KIPP Sumner Elementary opened its doors in 2022 as KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy’s newest elementary school. Over 100 students walked through the doors of Sumner in August and since then, the school has made a significant impression on students and families in its first year. 

“The thing I’m most proud of this year is developing a supportive and engaging school culture for students and teachers,” said school leader Ken Calemmo. “We wanted to create a place where kids could create positive memories and traditions. Today, Sumner is an exceedingly joyful place where our students and teachers feel a high degree of ownership in contributing to the common vision of our school,” said Calemmo. 

Developing family partnerships has been a critical part of that work. Sumner has hosted a number of family events throughout the year, including a family breakfast, Hispanic Heritage Month potluck, Thanksgiving family lunch, and a ‘Reading Night’ at Ferry Avenue Library. 

Rhaje Jones, a teacher and Sumner’s family and community engagement coordinator, has been instrumental in championing these events. “My goal is to support a school community where families have opportunities to step into their student’s world,” said Jones. “Our events have reflected our commitment to supporting families and connecting them with resources in their community, like our Library night. We want to make sure everyone feels like a part of the Sumner community,” she added. Next year, Jones hopes to launch a Parent Council and offer families more opportunities for input and involvement in planning school events. 

The hard work of teachers like Jones has not gone unnoticed by families. Brianna Irizarry’s daughter Emmery is a second grader at Sumner and is new to KIPP schools. “It’s been like night and day from her experience at her last school. She’s making so much progress in reading and math,” said Irizarry.

Lakeia Jackson holds the distinction of being a two-time founding parent with KIPP schools in Camden; her older children attended KIPP Lanning Square Primary when the school launched in 2014. “We’ve been with KIPP since they were just getting set up in Camden,and we’ve loved Sumner this year. There’s so many resources available to families and teachers like Ms. Jones are always in touch with us about what’s going on. We’re able to offer our input as parents,” said Jackson.

KIPP Sumner parent, Ms. Jackson.

As he reflects on nearly a year of learning at Sumner, Calemmo is particularly proud of the reading gains he’s seen from students, with the vast majority making significant progress in their reading levels. Next year, the school plans to grow to educate more students. “I talk with my leadership team all the time about how joyful school culture and rigorous learning are not mutually exclusive. I’m looking forward to continuing to bring that vision to life,” he said. 

Teachers like Mr. W. at Sumner celebrate students for demonstrating leadership and kindness in their classes!
KIPP Sumner families gathered at the Ferry Avenue Library to read, take part in art activities and learn more about the resources available to them through the library.
Sumner parent, Anthony Duran and daughter, Yurani head to school together for Father Figure Day.
Families gathered for a Thanksgiving lunch in November.
Students like Emmery dressed at their 100 year old selves to honor the inaugural first 100 days of the school year.

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