"The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet."
How did you become involved with KIPP New Orleans Schools?
Jodi Aamodt – a past KNOS chair – had been extolling the virtues of KNOS for years before I joined the Board. I knew Jodi well and the immediate past chair (John Landrum) who slowly began “kippnotizing” me. I visited a
couple of KNOS schools and was instantly hooked on the extraordinary work of the KNOS staff. After becoming a board member, I visited KIPP Believe Primary and had a fantastic morning. The energy and warmth of the kindergartners coupled with the caring and nurturing instruction left an indelible impression.
Why did you say yes when asked to serve?
New Orleanians realize systemic issues existed in the City before Hurricane Katrina, many of which have greatly improved post-Katrina. One of the most improved areas is public education as a direct result of the diligence and talent of charter school teachers, school leaders, and executive management. It is exciting to be a small part of the efforts to double down on the charter school movement and its progressive work. Plus, KIPP has a national and local track record of working well with community stakeholders to ensure high quality education and a deep-seated commitment to providing a pathway to college and beyond. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
What was compelling about the opportunity?
The chance to work with a talented and dedicated staff as well as a committed Board to ensure meaningful educational opportunities for the children of New Orleans was too hard to pass up. There are many good non-profits doing great work and I have been fortunate enough to be associated with some of them. But the educational space is critically important to the sustainability and growth of New Orleans. I was and remain honored to be working toward that end.
What leadership roles have you had while serving on the Board?
I was the chair of the KNOS Development Committee and am currently chair of the Board.
Is there anything you know now that you wish you knew before?
The charter school movement has its own language and content. We’ve been fortunate to have Rhonda’s talented team and Board members such as Steve Rosenthal spend their valuable time teaching us the intricacies of charter schools. Concepts such as MFP and i3 funding meant nothing before I became a Board member so I wish I knew more about the financing before joining the KNOS Board.
“Joe brings a wealth of leadership experience to this role having recently served as president of the Young Leadership Council. He has incredible intuition about how to motivate others that serves him exceedingly well in presiding over the KIPP board. His many talents include a willingness to listen thoughtfully to others but also the vision to take KIPP to the next level and focus on the big picture at all times. His tenure will be impactful in many many ways!” - Jodi J. Aamodt, Former Board Chair
“Joe Giarrusso brings a unique blend of experience in civic leadership, law, political engagement, and donor cultivation. Joe embraces the full range of disciplines required of an effective board, including the intricacies of school finance and the charter school landscape that often intimidate newcomers.” – John Landrum, Former Board Chair
About KIPP New Orleans Schools
KNOS is a fast-growing network of tuition-free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public charter schools that currently operates nine schools in the Recovery School District, serving approximately 3,800 students from grades Kindergarten through twelfth. The network will be opening one new school for 2014-2015 school year, KIPP East Community Primary, the fifth elementary school. When the current growth plan is complete, KNOS will operate twelve schools, serving over 5,300 students in New Orleans.
The Top Shelf
The success of a charter school hinges largely on the decisions of its governing board. The Top Shelf enhances the capacity of charter school boards through professional development, board recruitment and community engagement.