Latino Founders Are Important: Joel Portillo Starts New KIPP Bay Area High School

I am very excited to share with you that KIPP Bay Area Public Schools is opening a new high school in 2020 in the Peninsula. The founding school leader, Joel Portillo, is a longtime educator who has worked in KIPP high schools in the Bay Area for 10 years. 

He and his family migrated to Los Angeles from El Salvador in the 1990s and attended the lowest performing public schools in Los Angeles Unified School District, Bethune Middle School and Thomas Jefferson High School. During a public testimony, Joel shared, “My zip code didn’t get to define my destiny.” As an English language learner, he worked his way up to AP English and eventually graduated as high school valedictorian. He earned his bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley, as well as a double masters in education and business from Stanford, eventually finding his way to KIPP where he has served as a teacher, instructional coach, college counselor, and an assistant principal. 

Joel Portillo is my dear colleague and friend. I’m sharing with you a piece of his story because representation matters, especially in California. According to a 2018 report from the California School Board Association, 54% of California’st 6.2 million public school students are Latinx. Yet, only 20% of teachers in California are Latinx, and even fewer are principals. To read more about how far California has come when it comes to diversity in education, read this Edsource article. 

The new high school will be located in the Peninsula working with students and families from East Palo Alto and Redwood City. Doors will open this coming school year, serving 9th grade and growing one grade every year until reaching the 12th grade. 


KIPP Bay Area Public School is a network of public charter educating elementary, middle and high school students. KIPP has a long and proven track record of successful high schools in the Bay Area, and with established elementary and middle schools in East Palo Alto and Redwood City, a KIPP high school in the Peninsula is the next step to help students continue their journeys from kindergarten through life. 98% of students at KIPP Bay Area graduate high school, 100% of KIPP high school graduates have completed their A-G requirements (making them UC and CSU eligible), and KIPP Bay Area alumni are over three times as likely to graduate from college as their peers.

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Melissa Salgado

Melissa Salgado

Melissa Salgado, raised in East Los Angeles by her single mother and older siblings. She graduated from James A. Garfield High School and received her Bachelor's degree in Chicana/o Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2013. She currently works at KIPP Bay Area Schools as the Community Engagement Manager and provides families with the resources and tools they need to advocate for their children’s education and other important local initiatives. Through her work she hopes to activate power within each parent and/or guardian. Her ultimate dream is that all children will have access to high quality education no matter what zip code they live in.

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