Jun 11 2011

Welcome to SPA’a new teachers:

Published by under Uncategorized

We are excited to have students enter our first 5th grade class, and I even more excited about the dynamic team of new teachers joining us. They are mission alligned and clearly wants to teach the whole child as we narrow the achievement gap in the big easy. Welome to Mr. Robert Ackerman joining us from California, Ms. Marissa Lyons, joining us from Arizona and Sarah Butler an New Orleans local. We are excited to have you join our team and family.

No responses yet

Oct 04 2009

Success Preparatory Academy

Published by under Education

Wow, it has been so long since I last blogged and Success Preparatory is now in it’s eighth week. www.successpreparatory.orgThe year started off on August 6, 2009 when our 3rd graders arrived for their first day. Our teachers spent 2 weeks in professional development and they were prepared and pumped up to welcome and receive our students. On August 17, 2009 our last group of students, the Kindergartners arrived for their first day of school, class of 2026 (when they would graduate from college). We spent the first weeks of school socializing our students, teaching them how to walk, sit, talk and everything else one need to be a successful college prep student. Some student took to it immediately, while others had a hard time adjusting to the new structures and expectations. I’ve seen this during my years at Noble Street and KIPP and knew that it would take some time to get all students bought in and followingg all our rules. We have a great bunch of teachers who are still relentlessly enforcing and requiring students to do the right thing, even when no one is watching.

Today, eight weeks later I would like to reflect on our start up. There are always glitches and hitches in any start up environment. We managed to get our building and classrooms ready before the students arrived and the school had an amazing face lift from the previous year. We had to do a lot of cleaning, get rid of graffiti and change it to look like a college prep school. Our biggest challenge being that our school has no walls and is partitioned by office partition walls. Then we also have to share the building with the upper school with 4th – 8th graders, and we have no control over them. They are a separate entity and we have to adapt to co-exist in he same building – There Are No Excuses! Making sure all curriculum arrived on time and all tech material was ready when we opened also posed a challenge, but our teachers in the true spirit of UBUNTU did what they had to do to start teaching and developing our college bound students for leadership and lifelong learning. They practiced our routines and held students to high expectations, today they are still only a few students struggling to adapt as each week more and more progress is visible and less and less students end up on RED. Our discipline system is a color card system. Each day every students starts the day on green and after one warning they move down to yellow, then orange and then red. Students ending the day on red twice a week earns an automatic Saturday detention. Needless to say that Saturday detention has a number of frequent flyers and i am now looking at an intervention plan to help them improve their behavior and stay out of detention.

Though there are many challenges associated with cohabitation with another school with bigger kids, we have managed to survive the first eight weeks  and our teachers have been able to teach amidst high noise levels, many police visits and student arrests, verbal abuse from older children, while trying to protect our students at all cost. I would like to document how Success Prep Academy came to be and this week I’ll zoom in on our amazing teachers.

One response so far

Jan 19 2009

First week in South Africa!!!!

Published by under Education

South Africa – December 2008/January 2009



New York Airport (JFK)




South African Trip:


December 16, 2008 to January 11, 2008


We landed in Port Elizabeth on December 17, 2008 and were met at the airport by my brother Brenville and my niece and nephew. I was however surprised to see that my cousins Denise and Sandra with their husbands also came to meet us at the airport. Niloy, Sameer and I were then led to my nieces flat in Summerstrand on the beach front. After we settled in we went for dinner at Primi near Brookes Pavillion. We had some good food and South African beer. Then it was time to come home, because we were all very tired.



December 18, 2008:

We had an early start to the day. Qondaleke from the Ububtu Education Foundation came to pick us up and drove us to Zwide. We were able to see the Chris Hani informal Settlement, RDP housing projects and township life. We then went to the office and met with the various staff members, hearing about how the project get started and grew since 1999. The work that they do in the community is amazing, besides making sure that the urban youth work hard and get to college through various projects, thay also make sure that all these students eat at school every day through community gardens at schools. We visited one of the clinics that they support who caters to people living with HIV and Aids as well as TB. They do a lot of outreach and are actively involved in community upliftment ……. Ubuntu is visible in everything they do. They are also funded through the US and Canadian governments. We spent some time talking about the students they placed in universities, especially at Rhodes and how our USA Alumni can better support these students.



Qandeleke from Ubuntu Education Fund

Then it was time for lunch. We went to the Spur and had a great lunch and then stopped at The Boardwalk where we caught up on emails at the Internet Café. I headed back to the flat and Niloy and Sameer stayed on and decided to walk back. I’m sure they are having a great time. We will probably head to Barney’s for dinner. We also went to Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (UPE), but most departments were closed for the holidays. I did manage to take a picture in front of Ziggi’s a bar we frequented as students.

We went out to Barney’s for dinner and ended up having a really good time. We met up with Linda Meiring, Cathy Elliot and Grant (who looked like Brett Farve!) who went to UPE with me in the 90’s. After a loud reunion we shared a table, beers, old stories and lots of laughs. It was a pleasant surprise and good to see old college friends!!!!! Go oppi’s! Niloy and Sameer decided to go out a little more and I decided to stay in because we have to get n early start to Grahamstown tomorrow morning where I will be meeting with my Alumni Association at Rhodes University!


December 19, 2008

We got up early for our trip to Grahamstown. Rhodes University is situated in Grahamstown, about 130 kilometers from Port Elizabeth. Niloy and Sameer slept on the drive there. It was an exciting visit to Rhodes where I met with Prof. Peter Clayron – Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University. Prof Clayton is in charge of research and development and we discussed ways to help improve Math education in South Africa. I will be working on arranging an exchange program for SA Math teachers to visit high performing schools in the US Charter School network. We then went on a tour and our guide Michael took us all around campus. Niloy and Sameer were taken in by the beauty of the campus and compared it to a California Ivy League Campus. We then had lunch and shared some stories with all the staff of the Alumni House. Before we left it was picture time for the RHODOS, our campus Newspaper!!!



St. Claire, Niloy, Sameer at Rhodes University.

The drive home was pleasant with two sleeping beauties. We stopped at Sundays River to get some snacks before heading to my brother’s place. I was very excited to find that my missing bag was delivered to my brother’s house so all the gifts were saved. My sister also arrived from George by then and we were waiting for my dad to arrive from Cape Town. We then sat down for dinner. We had chicken curry, prawn curry, roast potatoes, Hong Kong Chicken, corn and rice with salad. It was a great meal. Still tired from the trip we retired to out apartment where the plan was to sleep for a few hours and head out, needless to say that we were so tired that we did not make it out at all.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I woke up early and while the other guys were sleeping I went for a walk on the beach. It was so great and brought back many memories. People were surfing, swimming, rubber ducking, jogging …… the PE beachfront as I remember it. Now we are getting ready to go to breakfast at WIMPY and then head to the PE Oceanarium and snake park called Bay World. Niloy lost his contact in the bathroom this morning; he has another pair so he’ll still be able to enjoy all the sites … I mean see all the sites.

We went to WIMPY for breakfast (Niloy had 2) and saw a helicopter across the road giving tourist rides. We asked some questions about it and went across the road and booked our ride. A 10 minute ride cost us each R450 but it was amazing. We could see the city and was able to take some great aerial pictures of the beach and Summerstrand. Niloy got to sit in the front seat with the pilot.

Niloy, St. Claire and Sameer before our helicopter ride

After our helicopter ride we went to Bayworld where we saw a seal and the dolphins perform. The dolphins were a father and daughter team and they kept the crowd entertained and wet. After that we took a brief walk through the Museum and Snake Park. We then headed off to my Aunty Rosita’s house in Parkside. Here Niloy and Sameer met my cousin, Eshaam and after finding out that he loved and played basketball, they teamed up and left for Malabar to play some ball. I headed to my brothers house and Eshaam brought them there after they were done.  They were able to meet one of my childhood friends, Carol Le Roux now a RN in the ICU of one of our local hospitals. We visited for a while and then headed to Delhi Snacks in Korsten to get dinner at one of my old hang-outs. Now it’s time to decide where to go for the night, I think Brookes Pavilion is top of the list, maybe Toby Joes or Tappas Al Sol. I guess Jetlag finally caught up because we did not make it out ):



Port Elizabeth Beachfront, Marine Drive: December 20, 2008



Sunday, December 21, 2008

Today is my nephew’s birthday and I got up early to go and buy him a gift. I bought him a gold ring at the Summerstrand Jewelry Store and did a bit of shopping for breakfast. I got back at 11.00am and found Niloy and Sameer still sleeping. Their bodies must be adjusting!!!!!!! We have to go to my brother’s place for the 21st birthday party of Kirston. I am extremely excited because I will be able to see many of my family members at the party. Time to wake up my buddies and get the day started.

So we were a little late for the celebration, when we there the speeches were already underway and I was put on the spot by my dad and had to deliver a speech. All the speeches were great and Kirston had a emotional speech thanking everyone in the immediate family for the role that they have played in his life. The food was served and everybody had a good time.  We enjoyed s0ome lamb, chicken, rice, a variety of salads, bread rolls and some really good Cape Malay pastries. The guys were sitting around having beers and telling jokes. Uncle Boy was the highlight with all his funny jokes and saying good-bye 5 times. Niloy and Sameer had a great time. I managed to sit down and talk with some old college friends, uncles and aunts. We spent most of our day with the family before heading back to the apartment for a quick stop over before heading out. We went to Tappas Al Sol we met some great people, some who have been in the States before. The shot girls were very persistent and we could not say NO to having a few shots. We then headed off to PRIMI for a midnight dinner, for some or the other reason I think Niloy really likes PRIMI!!!


Monday, December 22, 2008

We set out early to meet up with my dad who was going to accompany us to Addo Elephant Park. When we got there the whole family decided to make the hour long trip. We stopped at Nando’s on the way and got some chicken burgers and sodas to hold us over until lunch time. We decided to take the game drive. It cost R190 per person and we got our personal guide.

What an exciting game drive. Zwaai our guide shared the rules with us and we were off. We spotted our first elephant shortly after that and then set forth in search of animals. We went to a watering hole as Zwaai knew the heat would bring many animals to wet their skins and take mud baths. He also informed us that elephant’s drink up to 200 liters of water a day. Wow, what an amazing site when we reached the water hole, Female as well as male elephants with little ones were cooling off. We got really close to them and it was quite a thrill. When the elephants left rhino came to take a mud bath. Once again we were stunned by the beauty of nature and these animals. Zwaai informed us that the Rhino was the most dangerous of the South African Big Five. We also saw some antelope and ostriches during our drive. Niloy and Sameer thought it was absolutely awesome to see and come so close to the animals. We briefly stopped at the Curio Shop before heading back to Port Elizabeth.

We had dinner at my brother’s place and watched a movie before heading home. We stopped at the Boardwalk to get on the internet and then had a few beers at News Café. Niloy had some passion fruit, a non-alcoholic drink he has taken a fancy to. Then it was off to bed.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

We got up early once again and headed to Pick and Pay Supermarket to get flowers because we were going to visit my mom’s grave in Forest Hill Cemetery this morning. We also got some breakfast, Niloy got a chicken pie, I had a pepper steak pie and Sameer settled for two chocolate donuts.  We bumped into Prof Piet Naude, a former teacher and Dean of mine at UPE. I introduced Niloy and Sameer to him. We then headed to the cemetery where we met my brother and my nephew.

Brenville, Kirston, St. Claire




Forest Hill Cemetery

Sameer and Niloy then left with my brother for a game of golf on our local Military base. They came back saying that they really enjoyed it. They took a shower before we headed to Malabar for dinner at my cousin’s place. We had a braai (BBQ) at Godfrey and Denise’s place and darn was it good. We had ribs, lamb chops, sosaties (kebabs), wors (sausage), roosterbrood (traditional bread cooked on the fire), salads and desert. There was so much food and it was cooked to perfection. It was almost 10pm when my nephew came to get Sameer and Niloy. They were heading out to play pool at one of our local pubs. It is now almost 2.00am and I expect them back at any time.

I also just received an email from US Immigration that my green card was mailed today. This is really good news and will make travelling so much easier. It was a long and tedious process and I am very glad that it is over.

December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve ….. I spent it the traditional South African way by doing the last minute shopping in the busy shopping malls and then heading to my brothers where the whole family got started on the cooking for Christmas lunch. It is quite a process because the Christmas lunch is quite a feast. We played some Christmas carols and my dad, brother, sister and I sang along. We then watched Christmas at the Riverria. Niloy and Sameer left just before lunch with Kirston and Melissa to Greenacres, one of our large shopping malls. I met them later at my brother’s house where we had Chinese for dinner. They then went bowling with my niece and nephew and their cousins. Niloy exclaimed that “Milky Bar” was the best candy that he ever tasted and wondered why it was not available in America. Sammer was the risk taker trying ox tongue (a South African delicatessen enjoyed at Christmas time) for the first time. He is a real trooper and promised to try a bigger piece at Christmas lunch.

One response so far

Oct 15 2008

Education in the USA – Famous weighing in

Published by under Education

Ashanti, the multi-platinum Grammy-Award winning singer/songwriter and actress and singer/songwriter Jason Mraz, along with Natasha Bedingfield, Moby, Chuck D, Chris Cornell, Tony Hawk, Colbie Caillat, Darius Rucker, Sara Bareilles, Sean Kingston, Matt White, Julie Roberts, Diana Page, and Krista, joined with Strong American Schools and YouCast to launch a series of public service announcements by top talent and music artists to raise awareness of the American education crisis and to urge America’s leaders to fix failing schools throughout the United States.

–Watch The videos–
Jason Mraz
Colbie Caillat
Julie Roberts
Matt White
Darius Rucker

–Join Now To Support Education –
Test your knowledge against 8th graders throughout the world, Sign the petition in support of strong schools, join in our Hot Topic of the week and learn how you can support education.

No responses yet

Aug 28 2008

Evacuating to San Diego

Published by under Blogroll

Three years after Hurricane Katrina


Tomorrow marks exactly three years since the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Everyone around the world is aware of this devastation and the toll it took on the city. Many people are just now starting to recover and get their lives back in order. I moved here after the storm and was shocked to see how many houses were still abandoned and just recently heard that 6000 houses must still be demolished. So New Orleans is truly a city under construction being rebuilt.


On this the anniversary day of Katrina New Orleanians are faced with a beast called Gustav. I can sense that it is bringing back a tremendous amount of memories and the past is back to haunt, so with Gustav approaching people are getting ready to evacuate the city. We expect an announcement from Mayor Nagin for mandatory evacuation tomorrow. Where previously people would just wait out the storm, they are now all ready to evacuate. Hotel rooms between New Orleans and Arkansas are fully booked. I decided to head out to San Diego today. I am getting all my legal documents and pictures together and heading out. There is a chance that Gustav changes course, but I am not going to take any chances.


To the family back home who have sent emails being worried after hearing the news on the radio or tv, everything here is still fine. Gustav is not even in the Gulf yet, and if he stays on his current course, it will only hit New Orleans on Monday around one o’clock the afternoon. Rest assured that I am fine and heading to safety this afternoon.

2 responses so far

Jul 21 2008

I’m learning so much about myself!

Published by under Uncategorized

What a great week! Our classes were exciting and Professor Euske led us on an amazing journey of self-discovery based on our own feedback and that of 3 of my peers. I was able to recognize my strenghts and weaknesses as a person and a leader. This weekend I worked on an “Action Plan” on how I will build on my strenghts and strenghten my weaknesses as I work towards being an effective school leader. It is amazing what you find out about yourself through the eyes of those you work with.

The five cohort members all have different personalities, leadership styles but share the same vision – opening a school where all the children in New Orleans will be able able to work to their full potential as they climb the mountain to College. Before we start this mornings lectures we will be visiting with Adam, the school leader of KIPP: Believe here in New Orleans. I am looking forward to our 2 hour talk as I am using every opportunity to learn.

New Orleans is treating me well!!!

One response so far

Jul 15 2008

Awesome Resident Cohort

Published by under Uncategorized

We are starting our second week as a Resident Cohort of Founders for New Schools for New Orleans and already we are a good team. Our first week was made up of mostly the paper work and orientation where by all deadlines for the process of opening our own schools were discussed. Andrew, Micheal, Duke, Niloy and I are all like minded educators believing in a NO EXCUSES model for education. This week started off with us interviewing prospective board members. These members all had to fill out a comprehensive application and go through the board training process. Our meet and greet was done in a Speed Dating fashion whereby members had 8 minutes with each of us to get to know each other and determine good fits. The first night was quite exciting and I am looking forward to tonight’s session. We need an Advisory Board in place when we present our Charters to the State in September. Tomorrow we start 3 weeks of intense lectures with Nancy Euske a top professor from UC Berkeley. She is well known and have trained principals in the highest performing Charter Schools in the country. If I have not said it yet, I’m super excited about this year!!!!!

No responses yet

Jul 05 2008

Audubon Park House – A gift from haven!

Published by under Uncategorized

I arrived safely in New Orleans on Tuesday and arrived at the guest house I found online. I was met by my host Barbara. She showed me my room and we started talking. I soon found out that Barbara was a well read, exciting and one of the nicest people I ever met. I felt at home and every morning we had good conversation over a cup of coffee. Our conversation covered South Africa, New Orleans, education and a bunch of other interesting topics. The guest house is amazing and the atmosphere and ambiance is calming, relaxing and so New Orleans. Barbara helped me in my search for an apartment by allowing me to use her computer, her classifieds form the newspaper became mine and she had to give me directions to all my destinations. I am about to move into my apartment and Barbara provided me with sheets, cutlery, cups, glasses. In her words, ” I feel like I’m sending a son to College!” This is a tribute to Barbara who made my transition to New Orleans so much easier. God bless you!

If you are coming to New Orleans and need a great place to stay, check out:

Audubon Park House

6022 Pitt Street

New Orleans, LA 70118

Phone: 504-899-1010

[email protected]

No responses yet

Jun 23 2008

New Orleans will be my new home!

Published by under Education

VLCS students at UICAfter a year in Cleveland as principal of Villaview Lighthouse Community School I have decided to move to New Orleans to join New Schools for New Orleans http://newschoolsforneworleans.org/ . It has been a great year for my school in Cleveland, but circumstances lead to the school relocating and merging with our Downtown school. Students at VLCS came a long way since August and outscored most of their peers in Math and Reading on the NWEA test throughout the network. Our Cambridge Education Report was also groundbreaking exceeding expectations in 5 of the 7 categories and meeting expectations in the other 2. Last week also saw a very successful student College Tour of Chicago where 5th and 6th grade students visited UIC, De Paul and Nortwestern University. The students had a great time and going to College is now more then just a notion.

I will be joining New Schools for New Orleans as a 2008/2009 Fellow and working on my Charter before opening a new Charter School in NOLA in 2009/2010.

The mission of New Schools for New Orleans is to achieve excellent public schools for every child in New Orleans by:

  1. Attracting and preparing talent to teach and lead
  2. Launching and supporting open-enrollment public charter schools
  3. Advocating for accountable and sustainable high-quality public schools

Attract and Prepare. Our work in human capital is grounded in the belief that the best way to improve public education is to center resources, decision-making and accountability as close to children as possible. This requires an investment in both teachers and school leaders. Our partners in this effort, teachNOLA and New Leaders for New Schools, recruit and place passionate, accountable teachers and school leaders in New Orleans public schools.

Launch and Support. New Schools for New Orleans believes charter schools provide the autonomy and critical accountability structure for schools to succeed. Through our School Investment Fund, we invest heavily in the development of new open enrollment charter schools. Additionally, we provide board governance, operational, and instructional support to improve student achievement in existing public schools.

Advocate. New Schools for New Orleans serves as a voice for excellent schools in New Orleans, and it advocates with policy makers on their behalf in the community. In order for parental choice to effectively transform the educational options for the most at risk children, the widespread distribution of quality information about schools and parent education are critical. To address these issues, New Schools for New Orleans contributes to the production of the New Orleans Parents’ Guide to Public Schools and supports the development of the Parent Organizing Network.

Excellent public schools for all children is the single goal of NSNO and it drives every decision we make. Whether it’s funding new public, open-enrollment charter schools; recruiting talented and committed teachers, principals and board members; or advocating for school quality, NSNO is continually working towards this ambitious but attainable goal.

I am excited to be a part of this post Katrina venture and look forward to my fellowship year starting on July 7, 2008.

2 responses so far

Mar 21 2008

Winter in Cleveland, Ohio

Published by under Blogroll

Wow, I heard it was rough before I came to live here, and I promise that that was no lie. This winter was-quite an experience and adaptation. Having to drive on snow covered roads, selecting the correct temperature for the heat, deciding when to close school, scraping snow of the car, having snow shovelled in the drive way were but a few of the challenges that I had to face after being spoilt with havenly weather in San Diego the 3 years before. I had to learn the hard way. I realized that my temperature setting for heat was to high when I got a $ 462 heating bill two months ago. The normal average was $80-$100. Another important lesson was to allow an extra 1/2 hour in the morning to heat the car and scrape of the snow before heading to work. Then there was the pressure of deciding when to close school as a result of the weather. I made it easy on myself by watching the news stations and closing as soon as other schools in the neighborhood closed. This had to happen after the phone chain to notify the school staff was set in motion. Overall it took a lot of getting use to, but I survived. Today is the 2nd day of Spring and we are expecting about 3-6 inches of snow later tonight. I hope this is the last storm and that nice weather will soon surface. It’s time the kids at school get a chance to go out and play.

No responses yet

Next »