Building a vision

by John Holt on Feb 07, 2017

in Team & Family

With 25-plus years of experience in public education, Lisa McClinton has witnessed a fair share of highs and lows.

Joining KIPP Houston Public Schools in 2012, Lisa spent her initial year as Director of Academic Projects and the next three as School Leader of KIPP Sunnyside High School.

Now in her fifth KIPP year, she is transitioning into the role of founding school leader of KIPP Nexus Primary and KIPP Nexus Middle School. The pair of schools will mark Nos. 27 and 28 in Houston, and are scheduled to open their doors for the first time in August. “I already have a vision around that first day and what that’s going to look like,” Lisa said.

Lisa’s vision for Nexus is simple. “Nexus is a dual meaning word,” she said. “It’s the central or focal point of a place or community. It also means something that joins or links two or more things together. In my mind, Nexus is the central or focal point place of the community.”

Since November 1, Lisa has regularly been interviewing teaching candidates. Entering February, she had filled two of five kindergarten slots and three of six fifth grade openings. Ultimately, she hopes to have her staff finalized by the end of the month. “There is a work plan I’ve built from March till the end of school of how I want to onboard the team over those three months” Lisa said. “I’m onboarding them around mission, vision, values, and goals.”

The goal is to have the teachers prepared and ready for the 110 fifth graders and 115 kindergarteners.

“It definitely will be a challenge,” Lisa said, “but it’s something that I’m really looking forward to. I feel like I still have a lot to give.”

Lisa’s desire to give back is what initiated her want to start her own school. With her daughter Brooke having graduated from Prairie View A&M University last December, she finds herself sometimes reflecting back to when she was teaching Brooke to sound out letters, using those letters to form words, and ultimately developing those words into sentences.    

“It was very personal for me to do this because I thought about the success I’ve had with my own kid,” Lisa said. “Being a parent builds a lot of credibility with other parents who are considering schools for their own children. It gives me a mutual story to share with parents..” 

Every KIPP Houston School Leader has the freedom to design their school from the colors and mascot to the values. Nexus’ school colors will be green and blue while its mascot will be the Bobcats. Each letter in the word “Nexus” represents a school value. N stands for nurture, E stands for empower, X stands for Excel, U stands for unite, and S stands for serve. “While we will remain conscious of all of the values, we will emphasize a specific value each year,” Lisa said. “I have taken the values, and I’ve aligned them to KIPP Generations, the feeder high school.”

With less than eight months until the school’s first day, Lisa plans to continue her realistic approach. Knowing there will be high pressure, she’s never been fearful.

“We’re going to make mistakes,” Lisa said. “I already know that. That’s life. We’ll figure out what went wrong, fix it and move forward the next day. We’re going to walk into each day boldly knowing that we worked really hard to get it right that day. If it’s not right that day, then we have a Nexus circle, reflect on what didn’t work well and get it right for the next day.”

KIPP Nexus is a school with a warm and nurturing culture and where students will receive high levels of support from their teachers and each other. We are currently interviewing teachers who have a strong desire to ensure scholars leave our school and matriculate to high school saying: Veni, Vidi, Vici (I came, I saw, I conquered)!

You can apply for teaching positions at KIPP Nexus here.   

The school is now enrolling rising kindergartners and rising fifth graders here.