For Chalkbeat’s second birthday, two new additions to our team

In 30 days, we will celebrate our second anniversary as Chalkbeat. Remember when that logo and our lovely Chalkbeat-blue were brand-new and a little scary?

Two years later, wow. Who knew how much was possible in 24 months? We’ve merged and strengthened two beloved local news sites, expanded to two new communities, and reported stories that led to major funding increases,newly public databases, and op-ed’s galore. Most exciting for us, we’ve started to prove that the most endangered of all news species — the local kind, rooted in real communities — can thrive in a digital age after all.

As we step into 2016, the word on our minds is connection. So many people in this country care deeply about educational equity. Our charge is to make sure that everyone who cares has ready and consistent access to the information it takes to transform passion into informed action.

To do this, we’ve been focusing on building our team to include not only award-winning journalists, but also leaders who can help us keep pace with innovations in digital news and audience development.

We are thrilled to announce two major additions to the Chalkbeat team who will help steer us in this direction:

  • Kang-Xing (KX) Jin, a vice president of engineering at Facebook, joined Chalkbeat’s board of directors this summer. At Facebook, Kang-Xing’s teams are responsible for media (products for news, video, and public figures), ads in News Feed, and several of the company’s consumer products for sharing with friends, family, and groups. Prior to his current role, Kang-Xing helped build out the Facebook ads team from 2007 to 2012. He joined Facebook in 2006 as an engineer on the News Feed team after graduating from Harvard with a degree in Computer Science, summa cum laude. On the Chalkbeat board, Kang-Xing will combine his passion for education with his engineering and product savvy.
  • Ryan Sholin, a former director of product management at Gannett, joined Chalkbeat this week as our new director of product and growth. Ryan’s wide range of experience includes serving as a local reporter, a blogger, and an industry leader with experience helping news organizations make a difference at scale through online news design, audience development, and product creation. At Gannett, Ryan led various initiatives leveraging product creation to drive strategic organizational goals and better connect audiences with content. At Chalkbeat, he is passionate about ensuring that we reach all the people who care about educational equity as much as we do — and then serve them well.

Bringing on all-stars, of course, is just the start. One year from now, I hope we can report back that our Chalkbeat community has grown to ensure that more people who care about better schools for all kids are connected to the stories they need to fuel their thinking. And I hope we can do it by thanking not just KX and Ryan, but you.

Because, here’s the kicker:we’re hiring more people. This is your formal invitation to spread the word as we build the greatest Chalkbeat yet. We hope you’ll join us!

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.