untrue.

MYTH
This decision was made with no community input or consultation with the city.

FACTS
There were several community meetings when the district developed its 10-year student assignment plan for the area, which was approved in 2010. See the website for more information in Spanish and English.

Our planning teams met with the Planning Commission more than a year ago to review this specific site. They have also met with Metro Public Works to look at the plan. The appropriate parties were consulted at every stage of the planning process and will continue to be.

Our Board members have held two public community meetings on this issue open to all neighbors and Council Members.

MYTH
We want to immediately build two schools – one elementary and one middle.

FACTS
Our immediate plans call for a new elementary school. The Antioch area badly needs a new middle school, as well, but that is not in our immediate plans.

We do plan to work with Metro Public Works to address neighborhood infrastructure needs in anticipation of a new middle school in the future.

The property is well suited for both an elementary and a middle school. We prefer to buy property that can serve both tiers, as we have done for A.Z. Kelley Elementary / Thurgood Marshall Middle and Shayne Elementary / Oliver Middle.

You can help relieve overcrowding in Antioch schools!

Visit Lakeview Elementary School and you will notice one thing right away: portables. Lakeview has 10 portables on its campus because it is serving nearly 900 students in a building designed for 650. Within the next five years it’s expected to hit 141% of its building capacity.

The situation looks very similar at Thomas Edison Elementary just three miles away. Thomas Edison was built in 2004, but already it’s at 112% of its building capacity with more than 700 students.

How did it get this way?

Antioch is one of the fastest growing areas in Nashville. The need for new classrooms is here right now and can only get more pressing in the coming years.

Click to see where the proposed site lies in relation to homes and existing schools.

Click to see where the proposed site lies in relation to homes and existing schools.

What’s the solution? 

Situated north of both Lakeview and Thomas Edison, on the other side of several housing developments and subdivisions, is a piece of property on Smith Springs Road by Percy Priest Lake that could be the future home of a new Metro elementary school.

If this school were to open right now, it would enroll some 400 students who live nearby and currently attend Lakeview and Thomas Edison. If it opens – as we hope it will – in the fall of 2015, it could be home to up to 800 neighborhood students.

Why this property?

As explained above, the property is located in an ideal spot. It’s not too close to existing schools, but very close to students who need schools. It’s close to utilities and already well suited for construction without needing excessive grading and site preparation. The property owners are willing to sell the property to the school system.

We feel like it’s a great site for an elementary school and, eventually, a middle school that is also badly needed in that area.

So what can we do?

While we’re optimistic that we can build a new elementary school on this property, it’s not a done deal just yet. Metro Council already approved the money to purchase this land as part of the Metro capital budget last year, but now Metro Council must now approve the actual purchase.

You can help relieve the overcrowding in Antioch schools by supporting the purchase of this land. Write to your Council representative and tell him or her that you support building a new neighborhood school in Antioch on Smith Springs Road.

Write all Council Members at once using this email address:

CouncilMembers@nashville.gov

Write Antioch-area Council Members:

Robert Duvall
District 33
robert.duvall@nashville.gov

Jacobia Dowell
District 32
jacobia.dowell@nashville.gov

Fabian Bedne
District 31
fabian.bedne@nashville.gov

Karen Johnson
District 29
karen.johnson@nashville.gov

Duane Dominy
District 28
duane.dominy@nashville.gov

Write At-large Council Members:

Megan Barry
megan.barry@nashville.gov

Ronnie Steine
ronnie.steine@nashville.gov

Tim Garrett
tim.garrett@nashville.gov

Charlie Tygard
charlie.tygard@nashville.gov

Jerry Maynard
jerry.maynard@nashville.gov

Two teachers at Metro Schools named Nashvillians of the Year for 2012

Nashvillians of the Year Cover Photo

Cover courtesy of The Nashville Scene and photographer Michael W. Bunch

What a way to end 2012.

Two teachers in Metro Schools have been named Nashvillians of the Year by the Nashville Scene. Adam Taylor of Overton High School and Christina McDonald of Nashville Prep Charter School represent the teachers who “give Nashville’s schoolchildren, no matter what their background, a fighting chance to reach their brightest future.”

In a lengthy and detailed article, reporter Steven Hale lays out the bare – and sometimes forgotten – fact in our city’s current debate over education: whether charter school or district school, great teachers are at the center of great education.

It’s a great piece, and I strongly recommend you take a few moments to read the full article so you can see how teachers like Christina and Adam can bring the focus of the education discussion back where it belongs.

The Scene would like to refocus the discussion of public education not on differences and squabbles, but on the enormous asset that charter and public schools have in common: the teachers who are the most active, direct agents of hope Nashville’s children will face outside the home. As our 2012 Nashvillians of the Year, the Scene honors two such instructors: one from a charter school, Christina McDonald at Nashville Prep, and one from a traditional Metro district school, Adam Taylor at Overton High.

They are hardly alone. Space does not permit us to list the many outstanding district and charter teachers who slug it out in Nashville’s trenches throughout the school year, fighting the shared enemies of poverty, hunger, troubled home lives, behavioral problems, language barriers, bad outside influences and limited resources. But McDonald and Taylor are sterling examples of what can be accomplished by creative thinking, supportive administrators, and sheer determination. To look inside their classrooms is to see small miracles happen every day — and to see a brighter future for Nashville schoolchildren of all races and backgrounds than statistics sometimes let us hope.

Read the full article here.