Cavett Thorne

Cavett Thorne

Principal Chris Joyce Has a Royal Vision for IDEA Oscar Dunn in New Orleans

IDEA Public Schools will open the doors to it’s first school in New Orleans—IDEA Oscar Dunn—on August 5. This will be the third campus to open in IDEA’s Southern Louisiana region and will serve grades K-5 in New Orleans East. 

Serving as Founding Principal of IDEA Oscar Dunn is Christopher Joyce who has lived and served in Louisiana as an educator for more than a decade. He is working hard to provide every child the academic, social, and emotional skills and knowledge to ensure they are successful on the road to and through college. Learn more about Principal Joyce and his vision for his Royal Team & Family. 

Tell us about the start of your journey in education. 

I first began teaching in the New Orleans area in early 2008 in Jefferson Parish. I taught primarily 4th and 5th grade until I became a TAP Master Teacher at McDonogh 26 in Gretna, Louisiana in 2011. The following summer the opportunity arose for me to principal at nearby Terrytown Elementary serving almost 1,000 students. After three years of hard work and student driven decisions, we had the most growth of any elementary or middle school in Louisiana in 2015. Then, I decided to enter the world of charter schools and support ReNEW SciTech Academy. I helped turnaround their special education program as their School Director until IDEA was approved to come to New Orleans!   

What drew you to IDEA Public Schools?  

I was initially drawn by the stability that Tom Torkelson (Co-Founder and CEO) and JoAnn Gama (President, Co-founder, and Superintendent) bring to the organization. National charter schools with proven track records have come into New Orleans before and failed because they lacked the local context. I’ve spent my career doing turnaround school work and kept getting frustrated with the red tape of real, transformative change. IDEA is known for executing on promises. I wanted to be the leader with the local context, to start the school I was always trying to build in New Orleans, so that all students are afforded a fantastic education that prepares them for success in college and in life. 

What do you like about working at IDEA? 

I love working with IDEA because everyone has a student-first mindset with high expectations for themselves and students. I love the development, the camaraderie, the relationships, and the general feeling I get around people in our organization. It doesn’t matter if you are a bus driver from the Rio Grande Valley, a marketing director from Austin, or a student recruiter from New Orleans – every single person here wants what’s best for scholars.  

What is your proudest moment at IDEA?  

I think my proudest moment is yet to come. That will be when my new 5th graders for this year are walking across the stage the first New Orleans College Signing Day.  

In my time at IDEA so far, I’d say I have two great moments. The first was coaching a new IDEA 5th grade teacher who had low testing scores in the district before winter break to having the highest scores at IDEA Quest Academy and the 3rd highest math scores in the network with a 99/68/38 score on STAAR.  

The second top moment was organizing and leading the first New Teacher Institute for Southern Louisiana. It was an incredible moment to be the person leading the professional development and setting the bar of excellence with our first out-of-state expansion.  

What are your goals during the first year for the Oscar Dunn Royals? 

Whether it’s the first year or twelfth, my goal is to ensure that all students are on the path toward equal opportunities in life. In our first year, my goal is first and foremost to establish a safe, secure, and nurturing learning environment where every individual is seen, heard, and cared for. On our path toward excellence, I want to ensure that IDEA Oscar Dunn is an “A” Growth School and that every Royal exceeds their growth goal for the year.  

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