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A Proposed K-12 Network of Schools Opening in San Antonio in 2020

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The Gathering Place n. -

Where people and ideas come together to create change

The Gathering Place is a proposed K-12 network of public schools in San Antonio. The idea was born from Ryan and Joanna’s belief that kids, especially in historically underserved neighborhoods, don't get a complete education. We spent 10 years teaching, leading, and seeing glimmers of what could be when teachers are trusted, kids are loved for who they are, and administrators don’t measure students by just test scores -- but we never saw those pieces fully come together.

Inspired by what could be and disappointed by what was, we quit our jobs, pooled our savings, and traveled the country searching for schools where creativity flourished and every student and teacher was valued. On our journey, we found ourselves in San Antonio, fell in love with the people, and decided never to leave.

We have seen and learned from the best-- but we have yet to find what we know can be. So we’ve decided to build it. We are creating a new network of schools - schools we wish were around when we were kids, schools we wished existed when we were teachers, schools that all children deserve.

THE  MODEL

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Belonging v. -

Being fully accepted for who you are, collectively working to overcome judgement, prejudice, and bias

 

To feel that you belong is liberating. It means that your identity is validated and affirmed, that you can build healthy relationships, and that you are secure within the community. These principles are the foundation of The Gathering Place’s culture.

The Gathering Place celebrates and builds upon what makes us diverse, works in relentless pursuit of equity, and facilitates inclusivity to create a community where people feel an authentic sense of belonging. Instead of trying to force students to share a set of common societal beliefs, which in the U.S. are often built on white and eurocentric values, we focus on understanding and encouraging the things that make us different.

The culture of our schools is built on restorative practices. While most schools respond to breaches of school culture with retributive punishment, we focus on accountability through repairing the harm that was done.

Lastly, through a social-emotional curriculum, students at The Gathering Place learn to deeply understand and manage emotions, establish and maintain positive relationships, and develop empathy and resolve conflict.

 
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Project-Based Learning v. -

Designing your own education by solving real-world problems that matter to you

What students learn in school should not be separated from how it appears in the real-world. Instead of moving through topics that are disconnected from the very things that matter to students and jumping from one unrelated skill to another, project-based learning does the opposite.

Through PBL, students explore relevant problems, create plans to build potential solutions or answers, and reflect throughout the learning process. As problems have not been isolated from the real-world, projects are by nature interdisciplinary and weave together multiple skills. Each student’s project is different and reflects their personal interests and passions.

For example, in traditional schools, students go from one content class to another. In math class, the goal of the day may be adding fractions, in history, it may be knowing what crops the Aztecs grew, and in English, it may be writing a persuasive essay. The lessons are disconnected from one another and separated from the real-world, leading to bored students and frustrated teachers.

With project-based learning, students start with a meaningful problem. They may work in teams to suggest solutions for the vacant lot near their school. A team may propose to convert the abandoned lot into a community garden. They will utilize fractions to design the garden and plan the budget, learn to grow different crops as a way to test different soil compositions, and they too will learn persuasive writing as they put together collateral to receive approval from city council.

While the first example often leads to boredom and minimal learning (and brings back memories of staring at the clock waiting for class to end for many of us), the second example develops a set of vibrant experiences and skills that stay with people for life. Project-based learning is real, tangible, and you as the student get to set the course of your own learning.

 
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Creating v. -

Bringing something into existence that would not have existed without you

 

Art is at the center of what it means to be human. It enables us to see what is not there. It develops identity. It gives pleasure. It is how we share the complexities of our experiences with others and it is the primordial ooze of innovation and creativity. The arts are often an outlet for emotion and expression, an elemental method of communication, and a way to connect deeply and explore perception. At The Gathering Place, we believe that the arts are a fundamental way of interacting with the world and support students in answering the question of “Who am I?”

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The Founders

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Joanna Klekowicz (M. Ed) joined the movement for educational equity after witnessing the injustice of the school-to-prison pipeline while tutoring inmates in Boston. She joined Teach for America-Memphis and led her students to achieve 2.5 years of growth, ranking in the highest percentiles across the state. She transitioned to developing high school math teachers across Chicago where she was the only coach in her organization to be recognized for excellence by every teacher in her cohort. She later ventured into the financial sector where she worked as an investment consultant managing a $536 million book and became the fastest promoted employee in the region.

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Ryan York’s (M. Ed) career started by co-founding a nonprofit that served hundreds of children each year through its flagship program “Southern Girls Rock and Roll Camp” and opening a 6,000 sq. ft. after-school arts facility outside of Nashville. Transitioning into the classroom, he was awarded the district All Star teacher award and developed a blended learning software management platform that led to the highest math growth in the district by enrolled teachers. As principal, Ryan led a school turnaround that ended with the highest staff retention, math scores, and 5th grade reading growth in one of the top performing school systems in Tennessee.

Ryan and Joanna began working together when they teamed up with RePublic Schools to create a middle and high school computer science curriculum and teacher training program. After six months, Ryan was promoted to CIO and won the National Sally Ride & Deloitte Award for Innovation, while Joanna scaled the project-based CS program from 250 students to 10,000+ students across 8 states. Her work also resulted in the largest district-charter partnership in Nashville history, bringing RePublic’s CS program to all district middle schools.

The Board

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Quincy Boyd is a native of San Antonio with a true passion for making a positive impact on education in her community. Prior to Families Empowered, Quincy led college access initiatives while serving students at Phillis Wheatley High School and KIPP Sunnyside High School in Houston, Texas. In 2013, she left Houston to join the admissions office at Harvard University; while there, she gained a holistic understanding of admissions processes and worked to increase campus diversity each year. In 2016, she transitioned back to the K-12 sector, managing programs to promote student success as the Director of Academic Programs at BASIS San Antonio.
Quincy is a proud first-generation college graduate. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from The University of Texas at Austin, and an M.Ed. in Education Policy and Management from Harvard University.
Outside the office, Quincy enjoys spending quality time focusing on her faith, family and friends. She’s married to Gerald, a school principal, who is equally passionate about making a positive difference in the lives of students. Together, they have one beautiful daughter named Harper.

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Jon is an artist masquerading as an arts administrator. He is active in professional local, regional and national creative youth development initiatives, including currently serving as a trustee for the National Guild for Community Arts Education, the National Advisory Committee of the National Teaching Artists Guild, and a board member of Texans for the Arts.  He hopes his legacy will be inspiring and educating the next generation of our nation’s creative leaders.

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Janet Young is the Chief Operating Officer for Parallon Business Solutions in San Antonio, Texas. Parallon is a subsidiary of HCA Healthcare and affiliated with the Methodist Healthcare System. A native of Knoxville, Tennessee, Janet graduated from the University of South Carolina with a Bachelor of Science in Health Information Administration. Janet has over 15 years of executive leadership experience with a demonstrated history of working in the hospital and healthcare industry. Janet brings 13 years of board expertise acting as Chairperson of the Board for Grace First Baptist Church for 6 years and Treasury Chairperson of the Board for Health Futures of Texas for 2 years. Janet’s husband, John Young, is retired from United States Air Force. Having a 16-year-old daughter of her own; Janet is passionate about education and promotes youth achievement of high educational goals through community involvement in the San Antonio Citywide National Society of Black Engineers Jr. Chapter and the Jack and Jill of America Inc. San Antonio Chapter.

The Timeline

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We are proposing to open our schools in San Antonio where there are currently over 13,000 students on charter waitlists. The major milestones towards opening The Gathering Place are outlined below:

 
 
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How to Get Connected

If you are interested in learning more about The Gathering Place, contact us at founders@thegatheringplacek12.org. We are excited to talk with community members, fellow educators, and individuals interested in continuing to improve educational opportunities for families in San Antonio.