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KIPP New Orleans Leadership Academy (KNOLA) 

As the parent of a proud fifth grader at KIPP New Orleans Leadership Academy (KNOLA) on St. Claude Avenue, I recently attended Public Hearing No. 3 in Council District C and was saddened and dismayed by misconceptions of the KIPP network cited by a handful of community members.

  During this forum, I listened to one parent after another declare the need for a "scholarly" school environment and diversification within the community. I watched several people become flustered because they didn't think their voice was being heard or their concept of school accepted. Given that KNOLA focuses entirely on academic achievement, community, culture, character-building and the whole child‚ I was shocked at their comments and wanted to clarify my KIPP experience and that of my son.

  I am originally from New Orleans and am a product of the New Orleans Public Schools system. Admittedly, I left the city to advance my career and life. Upon completion of my education and training, I returned home, accepted a nice corporate job, started my own business and immediately enrolled my child in a private school. The sub-standard curriculum and outdated teaching methods led me to question my decision to come back to New Orleans post-Katrina: What was I coming back to? Should I pack up and leave for the second time?

  Last summer, while volunteering in the community, I had the pleasure of meeting the leadership team at KNOLA. When I mentioned my dilemma, they spent time with my child and me outlining their principles around results, family, tailored instruction, extracurricular activities and a disciplined but nurturing learning environment. The principal and teachers said they were different [than other schools] and wouldn't disappoint. They were correct. My child loves KNOLA. His teachers are knowledgeable, innovative and persevering. While always a scholar, my child is sufficiently challenged, motivated and has fun learning and growing. For the first time, he is playing an instrument and participating in a team sport. If I had not found KNOLA, I would have left the city, my home.

  I feel for the parents who oppose KNOLA's relocation into the Colton building in 2012. Like them, I want the best education I can possibly give to my child. The only difference between us is that I already know that everything they are asking for in a school is the precise definition of KNOLA. I hope these parents will visit [the school], and see what is happening in our classrooms. Our doors are always open.

Dawn McCormick

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