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Notes from the Delta - September 2014 Newsletter

From the Executive Director

Dear Team & Family,

The start of every school year always reminds me of the poem, To Be of Use by Marge Piercy, which I’ve included below. To do our work well, we must “pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,” doing what has to be done “again and again.” This work of educating over 1,300 students every day is hard, but also brings immense satisfaction and generates unmeasurable impact when done well. To Be of Use states, “the people I love best jump into work head first.” Thank you all, parents, teachers, and supporters, for jumping into this year – KIPP Delta’s thirteenth – headfirst. We are looking forward to a great year!

This year represents an opportunity to make a significant leap forward, building on the momentum and successes of last year. Our priorities remain the same this year – student retention, academic rigor, and talent – and it is imperative that we successfully execute on the strategies that will lead to results.

I am proud of the movement we made this year with student retention, as KIPP Delta will serve more students this year than ever before. In Helena alone, we will serve enough students to make us the third largest school district in the surrounding counties of the Arkansas Delta.

Serving more students means more responsibility to serve them all well. Please join me in making academic rigor the number one priority for the year. To our parents, please join us as we encourage students to read for at least thirty minutes every night. To our teachers, please ensure that students are completing challenging homework in every subject.  This year we will be tracking data even more closely and working creatively to make certain that all students are mastering standards. With all of your support, we hope to have more of our students college-ready in math and reading than ever before.

In addition to our push for academic rigor, we must also stay focused on recruiting top talent. Last year, we saw a tremendous increase in staff retention and satisfaction. We know that it takes talented, committed experienced team members to drive academic achievement. While we have assembled one of the strongest (and certainly the largest) team to date – with more diversity of background, experiences, tenure, and expertise than ever – we are still searching and hiring for a few key, high-need roles.  Please continue to assist KIPP Delta by directing high-quality applicants to our organization. All current job postings can be found on our Careers Page .  

Thank you for your continued support of our students, staff, and schools!


Scott Shirey
Executive Director

  To Be of Use by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.

They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.


Prove the Possible Gala Celebrates 12 Years

KIPP Delta Public Schools is excited to announce Prove the Possible, a gala celebrating twelve years of proving the possible in public education. Last year’s event was an astounding success, raising nearly $1.2m in funding for our schools. During the event, we launched the Building a Better Tomorrow Capital Campaign to build a new kindergarten wing and playground at KIPP Delta Elementary Literacy Academy.  Special guest, Wally McCloskey, also announced a matching challenge gift to support both the capital campaign and the annual fund. Thanks to the 225 inspired guests and hundreds of additional supporters, the challenge was completed, both annual and capital campaign goals were met, and construction has begun in Helena!

This year’s Prove the Possible gala is sure to be equally exciting and inspiring. Friends and supporters of KIPP Delta will gather at the Clinton Presidential Center on Thursday, October 16, 2014, for a wonderful evening featuring special guests, student entertainment, dinner, and an open bar. We are thrilled to have Cotter Cunningham as our keynote speaker. Mr. Cunningham is the founder, President, and CEO of RetailMeNot, Inc., the world’s largest digital coupon marketplace. Founded in 2009, RetailMeNot, Inc. has grown to over 400 employees with offices in five countries and headquarters in Austin, TX. In 2012, the company facilitated an estimated $2.5 billion in merchant sales.

KIPP Delta students and staff will be on hand to celebrate with guests throughout the evening. Proceeds from this year’s event will benefit our KIPP through College Program, a program designed to ensure each of our nearly 1,400 KIPPsters climb the mountain to and through college.  Through this program, our past five graduating classes have received $5.2m in scholarships, attended competitive and prestigious summer programs, and much more.

You can purchase your ticket or sponsorship here .



Award-Winning KIPPster Artists

Each year, KIPP School Summit (KSS) brings together thousands of KIPP employees and partners for a week of professional development and celebration. This year, KIPP Delta’s entire staff, from teachers to office managers to school directors, spent four days at KSS, learning from experts in their field and collaborating with colleagues from across the country. While KSS is a tremendous learning opportunity for staff, it is also a time for reflection and a renewed focus on the heart of our work: our students. In addition to phenomenal student speeches and performances, KSS also features a student art gallery each year. Student art is chosen based on submissions from art teachers at 162 KIPP schools across the country. This year, KIPP Delta College Preparatory School was selected as one of only two middle schools to display art at the KSS gallery! You can view the 15 KIPP Delta pieces, along with work from the other winning schools, here. The piece pictured above is titled "Forms in One-Point Perspective" by Rachael, an 8th grader at KIPP Delta College Preparatory School. Thank you to Mr. Matt Balla for submitting his students’ exceptional artwork!


Help KIPP Delta Expand to Forrest City

Last month, KIPP Delta submitted an application to the state of Arkansas to open a middle school in Forrest City. If our application is accepted, Marcus Nelson, KIPP Fisher Fellow, will open KIPP Forrest City College Preparatory School in the fall of 2015. The school will initially serve just fifth grade, but will grow to serve grades five through eight by 2018. Before the state makes their decision, there is still time for YOU to support KIPP Delta’s expansion by signing the online petition. The link is below, and participating will only take one minute of your time. KIPP Delta has set a goal of doubling the number of college ready students in the Delta, and expansion to Forrest City would be another step on the journey toward fulfilling our promise. Thank you to everyone who has supported our efforts thus far!

Online Petition to Support KIPP Delta's Expansion to Forrest City



America's Farmers Grow Rural Education

For the second time in as many years, the Monsanto Fund has awarded KIPP Delta with a $10,000 grant through their America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education program. This award will be put to great use by KIPP Delta College Preparatory School. The funding will support the increase of blended learning in all math classes at the middle school. Blended learning allows for students to receive differentiated instruction via technology, in addition to traditional teacher instruction. Blended learning is used in many content areas, but is especially critical in math where there is typically a wide range of ability levels. By using a computer-based program called ST Math, students will be able to supplement traditional instruction with an opportunity to enhance their math skills at their own pace. A big thank you to Monsanto and our local Delta farmers who nominated KIPP Delta for this award!


4th Graders Dissect Pig Hearts!

On Saturday, August 16, hundreds of KIPPsters took part in their first field lesson of the year. Some classes stayed local, visiting fire stations and public libraries, while others headed to Tennessee to explore the Memphis Zoo. One group, the Class of 2023 in Helena, didn’t have to go far to experience something entirely new and exciting. Ms. Izzy McKean brought learning to life by giving her fourth graders the opportunity to dissect pig hearts, right in their own classroom.  Ms. McKean’s students are studying the heart, both literally and figuratively, in several of their classes this fall. To supplement their more abstract classroom learning, students got their hands dirty as they discovered the ins and outs of a pig heart. Students were thrilled about the opportunity and loved bringing science to life. Thank you to Ms. McKean and the entire fourth grade team for planning such an impactful field lesson!

View photos here!


Upcoming Events

  • Labor Day Holiday - September 1, 2014
  • Columbus Day Break - October 9-10, 2014
  • Prove the Possible Gala - October 16, 2014
  • Report Card Night - October 23, 2014

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