Dear Team & Family,
This letter will find each of you at some stage of welcoming students back to school. Thank you for the care and love that have gone into preparing for the upcoming year. Your collective work supporting KIPPsters and navigating these long pandemic months has been inspiring to watch. I therefore begin with the gratitude that is my theme throughout this message.
Today’s writing shares significant news: The upcoming school year (2021-22) will be Richard Barth’s final year as the KIPP Foundation CEO. Next summer (2022), Richard will become President of the Robertson Foundation, stewarding their investments in education, health, and the environment. We—the collective team and family that is KIPP—know well what the Robertsons will soon discover: That to work alongside Richard Barth is the gift of a lifetime.
Richard’s long and successful KIPP tenure began 16 years ago, when Don Fisher, KIPP’s first national investor and founding chair, recruited Richard to come aboard and lead the nationwide expansion of KIPP. The early KIPP had already established the proposition that young people had infinite potential, and that great schools could unleash and nurture their talent. During Richard’s tenure, KIPP held that north-star sacred, even as it rapidly expanded to become the nation’s largest network of public charter schools—growing from 8,000 students in 2005 to this fall’s ~160,000 students and alumni in 28 regions around the country. Richard also helped to lead a significant addition to KIPP’s scope, launching our trailblazing alumni programming, now known as KIPP Forward. All the while, our core DNA— constant learning, growth, and improvement—has matched Richard’s leadership orientation and the signature qualities we have all come to know: his modesty, strategic acumen, prodigious hard work, and unending capacity and care. On behalf of the Board, I will start and end this school year with abundant gratitude to Richard for the remarkable years of his leadership.
Richard’s announcement comes at a moment of strength, determination, and optimism for KIPP. The past year was our finest hour, as we collectively (and quickly) mobilized to meet the emerging needs of our network—devices and internet access to learn over Zoom, mental health supports, access to food, college retention strategies—all to support students, families, and alumni through the pandemic. Richard’s leadership team also grew to include Kinnari Patel-Smyth, serving as KIPP President supporting our ambitious goals for equity, growth, and network performance. Together with KIPP’s exceptional leadership team, Kinnari will ensure that our work continues this year, as we prepare for a CEO transition and address substantial unfinished learning from the pandemic. Indeed, the bench of talent around Richard and in our regions was of prime consideration as he contemplated taking his next step.
So, what comes next? The KIPP Foundation Board will conduct a nationwide search that will consider internal and external candidates, and we will be supported by a professional firm to help engage KIPP stakeholders so that the Board hears and understands the voices and perspectives of the network. We will update the community as we do our work across this year. The Board is undertaking this search with the utmost care to deliver on our mission—the promise of joyful, academically excellent schools for KIPPsters.
As the Board begins to prepare for our next KIPP Foundation CEO, I would welcome hearing any of your reflections, concerns, or hopes for the future—which, as with anything to do with KIPPsters, is bright indeed. I close with my best wishes to each of you,
Katherine Bradley, Chair, KIPP Foundation Board
I want to thank Katherine for such kind words and share my deepest appreciation for everyone reading this. I joined the KIPP Team and Family in December of 2005. I remember my first school leader retreat as if it was yesterday. At the end of the first evening with our founding school leaders, I remember going to my hotel room thinking….who are these amazing people, who always put students first, who care more than others think is wise? I was in awe. Here I was, surrounded by such dedicated, brilliant, passionate, and open-minded educators who wanted to work together to create schools where young people would thrive, and to build an organization where our measure of success didn’t end when a 17- or 18-year-old walked across a graduation stage.
I’ve never lost that sense of awe. For 16 years you all have inspired me as I have traveled week in and week out to see what you do up close and to learn what is working and where we can do even better. Often on my rides on the subway, grabbing coffee or checking in at a hotel, current KIPPsters, alums or family members will stop me with my KIPP bag and share a story about an individual teacher, a counselor, a KIPP team and family member who meant so much to them, often many years after their time with us. Hearing that lasting connection, sustained over time, is one of the many things you all create and foster that inspires me time and again.
On my travels, whether observing a third-grade classroom where students are reading new words or hearing seniors share what they aspire to do post-graduation, in every interaction I walk away more hopeful. More optimistic. Because thousands of KIPPsters, current and future, are charting their path forward and are on the way to building a better world for themselves and us all.
We have a big year ahead of us. We are addressing unfinished learning head on. We are resolute in making KIPP the very best place to learn to read in every community where families have entrusted us with their children. And we are working together to ensure seniors leave us with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to pursue paths leading to their highest aspirations. As I enter my final school year with this extraordinary Team and Family, I am confident KIPP is in a place of strength, with outstanding regional leaders, boards, teachers and school leaders. Kinnari and our KIPP Foundation team are so clear in the work we have to do. I know our national board will lead a rigorous, inclusive, deliberate process in selecting the next CEO. We will not miss a beat.
I am so excited to work with all of you to make this a truly special year for KIPPsters, even as we continue to tackle the challenges the world sends our way. And I am confident that our very best days are ahead of us.
With only love and gratitude.
Richard Barth KIPP Foundation CEO