October 8, 2008

National Charter School Coming Soon The Multi-State School, Which Targets Underprivileged Students, Will Open in 2010.


A nationally renowned charter school headed to Jacksonville will help to raise standards and become an example of what can be achieved in public education in the city and the state, organizers and philanthropists said Monday.

The Knowledge Is Power Program (commonly called KIPP) is a network of public college preparatory charter schools that targets underprivileged students. The organization has 66 schools in 19 states and, on Monday, Jacksonville was named the program's first Florida city.

The local KIPP school is scheduled to open in 2010.

"I think it's going to raise the bar for every school in the city," said Jane Vance, director of Jacksonville Advocates for KIPP Schools, a group of community leaders that lobbied to bring KIPP to Jacksonville.

"I think competition always makes things better, so I think it's going to help every kid in the city," she said. "It's going to be a ripple effect."

KIPP schools have 9 -hour school days, Saturday classes twice a month and a three-week summer session.

"Every child who attends a KIPP school knows what year they're going to start college from the first day they have any interaction with the school leader or the teachers," said Mikelle Willis, the program's director of new site development.

The startup cost for the school will be more than $600,000 over three years. In addition, the school will cost about $1,000 to $1,200 more per student than a typical charter school. The school will receive traditional state funding, but additional money will be raised through philanthropy.

Local business leaders John Baker, former chief executive officer of Florida Rock Industries, and Gary Chartrand, CEO of Acosta Inc., are part of the advocacy team that brought KIPP to Jacksonville and will spearhead fundraising.

"I think there's a wonderful movement happening in Jacksonville, and it started a couple of years ago with the initiative to bring Teach For America here," Chartrand said. "And it was quickly followed up with our ambition to get KIPP. Community leaders are saying we have got to fix the education system here."

About 5 percent of KIPP teachers are in unions, primarily in the Northeast, said Steve Mancini, a KIPP spokesman. The program doesn't have a position on unions, Mancini said, but he stressed that its principals must have the power to hire, fire or transfer teachers in order for the KIPP model to work.

Terrie Brady, president of local union Duval Teachers United, said she was "cautious" about the KIPP school.

"I hope they're held to the exact same standard as our public schools," she said.

Organizers plan to submit their application for charter to either the county or the state by the summer, Vance said. The immediate goal is to find the school's principal by February and to continue raising money for the [email protected], (904) 359-4169

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