KIPP Indy is proud to introduce the leader of our future high school, David Spencer. David was selected as a recipient of the prestigious Fisher Fellowship, a year-long program that supports all school leaders who are opening new KIPP schools as they design and refine their school model. During his fellowship, he has had the opportunity to visit KIPP schools and other high-performing high schools around the country to see first-hand what is working and develop a plan to implement those strategies in our community. After starting the program over the summer, he is excited to continue to prepare for the opening of the school throughout this next school year.
David took a unique path to the field of education. He was mentoring youth in urban schools while interning at the court house on his path to law school when he made a troubling connection. “While I was sitting in the jury box every day, I noticed a trend: men who look like me were receiving disproportionately long sentences for their crimes, and there was a connection between what I saw in the court room and the schools where I volunteered. I saw students in 6th grade getting low grades and getting in trouble, then getting suspended in 8th grade, and then in high school they would get caught stealing. Their behavior was directly linked to how they were performing academically and the opportunities and supports for them were lacking.”
That’s when David knew he wanted to get involved in education. While teaching at Fondren Middle School in Houston, he realized the opportunities education could offer and knew he had made the right career choice. “When I started, only 68% of my students were passing state tests and the students that were furthest behind were African American males.” After realizing this, David started working with students before school, during lunch, and doing whatever it took to help them succeed. “By the end of my second year, 90% of my students had passed state tests. I started to realize I knew the problem and the solution, but I didn’t feel like I could do it myself.” This motivated David to pursue school leadership where he could coach other teachers to achieve those results with their own students.
Now, David has come to Indianapolis to be the founding leader of KIPP Indy’s first high school. Why did David choose KIPP Indy? “I am someone who knows very clearly what I want to be and what I want to be a part of. I want to be part of a school that is about excellence and high expectations for their students and staff. I have seen this in every KIPP school that I have observed, heard it from friends that have worked with KIPP, and to me, KIPP is synonymous with excellence.”
Just as importantly, David is excited to be a member of our community and Indianapolis as a whole. What started as a desire to move closer to family evolved into a love for the people and students he encountered. “I met with both current KIPP Indy students and alumni and they inspired me. I got to hear their dreams and aspirations, and they deserve to have those opportunities.” He also reflected on the relationship between KIPP Indy and our neighborhood, noting that, “Community leaders are invested in providing opportunities for people and want success for all students. I want to be a part of a school that has a strong relationship with its neighborhood and look forward to deepening that partnership.”
Over the next year and a half, David will continue to develop his vision for the high school through the Fisher Fellowship and The Mind Trust’s Innovation School Fellowship. One thing David knows for sure, though, is that teachers will be the drivers of implementation at the high school. “We can come up with amazing ideas and goals, but at the end of the day teachers are the ones making it happen. They have dedicated their time, sleep, and lives to doing what’s best for students.”
Formerly the Assistant Principal at Moving Everest Charter School in Chicago, David began his career teaching in the Houston Independent School District and YES Prep through Teach For America. While working on Teach For America’s staff, he served as a corps member advisor, curriculum specialist and school director. After moving to Chicago, he worked as senior director of learning of By The Hand Club For Kids, an after-school program that emphasizes academic excellence while nurturing the whole child—mind, body and soul. He holds degrees in political science and journalism from Texas Christian University, an M.A. in Youth and Young Adult Ministry from Andrews University, and an M.S. in Educational Leadership from Columbia University.
Between all of the planning, David enjoys listening to a wide range of podcasts but is, first and foremost, a family man. Be on the lookout for him going to movies and exploring the Indianapolis food scene with his wife and son.
Welcome to the KIPP Indy Team & Family, David!