Board Member Focus: Joseph I. Giarrusso, III, KIPP New Orleans

JoeGiarrussoHow did you become involved with KIPP New Orleans Schools (KNOS)?
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 KIPP 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 kindergarteners couples 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 Rhoda’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 become a board member so I wish I knew more about the financing before I joined the KNOS board.