Why I’m Optimistic About the Future of Baltimore

KIPP Baltimore
By Jackie Wardell, KIPP Parent, KIPP Baltimore

When I discovered that my daughter would be attending KIPP Baltimore for middle school, I was relieved and hopeful. Hopeful that I had found a school that cared about how and what children were learning and hopeful that I had found a school where parents and teachers were a team. Never could I have imagined that my daughter and I would get that and so much more. KIPP Baltimore includes an elementary school (KIPP Harmony Academy) and a middle school (KIPP Ujima Village Academy); through Team ORGANIZE, KIPP Baltimore it is also a catalyst for positive change among the greater community.

Team ORGANIZE is a blended team of student leaders, teacher leaders, and parent leaders—in and outside of our KIPP Harmony and KIPP Ujima parent associations. Team ORGANIZE brings together all of these members of the public school community to advocate for our schools. We’ve been able to impact issues that would be difficult or impossible to address if these different groups of people were working alone, such as making sure our students are served warm lunches, have a reliable bus route, and attend school in a building that is not falling apart.

My participation in Team ORGANIZE began when Yasmene Mumby, a KIPP teacher, asked if I would meet with her to discuss some of the education inequity issues facing our city. In our first meeting, she shared with me a little of herself and then began a conversation about me and my wants, not only for my daughter but for my community. As a result of this meeting, and many others just like it with other parents and teachers, Team ORGANIZE was born.


Since our conception, we have had many successes, including (but not limited to):

  • In spring of 2011, in less than two weeks, our team organized parents, teachers, and students to keep KIPP in Baltimore. We wrote 1,000 letters to the general assembly, mobilized 100 families to witness the bill hearing in Annapolis, and prepared a panel of KIPP supporters to testify on behalf of the school. As a result, we established a ten-year contract with the teachers’ union.
  • In fall of 2011, 14 Team ORGANIZE leaders mobilized 180 parents, teachers, and students to help secure a 30-year lease for our school building. Thanks to the effort and sheer number of everyone involved, not only did we receive the 30-year lease, we were moved to the top of the Baltimore City School Board of Commissioner’s hearing agenda (a feat we thought would be impossible).
  • In spring of 2012, we mobilized 163 people to join a Baltimore Education Coalition (BEC) 700-person rally at the War Memorial that won $155 million in city leverage funds for school construction.

While all this was necessary to get us where we are today, we finally saw real change during our rally in February for funding to modernize and repair Baltimore City’s crumbling public school buildings. Watch this video to see the full story:

What does real change look like? Real change looks like 3,000 people on Lawyer’s Mall in Annapolis demanding state funding for better buildings for our children. It looks like $1 billion for the renovation and reconstruction of school buildings in Baltimore city. Real change is doing something that has never been done before, that people said could never happen, but with consistent and persistent organizing is now a reality.

When I think about the success of Team ORGANIZE over the past two years, I attribute it all to the following:

  • Developing ourselves as leaders. As members of Team ORGANIZE, we were all given the opportunity to attend leadership training through Industrial Areas Foundation’s (IAF) Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD). There we were taught leadership and relationship building skills. We used these skills to find like-minded people to join our efforts and to engage leaders to work with us.
  • Building strong relationships. Our talented organizer, Yasmene Mumby, led the way in recognizing that we couldn’t make progress alone. She helped us build relationships with others such as BEC, The ACLU, the Child First Authority, BUILD, and many other organizations in order to accomplish more than we thought was possible.
  • Persistence. We are successful because we are not reactive. We are successful because we are consistent and persistent. We are successful because we recognize the collective power of organizing and the importance of deep, strong relationships.

Baltimore’s historic win is everybody’s hope. It is the beacon to all that change is possible, not only possible but tangible. As a parent I would never have imagined that my voice in concert with others could have power to change. Now I am optimistic about what the future holds for KIPP and the children of Baltimore.


*Change can happen in your area also. To learn how to organize and affect change in your area or to learn more about Team ORGANIZE, click here >