KIPP Inspire Academy Featured In St. Louis Post- Dispatch Editorial
To view the original version click here. By the Editorial Board
Demetrius, proudly wearing his KIPP Inspire Academy “Class of 2020” T-shirt, was welcoming community leaders to hear about the charter school’s plans for continued growth in St. Louis. For Mrs. Cheak, principal of St. Elizabeth’s Academy, the moment brought together the past and the future.
Long before KIPP took over the building, Mrs. Cheak had attended St. Francis de Sales, a once-vibrant Archdiocesan school in her South Side neighborhood. Her father, too, had attended the school. On this day, young Demetrius explained how KIPP was helping him reach his goals, which some day include coming back to the school to teach math.
He’ll do it, he says, by following the KIPP motto: Work hard. Be nice.
Here’s an idea:
How about if the entire St. Louis region adopted the same concept in working to improve public schools? There are plenty of people working hard to improve schools in St. Louis.
St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams and his staff are working hard.
Charter school proponents, be they connected to the successful KIPP model, or the parochialACCESS Academies model, are working hard. Lawmakers, some of them at least, are working hard at making sure state laws allow kids to have access to schools that are better than the ones near their homes that sometimes don’t meet state standards.
Teachers, thousands of them, work hard every day, facing any number of challenges to help children of poverty reach their potential.
Sometimes, though, these numerous constituencies, aren’t very nice to each other.
For St. Louis children like Demetrius to have a chance, they need to try harder. The success of the next generation of school children relies on all of us.
Mrs. Cheak was at Monday’s event, in which KIPP co-founder Mike Feinberg outlined the game plan for the nation’s most successful nonprofit charter school organization. The first class of KIPP Inspire graduates is ready to enter high school, and some of those students will end up at the Catholic, all-girls St. Elizabeth’s, under the guidance of Mrs. Cheak.
This is the reality of the various, sometimes conflicting, attempts to improve public schools: We’re all in this together.
Mr. Feinberg talks about KIPP ultimately reaching 10 percent of a city’s public school-eligible children. That’s a large-enough percentage to push the public school system toward some of the practices that have been mostly successful in KIPP schools throughout the nation. Those include longer school days, training excellent principals and giving them more control and insisting on more parental involvement in their children’s education.
St. Louis is full of old school buildings like St. Francis de Sales, public and parochial alike, that symbolize both the decline in the city’s population and they accompanying decay in its ability to educate its children. It’s not a story unique to St. Louis, but common in urban cores all across the country.
The solution to urban decay involves waking the ghosts of those old tight-knit communities, where everybody in the village worried about every child, and recommitting ourselves to the sort of future where a fifth-grader named Demetrius can be one of the most eloquent speakers in a roomful of suits.
Work hard, be nice, said the future math teacher.
It’s good advice.