Ric Zappa has been an educator for over 35 years, teaching in elementary, middle, and high schools and community college. He is currently Director of School Culture for KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program). During the five years Ric served as school leader of KIPP Summit Academy in San Lorenzo, California, the school became a California Distinguished School and earned the National Blue Ribbon Award.
Under Ric’s leadership KIPP Summit Academy transitioned from a traditional discipline system to a restorative justice paradigm. As a result of the shift in mindset and high academic expectations, KIPP Summit Academy is considered one of the highest achieving schools in the KIPP network, the state of California, and the United States, particularly when compared with schools of the same demographics—those furthest from opportunity.
Recognizing that the school-to-prison pipeline is not a recent phenomenon, but a culmination of a long historical drive that has created institutional racism in American society, Ric mentors school leaders and teachers in restorative practices to create positive school culture and build school communities. This includes developing school administrators and staff to reflect on their own implicit racial bias, and to explore the racial imbalance and lack of equity that may exist in school systems, policies, and discipline practices.
In his current role as Director of School Culture, Ric leads the KIPP Bay Area region’s initiative for social-emotional learning, character development, and restorative practices. His work has expanded to the KIPP Network of 200 schools, as well as other charter schools throughout the United States. KIPP schools, particularly those in the San Francisco Bay Area under his direction that have adapted and focused on restorative practices, have seen dramatic decreases in suspension and expulsion rates, higher student achievement and teacher retention rates, lower student attrition, and school culture focused on respecting, nurturing, and learning for the entire school community.