Rocketship in Nashville is a Long Time Coming

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by Shaka Mitchell
Regional Director, Tennessee

These days in Nashville, Tennessee, the temperature hovers between 90 and 95 degrees. While that used to mean summer days spent begging parents to turn the sprinklers on, for middle-Tennesseans it’s already back-to-school season. But the early start isn’t a new phenomenon — in a way, you could say that some people have been looking forward to this particular school year for a long time.

Rocketship Nashville Northeast (RNNE) Launches

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Kinder students experience their first day in class.

On July 31, the first students in Rocketship’s Tennessee region reported for their first day of school. More than 450 students signed up to attend our new school located in a beautiful new building in northeast Nashville. The 2014-15 school year represents the opening salvo in our effort to rethink education from the ground up in the Volunteer State, where students have traditionally lagged far behind their peers nationally according to most education metrics.

Kinder Parents Take the First Step

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Shariun greets his mom after his first day of school.

Many of the 112 kindergarteners enrolled in the inaugural year of RNNE are attending organized, public school for the first time. During the two student registration days prior to the first day of class, their eyes were wide as they saw classrooms filled with materials and a sparkling new gymnasium. Even more interested were their parents, who have anxiously anticipated their little ones’ first day of school for years.

“Parents ask a million questions, but it’s because they have a singular focus: the well-being of their student,” said Adam Nadeau, principal of RNNE.

Another Nashville Homecoming

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Mr. Nadeau leads RNNE’s first morning launch.

Adam Nadeau, founding principal of RNNE, is known to many in the Rocketship network as an instructional guru. Less known is that he is first and foremost a Nashvillian. He has worn a variety of hats for Rocketship schools in the Bay Area, including school leadership positions in three of our San Jose schools. All his work for Rocketship has led up to him opening our first school in Tennessee.

Nadeau was born and raised in Nashville, and even while soaking up the California sun, he was thinking about an avenue back to his hometown. Having begun his teaching career in Nashville, this school year represents a homecoming on multiple fronts. “Not only do I return to my hometown, but I get to provide students in neighborhoods that I know are underserved with the best possible education available,” says Nadeau. “It’s something I’ve looked forward to for a long time.”

Stepping inside the building at RNNE you can’t help but realize how new everything is — new facility, new teachers, new kids. But “new” doesn’t mean unprepared. Rather, it’s an opportunity to take a model that we know works , the Rocketship model and core values, and apply it to serving new communities. And as is the case with so many “new” ideas, this one has been in development for a long time.

“I didn’t move all the way back home to open a good school,” Nadeau told parents during a parent meeting on the first day. “I came here to open a great school.”


Shaka is Rocketship’s Regional Director for Tennessee. Growing up, he split his time between the North and South and eventually landed in Nashville where he attended Belmont University. He then earned his law degree at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. Shaka spent the next years advancing education reform around the country while based in Washington, D.C. When not growing schools in Tennessee, he is busy raising two daughters with his wife Stephanie. 

Follow Shaka on Twitter: @shakamitchell

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