Thursday, January 17, 2013

SKY Partnership Celebrates Collaboration

Northbrook Middle School and YES Prep Northbrook leaders joined school system leaders from each group Jan. 15 to share their thoughts on early success during a special celebration held at the middle school.
Northbrook's Yes Prep students provided a tour of program classrooms as part of event.
Promising stories stood out at the celebration, titled “Going Far Together: Advancing Student Achievement Through Innovative Collaboration.” The meeting combined first-semester reviews by school leaders and superintendents along with a student-focused video presentation and a question-and-answer panel session.

The gathering attracted 155 people, including Spring Branch and Aldine ISD Board of Trustees members, local government and corporate leaders, as well as supporters and stakeholders in the Spring Branch ISD (SBISD) and YES Prep Public Schools (YES).

The school-within-a-school collaboration at Northbrook Middle reflects one half of the initial SKY Partnership between SBISD, KIPP Houston Public Schools (KIPP) and YES. The SKY name is derived from the first initials of these three organizations.

YES Prep Northbrook currently serves 140 sixth-graders and will add a grade each year until it reaches capacity as a 6th -8th grade program. The partnership has also created KIPP Courage at Landrum Middle School, currently serving 105 fifth-graders within Landrum Middle School. KIPP Courage at Landrum will expand each year to become a 5th-8th grade program. The two groups of students will eventually feed into a YES high school program at Northbrook High School.

The Jan. 15 celebration included remarks from SBISD Superintendent Duncan F. Klussmann, Ed.D.; President of YES Prep Public Schools Jason Bernal; Northbrook Middle Principal Valerie Johnson; YES Prep Northbrook School Director Cendie Stanford; and YES Prep Director of Strategic Initiatives Ellen Winstead.

Dr. Klussmann and Mr. Bernal spoke about how their collaboration is “dispelling the myth of us vs. them” when it comes to districts and charters, and about the importance of educating “all of our children.”

Superintendent Klussmann recalled the four years of planning it took to open the doors of both programs in August 2011. He praised all three organizations for their ability to define a strong vision at the top, but then turn the work over to a steering committee and working groups representing each organization.

Pictured: YES Prep School Director Stanford, NBM School Principal Johnson and YES Prep's Ellen Winstead
School leaders Johnson and Stanford both attributed changes in their performance management skills to the partnership’s collaborative efforts. As a result of the partnership, Johnson attended KIPP’s School Leadership Program in the summer of 2012. Johnson and Stanford hold weekly meetings with each other to calibrate their operations and management procedures. They often observe teachers’ classrooms together, giving staff an opportunity to receive feedback from both leaders.


The event celebrated the growth that the partnership is making possible for all students. “They are thinking and acting more like students [who] really see the horizon in front of them, instead of just seeing the morning they come to school,” Northbrook Middle Assistant Principal Kathy Green said of her students.

YES Prep Northbrook student Donavin Baldivia thanked Bernal, telling him and others this: “In 2019, we’re going to graduate to college…we are going to walk across that stage and we are going to get our college degree and…be successful in life.” 

While there was much to celebrate, speakers also recognized the work that lies ahead. The SKY Partnership supports SBISD’s five-year goal to double the number of students completing some form of higher education in the next five years.

School leaders Bernal and Klussmann share lessons learned and the benefits of program collaboration.
Superintendent Klussmann said collaborations are important to quicken culture change so that all students succeed. He said that the SKY Partnership programs mark the beginning of that process.

To learn more about the SKY Partnership, visit

This report was compiled by SKY Partnership Communications Specialist Abby Walker.




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