My name is Dr. Richelle Brooks. I am the Principal at Children of Promise Preparatory Academy in Inglewood. I began working here as a Science teacher in 2016. Eventually, I became an Instructional Coach, then Assistant Principal, and now am the Principal.
My decision to join the team was due to COPPA’s educational philosophy of educating the Whole Child. During my interview, I expressed that I was a community organizer and that social justice and restorative justice were of great importance to me as an educator. The existence of this school, whose population is 80% Black, was in and of itself an act of social justice. It is a school of and for, the community. This is what makes this place special. COPPA’s model of education focuses on students as human beings first, and is intentional about understanding the systemic injustices and trauma that Black students in particular experience, and addresses these realities. We believe in social-emotional work as a foundation, and building upon the social-emotional with academics and community involvement. We engage in meditation, mental health checks, equipping students with the language to identify their thoughts and provide them with tools to build empathy, conflict resolution skills, leadership skills, and the ability to recognized injustices. Students are empowered to truly become agents of change.
While the social-emotional focus is what makes COPPA unique, we have also grown tremendously academically. Over the past several years, we have been modifying our instructional program and identifying best practices, and it is working. We have displayed incremental growth each year, and are now in 3rd place in the district in Math, and 8th place in ELA. We are currently outperforming the majority of the district’s schools. This success can be attributed to the hard work and dedication of our staff, but primarily, it is because of our students and families! They have worked tirelessly to grow academically, and I couldn’t be more proud.
Test scores, as much as they show our growth, do not tell our entire story, (and to be quite honest it is disappointing that this has been weighed so heavily considering the racially biased implications of these assessments). COPPA is such an exceptional place. Our Black and Brown babies all play an instrument, beginning in the 1st grade. They dance and sing and prodcude their own productions! We have a Speech and Debate team. We compete in competitions monthly and are always the only Brown and Black team. It is such an honor, such a powerful statement for our babies to represent themselves in that capacity. Our Speech and Debate coach focuses on building literacy and providing reasoning for claims. Last year, we qualified for Nationals. We also have a successful Chess program. Similar to Speech and Debate, we are typically the only school with all Black and Brown students. Our Chess team is Nationally ranked!
My second year as a Science teacher at COPPA, I put together a team of researchers ranging from 5th-8th grade. They researched the effects of Urban Heat Island Effect, on Inglewood. We attended a national NOAA and NASA sponsored conference, and they presented their research to astrophysicists, meteorologists, astronauts, college professors, and community members. Again, it was a truly powerful and empowering experience for my babies. I have worked in many places within education, and I have never experienced anything of that magnitude. Imagine, being a 10-year kid from Inglewood and presenting your very own scientific research at a NASA Conference? These are the type of experiences we aim to offer our scholars. In addition to this conference, each year our 4th-8th grade students travel to Washington DC, Sacramento, or on a College Tour, for hands-on, real-life experiential learning. I’ve had the privilege of attending these trips as well. It is unforgettable and transformational.
Our story can’t be told with just a few data points. There is more to us as a people; as Black people. The same is true for our schools. However, we are now also thriving academically, as well, and I’m beyond grateful to be apart of this organization. I couldn’t be more proud of my staff, my babies and my families. This has been a dream come true.
Please let me know if you’d like to know more about us <3 I appreciate the opportunity of y’all, “hearing me out”.”
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