February 28, 2020

KIPP Austin Black Educators connecting others and community

By John Holt, KIPP Texas Public Schools Talent Recruiter

Shortly after John Edwards became an assistant principal with KIPP Austin Beacon Prep in summer 2018, he aimed to find a way to highlight the work Black educators were doing in and away from classrooms.

Thinking about how Black educators could be more developed, how communities could have a space for connectedness, and how diversity and equity should be emphasized, Edwards had a vision and mission in place to start the affinity group titled, KIPP Austin Black Educators.

“I just thought, there’s a way you can do it,” Edwards recalled. “The organization is going to support this work.” Over the course of the next two weeks, he created a detailed one-pager and delivered it to KIPP Texas Chief Academic Officer and State Superintendent Daphane Carter.

Carter saw organizational alignment with Edwards’ proposal and decided to connect him with Chief People Officer Larry Guillory, who had been hired just weeks earlier.

“Larry flew to Austin for me,” Edwards said. “I didn’t even know who this guy was. We met for like three hours and talked through the work and how this could actually live out.”

Following the meeting with Guillory, he connected with Justin Scott, Austin’s regional superintendent and began a series of bimonthly meetings to create priorities and a scope and sequence for the group.

FORMING A TEAM

KIPP Austin Black Educators officially formed in October 2018, and Edwards felt as if he was holding down two full-time jobs. Besides spending 40 hours per week tackling his duties as Beacon Prep’s assistant principal, he also saw himself spending roughly the same amount in his work as KABE’s founder and chair. Despite the overload, he always kept the group’s mission and purpose at the forefront.

Electing to authorize a leadership team to share the workload, Edwards tabbed DeMarco Pitre as the group’s co-chair, Sharla Stewart as communications manager, and Tova Charles as KABE impact manager. Stewart became responsible for the group’s monthly newsletter distribution, Charles planned group meet-and-greets, and Pitre began to support Edwards in all lines of the work.

Today, the leadership quartet meets the second Tuesday of each month, discussing various topics including events to attend, group awareness strategies, communications plans, increasing their social media presence and more.

RISE TOGETHER IN YEAR TWO

Beginning with 60 members in the group’s first year (2018-19), KABE now has more than 100 members, including teachers, 11 state and regional staff, and two campus-based assistant principals. KIPP Texas began the 2019-20 school year with 1,115 employees identifying as Black or African American.

“We have input around our students, talent and our development,” Edwards said. “Because of that, I believe our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion work can really live out within our region and across Texas.”

In less than two years, KABE has established partnerships with the African and African Diaspora Studies Department at The University of Texas at Austin, Atlanta’s Black Teachers Educate, Texas Public Charter Schools Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas, Sanctuary Yoga (Austin), Austin Urban Technology Movement, and Waterloo Printing.

“I wasn’t expecting this at all,” Edwards said. “When I started the group, I had no intent of it to be where it’s at now. The goal was to create opportunities for us to connect and make sure that we’re being developed together.”

PROGRESSING THE MISSION

This spring, KABE will attend student recruitment events, meet with legislators of color, continue engaging in advocacy work, host a closing year meet-and-greet and put together a first-ever Black & Gold event. Scheduled the last weekend in April, it’s an opportunity to celebrate educators and acknowledge the organization’s progress.

KABE aims to reach all educators in Austin, with members serving as living examples of KIPP Texas’ five Core Values. “We’re not just doing this for KIPP Texas,” Edwards said. “We’re doing this for charter schools across the state, with the goal that it eventually will impact the entire U.S. I think it’s really, really important work.”

If you want to learn more about KABE, email John Edwards at john.edwards@kipptexas.org or visit KABE’s website here. Follow KABE on Instagram @kabetexas.

If you are interested in joining the KIPP Texas Public Schools Team & Family, please view our openings here.