Bridges Prep reorganizes leadership to move forward

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Bridges Preparatory School, a state-sponsored charter school in downtown Beaufort, agreed to part ways with Head of School Bob Cook. Josefina Blanc, an integral part of Bridges Prep since it opened over a year ago, will serve as interim executive director.

“With a growing enrollment, a strong facilities plan and a recent assessment of our strengths and needs, we realized that we needed to alter our course to meet our goals and the needs of our students and their families,” Bridges Prep Chairman John Payne said.

“We are excited that Ms. Blanc has agreed to serve as our interim Executive Director for the remainder of this school year, and we wish Mr. Bob Cook all the best,” Payne said. Cook’s last day at Bridges will be Dec. 19, 2014, the last school day before the Winter Holiday. The arrangement was finalized Monday.

Bridges Prep serves students in kindergarten through sixth grade, but will begin adding additional grades each year, starting with seventh grade in the 2015 school year. The school opened in August 2013 with all its classrooms filled and has about 150 students on a waiting list.

Cook previously served six months as Bridges’ Interim Head of School and came to Beaufort’s state-chartered school with experience in Charleston-area schools as well as DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Maryland.

“Our Needs Assessment clearly identified areas we need to strengthen, and chief among those was our internal leadership,” said Eve Miller, treasurer for the Board of Directors. “The Executive Director will serve basically as our CEO to keep everything moving forward – our academics, professional development for our staff, our finances and certainly our facilities plans.

“We need to make sure our teachers follow our proven model of Paideia education, and we need to be sure each of our students is learning in the best and most appropriate ways to ensure their academic success,” Miller said.

“With her local experience as a teacher and in the private sector in New York City, Josefina Blanc has agreed step in as our interim leader as we move through the rest of this school year,” Miller said. “We have a strong supporting cast and expect our enrollment to continue to grow as Bridges Prep continues to push forward.”

Kay Keeler, a longtime Beaufort County educator and principal, will serve as Interim Head of School at Bridges Preparatory School when Cook leaves.

“With our interim Executive Director and Head of School, with dedicated teachers and staff, and with parents who actively participate in their children’s education, we look forward to a wonderful second semester,” Payne said.

Blanc has served as Bridges’ director of communications and technology, and also taught Spanish, though she’s fluent in French and English as well. Previously, she taught World Languages in Beaufort County’s public schools. Before entering the education field, she worked in media management, production and advertising in New York City and Latin America for major firms such as Young & Rubicam, Big magazine, BlackBook, and Art+Commerce.

Her educational background includes a Bachelor’s degree in Literature and Linguistics, with a minor in French and she graduated Cum Laude from Universidad Catolica de Chile, Santiago, Chile. Blanc also earned a Master’s degree in Media Studies from The New School University in New York City, and participated in New York University’s College of Arts & Science Exchange Program.

“We have potential to be an exceptional charter school, and my goal is to help us achieve all that we can be,” Blanc said.

“I believe in this school, this staff and these students. I know that if we take this as an opportunity as a united staff to show that a distributed leadership model can work, if we focus on clear duties, relationships, involvement and effective support systems, we can demonstrate to our board, to the county and the state that we do have a unique, grand vision, and that it is possible to reform public education,” she said.

Last May, Bridges Prep, a Paideia and STEM-infused charter school located in downtown Beaufort, finalized an agreement with the Boys & Girls Club to purchase the facility at 1100 Boundary Street. The facility purchase is the first of its kind for area charter schools and allows Bridges to control its future.

Bridges Prep officials are filing the USDA loan application package this week for funding of the new addition and renovation of what will become the new K-8 facility.  If approved, construction is proposed to begin in the spring.

As a state charter school, Bridges Prep is open to all students in South Carolina and students come from Beaufort, Port Royal, Burton, St. Helena Island, Okatie, Bluffton, and Jasper and Hampton counties.

“Being in the heart of historic Beaufort means our local community truly is our extended classroom — USCB, the Technical College of the Lowcountry, the city’s parks and athletic fields, the downtown county library,” Blanc said. “It’s one part of what makes Bridges so special to many of our families; we are the one area charter that is purposefully redefining the relationship between education and urbanism.”

For more information, visit www.bridgesprep.org.