This is the time of year for reflection and renewal.  It’s also the time for the requisite Top 10 lists of the best, worst, happiest, or most surprising things of the year.  


We at Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy have had a pretty amazing year, so here we go!  (Note to reader: there is a LOT of enthusiasm for what follows, expect bold, italics, lots of links, and excessive punctuation!!!)


10. Social Media- We are getting better each day in getting our message out there.  With 200+ followers on LinkedIn, 800+ followers on twitter, and an incredible 1700+ likes on Facebook, we are getting our message out in new and innovative ways each day.  🙂 Here’s a shameless plug for our New Year’s Message (on youtube, of course)!


9. National School Choice Week – Our celebration of National School Choice Week helped to raise public awareness of our program.  Ultimately, over 1,700 students applied for about 240 available seats.  The overwhelming demand is bittersweet, at once a testament to our success and a sobering reminder that we are not growing nearly fast enough to meet demand — see this Projo editorial on the topic.


8. Pawtucket – This fall BVP moved its Network Support Headquarters from excess classrooms at ES2 to the Lorraine Mills in Pawtucket.  The space is pretty nice (though we are finding it’s a little chilly in winter); it is great to have a home base in the City that is home to nearly half of the applicants to BVP.


7. Commended – In its first year of rating eligibility, BVP ES1 was awarded Commended status for outstanding student achievement.  Overall, BVP was awarded seven (7) Top 10 certificates from RI-CAN for academic excellence and gap-closing results.  The hard work of our scholars was celebrated by Commissioner Gist and math teacher-turned-math coordinator-turned skydiver Drew Madden.


6. BVP High School Launch – The countdown is on until the doors for our HS will open.  We intend to break the BVP mold as we continue to innovate.  This year we have secured investments from the Rhode Island Foundation, Next Generation Learning Challenge, and the Champlin Foundations to support a design that will be at once deeply rigorous and highly personalized.  Read more from our HS designer, Jonathan Santos Silva on twitter.


5. Teacher Talent – The amazing team at BVP was epitomized by our very own Milken Winner, Marielle Emet.  In a surprise ceremony, she declared that “many teachers are as — if not more — deserving of this award.”  While there’s strong consensus from the rest of us that Marielle is the most deserving. That she has about 100 really close runners-up is also a true statement.


4. Groundbreaking – Facilities are a major challenge for all schools, especially charters.  This report shows how Rhode Island charter school facilities are grossly underfunded.  Indeed, about 10% of our operating dollars, money that would otherwise be in classrooms, goes to rents, leases, and debt service.  That said, with the help of the national CDFI Self-Help, we built a 5,000 square foot addition on ES1 to allow the school to fully enroll K-4.  Even more excitedly — with our partnership with Civic Builders and support from the Gates Foundation and New Markets Tax Credits — we recently broke ground on a 40,000 square foot permanent home to ES2!


3. Charter School Growth Fund – Many consider an invitation into the CSGF portfolio as the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for charter schools.  In June, after nine months of due diligence, we were invited to join!  In addition to the recognition, investment ($2.2MM), CSGF brings real capacity to the BVP network.  From board and senior staff counsel to professional development convenings, this is a pretty amazing opportunity for BVP.


2. Renewal – It is only fitting that in a note about reflection and renewal that our very own five-year charter renewal is near the top of the list.  In addition to the renewal of the charter, the board voted to approve our expansion request.  We are now authorized to grow to a total of seven schools.  As careful followers know, that later led to some confusion, that was later cleared up.  Thank you BVP families!


1. Family – Speaking of families, at the end of the day that is what this work is all about.  Building strong families, communities, and society.  Countless scholar siblings entered the world this year — every family event seems filled with new carriages of future scholars.  Our “team family” is also bursting.  With nine staff in 2009, we now are over 140 team members.  And we are growing! Our Milken Winner brought a new “backseat NPR listener” and future scholar to the world.  Other staff with future scholars include our Director of Operations, Mike DeMatteo, Athletic Director extraordinaire Ed Laskowski, interventionist Kara Floyd, HS designer Jonathan Santos Silva, science teacher Nicole Rollins, math teacher Matt Yates, and lunch lady Lisa!  2014 is looking just as strong, so if you know of someone looking to cut their teeth as a maternity sub, let me know…


What a great year!  And you have my best to an amazing 2014!


Jeremy Chiappetta