Category: Detroit Public Schools (page 1 of 4)

Thinking for Ourselves: Dream Questions

By Shea Howell

June 12, 2017

I saw my first young person in the neighborhood walking with her graduation cap on the way to church this week. It is a common sight in Detroit at this time of year. All over the city young people mark their graduation from high school or college by wearing caps and gowns as they go to community gatherings or just walking down the street with friends.

I don’t know if this happens in other cities, but here, graduation is a public affair, celebrated on street corners. As in other places there are family parties and balloons, church acknowledgments and lawn signs, but here graduations are about more than individual achievement. Although often they signify remarkable accomplishments by our young people in a city where nearly half of them have dropped out and many never complete what is needed to get a diploma. Still, there is a sense that wearing caps and gowns as you go about normal life is a way of acknowledging the long, hard struggle for education by people who risked their lives to learn to read. It is a tribute to ancestors and a hope toward the future.

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Thinking for Ourselves: Questions in Education


By Shea Howell

June 5, 2017

As the Michigan Elite gathering on Mackinac Island for their annual celebration of one another came to a close, another gathering took shape in Detroit. Actors, musicians, writers, poets, and cultural workers of all kinds gathered in the heart of the Cass Corridor for the 22nd annual Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed Conference (PTO). Its theme was “Breaking the Silence.” Sessions explored storytelling and transformation, inclusion and collaboration. Conversations on language, power, choreography, and laugher flowed through the gathering.

The Saturday morning session focused on “The struggle for education in Detroit.” Simona Simkins and Rebecca Struch, of the conference leadership team were joined by Nate Mullen, Kim Sherobbi, Tawana Petty and me for a conversation about what people are learning in Detroit about the kind of education we need to shape a more human future. We were joined by two Detroit Independent Freedom School students who had participated in an earlier workshop and had much to offer the larger gathering. Chevon read her poem WHY (see below) and pressed us to think about the relationships between teachers and students. T. Jones, talked about young people becoming change makers.

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TELFORD TELESCOPE: Chances Missed to Save DPS

Chances missed to save DPS

by Dr. John Telford

There have been FIVE KEY MOMENTS when the state’s destruction of the Detroit Public Schools could have been prevented.  The FIRST KEY MOMENT, of course, was when then-Governor John Engler decided to take DPS over in 1999.  At that time, DPS enjoyed a $100-million surplus and its student test scores were at the state midpoint and rising under Superintendent Eddie Green.  DPS students were outscoring suburban neighbors despite our poverty-induced problems which don’t exist in Birmingham or Grosse Pointe. Had someone been able to talk Lansing’s Republican government out of that unwarranted 1999 takeover, we’d be thriving today.  

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TELFORD TELESCOPE: Much DPSCD Work Now Needs to be Done–Transparently

Much DPSCD work now needs to be done–transparently

By  Dr. John Telford

I have expressed a wide range of concerns in emails and stated remarks to the new Detroit Public Schools Community District Board of Education.  Those concerns include the Board’s failure to involve the community more fully and transparently in the superintendent-screening/review process, their cavalier reduction of citizens’ speaking-time at the March 14 meeting at King High School, and their making community members wait over an hour to speak while they went into closed session at that meeting.  In a later communication to them, I called them to account for their refusal to afford interim Superintendent Alycia Meriweather a well-earned public interview for the Superintendency.  I frankly don’t know whether the immediately previous and long-serving Board would have afforded the hard-working Meriweather her highly-deserved interview had they been elected to their former positions this past November instead of the new folks who got in, but as the old Board’s chosen pro bono interim Superintendent, I would at my now advanced age of 81 have been eager for them to get my permanent and far younger successor on board ASAP and then use me as an officially contracted pro bono advisor to the new Superintendent for as long as I am needed and able.

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All Hail Our Heroes

By Dr. John Telford

As our righteous fight to save our public schools approaches the final battle, it is fitting that those unsung heroes who have kept the torch of justice aflame throughout the past decade-and-a-half of DPS’ unwarranted and Jim Crowist state takeover  become lauded in this column.  Foremost among these heroes have been school activist Helen Moore and her grassroots group ‘Keep-the-Vote-No-Takeover’ and the democratically elected former DPS Board–LaMar Lemmons, Juvette Hawkins-Williams, Elena Herrada, Ida Short, Reverend David Murray, Patricia Johnson-Singleton, Wanda Akilah Redmond, Tawana Simpson. and Herman Davis.  It was my privilege to serve pro bono as this rightful Board’s chosen Superintendent until Gov. Snyder’s emergency manager disempowered them and fired me when Public Act 436 took effect and canceled Michiganians’ overwhelmingly successful but ultimately fruitless rejection of PA 4, the Republican-dominated state government’s detested emergency management law which remains unlawfully alive.

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Watch! Emergency Community Meeting on School Closings 02/05/17

Emergency Community Meeting on School Closings, Part 1

Emergency Community Meeting on School Closings, Part 2

Thanks to Shane for all the video work!

We the People of Detroit Community Research Collective: Visualizing the Education Crisis

Emergency Community Meeting on School Closings

Join the Detroit Independent Freedom Schools Movement (DIFS) for an emergency meeting on the crisis in Detroit schools and nationwide.

Click here to RSVP via Facebook.

To learn more about DIFS, check us out here.

We hope to see you on Sunday!

What It Looks Like When Communities Make Racial Justice a Priority

What It Looks Like When Communities Make Racial Justice a Priority

By Zenobia Jeffries & Araz Hachadourian

January 16, 2017

Section on Michigan: “To outsiders like Donald Trump, Detroit is like “an urban dystopia of poverty, crime, and blight.” But to Detroiters and those committed to the city’s revitalization, it’s a city full of promise—with the notable exception of its school system. Following multiple state takeovers, the largest school district in Michigan continues to suffer teacher layoffs, crowded classrooms, and financial mismanagement. And longtime residents and activists have had enough, turning to a legacy of the civil rights movement’s Freedom Schools to serve their children.

In February, parent Aliya Moore’s call to boycott schools on Count Day—when the state uses student attendance to calculate per-pupil funding—prompted a local group, Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management, to reimagine education for Detroit schoolchildren and launch the Detroit Independent Freedom Schools Movement.

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Out of Options: School Choice Gutted Detroit’s Public Schools. The Rest of the Country is Next.

School choice gutted Detroit’s public schools. The rest of the country is next.

By Allie Gross

December 19, 2016

Excerpt: “The result was a negative feedback loop. As students left, the district lost funds and had to make cuts. Maybe it nixed art, or got rid of a social worker. Maybe it crammed more kids into a classroom, or made the risky decision to get rid of on-site boiler operators. Maybe, if things were really tight, it shut down schools. These quick fixes in turn made the district less “competitive,” and so the kids who could leave eventually did. The district lost even more funding and sunk further into entropy. “It is akin to an arsonist adding an accelerant to a fire,” Peter Hammer, the director of the Damon Keith Center for Civil Rights at Wayne State’s law school, wrote in a 2012 paper on the effects of competition in DPS.”

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