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Supporting Excellence

Kara’s work aims to develop a collaborative education community in Baton Rouge, offering opportunities for school leaders, teachers, and community organizations to learn and work together across sectors to improve student outcomes.

A daughter of two lifelong, Louisiana educators, New Schools for Baton Rouge Director of School Strategy Kara Maggiore understands the importance of education and what excellence looks and feels like in a school. She recalls growing up looking for excuses to spend time in her mom and dad’s classrooms before embarking on a career of her own, serving students in Jefferson Parish Public Schools and KIPP New Orleans Schools for nearly a decade.

“I’ve spent my entire life in schools and around educators – family members and friends who have dedicated their lives to students in Louisiana. I have learned through observing them and my own experiences that when a school is on a path to excellence, students are engaged and challenged, teachers are developed and supported, and leaders are continuously striving to learn and grow in order to move their students and school forward.”

And while school leaders may recognize and work toward these hallmarks of a quality learning environment, they can often lack the necessary network, resources, and support to access the development and feedback needed to realize this vision. Providing those supports and building relationships among Baton Rouge’s education leaders and stakeholders is an emerging area of focus for New Schools for Baton Rouge. Kara’s work aims to develop a collaborative education community in Baton Rouge, offering opportunities for school leaders, teachers, and community organizations to learn and work together across sectors to improve student outcomes.

This initiative recently included the first New Schools for Baton Rouge Excellent Schools Tour.  Earlier this month, 40 participants, including school leaders from East Baton Rouge Parish School System, Baton Rouge Achievement Zone, and area public charter schools, as well as representatives from Teach for America and City Year, visited four excellent New Orleans schools. Participants had the opportunity to speak to leaders and observe excellence in action at InspireNOLA’s Edna Karr High School and Alice Harte Elementary as well as KIPP New Orleans’ Kipp Central City Academy/Booker T. Washington and KIPP Central City Primary. These high-performing schools shared knowledge and resources around various best practices, including hiring and retaining faculty, creating effective class schedules, and developing both new and veteran teachers.

“The Educational Schools of Excellence Tour was a really great experience. It gave the opportunity to see the classroom setting and educational culture of some top performing schools in our state. One of the most valuable pieces of the tour was the time spent with the school and organization leaders to discuss the systems that were put in place to achieve their current results,” shared East Baton Rouge Parish School System Principal on Assignment for Technology Integration Wiley Brazier.

In addition to the schools tour, the leaders had an opportunity to participate in a lunch discussion on the importance of equity training in schools led by Matthew Kincaid, founder of Overcoming Racism, a non-profit that trains educators in addressing race and equity in education systems.

“Matt’s presentation was a powerful part of the entire school visit experience.  The conversations he facilitated made it possible for us to see our work as educators in a larger social context, within a larger system that needs to be questioned, challenged and redefined.  The session reminded me that being a leader at my school involves something deeper than analyzing data or delivering professional development.  I have to attend to those things as well, but Matt reoriented me around an equally vital goal: to develop actively an anti-racist team of teachers who prepare our scholars to be the change-makers of the future,” commented Baton Rouge Bridge Academy Instructional Coach Olivia Cox.

After the success of the fall tour, New Schools for Baton Rouge will host another schools tour featuring Baton Rouge schools in early spring. Education leaders and community stakeholders are invited to participate.

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