Meet KIPP Indy: Katie Speer

Katie Speer is the 8th grade science teacher and grade-level team leader at KIPP Indy College Prep Middle. This is her second year at KIPP Indy and her third year as a teacher. Katie grew up in Bloomington, IN and attended Indiana University before applying to Teach for America, which is how she started her teaching career in Indianapolis. She has loved her time with our school because, “everyone is on the same page at KIPP Indy. It’s a really supportive culture and there’s a sense of community school wide.” One experience that drives Katie’s work is seeing students walk across the stage at 8th grade graduation. She loves hearing them say thanks and tell her what their ambitions and goals are for the future. Katie also enjoys seeing her kids accepted into high school and sharing their stories of success. Katie remembers one of her students initially wasn’t accepted into the magnet high school she wanted to attend after she graduated from 8th grade at KIPP Indy. “Ashantae was so bright and after putting in the research and visiting the school, she knew it was the right fit for her.” Once the student found out, she asked KIPP Indy teachers and staff, including Katie, to write letters on her behalf to help appeal the school’s decision to deny her admittance. Ultimately, the school granted her a meeting and she spoke in front of a committee about why she should be accepted. They ended up granting her admittance. “Something special about KIPP Indy is that we empower our students to advocate for themselves and never give up. As a...

Meet KIPP Indy: Dominique Cureton

Dominique Cureton was working at a large corporation in Atlanta when she realized she was not in a position to be able to contribute to her community in the way she wanted to. Those feelings intensified after the birth of her daughter, and it motivated her to think about how she could switch careers. “My daughter gave me clarity of purpose. I had been volunteering with kids and coaching a youth basketball league, but it wasn’t enough.” She decided to return to the city she grew up in to give back. Dominique applied and was accepted to the Indianapolis Teaching Fellows (ITF) program, part of the broader The New Teacher Project umbrella, which is dedicated to transforming accomplished professionals and college graduates into excellent teachers. She went through a rigorous teacher-training program with ITF and ultimately received her masters in teaching from Marian University and certification. She is now in her third year with KIPP Indy as a 7th grade literacy teacher and the grade level team leader. Dominique also has a focus on special education and is responsible for teaching inclusion classes. She says that teaching at KIPP Indy motivates her because, “I have the opportunity to shape young lives, build them up, and motivate them to create change for the future. The key to solving many societal issues we currently face lies with the youth of this country.” Dominique also appreciates that teaching has made her feel part of a community of people who care about her as a person, not just about the results she’s achieving. She has felt valued from the start of her teaching...

Kristen Chaffee explains why she thinks teachers need to build relationships with their students

One of the keys to being a successful educator is building strong relationships with students and their families. Those strong relationships create trust between students and the adults in the school, allowing students to feel safe and valued each day in their classrooms and throughout the building. At our middle school, students receive KIPP Cash, a school-based currency that students can use on their KIPP Cash Pay Day to purchase school supplies, t-shirts, and even staff experiences. Ms. Chaffee, a Student Services director at KIPP Indy College Prep Middle, and Ms. Corya, a 6th grade humanities teacher, got to experience the power of these relationships first hand when they took two KIPP Indy students to join them at Cake Bake for one of these staff experiences. Here is what Ms. Chaffee had to say about the experience in the staff newsletter: “It’s so nice for kids to get to know teachers as real people,” Amaris announced as she dug into one of the six gigantic slices of cake spread out before her last Friday at Cake Bake. Amaris had cashed in for a staff experience and she, “bff” Janiyah, Ms. Corya and I were attempting to sample pretty much every dessert at the bakery. I’ve sometimes wondered what makes the staff experience a grand prize– why is time with a teacher (who kids see every day) so highly valued? Is it just about eating cake, watching the Pacers and playing laser tag? Partly. But I don’t think that’s all. Amaris remembered the Cake Bake pictures from last year and described racing to the table at KIPP Cash Payday to...

Meet KIPP Indy: Barato Britt

Barato Britt is the Executive Director of the Leadership and Legacy Academy at the Edna Martin Christian Center (EMCC), a 75-year-old institution that provides wrap-around services for over 3,000 low-income families, primarily in the Martindale-Brightwood community where KIPP Indy is located. In addition to his work with EMCC, Barato sits on the KIPP Indy Board of Directors and has been a key partner and advocate for our schools for many years. Barato first got involved with KIPP Indy through his work with EMCC. “As a longtime advocate for school choice I was familiar with KIPP, but after meeting Ms. Pelino (KIPP Indy’s Executive Director) I knew the school was on a positive trajectory.” That, along with his deep belief in the mission and vision of our schools, is why he joined our Board. Barato says KIPP Indy is unique in the community because of our approach, diversity, and commitment to creating a college going culture for all of our students. He goes on to talk about KIPP Indy’s commitment to the Martindale-Brightwood community. “The school is open and transparent, and clearly is committed to contributing consciously and positively to the overall community fabric.” Barato is excited to see KIPP Indy establish a relationship with Indianapolis Public Schools and what that means for educational outcomes for students. He believes that greater collaboration between traditional public and public charter schools demonstrates that all community stakeholders can work together for the sake of kids. “I am gratified that KIPP Indy has embraced, with responsibility, working in partnership with IPS. What is unquestionably true is that many of our students in most need...

KIPP Indy’s Partnership with Indianapolis Public Schools

In 2014, Indiana passed groundbreaking legislation that established Innovation Network Schools. Innovation Network Schools combine the freedom and flexibility of autonomous schools with access to services and financial support from a large district. At KIPP Indy, our elementary and middle school were both selected to become some of the first Innovation Network Schools to partner with Indianapolis Public Schools. Through this partnership, IPS supports KIPP Indy with the opportunity to lease a facility and the access to essential, cost-effective services such as transportation and building maintenance. This is imperative to our work because, as a public charter school, we receive fewer public tax dollars than district schools. Dr. Ferebee, the Superintendent of IPS, highlighted the importance of this partnership for our students, saying, “Our partnership with KIPP Indy is a great example of the power of the innovation model. We strive to provide KIPP with cost-effective transportation and facilities so that they can direct more dollars to teaching and learning.” With this support from the district, we are able to ensure that more of our funding goes directly into the classroom to provide the best educational resources for our students. However, the partnership between KIPP Indy and IPS is about more than just a school building and transportation. Innovation Network Schools provide a unique opportunity for all public schools, both charter and district, to improve educational outcomes for students in schools across the city. Emily Pelino, the Executive Director of KIPP Indy, said, “Families want the best educational opportunities for their students, regardless of what type of school they attend.” The president of the IPS school board, Mary Ann...