Here’s How Poisonous Politics And Bad Timing Killed An Effort To Streamline School Enrollment In Detroit

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A sophisticated new enrollment tool that was supposed to make signing up for school easier in Detroit won’t be of much use to the thousands of families whose children could be displaced by upcoming school closures.

Despite the more than $700,000 and countless hours of planning that went into creating a single application for Detroit’s competing district and charter schools, the effort has been put on hold indefinitely — a victim of bad timing, poor planning, and a toxic political environment.

“It’s a shame,” said Karey Reed-Henderson, a former charter school leader who served on the planning committee for what came to be called Enroll Detroit.

“We came together. We hashed things out,” Reed-Henderson said of a process that brought together charter school leaders with officials from the Detroit Public Schools, the state-run Education Achievement Authority and representatives of community groups.

“It wasn’t always roses and butterflies but the conversation was always around what’s best for the kids and best for families,” she said.

“Unfortunately it just got muddied.”

Now, as 25 Detroit schools face possible shut-down by the state, the handful of staffers still working at Enroll Detroit hope they can use their knowledge and technology to help at least some of the roughly 12,000 children who could be affected.

Read the whole story at Daily Detroit

Meet Mr. Fahs, an educator dedicated to the good people of Detroit

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You almost never hear anything good about public schools in Detroit. In fact, it’s always bad news about decaying building conditions, persistant staffing issues, and complicated political struggles at all levels. Given that context it’s hard to see how local students, parents, or educators could feel good about the world they live in each day. We highlight this piece below as one of the many stories that gets lost in the negativity, the story of real people who are talented and committed to the success of a great city. Bernita Bradely wrote this for the blog Detroit Schools Rock.


 

Grammatical errors are everywhere—and I should know. Despite the energy and thought I give to pouring my passion into every blog I write my writing remains imperfect.

This brings me to the thought of how important it is for our young people to learn to write. It’s so needed in a world full of ebonics and shortcuts! We replace U with you, 2 with to, too or two, and IKR is one of many acronyms used in everyday writing. I think a new one comes out daily.

This week’s Faces of the D subject is Mr. Jihad Fahs, aka “The Educator,” has taught reading and writing to eighth-graders for two years. He’s 25 and has worked with families since 2010. Educators ignited him to become a great educator himself, willing to find ways to ignite imaginations and spark action in our youth.

Currently his class at DEPSA Junior Academy is reading “I Know why the Caged Bird Sings,” a classic that every child should indulge in. He challenges students to hear what they read and make a connection to the stories. Thought-provoking conversations called team talks prompt students to act as reporters and monitor current events.

And he loves checking for errors.

No doubt if one of his students is interviewed 10 years from now their answer to the question, “Who inspired you to be a teacher?” will be “The Educator,” Mr. Jihad Fahs.

Q: Why Detroit?

A: Detroit is my second home. Even though my family and me are Lebanese born, I still consider Detroit my home. My cultural identity as an Arab (Lebanese) person is incredibly important to me. The reason I love Detroit so much is I see the spirit of my people within the city. Detroit has been stepped on and destroyed by outside interests, corruption and mismanagement, just like my country.

However, the tenacity and refusal to give up is why I love it here so much. The people here have pride for their home, and that is rare.

Q: Name an experience that prompted you to work in your field.

A: Growing up as an English-language learner, I can attribute my success to all my English teachers. They helped to give me the most important gift of all–communication. I loved my time in school and I want to help other learners feel the same way.

Q: How would you like to see the city grow?

A: I would like to see the neighborhoods grow. Yeah, the revitalization of Downtown and Midtown is great, but all that does is bring in richer people from the suburbs, raising rent and displace the people who have already been here. I want an ethical government/person to invest in the neighborhoods and uplift the people already here. Bring back the local businesses and public schools we can be proud of!

Q: What would you tell a youth that you wished someone told you?

A: Natural intelligence and skill doesn’t matter. All that matters is how hard you work. Yeah, natural talent makes things a bit easier, but all the natural talent in the world means nothing unless you work at something.

Q: What would you like to share with others?

A: In Donald Trump’s America, it’s more important than ever that we all stand together, especially people of color.

DETROIT: Kids lose once again with the signing of a new education package

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Validation is a powerful aphrodisiac for some. In regards to the Detroit education package Governor Snyder signed last week, I feel it. Reading what Stephen Henderson of the Detroit Free Press wrote gives an accurate sense of what the legislation does and doesn’t do.

I feel validated.

I had the privilege to spend the last year lobbying on behalf of the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren’s legislative agenda. And I can’t find the words to describe the contempt Republican legislators have for the city. Words such as “bailout”, “rescue” or “corruption” were used constantly. It got to the point where I thought “someone” created talking points and passed them out through the entire Republican State House and Senate Caucus chambers.

Over and over in almost every meeting with conservative legislators, the following phrases were used:

  1. Detroit parents don’t care about their kids.
  2. DPS is a corrupt school district
  3. Let DPS implode, so the charter schools can come in and teach Detroit kids.
  4. Detroiters can’t handle their money.
  5. Why should we bail Detroit out, again? Those are my top five. There were many more.

What is the most interesting thing about the history of this legislation is that you would figure that the most contentious issue would have been the money. No! It was creating the Detroit Education Commission to manage the logistics between charter and traditional public schools in the city.

From Stephen Henderson’s article: “And then there’s the absence of the Detroit Education Commission in the final legislation.”

That would have coordinated most school openings and sitings as a way to calm the madness that exists now, where two systems — the traditional public schools and the charter schools — don’t coordinate at all and don’t share common goals. The traditional public schools have to serve everyone and have tried to maintain enough school buildings citywide, even as the uneven population loss makes that more difficult every day.

Charter operators can pick where they want to open and can decide which grades they’ll serve. It’s no accident that the vast majority of operators have elementary schools, but not high schools — the math works out that elementary schools can break even, or maybe make a profit. The higher expenses at the upper grades can mean losses.

A DEC would have looked at the city’s needs for all schools and all children. It would also have brought charters under needed performance scrutiny. Over 22 years, charter schools have promised to improve outcomes and choices for Detroit parents. The best they can report, overall, is a 15% proficiency rate on national tests. It’s a well-documented swindle that pulls $1 billion away from traditional public education every year in this state.

In a city where more than half the school-age population already attends charters, the DEC was a desperately needed mechanism to bring even a modicum of order to the educational landscape.

The charter lobby, financed by the DeVos family in western Michigan, bought its way to a bill that excised the Detroit Education Commission.

I feel validated this week, but that doesn’t really matter. Because there are nearly 100,000 children in the city of Detroit who do not feel validated, because they are not being empowered to receive the same education that students across the state of Michigan receive.

To learn more, take a look at Stephen Henderson’s article, click here.


Brian Love is a father and education advocate living and working in Detroit. He blogs at Detroit Schools Rock.