Education – Daily Detroit What To Know And Where To Go In Metro Detroit Fri, 16 Mar 2018 22:05:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 News Byte Podcast For 3/15/18: There’s A New Mass Transit Plan, Castalia Cocktail Bar, NCAA Hitting Detroit & More Thu, 15 Mar 2018 22:02:59 +0000 This is your Daily Detroit News Byte For Thursday, March 15th, 2018.

  • Wayne County Exec Warren Evans has a new plan to improve regional transit
  • March Madness comes to Detroit
  • GM invests in autonomous vehicle production in Michigan
  • Detroit businesses will get grants to improve their facades
  • Zingerman’s is Michigan’s only James Beard Award finalist
  • A Detroit school is closed due to mold
  • Drag Queen Bingo Gets Boozy
  • Third Man Records has Jack White tickets for just five bucks
  • And there’s a new craft cocktail bar for not just booze – but your nose.

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A Mold-Infested Detroit School Will Be Closed For The Rest Of The Year Thu, 15 Mar 2018 18:22:00 +0000 A water-damaged, mold-infested elementary school building in northwest Detroit will be closed for the rest of the school year while crews replace the roof and make other repairs.

District superintendent Nikolai Vitti notified the school board about plans for the Palmer Park Preparatory Academy during a board meeting Tuesday night that became so raucous, the board called a recess for nearly an hour before voting to end the meeting without addressing most of the items on its agenda.

The meeting was ended after security guards attempted to remove a loud protester from the meeting, prompting objections from her supporters.

Vitti told the board that the 500 students at Palmer Park will be relocated to two nearby schools.

“Starting on Monday,” Vitti said, Palmer Park classes will resume “in other buildings where we have space.”

Specifically, he said, elementary school students will likely go to the now-closed former Catherine Ferguson building and middle school students will move into extra classroom space at Bethune Elementary-Middle School. Bus transportation will be provided, he said.

The district is checking to see if this week’s five-day closure will require the district to add extra hours to comply with state class time requirements.

The potentially dangerous health conditions in the school, which teachers say caused some educators to become ill, were among several matters that had a large group of protesters angry with Vitti and board.

Earlier, protesters led by activist Helen Moore had loudly urged the board as it met at Mumford High School to discuss Mayor Mike Duggan’s plans, announced during last week’s State of the City address, to create collaborations between district and charter schools to grade Detroit schools and to work together on student transportation.

The activists warned that the mayor was trying to usurp the authority of the elected board.

“That’s how they take over,” Moore shouted.

The crowd also shouted loudly as Vitti discussed the district’s response to the Palmer Park situation, suggesting the district had put children’s health in harm’s way at buildings throughout the district.

Vitti acknowledged that the condition of district buildings is poor.

“I still am horrified by the overall condition of our buildings, specifically at certain locations,” Vitti said. “But I will continue to say that if you look at the day-to-day operations and use of these buildings, children are safe.”

When the audience yelled “nooo,” Vitti defended himself.

“I have nothing … to offer but integrity. My name is attached to this work,” Vitti said, noting that he has four children enrolled in the district. “If there is a child that is in harm’s way … then I will act immediately.”

The district is currently conducting a nearly $1 million study on the conditions of its buildings before making major investments in renovations.

But that timeline isn’t fast enough for one school board member.

“The building assessment won’t be ready until it’s almost time to return to school for the 18-19 school year,” board member LaMar Lemmons said. He blasted the Palmer Park situation as a “public relations nightmare.”

“If we don’t put in some damage control and get ahead of this, people will have a poor perception of the district, not only at Palmer Park but in its entirety,” he said.

Editor’s Note: Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools their content is syndicated on Daily Detroit with permission.

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7 Of Detroit’s Best Chefs Come Together For An Evening Of Awesome Food To Help Raise Money For Detroit Prep Wed, 21 Feb 2018 21:47:21 +0000 What happens when seven of Detroit’s best chefs come together to cook?

Well, first of all I’m pretty sure that the food is going to be amazing.

And secondly, there is probably a really cool reason that they are all cooking together.

On Monday, April 30 that is exactly what is going to happen at the Great Lakes Culinary Center in Southfield. And it is for a really great cause.

The Chef’s Schoolyard is a fundraiser for Detroit Prep in Indian Village.

The free charter school is trying to raise $1 million to purchase and renovate an abandoned school. The school is located two blocks away from the school’s current location in the basement of a church.

The school will soon run out of space in their temporary location.

So, back to these chefs. You might be wondering who will be cooking up this fancy dinner?

Let me tell you, there are some real standouts in this group. Some of them are even James Beard Award semi-finalists and nominees.

John Vermiglio and Joe Giacomino from Grey Ghost Detroit will be joined by: James Rigato of Mabel Gray, Andy Hollyday of Selden Standard, Anthony Lombardo of soon-to-open SheWolf, Kate Williams of Lady of the House, Brad Greenhill of Takoi and Alex Clark of Bon Bon Bon.

The dinner will include a 7-course dinner which will be curated by the chef team. There will be an open bar and a silent auction as well.

All proceeds will go towards Detroit Prep.

Tickets are $250 per person and you can purchase them here. I know, it’s a lot of money. But it is for a really great cause.

The Chef’s Schoolyard will take place on Monday, April 30 from 6:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m.

The Great Lakes Culinary Center is located at 24101 W. Nine Mile Road Southfield, Michigan 48033

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Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan Is Looking For Ways To Impact Schools Fri, 09 Feb 2018 21:36:07 +0000 After largely steering clear of education during his first term, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is now looking for ways to become more invested in the city schools.

City Hall is already leading an effort called the Detroit Children’s Success Initiative that will put more social workers, therapists, and family support staff into schools. But the mayor is also having conversations with education and civic leaders about ways he can have a more significant impact on the state of education in the city. The low test scores and poor conditions in Detroit schools are often cited as the largest roadblock to the city’s recovery.  

What the mayor’s involvement will look like — and how it will go over with school leaders and parents wary of government involvement after years of state intervention in city schools — is still not clear.

“We’re trying to explore every lever that we can possibly pull to ensure that there are good schools in Detroit, so that’s what we’re looking at,” said Eli Savit, a top advisor to Duggan. “We don’t control the schools. We don’t want to control the schools. But anything we can do to help, we’re willing to do and that can take a number of different forms.”

A recent report from a prominent group of business and civic leaders called the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren anticipated a possible role for the mayor.

One of the coalition’s recommendations was to “Ask the Mayor to work with Coalition leadership to facilitate education ecosystem planning for the City of Detroit and appoint highly credible Detroiters” to work with him.

The coalition said it would ask the mayor to get involved in several delicate — and possibly divisive — issues including working with state education officials to “set school quality standards for all schools.” That could take many forms but some school advocates have raised concerns that the mayor could decide to issue letter grades or otherwise pick winners and losers in a city where most experts expect some low-performing, half-full schools to close in coming years.

The coalition also asked the mayor to take the lead on finding common ground between the city’s combative district and charter school leaders. The coalition report calls for a “charter-district compact that reviews, discusses, and presents plans for better coordination and transparency about school openings and school closings,” and that finds “opportunities for citywide collaboration in areas such as a centralized data system and a campaign to address chronic absences.” The recommendations assert that this compact should not make decisions about openings and closings or “usurp the authority” of district and charter school leaders.

Savit said the mayor is taking those recommendations seriously.

“We heard that recommendation loud and clear,” Savit said. “The coalition was a diverse set of stakeholders that came to us with that recommendation. Of course we’re looking at it and how … to potentially move that forward.”

As mayor, Duggan does not have much power over schools. The city’s main district is now run by an elected school board after years of control by state-appointed emergency managers. The city’s 90 charter schools are run by a host of education management companies and organizations that report to charter school boards and are overseen by 11 different colleges, universities, and school districts.

The result is a sometimes chaotic environment in which schools compete with each other for students and staff and rarely share ideas or resources. It was a situation that some city leaders hoped to address two years ago through the creation of a mayor-led Detroit Education Commission that would oversee issues such as where new schools should locate and how school success should be measured.

Duggan vocally campaigned for the commission when it was being considered in the legislature in 2016, but the idea met with strong opposition from both charter school and district school supporters who raised concerns about how the mayor’s influence might affect schools.

The commission was ultimately defeated in a contentious, tearful, middle-of-the-night vote, without any support from Democrats.

Since then, Duggan has not said much about whether he would again try to get involved with schools. But community leaders say he’s been holding meetings in recent weeks to figure that out.

One effort that is already underway is the Detroit Children’s Success Initiative.

The success initiative is focused on expanding “wraparound services” for schools including social workers, therapists, and support staff that can help families facing homelessness, transportation challenges, health issues, and other problems that make it difficult for children to come to school and succeed.

Schools across the country are increasingly turning to wraparound services after recognizing that earlier efforts like creating new schools and putting pressure on teachers to boost test scores were not sufficient to help children living in poverty.  

Savit declined to comment on the initiative, beyond saying that it’s a work in progress that’s being led by the city health department.

“We’ve been pulling together stakeholders and having discussions,” he said. “But … there’s nothing to announce at this time.

Several people involved in the effort say it began with a three-year, $15 million grant from an organization called the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority.

Rather than give the money to specific schools or districts, the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority approached the city about leading the effort, said Bernard Parker who serves on the Authority board and is also the CEO of the Timbuktu Academy, a charter school on Detroit’s east side.  

The mayor is using the money as a starting point to raise additional funds, working with local charities and foundations, Parker said. “We would like to double the money to $10 million [a year].”

As for how to distribute the money once it’s raised, conversations are still preliminary, Parker said.

“The model that’s been talked about is having a nonprofit organization already involved collaborate with a school,” Parker said. “The nonprofit would get the grant and could collaborate with people at the school to do various supports.”

Some advocates are hoping that if Duggan can bring district and charter school leaders together around supporting families for the Detroit Children’s Success Initiative, that could lead to other kinds of collaborations, such as efforts to recruit and train educators to teach in Detroit.

“The concept was to be a catalyst for change,” said Tom Watkins, who as CEO of the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority last year first asked the authority’s board to find money for the initiative.

“If it’s just used as another funding source,” he said, “then we’ve missed an opportunity.”

Watkins, who was the state schools superintendent from 2001 to 2005, said he’s seen lots of money flow to lots of programs but their impact is often limited.

With this money, he said, “the whole concept was to pull the players together and to figure out ways in which we could really attack in a systematic way the issue of why kids aren’t successful. A lot of that resolves around the extra needs of children coming from poverty and all the social issues that go with that. What are the things outside of the academic environment that prevent children from succeeding?”

Watkins left the Mental Health Authority in August but said he was glad to hear that City Hall is moving the effort forward.

“The mayor is the epicenter to bring people together. Community groups, foundations, businesses, civic associations, whatever,” Watkins said. “Oftentimes, who convenes the meeting will bring players to the table.”

Chalkbeat Detroit

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools. Daily Detroit syndicates their content with their permission.

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Detroit Teachers Working Second Jobs May Have To Begin Disclosing Them To District Wed, 24 Jan 2018 18:59:21 +0000 Teachers and staff in Detroit’s main school district could soon have to tell their supervisors if they are supplementing their salaries with a side job.

The school board’s policy committee last week approved a new policy that says the district  “expects employees to disclose outside employment” and bars employees from working a second job while on any kind of leave.

The policy, which will now go to the full school board for more review before the board makes a final decision, comes amid a wholesale overhaul of district rules. The school board is reviewing and implementing a host of new policies as part of the ongoing transition from the old Detroit Public Schools district to the new one, the Detroit Public Schools Community District.  

Frequent changes to district policies under the five emergency managers who ran the Detroit district in recent years means that it’s unclear whether the employment disclosure policy is new, although the rules for outside employment under the current employee code of ethics do not require employees to disclose their second jobs. It’s also unclear how many teachers and district staffers the policy might affect, whether any kinds of second jobs might be prohibited, and how the district might use information about teachers’ side gigs.

What is clear is that educators say intervening in teachers’ outside employment does not make sense, given how hard it is to make ends meet as a Detroit educator right now.

“The bottom line is until you start paying teachers enough money, until then, people have to do what they have to do to make ends meet,” said Ivy Bailey, president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers. “It’s really none of their business about what teachers do on their off time unless it’s a conflict of interest.”

Such conflicts, in which a teacher’s second job might interfere with his or her ability to fulfill responsibilities to the district, are exactly why the policy is needed, said Superintendent Nikolai Vitti.

“As we’re rebuilding the district, we really want to avoid as many conflict of interests as possible,” Vitti said. “We’ve seen instances where there are conflicts of interest at the district level at the school level with all employees, so we’re just trying to be proactive with the culture of the district.”

Vitti said the step is intended to “prevent some of the ills of the past.” He did not offer specific examples but the district’s history is littered with costly and embarrassing scandals that might have been averted if closer attention were being paid to employees’ outside jobs. In one extreme example, a district official created tutoring companies, then billed for services she never delivered.

Vitti noted that asking employees to disclose employment will help reduce Family Medical Leave Act fraud in which employees work other jobs while out on approved medical or family leave. 

He also pointed out that many other districts require full disclosure of outside employment. His former district, Duval County Public Schools in Florida, is not one of them, according to an employee handbook posted online. There, employees are not expected to disclose their outside employment, nor are they barred from working other jobs while on leave. But they are not allowed to sell anything to other teachers nor to parents of their students.

If implemented, the policy in Detroit could affect large numbers of teachers. About 19 percent of Michigan teachers reported having a second job as of 2014, according to a study from the National Center for Education Statistics.

In Detroit, where teacher pay is especially low, that number could be even higher. Vitti has vowed to increase teacher pay, and a new contract ratified last summer gave teachers their first real raise in several years. But that was not enough to bring teachers back to where they were when they took a 10 percent pay cut in 2011.

Dawn McFarlin, a former Detroit Public Schools teacher, launched her T-shirt company as a side gig as a way make extra money. After years without a pay increase in the city’s schools, she’s now working in another district, but she’s still hawking shirts to her former colleagues. Her top tee says “I Teach in the D” on the front.

So far, she’s sold about 500 shirts at $25 each, mainly to friends and through her Facebook page. She said she uses the profits to pay bills and fund her children’s travel expenses for sports.

“As a teacher, I know how it feels to be in the grocery store, trying to make ends meet,” McFarlin  said. “I was thinking of the struggle teachers go through, and that’s how the shirt came about.”

Here’s the complete policy that the school board is considering. Board members will review the policy next at the full school board meeting in February, where the public can address the board.

“Outside employment is regarded as employment for compensation that is not within the duties and responsibilities of the employee’s regular position with the school system. Employees shall not be prohibited from holding employment outside the District as long as such employment does not result in a conflict of interest nor interfere with assigned duties as determined by the District.

The Board expects employees to disclose outside employment. The Board expects employees to devote maximum effort to the position in which employed. An employee will not perform any duties related to an outside job during regular working hours or for professional employees during the additional time that the responsibilities of the District’s position require; nor will an employee use any District facilities, equipment or materials in performing outside work.

When the periods of work are such that certain evenings, days or vacation periods are duty free, the employee may use such off-duty time for the purposes of non-school employment.

This policy prohibits outside supplemental employment while on any type of leave.”


Chalkbeat Detroit
Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools. Daily Detroit shares their content with permission.

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Auto Supplier Flex-N-Gate Will Hire 400+ Employees, Focus On Detroit Residents Tue, 23 Jan 2018 17:22:25 +0000 The largest investment by an auto supplier in the City of Detroit in over 20 years is well underway.

Auto supplier Flex-N-Gate Detroit will soon be hiring over 400 employees. The positions will range from hourly workers to management.

Flex-N-Gate owner Shad Khan has committed to hiring Detroit residents first.

The company will be partnering with Detroit Works to help Detroiters get the training they need.

Courses at Detroit Works are expected to start in February and will run through December 2018. Training will be available for over 300 Detroit residents throughout the year. You can find out more information about the training and employment here.

Construction on the 480,000 square foot, $160 million facility is more than halfway complete. This build-up in hiring employees is to prepare for the opening of the Flex-N-Gate facility in October.

The facility will supply auto parts to Ford Motor Company once it opens.

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Michigan Science Center Makes It To Top 15 In The US2020 STEM Coalition Challenge Mon, 22 Jan 2018 20:20:57 +0000 The Michigan Science Center has been named on of the finalists in the US2020 STEM Coalition Challenge.

Judges for the competition looked at how each organization incorporated science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to underrepresented students.

They were also evaluated on their potential impact, approach to partnership building, creative engagement strategies, and sustainability planning.

There were 92 communities from across the United States participated in the competition in October of 2017. The fifteen finalists were named last week.

As a finalist, MiSci will be competing for a share of $1 million in money and resources later this month in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The STEM Collaboratory is a two day workshop in Pittsburgh, where finalists will work with STEM experts and creative community builders. During the two day event the finalists will be able to learn from one another.

The winners will be announced in the spring of 2018. There will be eight winners in all.

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Elite Detroit High Schools Like Cass Tech & Renaissance Move Beyond Test Scores For Admittance Sat, 20 Jan 2018 22:41:13 +0000 Detroit’s main school district is changing the way it decides which students gain entry to the city’s elite high schools.

Students applying to Cass Technical High School, Renaissance High School and two other selective high schools will no longer be judged primarily on the results of a single exam.

Instead, an admissions team comprised of teachers and staff from the schools, as well as administrators in the district’s central office, will use a score card that gives students points in various categories.

Students can get up to 40 points for their score on the district’s high school placement exam, up to 30 points for their grades and transcripts, up to 20 points for an essay and up to 10 points for a letter of recommendation. Students already enrolled in the district will also get 10 bonus points that will give them an edge over students applying from charter and suburban schools.

That is a change over past years when  students with the highest test scores largely got automatic admissions to their top-choice schools. Other factors like grades, essays, student interviews, and letters of recommendations were typically only considered during an appeals process for students who didn’t make the first-round cut.

“You can imagine that there was a great deal of subjectivity to that, and if you’re a student who might not be a good test taker, you were at a disadvantage,” said Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, who, as a dyslexic, said he was not a strong test-taker in school.

“I can empathize with that gifted student whose intelligence is not always identified by a standardized test,” he said.

Vitti said he hopes the new process “will have more of a quality control … It’s a consistent process to ensure that we’re being equitable and fair when students are being enrolled in these schools.”

The district’s decision to reduce the role of testing in admission decisions mirrors a trend across the country where college admissions offices are increasingly moving beyond SAT and ACT scores to give more weight to grades and other factors in admissions decisions.

Cities like New York and Boston are reviewing their use of test-based admissions for their elite high schools in the face of an onslaught of criticism that the tests discriminate against students of color and students who come from poor families and reinforce already prevalent segregation in the districts.

“Tests tend to favor kids who come from backgrounds and whose families have the wherewithal to focus on test prep,” said Bob Schaeffer, the public education director at FairTest, an organization critical of schools’ reliance on test scores to make crucial decisions.

In addition to changing the admission criteria for Detroit’s selective high schools, the district is also for the first time requiring all district 8th-graders to take the exam. In the past, only students who applied to the top schools took those tests.

“Not every school emphasized the exam application process, so it would be dependent on an individual parent’s ability to navigate the system,” Vitti said.

Only about half of the district’s 8th graders took the exam last year. Data provided by the district show that several schools had just a handful of students take the test while others had dozens of test-takers. (See the full list of test-takers from district schools here.)

Vitti hopes that requiring 8th graders to take the test and encouraging more of them to write essays and gather letters of recommendation to apply will help prepare them to apply to college four years later.

“We’re creating a culture of college readiness,” he said.

The district is also using the exam to survey students about their career ambitions and plans to make high school programming decisions based on their answers, Vitti said, adding that high schools will also use the exam results to determine which students could benefit from advanced classes and which ones need more help.

Some parents and educators say they welcome efforts to make the application process more equitable.

Hope Gibson, the dean of students at Bethune Elementary-Middle School on the city’s west side, said students were excited when the school encouraged them to apply to the selective schools.

“They feel like we believe in them,” she said.

The changes, however, have put some families on edge as they worry about how the new approach will affect students’ chances at landing a spot in their first-choice school.

Aliya Moore, a parent leader at Paul Robeson Malcolm X Academy, a K-8 school that typically sends roughly half of its graduates to Cass and Renaissance, said parents had trouble getting information about the process and have been frustrated with Vitti and the school officials he brought to Detroit with him from his last job running schools in Jacksonville, Florida.

“I don’t like these new people coming here and criticizing our old ways,” said Moore, who graduated from Cass Tech in 1998 and has a daughter enrolled there now. “The district is now full of changes. Some are good, but some are like, if something is not broken, why are you trying to fix it? We support Dr. Vitti. We have nothing negative to say. But when you come in and you just totally dismantle what was, even if it was working, we don’t understand that.”

Among Moore’s concerns is the district’s use of  a new test this year, which makes it more difficult for the school to help students prepare. Also, this year’s test is being administered online while prior tests were on paper.

Vitti said the district is using a new test this year because last year’s exam wasn’t an option.

“The license expired years ago and the district was illegally using it,” he said.

The new test will be online, he said, though students with disabilities and other students whose parents request it will be allowed to take the test on paper.

The Detroit district now has four examination schools including Cass, Renaissance and Martin Luther King Jr. High School. The district this year converted Southeastern High School into an exam school after Southeastern returned to the district from five years in the Education Achievement Authority, a now-dissolved state-run recovery district.

Chalkbeat Detroit

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools. This content is shared with their permission.

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NEWS BYTE: School Funding Changes To Benefit Charters, Royal Oak City Buses, Belle Isle Draft Plans & Attracting Mobility Companies Fri, 19 Jan 2018 21:44:09 +0000

Here’s your Daily Detroit News Byte for Friday, January 19.

On the docket today:

If you like the show, don’t forget to subscribe in Apple Podcasts:

Thanks again to Podcast Detroit for their support:

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City Year Detroit Raises $110,000 During Annual Women’s Leadership Breakfast Fri, 17 Nov 2017 20:35:27 +0000 On Thursday morning I went to City Year’s 7th annual Women’s Leadership Breakfast.

Every year, City Year Detroit holds this breakfast as a way to discuss empowering young Detroiters. This year the topic was how City Year could help foster a strong workforce in Detroit.

I see two separate ways that City Year is helping the next generation get ready for workforce development.

The main way is with the work the  City Year Americorps members are doing in the schools. These corps members are young adults from the ages of 18-25 who spend 10 hours a day working in classrooms, spending one on one time with students who need help in mathematics and literacy, and by planning activities for students.

So the students that are being assisted are less likely to fall behind and they are less likely to drop out of high school.

The second way City Year is helping with workforce development with the the corps members themselves.

These young people are learning key skills that will help them later in life. They are problem solving, working as a team work and also teaching others.

Once these corps members finish their time at City Year they have a great opportunity to get a job or to continue their education.

For instance:

  • The University of Michigan Law School has a $30,000 scholarship for alumni of City Year.
  • City Year alumni who want to get their masters in education can get a scholarship to the University of Michigan for $15,000.
  • Alumni that are accepted to University of Detroit Mercy Law School can get a 25% discount on tuition.

In the past two years, 80% of the City Year Detroit alumni have decided to continue to live in the city.

Which means all of that talent is staying within the city. And talent staying in Detroit? That’s a good thing.

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