We sat down recently with CEO of Richmond Prep, John Bibbs. Richmond Prep, at their Westminster Campus at 4103 Monument Avenue, serves grades pre-K through 5th grade. The administrators have had offices at Gather starting with our Downtown location shortly after we opened in 2014 all the way through today with our new Arts District location. As one of our longest running coworkers, it’s about time we get to know him and find out more about Richmond Prep!Chatting with Jon, we learned that the start of this school season marks their 36th year! We did a bit of background research before meeting, and learned from Richmond Prep's history page that it was Jon's mother Yvonne who started Richmond Prep all that time ago! So to start things off we're gonna get a bit personal -- let's dive in, shall we?
So what was it like growing up in that kind of household? With, of all things, a mother who started her own school?
So growing up and finding myself there has been interesting. And I've gone through changes: from complete resistance, to partial capitulation, all the way through to where I am now, which is a 100% buy-in.
Awesome! We can only imagine the changes you must have gone through to end up at this point, but it's fantastic that you're leading the way and 100% on board. What do you think it is that sets Richmond Prep apart from other schools?
Well we're a Christian school, that's one. And a Christian school that is not in an indoctrination kind of framework. It's just that we are guided by certain principles in the way that we organize, the way that we approach learning. We believe that every kid is a unique expression of God's image and because of that, they deserve a certain level of individual attention, individual consideration. Besides that, what makes us different is we're really small. We are the oldest primarily African American parochial school in the state.
So, we come out of the Christian school movement of the 1970's which was largely a reaction to Brown versus the Board of Education in the south. So, once we got a Supreme Court ruling that forced localities to integrate, there was that "great white flight" and a lot of white families decided, "Well we're going to start our own academies because we don't want our kids having to integrate," so they opened these Christian academies.
My mom started Richmond Prep in the 1980s as a reaction to sending me to those kinds of schools.
She didn't think other children needed to go through what I went through in my experience, so she created a place where all kids would be treated with respect and love. So that drives us and then the third thing is, I think, the rigor of our program is extraordinary. Our children read before kindergarten, our children write in print and cursive before kindergarten. Our program is fully accelerated, at every level making our children really well equipped for lifelong learning careers.
That's incredible! So with such an awesome institution going on, we're curious to know: why do you have offices at Gather? Why not stick to your own facilities?
Well, there's a few things going on there. First, our school has been quite itinerant over the years. We've moved something like four or five times, since our initial founding. We do not own our building, we are inside of a church in our current location, we don't have much office space, so having this office was kinda clutch for us, that's one.
But also, I find it very useful to be a member of Gather because of the network that's attached to being a part of this coworking community. Also, we make use of these spaces. I bring teachers here for training. I have meetings with my staff, because we have to get away from the school during the day if we have to meet as it can be too hectic in the building to get things done.
We're so glad our facilities can be of such tremendous service to you. That's truly why we're here. In a separate conversation you mentioned that you've been around to "watch all of the iterations and the progress," and that it's been very cool to watch Gather grow. That being said, we gotta know... What do you think of our new Arts District location??
I think this is great, you know. I'm really excited about this particular couple of blocks on Broad Street and I think that putting Gather right in the middle of this is gonna help to spur some renewal in this area. You have already gotten the restaurants popping up across the street, but I'm thinking that this is gonna help the area grow quite a bit.
Awesome, Jon. Well we know you're quite busy running things over at Richmond Prep, we don't want to take up much more of your time. Thanks so much for sitting down with us. Anything you care to add before we part ways?
The other super cool thing about our school is just the economic aspect of it. And that's why we're always looking for partners who are looking to give. We are the most economically accessible private school in the area. So before-school care and after-school care are included in tuition. Parents pay about $7,000 a year. Most parents pay that for childcare alone. Our school being so economically accessible gives a number of families who wouldn't usually have options like a private school for their kids an opportunity. We think that that's really important.
Well Jon, we here at Gather think that Richmond Prep is paving the way for a bright future for so many kids and we are happy to play a small part in that by having you as one of our members!
If you would like to learn more about Richmond Prep, you can visit their website here.