May 16, 2013

Leadership Critical to the Success of KIPP Public Charter Schools, say Doris Fisher and John, Her Son

By: The Bridgespan Group
Doris-and-John-Fisher_198x135.jpgDoris Fisher, Co-Founder of the KIPP Foundation, says that strong leadership is so important to the success of each KIPP public charter school that a school's opening will be delayed if such leadership is lacking. Indeed, Doris' son John Fisher, who has led the family’s philanthropic activities since his father's passing in 2009 and who is Chairman of KIPP's Board of Directors, says that school leadership has been "critical" to the charter school network's success. "If we have a great principal, that great principal hires great, great teachers, motivates those teachers, and can create a great school," says John. "Our whole focus at the KIPP Foundation has been to...find and train the best leaders that we can."

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KIPP—which stands for the Knowledge Is Power Program—was founded by Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin in 1994 to prepare children in underserved communities for success in college and in life. It does so through an academic focus as well as an attention to more holistic aspects of students' development. It was an approach that greatly appealed to Donald and Doris Fisher, co-founders of the clothing retailer Gap Inc., so much so that the Fishers bet big to help bring the schools to more cities.

See a complete archive of videos featuring John Fisher and Doris Fisher.

How big? In partnership with KIPP's founders, the Fishers invested $15 million to establish the KIPP Foundation in 2000 to bring KIPP—which was then just two middle schools in Houston and New York City—to more cities by recruiting and training top-notch leaders to open more schools. Today, KIPP is one of the biggest names in public education. The schools have grown to more than 2,800 teachers at more than 125 schools across the country. Moreover, the KIPP Foundation, through its KIPP School Leadership Programs (KSLP), is responsible for the development and training of more than 250 KIPP school leaders. As for the students, who are the recipients of that attention to leadership, KIPP devotes much attention to measuring results on a number of factors such as college completion.
  John and his mother believe that success starts with a personal connection. "It’s so rewarding to...see the affection [the kids] have for their teacher, the affection they have for each other," says Doris. "One of our slogans is 'team and family' and they really are a family."

Says John, "We have gotten tremendous personal satisfaction and enjoyment out of [working] with KIPP."

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