Monday, December 30, 2013

The BVP 2013 Top Ten Reflections

This is the time of year for reflection and renewal.  It’s also the time for the requisite Top 10 lists of the best, worst, happiest, or most surprising things of the year.  

We at Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy have had a pretty amazing year, so here we go!  (Note to reader: there is a LOT of enthusiasm for what follows, expect bold, italics, lots of links, and excessive punctuation!!!)

10. Social Media- We are getting better each day in getting our message out there.  With 200+ followers on LinkedIn, 800+ followers on twitter, and an incredible 1700+ likes on Facebook, we are getting our message out in new and innovative ways each day.  :) Here’s a shameless plug for our New Year’s Message (on youtube, of course)!

9. National School Choice Week - Our celebration of National School Choice Week helped to raise public awareness of our program.  Ultimately, over 1,700 students applied for about 240 available seats.  The overwhelming demand is bittersweet, at once a testament to our success and a sobering reminder that we are not growing nearly fast enough to meet demand -- see this Projo editorial on the topic.

8. Pawtucket - This fall BVP moved its Network Support Headquarters from excess classrooms at ES2 to the Lorraine Mills in Pawtucket.  The space is pretty nice (though we are finding it’s a little chilly in winter); it is great to have a home base in the City that is home to nearly half of the applicants to BVP.

7. Commended - In its first year of rating eligibility, BVP ES1 was awarded Commended status for outstanding student achievement.  Overall, BVP was awarded seven (7) Top 10 certificates from RI-CAN for academic excellence and gap-closing results.  The hard work of our scholars was celebrated by Commissioner Gist and math teacher-turned-math coordinator-turned skydiver Drew Madden.

6. BVP High School Launch - The countdown is on until the doors for our HS will open.  We intend to break the BVP mold as we continue to innovate.  This year we have secured investments from the Rhode Island Foundation, Next Generation Learning Challenge, and the Champlin Foundations to support a design that will be at once deeply rigorous and highly personalized.  Read more from our HS designer, Jonathan Santos Silva on twitter.

5. Teacher Talent - The amazing team at BVP was epitomized by our very own Milken Winner, Marielle Emet.  In a surprise ceremony, she declared that “many teachers are as -- if not more -- deserving of this award.”  While there’s strong consensus from the rest of us that Marielle is the most deserving. That she has about 100 really close runners-up is also a true statement.

4. Groundbreaking - Facilities are a major challenge for all schools, especially charters.  This report shows how Rhode Island charter school facilities are grossly underfunded.  Indeed, about 10% of our operating dollars, money that would otherwise be in classrooms, goes to rents, leases, and debt service.  That said, with the help of the national CDFI Self-Help, we built a 5,000 square foot addition on ES1 to allow the school to fully enroll K-4.  Even more excitedly -- with our partnership with Civic Builders and support from the Gates Foundation and New Markets Tax Credits -- we recently broke ground on a 40,000 square foot permanent home to ES2!

3. Charter School Growth Fund - Many consider an invitation into the CSGF portfolio as the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for charter schools.  In June, after nine months of due diligence, we were invited to join!  In addition to the recognition, investment ($2.2MM), CSGF brings real capacity to the BVP network.  From board and senior staff counsel to professional development convenings, this is a pretty amazing opportunity for BVP.

2. Renewal - It is only fitting that in a note about reflection and renewal that our very own five-year charter renewal is near the top of the list.  In addition to the renewal of the charter, the board voted to approve our expansion request.  We are now authorized to grow to a total of seven schools.  As careful followers know, that later led to some confusion, that was later cleared up.  Thank you BVP families!

1. Family - Speaking of families, at the end of the day that is what this work is all about.  Building strong families, communities, and society.  Countless scholar siblings entered the world this year -- every family event seems filled with new carriages of future scholars.  Our “team family” is also bursting.  With nine staff in 2009, we now are over 140 team members.  And we are growing! Our Milken Winner brought a new “backseat NPR listener” and future scholar to the world.  Other staff with future scholars include our Director of Operations, Mike DeMatteo, Athletic Director extraordinaire Ed Laskowski, interventionist Kara Floyd, HS designer Jonathan Santos Silva, science teacher Nicole Rollins, math teacher Matt Yates, and lunch lady Lisa!  2014 is looking just as strong, so if you know of someone looking to cut their teeth as a maternity sub, let me know…

What a great year!  And you have my best to an amazing 2014!

Jeremy Chiappetta
Executive Director

Thursday, December 19, 2013

VIDEO: You Can Never Have Enough Holiday Cheer...

We know you received your issue of the PRIDE Press yesterday, but we can't help spreading just a little more holiday cheer. 

Here is a video of our Kindergarten scholars performing for the very first time at the Winter Wonderland concert held at the Cumberland Public Library on December 15. 

The Allegro Strings (3rd grade) and Presto Strings (4th grade) performed last night at Elementary School 1, and tonight, first grade scholars are performing a musical! Kindergarten and second grade concerts (which were postponed due to weather) will be rescheduled for after the winter break. 

We look forward to catching up with our BVP Musings readers then. 

Wishing you all Happy Holidays and Warm Wishes for the New Year!

Monday, December 16, 2013

High School Updates: Thoughts from BVP High School Designer Jonathan Santos Silva

Last week, I had the great pleasure of meeting with BVP families from Central Falls, Cumberland, Lincoln, and Pawtucket on our High School Information tour! We met around kitchen counters, on sofas, and in a public library to discuss topics as varied as Advanced Placement courses, interscholastic athletics, and college counseling. There is a lot to be excited about and many questions yet to be answered, but the true value of these sessions for me has been to experience firsthand the energy and excitement of our families.

According to a report entitled A New Wave of Evidence, "When schools, families, and community groups work together to support learning, children tend to do better in school, stay in school longer, and like school more." Scholars with engaged families are also more likely to earn better grades, enroll in higher-level programs, and go on to post-secondary education. As one parent mentioned this Saturday, family engagement often starts very high at the elementary level only to dwindle as scholars get older. I embarked on this series of sessions to inform our families, and I am leaving with a commitment to engage them from now through high school graduation. 

Many of my updates end with the phrase "All in for Day 1," alluding to opening day of the high school. After completing our first week of  family engagement activities, maybe the better call to action is "All in for Day 1,460!"

Saturday, December 7, 2013

PHOTOS: Fourth Grade Scholars Make Care Packages, Write Over 250 Letters to Soldiers in Afghanistan for the Holidays

During a special town hall on Friday, Elementary School 1 (ES1) families and scholars put together 80 care packages that will be mailed to soldiers at Camp Morehead in Afghanistan over the weekend. 

Scholars in all grades wrote over 250 letters thanking soldiers for their service and wishing them a Happy Holiday.  They also talked to  Master Sergeant Jackie Hazley, the aunt of two BVP scholars at ES1, via Live Stream on an iPad. They had fun asking her questions about being a soldier and living in Afghanistan,  where it was 1:00 a.m. during the town hall. 

ES1 also sponsored a staff and scholar school-wide dress down day that raised close to $400 that went towards making the care packages.  

Talk about BVP PRIDE!

Enjoy some photos from the event below and on our Facebook page.

Families worked together to write letters for the troops at Camp Morehead.

Master Sergeant Jackie Hazley's daughter holds her iPad up to scholars so that they can ask her mom questions.

BVP Parent Lori Barden, who first thought of the idea to make the care packages, helps families stuff their bags with items like ChapStick and candy canes. A group of parent volunteers helped support the event.

The completed care packages will be mailed over the weekend.

Scholars enjoyed writing letters to soldiers. In this letter, a scholar writes, "Thank you for protecting our freedom."

Mr. Matthew Yates, who helped organize the event, guides scholars as they write their letters.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

High School Updates: Thoughts from BVP High School Designer Jonathan Santos Silva

During this time of year, it seems that people from all walks of life draw closer to the people they love. I don't know if it has to do with the cold weather or the variety of celebrations that mark our calendars, but there is something about November and December that says, "Family." I am looking forward to catching up with relatives and friends I haven't seen in months, but this year I am also looking forward to meeting new friends, members of the BVP Family,  at the upcoming "High School Family Information Sessions!"  

The High School Family Information Sessions are designed for the parents of current BVP scholars who are interested in learning more about the high school vision. Each one is c0-hosted by BVP families and will give us an opportunity to hear ideas, answer questions, and share updates on our progress. Please check the list below for the Info Session that is most convenient for you and RSVP. I hope to see many of you at one of them! All in for Day One!

Monday, December 9, 2013
Co-Hosts: Georgia and Chris Shaban, Mary Joyce and Peter Nigro, and Kathy and Kevin Goffe
Address: 4 Grundy's Way, Cumberland RI
Time: 6:00-7:00 PM
Please RSVP here

Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Host: Deanna Velletri
Address: 387 Front Street, Lincoln RI
Time: 5:30-6:30 PM
Please RSVP here

Thursday, December 12, 2013
Host: Kathy Santos
Address: 31 Old River Rd, Lincoln RI
Time: 6:30-7:30 PM
Please RSVP here

Friday, December 13, 2013
Host: Christina Losea and Brian Murphy
Address: 269 Little Pond Country Rd, Cumberland RI
Time: 5:30-6:30 PM
Please RSVP here

Saturday, December 14, 2013
Host: Sarah Trek
Address: 120 Anderson Ave Pawtucket Ave
Time: 10:00-11 AM
Please RSVP here

Saturday, December 14, 2013
Host: Mina Interiano
Address: Adams Memorial Library, 205 Central St, Central Falls, RI
Time: 12:30-1:30 PM
Please RSVP here
Spanish Translation will be available.
Traducción en español estará disponible.

UPDATED 12/20/13

Thursday, January 9, 2013
Host: Rachel McGuire
Address: 74 Greenfield St, Pawtucket, RI
Time: 7:30 PM
Please RSVP here