University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service graduate Derrick Rainey (Class 6) is the Academy Director for grades K-2 at ScholarMade Achievement Place of Arkansas, located at the Historic Mitchell Building in central Little Rock.
ScholarMade Achievement Place was founded by Dr. Phillis Nichols Anderson, a veteran educator, whose fundamental belief is that strong schools lift communities.
“Derrick has been key to the startup of the first school and brought a wealth of expertise and knowledge in community mobilizing and development,” Anderson said. “I was looking for an educational entrepreneur and Derrick’s experiences represented a good combination of education and community engagement.”
Built in 1908, the historic James Mitchell School sat unused for 15 years after it was closed by the Little Rock School District. Over the last year, ScholarMade Achievement Place, a public charter school system, completed multi-million-dollar renovations to restore the building to National Register of Historic Place standards. The 42,000-square-foot facility now includes cutting-edge teaching and learning spaces, state-of-the-art technology and spaces for future community partnerships.
ScholarMade Achievement Place is focused on preparing children to be self-confident, intellectually inquisitive, emotionally intelligent, and academically competent. It uses a personalized learning model with a strong emphasis on social and emotional intelligence. School Leaders including Rainey, have participated in intensive training from Yale University’ Ruler Program, Playworks, Academic Parent Teacher Teams and Conscious Discipline.
An accomplished cellist, Rainey attended Morehouse College in Atlanta and graduated with a degree in music performance in 2008. It was there that he met Desiree Ivey, director of the Teacher Training Course at Shady Hill School in Cambridge, Mass., whose mentorship changed the trajectory of his career.
Ivey was meeting with college students at an education fair in Atlanta. Rainey, a freshman at the time, was interested in education, specifically in music. The two met and she asked if he was available for a mock interview – a first for Ivey with a freshman. She invited him to Cambridge for a week to visit the Teacher Training Course program.
Rainey spent the week before his second semester of college “in freezing Boston, first time shoveling snow – and it was amazing.” He returned the following summer to teach at Summerbridge Cambridge, a tutoring program for Cambridge public school students.
He moved back to Little Rock after graduation and served two years with City Year before enrolling at the Clinton School in 2010. Upon earning his Master of Public Service, Rainey taught in the Little Rock School District for 11 months before returning to Cambridge to enroll in Teacher Training Course’s program, immersing him in a classroom for a year in which he, an apprentice teacher, worked with a master teacher and mentor.
While attending the UAPB-Morehouse football game in 2015, Rainey crossed paths with Nichols-Anderson who mentioned she had plans to start a school. Almost three years later, he “reached out to Dr. Anderson, applied, and here we are.”
What were your biggest takeaways from the Clinton School?
Several classes were important. The leadership class with Dr. Charlotte Williams, and the democratic education study with Don Ernst, Pedagogy and Privilege. We went to Caguas, Puerto Rico, for the International Democratic Education Conference. That conference changed my life, seeing students at the center of the education system.
Another key takeaway was positive deviance education, looking at how our solutions can come from within. We have access to resources, we just have to find them. There are people succeeding without any additional resources or additional help, but they’re making it work. That was with Dr. Singhal. Of course, Program Evaluation, Law and Ethics, and Christy’s (Standerfer) classes on communication.
Where do you think your interest in education came from?
Honestly, it came from me getting in trouble in school – literally. In third grade, I was doing well in class but I was getting in trouble. My favorite teacher, Mr. White, was going to write me up for something I did. I was supposed to be sent home. But he got me in a conference with my mom and wrote the longest “long form” I had ever seen. A long form back then was a step toward expulsion. And in the conference, he tore the form up and said, “This should be the last time this happens.” And it almost was (laughs). But it opened my eyes.
In fifth grade, I was made a peer tutor to kindergarten students. I was going to classrooms, helping, reading to students. I did that through sixth grade, and honestly that was what fueled my interest in education. What stuck out to me, and this was reflective of my City Year experience as well, was tutoring kids who may be behind. It showed me the need for consistent education and teaching and investing in kids’ lives to be able to make a difference.
What are your goals for the first year at ScholarMade?
To see movement. Everything is new this year, so to build community with people who are looking for opportunities for change, looking for better or different education for their children, that’s all I can ask for.
I would drive past the school and I would tell my daughter, who was eight months old at the time, “There’s your future school.” Then the question was asked of me, “Why is it only her future school? Why isn’t it yours? Why isn’t it ours?”
It put into context for me that community should include me as well, and should include everyone who sees that school, everyone who was looking for another opportunity. It was a direct response from me on what I thought I could do to address issues in the community.