Eight Detroit Public Schools to be restructured to transform academic culture, enhance rigor and expand family services

Restructuring initiative is a component of Emergency Manager Darnell Earley’s 10-point management plan to transform the district’s academics and operations

As part of Detroit Public Schools’ plans to reinvent and transform the district’s academic and business operations to support high achieving schools, the district today is announcing that eight schools will undergo a restructuring process this summer. The goal of the restructuring is to transform academics and culture, and add wrap-around services to each of the eight schools.

In each case, the district and school staff will work to raise academic rigor, expand program offerings, improve safety and increase STEM opportunities for students. The restructuring will also benefit the district’s overall competitiveness by encouraging student retention and growing enrollment in the newly-transformed programs and helping them to expand into new programmatic markets.

As part of the process, instructional and non-instructional staff currently assigned to the schools will be offered an opportunity to apply and interview for positions for the 2015-2016 school year.

“As a school system, we understand the need for transformational change in Detroit Public Schools, and we have been focused on creating a well-functioning, high-performing organization – designed to provide the 47,000 students of our district with an education that will make them educationally competitive,” said DPS Emergency Manager Darnell Earley. “These eight schools are critical elements of this transformational change that will directly benefit our students, and we are committed to making them high-achieving, academically-sound learning options for the thousands of students who attend them.”

The eight schools are:

  • Carstens Water Sciences Academy at Remus Robinson;
  • Coleman A. Young Elementary School;
  • Gardner Elementary School;
  • Henderson Academy;
  • Marquette Elementary-Middle School;
  • Mason Elementary-Middle School;
  • Sampson-Webber Leadership Academy; and
  • Thirkell Elementary-Middle School.

Each school will see the following beneficial changes: creation of a positive behavior-culture/climate focus school, a new STEM or other academically challenging curricular focus, and robust enrichment offerings.

Additionally, each site will also include tailor-made restructuring changes. For instance, Mason Elementary-Middle School will see the installation of a community school model and establishment of major corporate partnerships and greater sharing of resources with adjacent Farwell Recreation Center, a comprehensive review of physical plants to include air quality, healthy learning environment and roof updates to enhance “curb appeal,” instructional technology incentives, a summer bridge program, a review of potential repurposing of the adjacent vacant Van Zile School, removal of an unused portable unit, and development of a new playground through partnership.

The reasoning surrounding the transformation of these schools directly relates to key areas in Earley’s 10-Point Management Plan, which is guiding the district toward both academic competitiveness and financial sustainability.

First and foremost, academic performance. Many of the schools were mandated by the Michigan Department of Education to make instructional changes due to their status as MDE Priority Schools. Further, the eight schools have up to this point remained on the Bottom 5% list for three years or more. At Mason, for example, over the two most recent years tested, student achievement declined or remained unchanged in a significant number of subjects/grades tested, and student proficiency continues to stagnate.

Also without the transformation, enrollment is likely to continue to decline as it has over the last two years despite Data Driven Detroit mapping that indicates above-average concentration of neighborhood stability near Mason.

School principals and staff have been notified of the planned changes. Parents will receive customized letters this week, detailing changes and inviting them to parent meetings to participate in the process.

“This is not an indictment of the staff at any of the schools, but an opportunity to comprehensively address all factors affecting student success at the school,” said Earley. “The process for staff selection will be conducted professionally and on a very timely basis to ensure stability and to provide both the educators and the families knowledge of teaching assignments by the beginning of June.”

Parents will be able to re-enroll their children in these or any DPS schools with ease. All families will soon receive a School Selection Bubble Sheet designed to provide programmatic and school information as soon as possible, allowing families to make the best possible decisions for their children’s education before the end of the school year. The district also recently confirmed that all DPS programs currently operating will be open and operating for the 2015-16 school year. Those choices will be listed on the School Selection Bubble Sheet.

Within the next week, the district will announce a number of new initiatives – many from proposals submitted by staff – for enhancing academics, enrichment and customer service for DPS families.

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