At the beginning of the 2019 school year, Principal Ricki Gibbs knew he had a tough job ahead. Warner Elementary in East Nashville had just landed on Tennessee’s list of lowest performing schools. It had lost so many students that it wasn’t even half full. Gibbs was the fourth principal in six years. Yet, he had seemingly unending enthusiasm and a federal magnet grant to boot. He was confident he could turn Warner around.
But what he didn’t anticipate was the neighborhood divide. Warner’s kids are almost all black and most live in poverty, but just about a mile up the road is another public elementary, named Lockeland, whose student body is exactly the opposite. What happens when you have two schools so close together yet so different? And what happens when people in the neighborhood finally start to notice?
The Promise is written and produced Meribah Knight. Edited by Emily Siner, with additional editing by Anita Bugg, Tony Gonzalez, Samantha Max, Sergio Martinez-Beltran and Damon Mitchell. Additional reporting for this episode was by India Hunter and Samantha Max. Fact-checking and research by Sam Zern. Advising for this season by Savala Nolan Trepczynski and Alex Kotlowitz. Mixing by Jakob Lewis of Great Feeling Studios. The music is by Blue Dot Sessions. Kennedy’s speeches are courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.