Hey…I’m Mark Gross, the CEO/Founder of School Loop.
I created School Loop while teaching high school in San Jose in 2004 during my first year in the classroom. Prior to teaching, I worked in publishing for 20 years. Somewhere along the way, this thing called the Internet came along, and I became director of what was then called “New Media Strategy” for a newspaper and magazine publisher. I moved to California in 1997 to help launch Business 2.0, a magazine about business in the Internet age. Things took off, and two years later I was president of the Internet division of what had become a large, global, public company.
Right at the peak of the boom in 2001, my grandma from Grandmatown in Florida called to announce she had bought stock in AOL. I figured, “Well, it’s over.” I cashed out, and started a semi-professional career playing poker. My dad told his friends I had become a cardiologist. Then, on 9/11/01, everything changed.
After 9/11, I decided I need to do something to make a contribution to a better world, so I went back to college, got my history degree and teaching credential, and found myself teaching in a windowless classroom in San Jose.
I believed that to make the world a better place, we need to be able to work together across all borders. So I worked to bring collaborative experiences to my students to help prepare them as leaders in this new world. To make these experiences real, we need to embed technology into the day-to-day reality of school, a novel idea back in 2002. We did it by corralling 60 laptops for my room, and using the hottest, coolest technology of the day: Yahoo Groups. Go figure.
We did some cool stuff, starting with a project called Outside My Window. Ultimately, this work on collaboration earned me an Internet Innovator award during my first year of teaching, but my most important work came after my district dismantled our learning community-based school in favor of a traditional high school.
My school was a small learning community. I had no idea what that meant when I joined the staff, but I fell in love with the idea that if a group of adults get to know, really know, students, and if in turn, those students know that they matter, there’s a real chance to make a difference.
Theory is one thing, but as anyone who has taught knows, teaching is a hard and time is short. The problem is time, not money. There just isn’t the time to do all things we want to do, particularly if those things include involving parents and collaborating with colleagues to support at-risk students.
To save time, I thought if we could eliminate the things that waste time, and a lot of time is wasted trying to coordinate and align activity. First, simply getting all your students on the same page regarding homework is a challenge. Beyond that, keeping colleagues in the loop is nearly impossible, much less parents. What this meant was that while there were a lot of people trying to help, most of the time was spent simply finding out what was going on, and by then, it was too late.
To help, I put together a way for teachers to publish information easily. First, I put the students in charge: They published assignments and lesson notes. Because they all had the same teachers – small learning community – one student could publish assignments for all students. Bingo! I had them publish those assignments and notes into a group, so they could talk about the information, clarify things and help each other. Best of all, I set it up so all the homework was emailed home to parents each night. Everyone was in the loop!
Things were great, until the district decided to disband my school — no money. Suddenly, a small learning community became a large learning community, and all our hard work was out the window. So I created School Loop as way to help all schools create engaged, collaborative communities.
Things worked out, and for more than a decade now School Loop has helped millions and millions of kids and their families, and supported hundreds of thousands of educators in their work.
Thanks for taking the time to get to know me and my company, and supporting our ongoing efforts to make the world a better place.