nota bene

Meet Bene Cipolla, who’s inaugurating a new Chalkbeat chapter as our first-ever executive editor

Bene Cipolla joined Chalkbeat today as our new executive editor. Photo by Yan Ruan.

Today the Chalkbeat team expanded one more time: We welcomed our first-ever executive editor, Bene Cipolla.

Executive editor is a position we were once too small to need, but now find ourselves too big to live without. And we’ve found the perfect person for the role in Bene, an experienced reporter, editor, team builder, and digital leader who cares as much about education and great journalism as we do.

Bene will lead our amazing team of editors and reporters, now in five locations, not to mention our new national team.

Her charge is to make sure Chalkbeat remains sharp, smart, and connected to the realities in schools. We are also asking Bene to help us get better. We want to cover a wider territory, take on more ambitious projects, and share more stories that haven’t yet been told. 

With experience editing at major magazines, writing and reporting for the world’s best newspapers, and leading editorial teams at fast-growing digital startups, Bene is the perfect person to push Chalkbeat forward.

Mandatory moment of nostalgia: We started this Chalkbeat adventure in 2008 with a few dozen readers sprinkled between two cities. Today we are one of the country’s largest and fastest-growing nonprofit news operations, providing public-interest coverage in local communities where the news outlets that used to do that job have been gutted.

We take our responsibility seriously, and we know we have much more to do to keep this kind of journalism strong. We also know we can only succeed if we have the best possible team — of readers, of supporters, and of staff.

Bene is just the newest member of an amazing community that leaves us in awe every day.

Get to know her through this recent piece in the New York Times, which is personal and fascinating; this authoritative curtain-raiser on the 2008 U.S. papal visit (she covered religion for many years); and this magazine piece on Iraq war veterans. Or just send her an email to welcome her to the Chalkbeat community. Her brand-new-today email address is [email protected].

Story booth

A Detroit student speaks: ‘DPS has expanded my horizon for me to see a whole new world.’

KrisTia Maxwell is a student at Detroit's Marcus Garvey Academy

When KrisTia Maxwell started in the Detroit Public Schools as a 5-year-old kindergartener, she was nervous and shy and “didn’t know what was going to happen to me.”

Now, eight years later, she’s in middle school at Detroit’s Marcus Garvey Academy and says Detroit public schools (now called the Detroit Public Schools Community District) have helped make her the active, successful student she’s become.

“DPS has expanded my horizon for me to see a whole new world,” she said.

Her years at Marcus Garvey have included involvement in the National Junior Honor Society, the Girl Scouts, and the cheer team and basketball teams, among other activities.

The school “has improved me in all sorts of subjects and … given me opportunities to express myself and be who I am,” she said.

KrisTia told her Detroit schools story in a story booth outside the School Days storytelling event that was hosted in March by Chalkbeat and the Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers at the Charles H. Wright Museum.

The event brought educators, parents and students together to tell their stories on stage at the Wright but it also invited other Detroiters to share their stories in a booth set up by Chalkbeat and the Skillman Foundation. (Skillman also supports Chalkbeat. Learn more about our funding here.)

In her story, KrisTia said her school “is half of me. It’s an important part and I’m going to attempt to do whatever I can to accomplish getting my 4.0 GPA and just doing great and … making my mom proud.”

If you have a story to tell — or know someone who does — please let us know.

Watch KrisTia’s full story below:

KrisTia Maxwell from Chalkbeat on Vimeo.

Story booth

A Detroit teacher speaks: The tragic reason why her students don’t always do their homework or come to class on time

Detroit teacher Janine Scott explains what people' don't understand about her students.

When Janine Scott tells people that she teaches in Detroit, she often gets looks of pity.

“You poor thing!” she said people tell her as they make negative comments about the children she works with.

But those people don’t understand her students, she said.

“I ask [my students] things like why are you late, or why didn’t you do your homework or what happened or why didn’t you even come to school?” Scott said.

“And then I’ll get something like well, Miss Scott, I had to get my little brothers and sisters up, and had to feed them and and comb their hair and get them ready for school, had to wait on their bus with them. And my kids will come in third hour. Or they’ll tell me about the drama that happened last night or they’ll tell me about their friend that died in their arms the night before.”

Scott told her story of teaching in the Detroit schools in a story booth outside the School Days storytelling event.

The event, cosponsored by Chalkbeat and the Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers, was held at the Charles H. Wright Museum last month and featured Detroit parents, educators, and a student telling stories on stage about schools in Detroit.

But the stories on stage were just a start. Chalkbeat is looking to tell many more stories about Detroit parents, students and teachers. The story booth set up by Chalkbeat and the Skillman Foundation in the lobby of the Wright Museum ahead of our event was one way to do this. (Skillman also supports Chalkbeat. Learn more about our funding here.)

When Scott came into the booth, she talked about things her students must endure to get to school at all.  

“All of a sudden that little mediocre C that they get in my class becomes a great grade because in order for them to even navigate through that environment and get to school and learn something, that’s an amazing thing,” Scott said. “See a lot of people don’t even make it that far but my kids do.”

Watch Scott’s story below and if you have a story to tell about Detroit schools — or know someone who does — please let us know.