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KIPP charter network centralizes curriculum across 11 schools

At the Knowledge is Power Program charter school board meeting on March 30, the board continued to centralize the approach to governance and academics across all 11 of the network’s New York City charter schools. Specifically, new superintendent James Manly presented members with a plan to more closely align curricula at the 11 schools in what he called “a cultural change as well as a systems-and-structures change” for the network.

“We felt teachers were spending a ton of time writing their own lesson plans,” Manly said. Giving them a common curriculum, which is aligned with the Common Core, would provide “them some more time.” Manly said creating a standard curriculum would also allow the organization to see who is “on target.” Currently, he said, the academic performance across schools is too inconsistent.

Manly worked for the Success Academy charter network for seven years and will officially become superintendent on July 1. Some of Manly’s goals for the 2015-2016 school year include half of all fourth and eighth graders passing their state English language arts exams, and 75 percent of the graduating class receiving an Advanced Regents diploma.

“We need to set that standard,” he said. KIPP schools’ new curriculum will be the the Wheatley portfolio, an English and math curriculum that is aligned to the Common Core. Purchasing new materials for the curriculum comprises a large part of the 2016 proposed budget of $2.6 million. The network will also be spending more money on the growing, centralized team that provides technical, legal and financial services to all of the schools. Manly proposed a fundraising goal of $13.6 million.

Board members also learned that the Board of Regents renewed the charters for both KIPP Amp in Brooklyn and KIPP Infinity in Manhattan. KIPP Amp, however, received only a 3.5-year renewal, opposed to the 4.5-year standard, because of subpar test scores. Chief operating officer Alicia Johnson said this did not come as a surprise. The state will continue to monitor the progress of KIPP Amp’s growth to ensure it’s in line with other schools in District 17, Johnson reported.

Board members also voted to approve Latasha Williams, a previous employee at Success Academy and the Department of Education, as the new principal for KIPP Amp middle school.

In a more heartfelt moment, board member David Levine bid a tearful farewell to David Massey, who is stepping down after 15 years as the board chair.

“We’ve been blessed to have such consistent leadership,” Levine said. Massey said the time constraints of his job as an attorney became too taxing. He will now sit on the board that oversees KIPP’s foundation, but none of the schools.

At the close of the public meeting, board members from each of the school boards went into executive session for 45 minutes. The reason was not disclosed.

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