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Chris Gibbons leaving STRIVE Prep constitution community he based


Chris Gibbons, CEO of homegrown Denver constitution college community STRIVE Prep, is leaving the group he based 16 years in the past.

In a letter to the college neighborhood, Gibbons mentioned he plans to step away on the finish of August to take a job with the Invoice and Melinda Gates Basis. He’ll lead nationwide constitution college technique with an emphasis on supporting college students with disabilities and faculties in Washington state, the place the muse is predicated. (The Invoice and Melinda Gates Basis is a supporter of Chalkbeat. See our funders record right here.)

Gibbons known as his years with STRIVE Prep “the proudest work I’ve completed in my life.”

“I like this neighborhood greater than every other, and dealing alongside our lecturers, employees, and our total neighborhood throughout these 16 years has been among the most fulfilling work I’ve ever completed,” he wrote within the letter. “Seeing our students develop, succeed, and thrive has been an enormous motivator over these years and can at all times stay a supply of pleasure for me. Thanks for permitting me to guide.” 

A man with shoulder length curly red hair and a trimmed beard sits for a portrait. He’s wearing a lavendar checked button-up shirt and smiles at the camera.

Chris Gibbons

Photograph courtesy STRIVE Prep

Gibbons’ departure comes throughout a difficult interval for Denver constitution faculties. Denver Public Faculties was as soon as thought of a nationwide exemplar of schooling reform and partnered intently with constitution faculties, that are publicly funded however independently run. However the sector has come beneath stress as declining enrollment and a brand new lecturers union-backed college board cautious of charters has made it tougher to open new faculties and keep present ones. 

In 2019, STRIVE closed a highschool that shared a campus with North Excessive Faculty, one among plenty of Denver constitution faculties to shut voluntarily in recent times. Three different STRIVE faculties have misplaced vital enrollment within the final 5 years. 

Gibbons acknowledged these adjustments in his letter, citing “way more difficult politics and declining enrollment throughout the district.” That locations STRIVE Prep at a transition level that calls for brand new concepts and techniques, he mentioned.

STRIVE Prep opened its first constitution college, then referred to as West Denver Prep, in 2006. The driving imaginative and prescient was that “college students of all backgrounds, and particularly these with who’ve been least effectively served, deserve entry to school and that provides them entry to energy and helps them change the world,” Gibbons mentioned in an interview.

Gibbons mentioned he by no means imagined the community would develop so giant. Its id has developed in vital methods, however that imaginative and prescient stays the identical, he mentioned.

The homegrown community now has 10 faculties — one elementary, seven center, and two excessive faculties — serving greater than 3,300 college students, the big majority of them from working class Hispanic households. 

Gibbons mentioned to start with, it was correct to explain STRIVE Prep as a “no excuses” college, however the community now aspires to be an anti-racist group that encourages pupil activism and has re-examined its personal disciplinary practices. That change occurred on account of ongoing dad or mum suggestions but additionally from the cost to function a boundary college accepting all college students from the encircling neighborhoods throughout the turnaround of Lake Center Faculty.

“That set of no excuses practices is just not a mannequin for serving all college students effectively,” he mentioned.

Gibbons mentioned the community’s challenges aren’t separate from these of bigger neighborhood. The Hispanic neighborhood suffered way more demise, severe sickness, job loss, and financial instability throughout the pandemic than white households in Denver, and now those self same households are shedding their housing to skyrocketing rents.

“What issues is our households can not afford to reside right here,” he mentioned. “That presents an unlimited rigidity and problem. Inside that, there’s a sense that the extent of collaborative techniques for this household of faculties — it looks like we’ve forgotten about why we constructed this.”

Gibbons recalled the times when households needed to fill out a number of paper types at totally different faculties with totally different procedures and plenty of college students used private connections to safe coveted spots. Denver as we speak makes use of a unified enrollment system that makes it simple for college students to rank district and constitution college decisions in a single platform.

Gibbons mentioned he hopes Denver Public Faculties finds a “non-political answer” to the issue of declining enrollment and a center floor that preserves a wide range of college choices for a smaller variety of households.

Underneath Gibbons’ management, STRIVE Prep has been a pioneer in Denver’s constitution sector for serving college students with disabilities, together with these with vital wants, and Gibbons has advocated for constitution faculties to create inclusive studying environments. STRIVE Prep faculties serve extra college students with specialised schooling plans than the district common.

In his new position, Gibbons will work intently with eight constitution organizations to enhance how they serve college students with disabilities, in addition to work on nationwide coverage initiatives and supporting constitution faculties in Washington state, that are at an earlier stage of their growth than Colorado’s constitution sector. Gibbons plans to remain in Denver and work remotely.

Gibbons mentioned the constitution community’s board of trustees has created a succession committee and can search neighborhood suggestions on the qualities of the following chief and households’ and lecturers’ imaginative and prescient for the community with the objective to nominate the following chief by Aug. 1.

Bureau Chief Erica Meltzer covers schooling coverage and politics and oversees Chalkbeat Colorado’s schooling protection. Contact Erica at emeltzer@chalkbeat.org.


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