We can’t wait to tell you about our first year. A lot has happened since last summer! Please come back soon for an update.
Jefferson RISE Charter School will open this fall as Jefferson Parish’s first middle-high school program. The rigorous college preparatory public school will serve the needs of the area’s most at-risk students at no cost. Opening Jefferson RISE has been and continues to be an exciting and rewarding journey for everyone involved. In many respects, the story of Jefferson RISE has reflected the school’s core principles – to set high expectations and to meet those expectations with hard work and determination.
In the fall of 2012, current Jefferson RISE Head of School and Lead Founder Ms. Kathleen Sullivan began gathering ideas for achieving educational success among students most in need. Ms. Sullivan, a recipient of the 2012 Beard Excellence in Teaching Award, spent eight years developing successful teaching and leadership methods while working with at-risk students in urban school districts. In an effort to expand her impact, Ms. Sullivan applied for a highly competitive national Fellowship program specializing in charter school design and leadership. In August of 2013, Ms. Sullivan was selected as a 2013 Building Excellent Schools Fellow. She worked alongside program executives while developing Jefferson RISE, receiving training in the designing, founding, leading, and sustaining of a high performing charter school.
In May of 2013, Ms. Sullivan’s vision found a home and a name in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. Over the next 12 months, Ms. Sullivan visited over 40 of the nation’s top charter schools with the objective of replicating their success in Jefferson Parish. Today, backed by over 400 local residents and a seven member Founding Board, Jefferson RISE has officially become an authorized 6-12 charter school.
Jefferson RISE’s seven Board members are committed to the mission of preparing all scholars in grades 6-12 to succeed in four-year colleges and professional careers, as well as the RISE Core Values of Respect, Integrity, Self-Discipline, and Excellence. By December of 2013, the Board had decided upon a clear vision – to provide families in Jefferson Parish with an educational option that prepares their children for the future, while positively impacting the Jefferson Parish community as a whole. To aid in accomplishing this goal, Ms. Sullivan took part in a one month residency in Columbus, Ohio with the United Schools Network. While there, she learned as much as possible about the inner workings of a high performing charter school, bringing Jefferson RISE one step closer to fruition.
On March 7, 2014 the Jefferson RISE Founding Board submitted the final charter application with great anticipation. After a rigorous interview with SchoolWorks, the organization hired by the state to review charter applications, we were ecstatic to receive their recommendation for approval.
Encouraged by the positive response, Ms. Sullivan spent her summer completing additional residencies in high performing charters, including Nashville Prep and Excel Academy. There, she fine-tuned the RISE model for professional development and successful student orientation. She returned in September to rally support for the crucial Jefferson Parish School Board vote.
Jefferson RISE did not have to look far to find a committed parent advocate. We were joined by Ms. Lariece Chapman, a mother of five who attended one of our first community information sessions. She spoke on our behalf to the Jefferson Parish School Board, asking them to authorize Jefferson RISE and provide a choice for families across the Parish. After hearing from three additional Jefferson RISE supporters, including Lead Founder Kathleen Sullivan, Board Chair Robert Spencer, and community supporter Ronnie Slone, Jefferson RISE was authorized by the School Board.
Like every start-up, Jefferson RISE has encountered challenges along the way. In September of 2014, we were notified that our start-up funding had been reallocated, leaving Jefferson RISE without financing for the 2014-2015 planning year. The RISE Team immediately began a successful fundraising campaign, receiving $171,000 in private and corporate donations. Today, the residents of Jefferson Parish continue to demonstrate that they are invested in their children’s education by working together in support of Jefferson RISE.
This is a very exciting time for us as we approach opening day. It has been a remarkable journey thus far and we still have so much more to come! This week marks two big RISE announcements – the school’s official location in Gretna, and the beginning of our student application period. I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to all of our allies, who, like Ms. Chapman, voiced the need for a tuition-free, college preparatory choice in Jefferson Parish. We would not be where we are today without your support.
- Kathleen Sullivan, Head of School