School of the Week: Dossin Elementary-Middle School

When Makayla Beckham walks down the hallway of Dossin Elementary-Middle School, you immediately notice her wide smile, adorable pigtails secured with white barrettes to match the white t-shirt peeking from underneath her crisp, blue collared uniform blouse, and a sense of confidence in the way she struts down the hall, fists closed, arms swaying side-to-side.

Then she opens her mouth to greet you – carefully pronouncing every single word and double checking to ensure she has your name right – and her sharpness is confirmed. She quickly begins to gush about her favorite teacher, Ms. Jenkins, her favorite subjects – math and science – and her aspiration to travel to Africa.

“I like math, I love to count. I really want to learn more about science,” she says. “I love the earth. I wish I could go to Africa and maybe become a scientist? I want to do something that can change my whole life!”

By the way, Makayla is 6 years old. She’s a first-grader at Dossin who perfectly embodies the school motto: “Creating life-long learners.”

Adjacent to the Grandmont Rosedale neighborhood in northwest Detroit, Dossin is considered a second home to more than 400 Pre-K through 8th grade students and their parents, who volunteer on a daily basis. Principal Alicia Colquitt, a veteran educator who has been with the district for more than 30 years, and at Dossin for two years, has a piece of advice for each new parent who enters her school.

“As a parent, you need to ask every teacher, every principal, simply everyone who plays a role in your child’s education: ‘What are you doing to ensure my child will be successful?’  Make sure they give you a great answer,” Colquitt says. “And I can tell you, at Dossin, we do a lot.”

The number one item on Colquitt’s list is making sure each student is at school, on time, every day. Dossin holds a 94% attendance rate, but Colquitt isn’t satisfied.

“Every day, we’re aiming for 100%,” she says. “And every day, my teachers and I brainstorm on how to achieve that goal.”

Colquitt compares a child missing school to an adult missing a day of work.

“If you miss work on Tuesday, when you return on Wednesday, you’re not quite certain of what’s going on,” Colquitt says. “You have to ask questions, you have to catch up. I tell my parents if their child is not with us every day, and on time, the continuity of instruction is broken and it’s difficult to catch up. We also talk directly to our children. We let them know, I want you to be here. I need you to be here because you’re important to us.”

Colquitt’s mindset on attendance falls perfectly in line with the district’s attendance mantra, “On Time. All Day. Every Day.” To reinforce the mantra, DPS implemented a new Attendance Policy in the fall of 2013 to provide a standardized and consistent district-wide policy for better attendance enforcement and to help parents understand the value of having students present each day.

The Attendance Policy also aims to increase accountability among students, parents, staff and support agencies. In an effort to combat chronic absenteeism across the district, DPS has partnered with organizations such as Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, Get Schooled and its founding partner, Viacom, to offer fun, engaging attendance challenges throughout the school year.

At Dossin, Colquitt and Assistant Principal Curtis Brown have implemented their own internal incentives to get students to school daily, including offering programs that students specifically ask for and making sure parents are involved.

Parents volunteer in many roles at Dossin during the day, as well as before and after school. A group of 15-20 moms, dads and grandparents patrol the school grounds and escort students from buses each day to ensure Safe Routes to School. One Dossin dad even walks the school hallways each morning with Assistant Principal Brown to ensure the interior of the building is safe.

Brown, who is new to Dossin this year, has initiated new programs and collegiate partnerships for students that further promote the motto of creating life-long learners. Each month, he brings in speakers from various career backgrounds as part of the African-American Professionals Career Series to speak to 5th through 8th graders.

On November 14, 2014, Dossin students will travel to the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor to tour three-dimensional engineering labs and learn about electrical engineering and aerospace as part of a new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program/partnership.

“I want to engage them to start planning their futures now,” Brown says. “I bring in young professionals who look like them to give our students an idea of the types of careers they can pursue. Our goal here is to begin preparing them as early as possible for their futures.”

Some offerings: Media Club, Academic Games, Student Government, Garden Club, Accelerated Reading/Math, Robotics/Science Clubs, Chess Club, DAPCEP, Tutoring/Extended Day Program, Book Club, K-8 Sports, Skating Club, Dance, Cheerleading, Volunteer Reading/Business Corps, Girls 2 Goddess Mentoring, onsite Department of Human Services (DHS) worker, and more.

Something you didn’t know…
Dossin has a school garden where students take pride in planting fresh vegetables to share with the community. Residents in the neighborhood are also invited to plant fruits and vegetables in the Dossin Community Garden.

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