The general structure of the SKY partnership right now is that YES Prep runs a school-within-a-school at Northbrook MS in Spring Branch and KIPP Houston runs a school-within-a-school at Landrum MS, a nearby Spring Branch campus. In 2 years when YES Prep’s students there are ready for high school, another school-within-a-school model will begin in Spring Branch’s Northbrook High School. YES Prep will run that high school and it will be made up of YES Prep & KIPP students from the SKY partnership schools.
While there are countless operational details going on to make this partnership possible, we want to highlight some of the early steps towards integrating the staff and students of YES Prep & Spring Branch ISD at Northbrook Middle School in order to move the campuses towards a truly integrated culture. It is definitely not an easy task to bridge two systems and two cultures, but the leaders of both schools know it’s essential in order to maximize the positive impact the partnership will have on ALL students, and we’re excited about the progress that has been made. Here’s a look at what’s been going on so far at the Northbrook campus:
- SKY Lead Teacher Liaisons – Because of the strong emphasis on building relationships between the staff and students on the partnership campuses, YES Prep, KIPP Houston & Spring Branch have each hired a ‘SKY Lead Teacher Liaison’ to help lead and organize the shared events and initiatives on each campus. YES Prep’s liaison, Abby Parker, taught in Baltimore and then ran educational programs for nonprofits and government agencies in DC. More recently she worked in education policy with StudentsFirst and so brings a varied and relevant educational background to this work that we’re lucky to have! She has been working closely with the school leaders and her Spring Branch counterpart, Hasina McKend, to make the following initiatives possible.
- ‘The Rights Committee’ – On the Northbrook campus, our two mascots are the Knights and the Rockets, which the students combined to create ‘Rights.’ This committee is made up of students from Spring Branch and YES Prep who will come together regularly to discuss issues that may come up and also to plan joint activities between the two schools.
- Shared Student Activities – Recently The Rights Committee kicked off a joint town hall meeting for both schools to share with the student body what the SKY partnership is, how it got started, and how the schools will work together moving forward. The schools have done joint community service already this school year (pictured) and are planning on doing other shared field trips and activities throughout the year.
- Shared Cultural Expectations – This year the 6th and 7th graders from both schools eat lunch together in addition to taking all of their electives classes and athletics together. The staff from both campuses has worked hard to develop a set of shared expectations and continually tweak them in order to develop a truly integrated culture that can grow as the partnership grows.
- Shared Professional Development – One achievement we’re really excited about from this year was our first shared professional development sessions with the entire teaching staff of both schools. After strategic planning sessions between the school leaders and the liaisons, four sessions were designed to meet the needs of as many subject areas and levels of experience as possible – Creating a Positive Classroom Climate, Routines & Procedures for Small Group Instruction, Leveraging Your Physical Environment and Checking for Understanding Using Technology. Each teacher chose which session they wanted to attend and overall, 78% of the teachers felt the sessions were effective or highly effective. While we’d like that number to be higher, we feel like it was a strong start.
In the coming months, we hope to continue improving our shared efforts towards integrating our campus and staff culture. Another area for future collaboration will be determining a process for joint classroom observations and shared lesson planning sessions in order to better serve our students and staff together. Stay tuned!