I Promise School: How A Dream Became Reality

It can take a lot to start any school. But trying to fit some of the best education practices into one brand new school? That’s another story altogether. The launch of the I Promise School needed a superstar athlete, a force of a foundation, a willing school district, a traveling food truck, and at least thirty five other community partners providing an army of volunteers, not to mention millions of dollars for funding. And that’s only the beginning.

The Director of the LeBron James Family Foundation, Michele Campbell, mentioned they brought the partners together to get rid of a multitude of barriers the students and families face. The goal, she said, is to change lives for the better. All this is possible thanks to the commitment of LeBron James to his home in Akron and ability to rally people around the kids in need to support them for the betterment of their future.

The I Promise School has recently opened to 240 third and fourth-grade students who are academically at risk. The school began as an idea by the Akron-born, NBA All-Star LeBron James. The idea grew in size to include dozens of partners from both the local and national levels.

Ryan Pendleton, the District Treasurer, said it had taken a lot of money to make this program a reality.

The school is a public part of Akron Public Schools, costs the district about $2.9 million from the general fund that covers the cost of most salaries, benefits, supplies, and other essential aspects of a school. It is also receiving the same amount of state and local funds per student as the rest of the district.

In five years, Pendleton guesses the school’s presence will cost the district a total of $8.1 million. However, he believes it to be a long-term investment that could lead to smaller class sizes in other schools, improved report card ratings, and better enrollment among other aspects.

Extra Features for the I Promise School

The foundation and its multiple partners cover any extra feature for the school the district doesn’t include.

These extra contributions, according to the foundation, add up to over $2 million. These extras include the physical transformation, technology, additional staffing for smaller classes, and other upgrades for the school’s first year.

Almost half of the outside funding went to the school’s upgraded temporary home located at 400 W. Market St. The district-owned building used to be used for other schools. Upgrades for the area included landscaping, benches outside the school, made-over classrooms and even new furniture.

The LeBron James Family Foundation led in both time and funding. However, the exact amount given is unknown since their support has been a mix of both in-kind and financial donations. Some of these donations are still unquantified.

Another significant contributor is Peg’s Foundation. The company’s focus is the improvement of mental health in Ohio. They couldn’t find a place to invest in at first, but then they heard of the I Promise School and jumped at the chance to be a part of this new and vital education system.

The Foundation has committed $2.5 million to the school over the next five years, mainly for the wraparound support services. However, their support also goes towards what the founding group deems necessary for the school’s first few years.