On February 11, the Ravenswood School District school board approved 4-1 a new KIPP charter public school to open in East Palo Alto in 2017. Parents and supporters filled the board room, erupting in applause after the vote and spilling into the hallway, hugging each other.
Right now, over 1,000 families leave East Palo Alto every morning to get their kids a good education. East Palo Alto parents have been organizing for over a year and half to push for a better education in their community.
“I felt so very humbled by knowing how much work was put into this and that this community is going to be better because of this decision to bring in KIPP. I want the district to know that our parents really want this. That it’s not just a couple of us,” said Innovate parent leader Leasina Tangitau, who grew up in East Palo Alto. “It was a great turn-out between not only public officials, but parents and teachers speaking on behalf of wanting this opportunity for our kids.”
East Palo Alto Mayor Donna Rutherford and Councilmember Ruben Abrica both testified in support of the petition, and parents read letters of support from Father Goode of St. Francis de Assisi and Patrice Berry of College Track.
Leading up to the vote, Innovate parent leaders reached out to hundreds of parents in their community and held meeting with dozens of elected officials and community leaders.
On Oct. 26, Innovate parents in East Palo Alto hosted a packed community action forum with over 200 community members to ask local elected officials to support new public school options in their community.
District staff ultimately recommended approval of the new school, with only Ravenswood trustee Ana Pulido voting against the petition.
“I want my brother to have a better education than my parents and that I had,” said Moises Avendaño, a junior at Menlo-Atherton High School who testified at the hearing about being in the Tinsley program, which allows Ravenswood students to attend higher-performing schools in nearby districts.
“When I was my little brother’s age, I had to get up at six, get ready for school. I told the board how hard it was for my academic life. I feel really proud because if it weren’t for my mom advocating in the schools, I wouldn’t have been here. I would’ve been in some really, really bad school.”
Over 80 percent of students in Ravenswood School District aren’t on track in English and math, based on the latest state test scores. In 2014-15, only 17% of Ravenswood students met or exceeded standards in English and only 12% met that bar for math (CAASPP).
Several representatives of KIPP Bay Area Schools spoke, including a board member, special education staff, current students and Kate Belden, who will lead the new school.
“It’s been two and a half years of working alongside parents who are building their voice in this community for choice and being inspired by them,” said Kelun Zhang, Director of Growth and Strategic Projects for KIPP Bay Area Schools. “We want to make good on this promise to our families.”
“We are truly excited for the parents who worked tirelessly to advocate for this option on behalf of their children,” said April Chou, Chief Growth & Operating Officer of KIPP Bay Area Schools. “We look forward to partnering with Superintendent Hernandez-Goff and the Ravenswood City School District to support the success of all students in this community.”