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Rocky Mountain Prep and STRIVE Prep charter networks to merge

Denver charter networks Rocky Mountain Prep and STRIVE Prep will merge to create a system serving K-12 students, local network leaders announced Wednesday.

Together, the two systems serve more than 5,000 students in 14 schools, the vast majority of whom are students of color from low-income families. The combined system would be the second largest charter network in Denver after DSST.

The decision comes as STRIVE Prep founder Chris Gibbons leaves after 16 years and Denver schools — both district-run and charter — struggle with declining enrollment and meet the needs of families who have been under stress. intense during the pandemic. The charter sector also faces a more skeptical school board after many years in which Denver Public Schools embraced what leaders called “a family of schools.”

The merger will take effect on July 1, 2023, with the next year dedicated to logistics. Rocky Mountain Prep CEO Tricia Noyola will become the head of the combined system, which will operate as STRIVE Prep. The boards of the two networks approved the merger in separate meetings on Wednesday.

Each network will continue to operate independently for this school year. Former STRIVE Prep General Counsel Jessica Johnson will serve as the network’s interim CEO until the merger, while Noyola will continue to lead Rocky Mountain Prep.

Charter leaders said the merger would allow them to reduce administrative expenses and allocate more resources to programs that directly benefit children, while strengthening social and emotional support, academic guidance and academic rigor in their schools.

“We need to dedicate all the resources we can as close to the children as possible,” Noyola said in an interview. “We are going to be able to do a much better job serving our families.

Ulysses Estrada, a STRIVE Prep alum and board member who led succession planning after Gibbons’ departure announcement, said families in the network had an interest in finding elementary schools that would prepare their children well. children, to improve academic rigor through the years and to keep things running smoothly.

The leaders of both networks, he said, “are truly passionate about serving every student and the power of education to change the trajectory of your life.” The shared mission and values ​​make the merger exciting, he said.

Noyola grew up in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas before working as a teacher, principal and executive director of the IDEA public school charter network in Austin. She came to Rocky Mountain Prep last year.

Noyola said she knows from personal experience that dreams and ambitions exist everywhere, but opportunities don’t. When she coaches teachers, she emphasizes the importance that a few caring adults can have in a child’s life. She is proud of the high levels of reading proficiency Rocky Mountain Prep students display on nationally standardized tests, as well as the love of learning she sees in her classrooms.

Families have requested secondary options so their students can continue in similar learning environments, she said. Noyola said the merger also provides an opportunity to strengthen fourth- and fifth-grade programming to ensure students are prepared for more advanced work. Having a system helps to better align expectations from year to year, she said.

“I truly believe that every child can be successful with supportive adults around them,” she said. “I am honored to come to this job. We will do our best to keep our promises to every family we serve.

Bureau Chief Erica Meltzer covers education policy and politics and oversees Chalkbeat Colorado’s education coverage. Contact Erica at [email protected].

Read the joint letter to the community in English and Spanish below: