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KIPP Cooper Norcross Partnership Announces Proposed Renaissance School in Camden

The Cooper Foundation, with the support of the Norcross family, in partnership with the non-profit TEAM Schools of New Jersey, submitted a proposal today to create the KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy, New Jersey’s first “renaissance school” that will deliver a world-class public education for young people in Camden.

If approved, KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy will eventually grow to serve 2,840 Camden students in grades pre-K through 12 and provide guaranteed enrollment for children in the Lanning Square neighborhood. KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy would begin with a first class of kindergarten students in 2014. It will offer a rigorous college preparatory curriculum beginning in the earliest grades, with the goal of at least doubling the number of Camden students who attain a four-year college degree by 2030.

“The children of this city have suffered too long in a failing educational system, and spent too many days attending school in rundown, dangerous buildings,” said George E. Norcross, III, Chairman of the Board of The Cooper Health System and a strong advocate for educational reform in the City of Camden. “I’m confident that the KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy will help transform the Camden school system, enabling Camden’s children to receive the same level of education and in the same kind of state-of-the-art facilities as those found in the some of the highest-achieving districts in the state.”

The Norcross family has a long history of philanthropy, particularly in communities throughout South Jersey. Last year, Cooper Board Chairman George E. Norcross, III and his wife Sandra, announced a $5 million pledge to the Cooper Foundation. Mr. Norcross has served on Cooper’s Board of Trustees for over 22 years, and his father served on the Board for nearly a decade.

Legislation authorizing renaissance schools, known as the Urban Hope Act, was signed into law by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in January 2012. The pilot program allows for the creation of up to four schools in each of the cities of Camden, Trenton and Newark. Schools under the Urban Hope Act will be held to the same accountability standards as every public school, but will be granted more autonomy in school design, curriculum and day-to-day operations. Renaissance schools are free public schools open to all students.

The partnership to establish KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy is a new non-profit called Cooper Lanning Square Renaissance School Inc. It brings the expertise of one of New Jersey’s preeminent charter school management organizations to Camden. TEAM Schools, part of the national network of KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) schools, has been providing a college-prep education to Newark students for a decade. TEAM currently serves 1,800 elementary, middle and high school students in Newark.

The proposal calls for KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy to offer an extended school day and year and a culture of high expectations. Doctors and nurses from Cooper University Hospital and medical students from Cooper Medical School of Rowan University Hospital will have an active role through a variety of mentorship opportunities. Additionally, Cooper will continue to expand its healthcare and educational support services for students and their families.

“We’re confident that the combination of KIPP’s national and regional expertise in education and Cooper’s longstanding engagement in Camden will create a dynamic force that will help us achieve the goals of the Urban Hope Act, and perhaps more importantly, enable Camden parents to achieve the aspirations they have for their children,” explained Susan Bass Levin, President and CEO of The Cooper Foundation. “We believe that our proposal will help facilitate an academic and physical transformation that will stabilize the neighborhoods and anchor their re-birth.”

TEAM Schools are proving that zip code need not define a child’s destiny. Ninety-five percent of TEAM students are African American and 5 percent are Hispanic/Latino, and more than 88 percent are eligible for the federal free and reduced-price meals program. Typically, TEAM fifth graders enter two years below grade level in math and reading. By the end of eighth grade, TEAM students outperform their peers at the state and national level achievement exams. More than 83 percent of TEAM students who have completed eighth grade four or more years ago have matriculated to college.

In 2009, TEAM opened its first elementary school – SPARK Academy – to insure that students did not enter middle school behind academically. SPARK’s first class of kindergarteners entered the fall not ready for kindergarten based on national standardized tests. But by the end of second grade, more than 90 percent of SPARK Academy’s founding class was reading at grade level or above.

“KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy will combine KIPP’s expertise in growing and operating highly effective schools for historically underserved students with Cooper’s deep ties to the Camden community and proven track record in facility management,” said Ryan Hill, the founder of TEAM Academy and superintendent of KIPP in New Jersey. “This is a tremendous opportunity to expand our model of educational success where it is so badly needed.”

About TEAM Schools

TEAM Schools, founded by Newark, NJ by Ryan Hill in 2002, is part of the national network of KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) schools. The mission of TEAM Schools is to create a network of schools that instill in their students the desire and ability to succeed in college in order to change the world.

About the Cooper Foundation

The Cooper Foundation is the philanthropic, community outreach and community development arm of Cooper University Hospital, the leading provider of health services to Southern New Jersey and an anchor institution in Camden since 1887.

The Cooper Foundation works closely with neighborhood residents through the Cooper Lanning Civic Association, the Lanning Square West Residents in Action, the Cooper Lanning Promise Neighborhood, the Center for Family Services, St. Joseph’s Carpenter Society and many other non-profit organizations involved in health and wellness programs, reading and education initiatives, public safety and community revitalization programs.

About the Norcross Foundation

The Norcross Family and Norcross Foundation provide support to over 200 life-changing organizations each year. The foundation focuses its charitable efforts on improving education for youth, funding research to help cure diseases, supporting the arts and culture, improving the community’s safety, and helping people with disabilities.