Rocketship Southside Community Prep, chartered by the City of Milwaukee, is part of Rocketship Education, a national network of elementary school charters. The school has enjoyed a high level of support from businesses and other entities and has raised $2.5 million in local private start-up funds.
Gregory Thornton, superintendent of MPS, called partnerships between businesses and individual schools unsustainable. “You can’t raise $3 million for every new school that comes to town,” Thornton said at a conference sponsored by the Public Policy Forum.
Vanessa Solis, regional manager for community development at Rocketship, said the business community is committed to supporting schools such as hers for good reason. Businesses need highly educated workers and believe the school will be successful.
“They’ll eventually pull out of Wisconsin if they don’t have an educated workforce,” Solis said.
The school’s curriculum is based on a blended model of learning consisting of technology-mediated instruction and mixed-mode instruction, according to principal Brittany Kinser. Along with individual tutoring, students spend time in a daily “learning lab,” during which they work on math and reading using computer software designed for their age group and grade level.
Parents are required to spend 30 hours a year volunteering at the school. Parental involvement is key to building a school community, according to Kinser. She said the school hosts monthly meetings, workshops for students and parents, and conducts home visits to strengthen ties with the school.
“We’re trying to ensure that all parents are a part of this in a tangible way and that they view Rocketship as an extension of their community,” she added.