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Case Study: KIPP Northern California (NorCal)



Summary


About KIPP Northern California (NorCal)

KIPP Public Schools Northern California’s free public charter schools prepare students for success in college and opportunities in life. They believe every child can grow up free to create the future they want for themselves and their communities. K


Industry: Education

Location: San Francisco, CA

Time frame: May 2022 - July 2023 (work ongoing)


Size

A network of 21 schools in 7 cities across northern California.


Solutions

  • Deep-dive discovery conversations, quantitative survey, and report of findings

  • A custom strategy, ongoing advising, training, and support focused on Culture, providing Connection, and increasing access to high-quality Care.


Results

  • Employees saw a 76% increase in awareness of how to seek mental health support.

  • Employees reporting that work positively impacts their mental health increased by 33%.

  • Employees saying KIPP NorCal leaders model mentally healthy practices increased by 22%.

 

The Context


Post-pandemic, the K-12 education industry has seen a decrease in teacher morale and more teachers leaving the profession. Many teachers found the transition of returning to the workplace challenging, and some had never taught in person before. Issues around pay, housing, and anti-charter sentiment were all compounding, making it difficult to work in the education environment. 


At KIPP NorCal, Judy Li and Sara Zepeda, in partnership with other KIPP NorCal leaders noticed that staff had been taking more leave and struggled to manage the growing stress. They both had a passion for mental health and decided to explore and bring in mental health support for educators. Prioritizing mental health would help KIPP NorCal retain and attract teachers and have a trickle-down effect on providing the best education possible. Research suggests that teacher wellbeing leads to better student outcomes. Students with the same teacher for more than one year benefit academically and behaviorally.


KIPP NorCal previously offered traditional healthcare benefits, which teachers found confusing (they didn’t know how to get care) or had a poor experience navigating the benefits. A KIPP champion was familiar with Mind Share Partners and recommended that Judy reach out. KIPP NorCal was impressed by the comprehensive support offered and Mind Share Partners’ Principal Michael Davis’ experience in education. 


The Solution


Mind Share Partners started with discovery work to understand KIPP NorCal employees' needs and create progress benchmarks. Based on the discovery work, KIPP NorCal employees were experiencing mental health challenges, were not very aware of resources available, and, like many teachers—particularly in under-resourced communities—were experiencing a work environment that negatively impacted their mental health. Employees also felt mixed about leadership and organizational support for mental health at KIPP NorCal. 


There were also bright spots uncovered that created a unique opportunity to keep building upon. KIPP NorCal employees felt more comfortable talking about mental health to their manager or work colleagues than the national average, and over two-thirds felt safe talking about mental health at KIPP NorCal. 


Based on the discovery, Mind Share Partners and KIPP NorCal implemented a holistic approach to supporting their staff's mental health and wellbeing to better serve their students, families, and communities. 


This included a customized strategy focused on enhancing their Culture, providing Connection, and increasing access to high-quality Care.


The work focused on culture change included:

  • Formation and guidance from region-wide Mental Health Workgroup

  • Pre- and Post- Discovery surveys and interviews to inform this effort and improvements made

  • Leadership sessions and training

  • Regular communications to increase awareness of supports and normalize mental health


The connection work included piloting peer support groups at five schools.


Finally, the care efforts included offering connection to a mental health professional through Lyra Health and building awareness of a multi-tiered structure for support and care.


The Impact


Mind Share Partners found impressive YOY improvements in KIPP NorCal’s outcome report. Some of the culture work outcomes included: 


  • A 76% increase in KIPP NorCal employees knowing how to seek support for mental health at KIPP NorCal.

  • A 30% increase in KIPP NorCal employees saying that KIPP NorCal’s work environment positively impacts their mental health.

  • A 13% increase in job satisfaction. 

  • A 22% increase in KIPP NorCal employees saying that leaders model mentally healthy practices.

  • There was a 38% increase in KIPP NorCal employees' belief mental health is prioritized at KIPP NorCal compared to other priorities.


Annie Weaver, Associate Director of Talent at KIPP NorCal shared after conversations with school leaders at their campuses that, “We have come so far in how we talk about mental health, conversations have been opened up, and dialogue has started that wasn’t there before. It’s exciting and rewarding to say, ‘We heard you, and here are the resources available to you now.’ Many teachers jumped at the opportunity to utilize the new benefits, and there was an overall increase in awareness about what’s available and how to access it.”


KIPP Norcal has brought on a dedicated staff member to better mental health at KIPP NorCal and lead these efforts. They will focus on scaling up people managers across campuses now, with each school having its own identity and different needs. 


Weaver said, “We couldn’t do it without Mind Share Partners. It’s been invaluable to have a partner who has experience in management consulting of this type of program and in the context of education—an industry with its unique language and needs. Continuing work with Mind Share Partners is a no-brainer. Someday, we will carry out the programming on our own, but for now, it’s great to have the partnership.”

Looking Forward

We asked KIPP NorCal to provide advice to other education organizations embarking on launching or continuing their own mental health strategy:

“Invest the time and resources upfront and trust it will be worth it. Once the staff is happier, feels better taken care of, and feels valued, it will trickle down to what they bring to classrooms and students. Daily class work will improve, teachers will stay, and their relationships with students and faculty will blossom. Someone staying is better in the long run versus always retraining new staff.”

 



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