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‘Houston, We HAD a Problem’

At Success Academy, every employee strives to show ETHOS: excellence, team, humor, ownership, scholars (putting kids first). These five principles drive everything we do as an organization and fuel our success. Earlier this year, we saw ETHOS come to life in a way none of us had seen before.

A week before the start of classes, the network operations team discovered a problem: The instructional materials and furniture that students needed on the first day of school were sitting in a warehouse on Long Island.

Determined to open our schools on time and make sure students had what they needed on Day One, the entire network sprang into action. Network office staffers called every school to find out what was missing. A team traveled to the warehouse to sort books, supplies, and furniture into boxes for shipping.

At the warehouse, Patty Meegan from the literacy team organized a small army of volunteers to pack books. Caitlin Klein from the schooling team took the lead in tracking progress on an elaborate spreadsheet while Elliot Lee from the operations team spent hours moving packed boxes onto pallets and loading them onto delivery trucks. Using her encyclopedic knowledge of our schools, Brittany Ruggiero from the operations team quickly figured out which schools had enough space to receive large shipments and directed deliveries to those schools. Altogether, about 30 staffers (too many to even name, but we’ll never forget who you are!) volunteered to pack and sort materials at the warehouse, some working nights and weekends to get the job done.

Other volunteers — Success Academy employees and parents — left their daily routines and responsibilities behind to work side by side with school operations teams and teachers to unload trucks, unpack boxes, and set up our schools. When a shipment of books was delivered to one middle school instead of to the nine different schools where it was supposed to go, Josh Pearson teamed up with parents to deliver the books to the right place in rented cars.

Another ops team member, Nicole Smith, coordinated a massive deployment of network staffers to schools all over the city to unpack boxes and organize classrooms. For a full week before classes started, our school leaders responded to the challenge by thinking fast and devising creative solutions, keeping their focus at all times on the needs of the teachers and the kids.

Of course, a sense of humor helped. At the warehouse, staffers adopted a team mascot — a stuffed little bear purchased from a dollar bin — and wore T-shirts that our amazing colleague Kristina Exline-Manson on the schooling team hand-made to lift our spirits. Those work acquaintances we didn’t know too well are now true colleagues and friends. We took so much joy in one another’s company!

Thanks to this tremendous team effort, the first day of school ran seamlessly. Our schools opened on time, and scholars entered buildings that were magical places of learning. They found meticulously organized classrooms, inspiring bulletin boards in the hallways, and libraries brimming with books.

It was truly inspiring and humbling to see everyone in our network come together as a team to meet this major challenge.

Bryan Ballegeer, Kris Cheung, Caitlin Klein, Patty Meegan, and Ali Rubin contributed to this story.

Written by Sara Yu October 19, 2015

Subjects: Ed Reform

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