What I’m Grateful for This Season: Education Innovators

November 5, 2019

By Miho Kubagawa, Partner, NewSchools Venture Fund

November is my favorite month of the year because of its focus on gratitude. A few years ago, I began the tradition of sending handwritten cards to 30 individuals during this month to thank them for something that made an impact on me. It started as a ritual purely for my own well-being, but I quickly realized how much this small gesture impacted others. This year, I’m dedicating my letter of gratitude to 16 new, innovative public schools across the country that opened this fall.

My colleagues and I have spent the past two months traveling across the country to visit the innovative public schools that we’ve supported since we launched this part of our strategy in 2015. Leading a new, innovative public school is not for the faint of heart. These leaders have demonstrated they are not only highly respected educators, but also inspiring recruiters of talent, skilled operational wizards, school facility makeover specialists, and dedicated community organizers. Above all, they are relentless optimists, committed to a vision of new school models that prepare and support all children to achieve their most ambitious dreams and plans. As a result of their leadership, I’ve observed and heard about the impact of these new schools directly from students, teachers and parents.

Our team is grateful for these leaders — they are the “why” behind the work we do. We invested more than $7 million dollars in funding to these schools because of their visions and missions. Collectively, these schools will serve nearly 10,000 students — 75% of whom identify as Black or Latino, and 77% of whom are from low-income backgrounds. The schools I am grateful for are:

  • Coperni 3 (Colorado Springs, CO)
  • Empower Community High School (Aurora, CO)
  • Hayward Collegiate Charter School (Hayward, CA)
  • Intrinsic Schools — Monroe Campus (Chicago, IL)
  • Kairos Academies (St. Louis, MO)
  • Kansas City Girls Preparatory Academy (Kansas City, MO)
  • LEEP Dual Language Academy (Brooklyn, NY)
  • Legacy Prep (Birmingham, AL)
  • Living School (New Orleans, LA)
  • Mary L. Booker Leadership Academy (San Francisco, CA)
  • McClure Health Science High School (Duluth, GA)
  • Nichols Intermediate Academy of Leadership (Little Rock, AR)
  • Phoenix International Academy (South Phoenix, AZ)
  • Purdue Polytechnic High School North (Indianapolis, IN)
  • Rodriguez Elementary School (San Marcos, TX)
  • The CUBE High School (Denver, CO)

These district and charter schools are founded by award-winning educators, former school systems leaders and experienced nonprofit leaders across 12 states. Nearly 60% of the schools are founded by Black or Latino leaders, which is aligned with our broader efforts to ensure the leaders we support increasingly reflect the racial demographics of public school students today. In addition, these education entrepreneurs demonstrate a high degree of self-awareness of their own strengths and limitations, and they have bolstered their founding teams by hiring for the right mix of instructional, operational and entrepreneurial expertise.

Above all, these school teams prioritize an expanded definition of student success, which we define as strong academics combined with important mindsets, habits and skills, by launching schools that reimagine the daily student experience. In turn, they are personalizing the learning experience for students in a wide-range of approaches that share the common attributes we see in innovative public schools.

And we want more schools like those listed above. If you have the vision to open a new, innovative public school that will reimagine learning, we want to hear from you. We are currently accepting ideas and encourage you to apply! Applications are open until Monday, November 11 for teams who are on a path to launch a new public school in 2021.

And who knows, maybe you could be the next school we are grateful for, too.