University of Detroit Jesuit, Detroit, Michigan
Orchard Lake St. Mary's Preparatory, Orchard Lake, Michigan
Novi Detroit Catholic Central, Novi, Michigan
Brother Rice High School, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
Birmingham Public Schools, Birmingham, Michigan
Westwood Community School District, Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Inkster, Michigan
The Roeper School, Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
Cranbrook Schools, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
Marian High School, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
Academy of the Sacred Heart, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
Mercy High School, Farmington Hills, Michigan
Notre Dame Preparatory, Pontiac, Michigan
Regina High School, Warren, Michigan
Lincoln Consolidated Schools, Ypsilanti, Michigan
Grosse Pointe Public School System, Grosse Pointe, Michigan
Oakland Accelerated College Experience, Oakland County, Michigan
Oakland Opportunity Academy, Oakland County, Michigan
Oakland Schools Technical Campuses, Oakland County, Michigan
Virtual Learning Academy Consortium, Michigan
Bloomfield Hills Schools, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Comprehensive education at its finest.
Everest Collegiate High School and Academy. Clarkston, Michigan. An Authentic Catholic School of Distinction.
Oakland Christian School, Auburn Hills, Michigan. Oakland Christian School engages students in a rigorous and relevant education
Greenhills School, Ann Arbor, Michigan. Academic foundation for success.
Utica Community Schools, Image the Potential.
Lake Orion Community Schools, Lake Orion, Michigan. Providing an exemplary education for all learners
Shrine Catholic Schools, Royal Oak, Michigan. Faith. Family. Future.
Berkley School District, Berkley, Huntington Woods, Oak Park, Michigan. Engage. Inspire. Achieve.
AIM High School, Farmington Hills, Michigan. Aim High is a 6th-12th grade, tuition-based private school that provides an educational alternative
Parkway Christian School, Sterling Heights, Michigan. Challenging Minds. Capturing Hearts. Cultivating Gifts.
Franklin Road Christian School, Novi, Michigan. a K-12, coeducational, college-preparatory school with a nondenominational Christian philosophy.
Southfield Christian, Southfield, Michigan. Pursuing Excellence for the Glory of God.
Plymouth Christian, Canton, Michigan. A non-denominational, college preparatory Christian school

Detroit school board OKs Duggan's bus loop idea for northwest Detroit

The Detroit Board of Education on Tuesday OK'd a bus loop system proposed by Mayor Mike Duggan that will create a unified school bus system in northwest Detroit. The system - which will launch in time for the 2018-19 school year - was designed as a way to boost enrollment at charter schools and schools in the Detroit Public Schools Community District by making it easier for students to get to and from school using bus service. It is intended to combat the fact that 32,000 children who live in the city leave each day to attend school in the suburbs. (Detroit Free Press)


Detroit board members decide not to renew charter, leaving 3 schools and 700 students in limbo

Three Detroit charter schools face renewed uncertainty after two school board panels voiced opposition to renewing their contracts. Murphy, Trix, and Stewart academies were removed from the city’s main district by the state in 2012 and placed into a state-run recovery district that converted them into charters. They remained charters when the recovery district dissolved last year and its schools returned to the district. Now the schools managers that run the three schools must find a new backer — and perhaps move into a new building, too. (Chalkbeat)

Related story:

> Detroit Free Press: 3 Detroit charter schools' contract renewals rejected by board panel


A partnership to make bus stops for students at district and charter schools in Detroit appears to be back on track

A city plan to boost collaboration between district and charter schools cleared a speed bump on Monday, as a district committee narrowly approved a joint bus route in Northwest Detroit. The proposal will go before the full board next month. The district’s finance sub-committee shelved concerns about the program’s cost and the role of charter schools, with two of three board members voicing support. The proposed bus line would stop at 10 elementary and middle schools, including six district schools, Vitti said. (See below for a list of schools and a map of the proposed route.) (Chalkbeat)


Vitti's 1st year: Amid challenges, his promise is still to serve schools' kids

Nikolai Vitti was in a cabinet meeting with his closest advisers when his frustration over building problems in the Detroit Public Schools Community District boiled over. "I'm not playing around with this ... it's a safety issue," Vitti said during the meeting last week, as the discussion turned to recent results of water testing that found elevated lead and copper levels at a few. The condition of Detroit's schools has been on Vitti's radar since he interviewed for the job in March 2017 and visited several schools. He said at the time that the conditions were "unconscionable and it's a clear indication of the injustice our children face here." His point at the meeting: The testing needs to continue. (Detroit Free Press)

Related story:

> Detroit Free Press: Vitti's 1st year: 10 things that have changed Detroit schools


‘Come help these babies.’ Inside the Detroit district’s long-shot effort to end a crippling teacher shortage

Sporting perfectly tailored black-and-white ensembles and wide, beaming smiles, three seasoned Detroit schools recruiters scanned a packed ballroom at Baltimore’s Morgan State University’s spring job fair recently, searching out likely catches. “Hey, soror, come on over here,” one of them, Cass Technical High School social studies teacher Asenath Jones, called out as she beckoned to a young woman toting an Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority bag. “Let me tell you about Detroit.” Senior Ashley Fox shot back a quick smile. But while the sociology major stopped to chat with her sister in the nation’s first black sorority, she was not interested in either teaching or joining the district. On an early-April tour of job fairs at historically black colleges and universities, Fox and scores of others who ignored Detroit’s pitches illustrate the challenge confronting Jones and her fellow recruiters. (Chalkbeat)


Detroit parents can take classes in clipping coupons and writing resumes. Will they sign up?

Detroit’s main school district launched a major new initiative this spring, offering scores of new classes that aren’t for students, but for their parents. Held at schools and libraries across the city, parents can sign up for classes to learn to become event-planners or to launch their own home-based business. There are classes to help children with homework, to learn to style children’s hair, and to cope with grief and loss. There’s even a course on how to save extra cash by clipping coupons. (Chalkbeat)


Vitti: Duggan's controversial school bus plan needs work

The Detroit school district will only agree to Mayor Mike Duggan's school bus loop plan — a proposal he said would boost enrollment at schools in the city — if the city alters the cost and length of the program. Duggan, during his March 7 state of the city address, proposed a unified bus system for northwest Detroit that he said would allow students to attend whatever school they wanted within the targeted area. The system is an attempt to attract back students in the city now attending suburban schools. (Detroit Free Press)


Many Detroit educators have never worked in a high-performing school. This program imports coaches who have

Throughout the Mumford Academy High School one morning this month, teachers were prepping their students for upcoming SAT exams. Teens flooded the hallways between classes, calling out to friends. But for much of this day in early April, the school’s principal, Nir Saar, was isolated from the usual rush and noise of his northwest Detroit school. He was instead in a small conference room beyond the main office, huddling with his top advisors and a team of education experts in hopes of solving a problem that some say imperils the ability of schools in Detroit to be truly successful. (Chalkbeat)


Detroit district adding grades K-2 to summer school to help youngest students boost reading scores

For the first time in years, the Detroit district summer school program will start in kindergarten.District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti recommended younger school children, in grades kindergarten to second grade, be included in the summer school program at the academic subcommittee meeting Monday. The move is meant to help prepare young students for a new state law hanging over the district. The law will prevent third-graders who aren’t reading at grade level from advancing to fourth grade starting in 2020. (Chalkbeat)


Detroit schools ranked worst on national exam — again. But is there hope that things can improve?

It’s difficult to find good news for Detroit schools in newly released national test score results. Not only did students in the city’s main district rank dead last — for the fifth time — among major cities in every subject, but their scores dropped even lower than the rock-bottom numbers Detroit fourth-graders posted the last time they took the exam in 2015. The biggest drop came in fourth-grade math, where the city’s average score fell 5 points between 2015 and 2017. (Chalkbeat)

Related stories:

> Detroit Free Press: Detroit's schools score worst in the nation again, but Vitti vows that will change

> Detroit News: Michigan test scores lag nationally despite increase


Robots to invade Detroit for global competition

Detroit — Inside the Michigan Engineering Zone, it was time to give “Tink,” a robot built by students at Detroit’s Pershing High School, some rivets. Safety glasses on and her red hair tied back, 15-year-old student Delann Pillivant grabbed the robot’s aluminum frame and pushed a power drill into its center bar, making the modification for an upcoming global robotics competition coming this month to Detroit. Pillivant spent most of her first year at the facility, known as the “MEZ,” watching older students on the Pershing robotics team take the lead in building a robot from scratch, modifying it for FIRST Robotics competitions. This year, Pillivant is in the driver’s seat — literally — for the robotics team, which comes to the MEZ in Midtown every week to get training in science, technology, engineering and math and hands-on experience building robotics for competitions. (Detroit News)

Related story:

> Observer & Eccentric: Catholic Central robotics teams head to world championships this month


Detroit finally has money to hire teachers. Good luck finding them.

Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti announced last month that every school will offer art and gym next year for the first time in years. The good news: He has money to hire the teachers. The bad: He hasn’t found enough, so the district is searching all over the nation. The district is fanning out to historically-black college campuses across the nation over the next several weeks in addition to continuing to hold year-round job fairs to try to fill 180 teacher vacancies. The district started the school year this fall with 2,000 teachers and about 250 vacancies. (Bridge)


Detroit school becomes first to join Project Green Light crime reduction effort

Randolph Career and Technical Education Center in Detroit has become the first school to join the city's Project Green Light crime prevention program, with 23 cameras  installed that will monitor the school in real time. More schools could join. Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools Community District, said in a news release that he is in talks with the city to expand the crime prevention program to other schools in the district. "DPSCD students' safety is key to increasing our enrollment and creating a learning environment where students can focus on their education," Vitti said in the release. (Detroit Free Press)


The Detroit district tries inviting families to enroll during spring break. Parents are trickling in.

Detroit’s main district is experimenting with ways to get more students to commit for the 2018-19 school year, so it hosted its first pop-up enrollment center this week at the Detroit Children’s Museum. But so far, not many parents are showing up. Usually, parents have to go to multiple locations to register their children for school, especially if they have special needs. This is the first time the district has offered a one-stop shop, where immunizations, vision, hearing, and lead screenings are being offered for free. Besides that, parents can register for the federal nutrition program for women, infants and children, and other services. (Chalkbeat)


Brainpower on display at MIST Detroit competition

For weeks, Siham Azom has been devoting long hours to memorizing an original speech, brushing up on factoids to better her trivia skills and helping fashion a sleek website. The 15-year-old is among hundreds of Metro Detroit students gearing up to participate in a regional interscholastic tournament this weekend at Wayne State University. It’s the peak event for the local arm of the Muslim Interscholastic Tournament, an international group that works to unite youths and help others understand Islam through intensive, education-based competitions. (Detroit News)


Detroit schools' outdated curriculum sets students up to fail, audit finds

The auditors’ findings were unsettling. Middle schoolers in Detroit’s main school district have been taking pre-algebra classes that have “virtually no relationship” to the state’s mathematics standards. Students in kindergarten through third grade have been taught with an English curriculum so packed with unnecessary lessons that they don’t have time to get a firm grasp of foundational reading skills. That “sets students up for a school career of frustration with anything that requires reading,” auditors found. (Bridge)


It’s official: Detroit’s enrollment grew for the first time in over a decade, even after adding the state-run district

What Detroit district leaders have been saying for months is true: After many years of losing students, enrollment in the Detroit district grew this year while charter enrollment fell. State data released earlier this month show that district enrollment is up about 2 percent over the last five years while Wayne County charter enrollment is down about 2 percent. It’s the first time in over a decade that the district has gained students. The data are final audited enrollment numbers that the state uses to determine how much money it pays out to schools. Detroit district Superintendent Nikolai Vitti boasted at a press conference last fall that the district’s enrollment had exceeded the gains from the newly absorbed students in the dissolved state-run Education Achievement Authority schools. He said the district had added more than a thousand former charter students. (Chalkbeat)


Experts question Detroit district chief’s wish to create new schools for kids with special needs

On the carpet inside a language arts class, three boys quietly play a word game with their teacher. In the same room, on a comfy sofa and chair, two students discuss a poem’s message. But across the room, where the soft sunlight washes through the windows, one of their classmates sits alone, rocking to and fro in a chair, his hands covering his face. At some schools, allowing such behavior from a student might come as a surprise. But at Aim High School in Farmington Hills, a private school where almost three out of four students have a formal diagnosis of autism, things are different. (Chalkbeat)


‘Trust is being built’ as foundation invests in programs to support Detroit parents and students

Anna Hightower didn’t know what to think when her daughter, Jasmine, wanted permission to invite her teachers to visit their home in October. But she pushed past her reluctance and nervousness, baked brownie cookies and opened her doors to two teachers from the Davison Elementary-Middle School. She discovered a new world of information on being a better parent as a participant in the Detroit main district’s new initiative to empower parents, the Parent Teacher Home Visit Program. (Chalkbeat)


Detroit school chief wants to eliminate small high schools at Cody, Carson and Mumford

After a nearly 10-year experiment to run multi-school campuses in several Detroit high school buildings, the superintendent is recommending consolidating them back into single-school campuses to save money. Superintendent Nikolai Vitti told board members at a finance committee meeting this month that consolidating the schools would save the district almost $2 million by eliminating overlap in positions such as principals and other administrators. If the full board accepts Vitti’s recommendation later this spring, the structure of a number of high schools would change. Cody High School would go back to a single school that would try to incorporate the focus that exists in three smaller schools: Cody-Detroit Institute of Technology College Prep High School, Cody-Medicine and Community Health Academy, and the Cody-Academy of Public Leadership. (Chalkbeat)


Detroit school board to protesters: Please remain civil. Protesters to school board: You’re naive

Detroit activist Helen Moore speaks with her supporters from the stage at Mumford High School. Her removal from the auditorium prompted loud objections that led to the meeting's abrupt ending. A day after the Detroit school board abruptly ended a meeting that was disrupted by protesters, the meeting is being rescheduled, while the board president is making an appeal for civility. “The board is extremely disappointed that the regularly scheduled meeting tonight was adjourned early due to extreme disruptive behavior from several audience members,” school board president Iris Taylor wrote in a statement issued late Tuesday, several hours after the meeting’s chaotic end. (Chalkbeat)


Detroit students filed a lawsuit seeking the right to an equal education — 18 months later, they’re still in legal limbo

At Detroit’s Osborn High School, Jammaria Hall often endured classrooms without qualified teachers, books, or enough desks and chairs. He shivered in his coat when the boiler was broken, scorched in warm months, and watched vermin scurry about the building in a school district the state controlled for most of his K-12 education. Now, Hall is struggling academically as a freshman at Tallahassee Community College in Florida. He takes remedial classes to improve his reading, learn to construct sentences and strengthen basic math skills. He eventually hopes to transfer to nearby Florida A&M University, but for now the aspiring financial planner is working hard just to catch up. (Chalkbeat)


Will the Detroit district and charter schools agree to work together on busing and school grading as Mayor Duggan suggests?

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan believes he has found a way to bring together the city’s warring education factions — charter schools and the district. In his state of the city speech Tuesday, Duggan announced two programs he says can unite the two — an experiment in joint bus routes, and an effort to give report cards to all schools in the city. It’s unclear whether key players on the two sides will find common ground on the two efforts, but Duggan already has secured one key ally: Superintendent Nikolai Vitti. (Chalkbeat)

Related story:

> Detroit News: Detroit, charters fight to keep kids in local schools


Detroit school board OKs selling land for Wayne County jail project

The Detroit Board of Education has agreed to sell a piece of property that will be used for the Wayne County jail project. The decision comes just three weeks after the board initially couldn't muster enough votes to OK the deal. The board voted 5-1 to OK the sale during a special meeting Monday night. The Detroit Public Schools Community District will be paid $220,000 for the property —$20,000 more than what was initially offered for the 1.34 acre property at 5300-5330 Russell and 1457 Frederick, one block east of I-75 and two blocks south of I-94. (Detroit Free Press)


Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan looks to grade schools, help district and charter schools work together on transportation

Add Mayor Mike Duggan to the list of people interested in grading schools in Detroit. Even as state education officials are starting to measure schools using a 100-point scale, and as GOP lawmakers are pushing legislation that would assign A-F letter grades to every school in the state, Duggan announced in his State of the City Address Tuesday night that he, too, is looking for a way to measure city schools. “Parents need to have information to choose their schools,” Duggan told a packed auditorium at Western International High School in southwest Detroit. “What if we got representation from Detroit Public Schools and charters, from the parent community, and academics, and we put out report cards that parents could rely on every year? And we did it together so parents had a basis for comparing?” (Chalkbeat)

Related stories:

> Deadline Detroit : Mayor Duggan: 27% of Detroit Kids Attend School Outside City

> Detroit Free Press: Mayor Mike Duggan to Detroit children: 'We want you to stay'

> Detroit News: Duggan: Way forward runs through Detroit’s schools


Mayor Mike Duggan's State of the City to outline future for Detroit children

The educational future of Detroit children and a planned partnership with school leaders to eliminate barriers for families will be a major theme of Mayor Mike Duggan's fifth State of the City address Tuesday, along with crime and a neighborhood initiative he plans to unveil. "The mayor will spend a significant portion of his speech talking about children and the opportunities that are available for children here in Detroit," Alexis Wiley, Duggan's chief of staff, said of the 7 p.m. address at Western International High School. "He'll expand upon what our role will be in education in the city in stabilizing the landscape but also ensuring that all of our kids across the city have access to quality educational opportunities." (Detroit Free Press)

Related story:

> Detroit News: Duggan to address schools in State of the City address


40,000 robotics fanatics are coming to Detroit in April

Inside this small classroom at Detroit's Greenfield Union Elementary School — where a rookie team of robotics students was working on building a robot on a recent day —there may well be a future scientist. Or mathematician. Or computer expert. These kids are part of a surge in robotics teams in the Detroit Public Schools Community District — a growth from 17 to 53 teams in one year — that's happening at the most auspicious time for robotics in Michigan. The world robotics championships is coming to Detroit in April, an event that will draw 40,000 robotics enthusiasts to the city and millions of dollars in economic impact. It's the first time the event is being held in Michigan, a robotics powerhouse that has 508 high school teams this year — the most of any state in the country. California, with 314 teams, is second. The world competition will be held in Michigan for three straight years. (Detroit Free Press)


Detroit schools and police chief pledge to work together to keep kids safe — but disagree about guns in schools

The leaders of Detroit schools and the police department Thursday pledged to work together to reduce school violence — even as they disagreed about whether teachers should be armed in schools. Appearing together on stage at an event sponsored by the Detroit Policy Conference, a gathering of lawmakers, business and civic leaders, Detroit’s Police Chief James Craig and Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said they both agree that schools need to be safer. They promised to work together, possibly by sharing student data and spotting threats on social media. But the two saw little common ground when it came to the issue of guns in schools. (Chalkbeat)


Unsatisfied with Detroit ‘college-readiness’ rate, Vitti lays out ideas for changing the district’s culture

Detroit high school students could soon have access to makeup courses, more guidance counselors, and color-coded wristbands signifying their skills, according to ideas that schools chief Nikolai Vitti laid out Monday to boost the district’s graduation rate. More than three quarters of students in Detroit’s main district graduated on time last year, but the rate was unchanged from 2016, even as the statewide graduation rate rose. And just 12 percent of Detroit students were considered “college-ready,” with more of them dropping out, as well. That’s not acceptable to Vitti, who told the district school board’s academic committee on Monday that he would be taking steps to create a “college-going culture” in the district. (Chalkbeat)


To win back families, Detroit district plans a sweeping search for gifted students

Detroit’s main school district could soon dramatically expand offerings for gifted students in its latest bid to woo back families who have fled in recent years. Under a proposed policy to “develop the special abilities of each student,” the district would start screening all second-graders for giftedness as soon as next year. A school board committee took a first look Tuesday at the policy, which could undergo changes before a vote by the full board. Exactly how students would be identified hasn’t been decided. But according to the policy, the district will consider students gifted if they have abilities “above their peers” in three categories: academic strength, creativity, and leadership. (Chalkbeat)


A popular new Montessori program in Detroit’s main district may expand into its own separate schools

Detroit’s main district is considering expanding its popular Montessori program, including possibly creating free-standing Montessori schools designed to draw students from around the city. The possible changes could represent a major shift for the two-year-old program, which now operates in 14 classrooms in six schools. Montessori parents have been on high alert in recent weeks. Told that changes are coming to the program, they’ve been worried that new Montessori schools would mean an end to existing programs. (Chalkbeat)


Detroit schools chief: Weak curriculum leaves our kids at a disadvantage

Curriculum for literacy and math in the Detroit Public Schools Community District is so deficient and out of alignment with state standards that one board member called it “chilling,” at a meeting Tuesday night. Superintendent Nikolai Vitti provided the sobering overview of the state of the district’s curriculum during a meeting Tuesday night. The report was based on an audit the district had completed by a third party. “Curriculum is the main tool we use to make sure our students are performing at grade level,” Vitti said during the meeting. He said it's forcing teachers in many cases to supplement their lessons. (Detroit Free Press)

Related story:

> Detroit News: Whiston: EMs should have changed DPS curriculum


Detroit parents, teachers and youth push back on 'school choice' at education town hall

In 2008, Alfred Wright enrolled his son, Timothy, in kindergarten at Oakman Elementary/Orthopedic, a small school on the Detroit's northwest side that specialized in teaching students with special needs. Timothy had recently been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and the school — which came with spacious hallways, discreet changing rooms, small class sizes, and an on-site nurse —  seemed like the perfect match.  And, according to Wright, it was. For five years, he watched his son thrive in the close-knit and accepting community. Oakman not only was prepared to accommodate Timothy's needs but it helped Wright, as a parent, better understand his child.  (Detroit Free Press)


More charter schools in Detroit? State’s largest authorizer considers contracts for three schools

After several years in which only a handful of new charter schools opened in the city of Detroit, three new charter schools are being considered by Central Michigan University, the state’s largest authorizer. The slowdown in new charter schools in the last few years came as critics ramped up pressure on authorizers, accusing them of opening too many schools and creating financial problems for district and charter schools alike. A spokesperson for Central Michigan said the university had not deliberately slowed the pace of new charter schools, but had just not received applications from schools it wanted to support. (Chalkbeat)


Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti aims big, says "Our kids can achieve at high levels"

The Detroit school board has approved an ambitious agenda for the next five years that calls for raising reading proficiency among third graders, increasing college readiness among high school students, reducing chronic absenteeism and making sure every child in the district has a digital device. The goals are key to an academic turnaround in the district. The district's rebuilding efforts — and Superintendent Nikolai Vitti's job — could depend on meeting those goals. Vitti and his team developed the goals and presented them to the board last month. The board will evaluate him in part on success toward meeting them.  (Detroit Free Press)


Detroit district aims to give a laptop to every student, starting with three schools

A group of kindergarten students stood at the front of their class at Cooke STEM Academy Tuesday morning, using their fingers on an electronic whiteboard to drag together the words “block” and “clock.” Their teacher joined them at the screen, and the four yelled “Cookie Crunch!” before switching to another word game featuring Cookie Monster. This classroom scene could come to every school in the Detroit district over the next five years — if Superintendent Nikolai Vitti can find the money to support it. Vitti’s goal is to give every core teacher an electronic whiteboard and get a personal laptop in the hands of every student in his district by 2023 — a move that he says is sure to improve learning. (Chalkbeat)


No longer distancing himself from education, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is looking for ways to impact schools

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.   (Chalkbeat)


Vitti has promised ambitious goals for the Detroit district. Here are the numbers he and the board agreed to shoot for.

When district superintendent Nikolai Vitti started the current school year in Detroit, he set ambitious goals for himself and the district. At a special session this week, the school board approved measurable targets to push that vision forward. Among the goals: filling empty classrooms, reducing the numbers of chronically absent students, boosting the number of children with new computers, increasing the speed and number of building repairs, and adding to the number of students who receive free breakfast.  Target goals for academic proficiency were set between about one and four percent for kindergarteners through eighth graders. (Chalkbeat)


The future of 4,000 students is in limbo as Detroit district delays vote on charter schools

Shortly after arriving in Detroit last year, schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti put 13 charter schools on notice: They might have to scramble to survive. Unlike most of the privately managed, publicly funded charter schools in Michigan, these schools are not overseen by colleges or universities. Instead, the schools got their charters, or contracts, from Detroit’s main school district, which now called the Detroit Public Schools Community District. The district has 106 schools of its own — and those schools compete with charters for student and teachers. (Chalkbeat)


A new law, signed Friday by Gov. Snyder, prompts Detroit district to back out of property dispute with charter school

A Detroit charter school now has a much clearer path to buy and renovate a vacant former school building on Detroit’s east side. After Gov. Rick Snyder on Friday signed legislation giving a major boost to a Detroit charter school in its ongoing dispute with Detroit’s main school district, superintendent Nikolai Vitti said the district would no longer defend a lawsuit over the school’s future. The Detroit Prep charter school has been clashing with the district for months  over the charter school’s efforts to buy the former Anna M. Joyce school in the city’s Pingree Park neighborhood. (Chalkbeat)


Higher reading scores predicted for Detroit’s third-graders, but superintendent warns ‘a lot can happen’ before final exams

Halfway through his first school year as Detroit schools superintendent, Nikolai Vitti says the district’s youngest students are moving in the right direction in reading — but he warned not to expect improvements in math this year. Vitti offered the insight during a meeting Monday of the school board’s academic committee, where he gave one of the first reports from the district about the status of students’ learning since he took the job in May. Based on the district’s i-Ready testing, which the district is using to check the reading skills of students in kindergarten through third grade, Vitti told board members that he predicted that 17 percent of third-graders would be considered proficient in reading at the end of the school year — though he cautioned that the results are far from final. (Chalkbeat)


Detroit teachers who get second jobs might soon have to disclose those gigs

Dawn McFarlin, shown here wearing a shirt from her T-shirt company, is one of many Michigan teachers with a second job. 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. (Chalkbeat)


Detroiters react with praise — and fury — as district changes how it will decide who gets into Cass Tech and Renaissance

Reaction was swift and strong last week when Chalkbeat reported that Detroit’s main school district is changing the way students are admitted to Cass Technical High School, Renaissance High School and two other selective schools. Some parents, teachers, students and members of the schools’ devoted alumni associations praised the district’s decision to reduce the role of testing in admissions decisions. But others expressed anger and concern about how the changes will affect the schools and how decisions about the changes were made. (Chalkbeat)


19 vacant Detroit school properties could get boarded up

The Detroit Public Schools Community District would spend nearly $3 million to board up and secure vacant school buildings, addressing safety concerns that have been raised for years in the district. "This creates an unsafe environment not only because of the illegal activities that often occur in these buildings, but also we have had instances where we've had fires in the buildings," Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said Monday. The goal is to "try to make them safe to the community," and have them not be eyesores. It would also protect the district's investments, Vitti said. (Detroit Free Press)


Raises proposed for Detroit principals, assistant principals

Principals and assistant principals in the Detroit Public Schools Community District are close to getting their first raises in nearly eight years or more. The finance committee of the Detroit Board of Education approved a proposal Monday morning that would result in 3% raises for the school-based administrators. The full board would need to act on the raises. The board's next regular meeting is scheduled for Feb. 13. (Detroit Free Press)


Detroit district moves beyond test scores for admittance to elite high schools like Cass Tech and Renaissance

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. (Chalkbeat)


Detroit district aims for faith-based partnerships for every school to support student needs

The district on Thursday announced an initiative to connect every district school with a faith-based community partner to help with academic support, student basic needs, and personal and career development, among other services.  The district is now trying to determine which schools have a defined partnership with a religious institution, but estimates that 25 to 30 percent of schools already do. Sharlonda Buckman, senior executive director of family and community engagement, said that the district hopes that, by the end of the year, every one of its 106 schools “has a religious partner working with them in tandem toward the goal of helping our children achieve.” (Chalkbeat)

Related story:

> Detroit Free Press: Faith-based leaders urged to join the effort to rebuild Detroit schools


State bill might offer a fix for $6.5M DPS paperwork mix-up

A metro Detroit lawmaker has introduced legislation that has the potential to get the Detroit Public Schools out of a costly jam. The bill, introduced Wednesday by Rep. Martin Howrylak, R-Troy, would provide a one-time extension for the district to file paperwork so it can receive $6.5 million in debt millage reimbursements. The State of Michigan reimburses districts for lost debt millage funds under Public Act 86, but in order to qualify, districts must submit the necessary paperwork by Aug. 15. The district missed the deadline and has been working with the Michigan Department of Treasury to try to receive the funds. (Detroit Free Press)


Lawmakers back Detroit charter in building fight

Lansing — A growing Detroit charter school is poised to win its fight to purchase an abandoned school building in the city’s Indian Village neighborhood after Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature took action to tilt a lawsuit in its favor. The Michigan Senate on Tuesday sent Gov. Rick Snyder a fast-tracked bill that would tighten a prohibition on the kind of school-building deed restrictions that critics say Detroit has used to discourage competition from charters. The city’s public school district “flouted” a 2017 law by refusing to waive a deed restriction on a long-vacant building that Detroit Prep charter school is trying to purchase, House Education Committee Chairman Tim Kelly, R-Saginaw, said last week in a hearing. (Detroit News)


With no art teacher, students at this Detroit school say their talents go unnurtured

When the eighth-grade students at Paul Robeson Malcolm X Academy on Detroit’s west side talk about things their school needs, they point to a classmate named Casey. “He’s a great artist,” one student said. “He can look at a picture and draw it in like five minutes and it will look exactly the same.” If Casey attended school in the suburbs, his friends believe, he and other talented students would have an art class where they could nurture their skills. (Chalkbeat)


Judge orders Detroit district leader to appear after issuing a stay in charter school property dispute

A Wayne County judge charged with settling a dispute between charter school Detroit Prep and the main Detroit district on Friday issued a stay and demanded that Superintendent Nikolai Vitti or one of his top deputies, along with a school board member, appear in court next month to discuss the case. “Let’s get somebody, a board member, the superintendent – that would be my preference – or the deputy superintendent would be acceptable with the superintendent available by phone,” Judge David J. Allen said. “I’m sure he’s a busy man.”  Allen agreed on Friday to postpone making a decision over the disputed former Joyce Elementary School until next month. By then, Gov. Rick Snyder is likely to have signed legislation that could help the charter school, Detroit Prep, in its quest to buy the former Joyce school. (Chalkbeat)

Related stories:

> Detroit Free Press: Charter: Detroit schools 'vindictive' in building sale

> Detroit Free Press: Detroit district, charter school battle over closed school building


The ongoing fight between Detroit district and charter school heads to the state House and court

The dispute between the Detroit school district and a charter school over the use of a former district building is coming to a head this week, with the state House taking up a related issue on Thursday, the two sides headed to court on Friday — and powerful forces like the Wall Street Journal weighing in on the side of the charter. The charter, Detroit Prep, may get some support for its legal case from the state House, which will hold a hearing on Thursday on legislation affecting such building sales. The House is considering a bill that, if approved, would make it illegal for government entities, including school districts, to use deed restrictions to block educational institutions from acquiring former school buildings. (Chalkbeat)


Detroit board: No more schools named after the living

Detroit — The Detroit Board of Education approved a new policy Tuesday that allows the district to rename buildings already named after living people. This decision clears the way for the possibility of changing the Dr. Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine should the board decide to do so. No action was taken Tuesday night to actually change any school building names. The new policy on naming and remaining schools in the district, approved in a 4-3 vote, says in part the board may change the name of a school for reasons that “the school community’s opinion that the name of the school no longer represents the culture or population of the geographic area in which the school is located.” (Detroit News)


New safeguards to be implemented following Detroit district’s $6.5 million snafu

A $6.5 million mistake made during schools chief Nikolai Vitti’s transition last summer has prompted a new system for setting deadlines for the Detroit district. Vitti plans to use the new strategy to prevent missed deadlines like the one the finance department mishandled in August when district staff failed to submit paperwork on time to receive a reimbursement from the state. Vitti told Detroit school board members at a public meeting Tuesday night that his staff is working on a plan to put safeguards in place to prevent another costly error. (Chalkbeat)

Related story:

> Detroit Free Press: Former Detroit Schools CFO Marios Demetriou fires back over district's claims


Facing aging, crumbling and half-empty buildings, Detroit school board to consider $945,000 review of district properties

Detroit’s main school district is considering spending nearly $1 million to assess the quality of the aging buildings that house its 106 schools. Superintendent Nikolai Vitti has talked since arriving in Detroit last spring about the need for the district to review the conditions of its buildings as it makes decisions about which buildings need renovations  — and which ones might need to be closed. Many school buildings are in serious disrepair — a problem that became a national story two years ago when so many teachers called in sick to protest school conditions that most district schools cancelled classes. (Chalkbeat)


Former Detroit schools finance chief accused of bungling paperwork says he’s not to blame

A former top Detroit school finance official who’s been blamed for a mistake that cost the Detroit school district $6.5 million says he’s not at fault because his boss — Superintendent Nikolai Vitti — was aware of the issue. The dispute could play a role at Tuesday’s school board meeting, where the former official plans to read from this letter to defend his reputation amid ongoing criticism from Vitti. Vitti last month accused former district Chief Financial Officer Marios Demetriou and two other finance officials of failing to submit paperwork to collect $6.5 million owed to the district from the state. (Chalkbeat)

Related story:

> Detroit News: State trying to resolve $6.5M mistake for DPSCD


What would make 2018 the best yet for Detroit’s students? Nine leaders who care about education weigh in.

The year 2017 was a huge one for education in Detroit and Michigan. After years of being controlled by the state or state-appointed emergency managers, Detroit’s newly elected school board went to work. Its members wasted no time in naming a new superintendent, Dr. Nikolai Vitti. Thirty-eight of the state’s lowest-performing schools started the year under threat of closure. Under intense political pressure, the state backed off and began crafting agreements that required the schools to improve. (One charter school was closed by its authorizer.) Today, almost half of district schools are in such partnership agreements. A first-in-Detroit education forum laid bare rivalries, but also revealed ways to work together — and new opportunities for improvement. (Chalkbeat)


Paperwork snafu cost Detroit school district $6.5 million in state funds

A member of Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti’s finance team resigned suddenly on Thursday after officials discovered that $6.5 million worth of state reimbursements were likely never submitted in a paperwork snafu over the summer. District officials said that Michael Bridges, a deputy executive director in finance for the Detroit Public Schools Community District, quit after Vitti accused him, and two others, of failing to submit an application for state funds that were owed to the district. Vitti had threatened to discipline the officials. The error won’t affect current students because the problem relates to the old Detroit Public Schools, which exists only to pay down legacy debt and no longer runs schools. (Chalkbeat)

Related story:

> Detroit News: DPS misses deadline, loses out on $6.5M


New state legislation aims to help charter schools — like Detroit Prep — buy vacant school buildings

The Michigan state senate has approved legislation that supporters hope will pave the way for a Detroit charter school to buy a vacant former school building on the city’s east side. The Detroit Prep charter school has been trying to purchase the former Anna M. Joyce Elementary School in the city’s Pingree Park neighborhood from a private developer but the sale has so far been blocked by the main Detroit school district. The district has the power to block the sale due to a restriction in the property deed that requires the property’s owner to get a sign-off from the district before it can make certain sales. Superintendent Nikolai Vitti has so far refused to sign off on the sale of the Joyce school to Detroit Prep saying the district first wants to conduct a review of its properties and needs. (Chalkbeat)


New study shows just how hard it is to find a decent public school in Detroit — especially in 10 city neighborhoods

An alarming new study shows just how difficult it is to find a quality school in the city of Detroit — especially for families that live in certain neighborhoods. The study from the nonprofit research organization IFF identified ten city neighborhoods where it’s extremely difficult to find a seat in a quality school. Those neighborhoods are home to 30,000 children, but had just eight “performing” schools. The study defined them using the color-coded school ratings that state education officials assigned for the 2015-16 school year based primarily on test scores.   (Chalkbeat)

Related story:

> Detroit Free Press: Report: Tough to find good schools in these Detroit neighborhoods


Coalition recommends coordination between Detroit schools, putting emphasis on reading

Reducing the chronic absenteeism rate, improving third grade reading proficiency, funding special education and making Detroit schools more desirable for students and teachers are among six priorities recommended by a coalition hoping to improve education for Detroit students. The Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren, a group of education, corporate and philanthropic and other leaders released the report, “Our Schools, Our Moment,” Wednesday at the Fellowship Chapel in northwest Detroit.The 12-page report is a call for cooperation and accountability from Detroit Public Schools Community District and charter school leaders to better serve Detroit children and families.  (Detroit Free Press)


Detroit has one of the nation’s only schools named for a Trump cabinet member. That name could change soon.

A member of the Trump administration may have his name stripped from a school in Detroit — though not because of politics. The Detroit school board will consider on Tuesday night a recommendation that would bar naming schools after living people. If approved, the measure would force the renaming of several schools in the city that are already named for living people. Among them is the Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine. The school, located in Detroit’s midtown neighborhood near the Detroit Medical Center, opened in 2011 to serve students from around the city who are interested in pursuing health professions. (Chalkbeat)


A Detroit district plan would allow ‘master teachers’ to coach less experienced colleagues and reduce class sizes

Some of the best teachers in Detroit will likely soon have a chance to become “master teachers,” taking a dual role in which they teach children half the time and coach teachers the other half. Detroit schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti says the model would give teachers who don’t want to become administrators another way to advance their careers and potentially make more money. It would also help alleviate the district’s severe teacher shortage because master teachers would spend part of their day in the classrooms. That’s compared to the “instructional specialists” who currently support teachers in some Detroit schools. They spend all of their time instructing other teachers and have no classroom responsibilities. (Chalkbeat)


Group: Detroit must focus on literacy, growing schools

Detroit — Boosting enrollment and attendance and reforming early literacy and funding for special education are among the priorities identified in a new report from a coalition working to improve education for the city’s schoolchildren. The Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren on Wednesday unveiled “Our Schools, Our Moment,” during a news conference at Fellowship Chapel on the city’s northwest side. The 12-page list of recommendations is the product of a year of work that organizers said centers on five sets of priorities where Detroit can make significant progress on its own. A sixth proposal — calling for adequate funding for special education — will require action from Lansing and Washington, D.C., the report notes. (Detroit News)


Detroit Public Schools Community District faces lawsuit over abandoned elementary school

DETROIT - Legislators are questioning the use of funds by the Detroit Public Schools Community District amid a lawsuit over an abandoned elementary school.

Detroit Preparatory Academy is trying to buy the elementary school, renovate it and move in, but the district is blocking the move. Lawmakers said the district shouldn't be fighting it or spending money to do so.  For children at Detroit Prep Charter Academy, they're in the basement of a church, the classrooms are small and the playground is in the back corner of a parking lot. (Click On Detroit)


GOP legislators: Detroit schools violating bailout law

Lansing — Republican lawmakers on Thursday urged new Detroit superintendent Nikolai Vitti to create an A-F system to grade city schools and implement a merit pay system for teachers, arguing the district has failed to make changes required under a $617 million state bailout. “The law says that you have to do it, so you are intentionally violating the law at this point in time,” Rep. Daniela Garcia, R-Holland, told Vitti during committee testimony at the Michigan Capitol. Lawmaker frustrations appeared to be partially misplaced. The bailout law signed by Gov. Rick Snyder directs the state School Reform Office – not the district – to establish, implement and administer the A-F accountability system. (Detroit News)

Related stories:

> Detroit Free Press: Lawmakers grill Detroit schools Superintendent Vitti, accuse him of ignoring Michigan law

> Chalkbeat: In heated exchange with GOP lawmakers, Detroit schools chief Vitti defends stance on charters, property and grading schools


Why one woman thinks special education reform can’t happen in isolation

When Sharon Kelso’s kids and grandkids were still in school, they’d come home and hear the same question from her almost every day: “How was your day in school?” One day, a little over a decade ago, Kelso’s grandson gave a troubling answer. He felt violated when security guards at his school conducted a mass search of students’ personal belongings. Kelso, a Cass Tech grad, felt compelled to act. Eventually, she became the plaintiff in two cases which outlawed unreasonable mass searches of students in Detroit’s main district. (Chalkbeat)


Watch for Detroit's schools' float in Thanksgiving parade

Yuliana Ortiz, a camera and media-shy seventh-grader at Clippert Academy in Detroit, is the winning student in the 26th Annual Skillman Foundation’s Float Design Contest. Her Snowing Mountains design, unveiled Wednesday at the Parade Company, has been transformed into a float featuring a snow-covered house on a hill, kids ice skating, snowmen and trees. It will be led by the Ortiz family — mom Amalia, 41; dad Leonides, 38; brother Kevin, 8; and brother Daniel, six months — during America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade next Thursday. The theme of the 91st America’s Thanksgiving Parade presented by Art Van is “Woodward!! Avenue of Dreams!’’ (Detroit Free Press)


As the Detroit district focuses on improving its building stock, it’s still unclear why one sale is being denied

Abandoned schools sit empty, gathering dust or becoming magnets for crime across the Detroit district, but schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said at the school board meeting Tuesday that he has plans to change all that. “Next month, our board will receive a recommendation for a partner to review our facilities which will allow us to understand the cost of bringing each of our school buildings up to code,” he said. “This will allow us to understand how to best utilize our resources, engage the community about consolidation and building new buildings and ensuring … we have schools in every neighborhood. (Chalkbeat)


A splintered system and lack of teachers have created instability for Detroit schools. Now, leaders are craving solutions.

Like many school leaders in Detroit, Danielle Robinson spent the month of August doggedly searching for teachers. Robinson is the top Detroit official for Phalen Leadership Academies, a nonprofit charter school network that took over three Detroit schools from another manager in July. By late August, with the start of school just days away, Phalen still needed 34 teachers to staff Murphy, Stewart and Trix elementary schools. And there wasn’t much time. “We did $5,000 retention bonuses,” Robinson said. “We did  $5,000 signing bonuses. We did $1,000 referral bonuses … We needed to make sure we had enough teachers because that’s a huge thing for students when they come back — a permanent teacher in the classroom. ” (Chalkbeat)


Detroit charter schools debate gets intense at Gesu Catholic Church

Can traditional public schools and charter schools in Detroit get along, after years of us vs. them clashes? Maybe not, based on the spirited debate Wednesday night at a state of the schools event — organized by the community group 482Forward and featuring leaders from the Detroit Public Schools Community District and two key charter school authorizers. The charter leaders came to the event at Gesu Catholic Church on Detroit's west side promoting a message of collaboration and cooperation.  "We're looking forward to what the future will bring," said Cindy Schumacher, executive director of the Gov. John Engler Center for Charter Schools at Central Michigan University. (Detroit Free Press)

Related story:

> Detroit News: Vitti: Some schools of choice ‘disastrous’


Detroit chamber gets $450K to boost grad rate

Detroit – The Kresge Foundation announced a $450,000 grant Monday to the Detroit Regional Chamber Foundation for a campaign to increase the number of Metro Detroit residents with college degrees. According to Michigan’s Center for Educational Performance and Information, 73 percent of southeast Michigan high school graduates enroll in college within 12 months but only 35 percent earn a degree or credential within six years. (Detroit News)


Detroit schools taking aim at crowded classes

Guidance counselors and some district administrators are being moved into teaching positions in the Detroit Public Schools Community District — not just because the district is dealing with big teacher shortages, but because class sizes in some schools are high. District officials are also contemplating moving some assistant principals into classrooms. Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said during a board of education meeting tonight that class sizes are particularly high in some schools and in some grade levels, leaving teachers, principals, students and parents frustrated. (Detroit Free Press)


Game on! Cass Tech video game club draws big crowds

So, just how popular is the video game club at Cass Technical High School? At the same time the school’s state champion football team was on the field clobbering its way toward a big homecoming win on a recent Friday afternoon, 109 student video gamers were inside the school, filling nearly every inch of two dark, adjoining science labs on the fifth floor. At one table, they played Tower Fall. At another, they played Splatoon. In one corner, a group of them — mostly girls — tried to mimic the moves of the dancer on the screen in front of them while playing Just Dance, raising their hands in the air, shifting from side to side and spinning around to the tunes of Maroon 5’s “Maps.” (Detroit Free Press)


Detroit schools count 48,511 students on Wednesday, above budget projections

Count Day for the Detroit Public Schools Community District provided some good news. But there's even better news. The district, which has been shedding students for years, had 48,511 students show up for classes Wednesday, one of two important days of the year in which the enrollment helps determine how much state aid schools receive. That's above the 48,309 the district needed to hit to meet its budget projections. That projection took into account the return of a few thousand students from the dissolution of the Education Achievement Authority, which had operated as a state reform district in the city. (Detroit Free Press)


Strike decision for Detroit janitors on hold after last-minute talks

Last-minute discussions have halted, for now, any talk of Detroit school janitors going on strike against the private company that employs them. A spokeswoman for the union that has been working with the janitors said this morning that an 11 a.m. press conference has been called off after discussions were held early this morning. "We’re in positive talks," said Kathleen Policy, spokeswoman for the Service Employees International Union Local 1. The janitors, who work for U.S. Metro Group, serve nearly half of the school buildings in the Detroit Public Schools Community District. They had planned to announce today whether to go on strike against the Los Angeles-based company. (Detroit Free Press)


Return of PTAs key to Detroit school district's parent outreach

The Detroit Public Schools Community District is taking a familiar approach to engaging parents and teachers: It's returning Parent-Teacher Associations to schools in the district. The board of education for the district approved reinstating the groups at a meeting earlier this month. It's part of a broad approach new Superintendent Nikolai Vitti is taking to connect with parents. PTAs used to exist en masse in the district. But only a few schools have them now, said Sharlonda Buckman, the district's senior executive director of family and community engagement. (Detroit Free Press)


$300M investment to fuel Trump's STEM initiative

A $300 million commitment from the private sector will help boost computer science education programs, including classes for more than 15,000 Detroit students. The announcement from the Internet Association of the investment was made this morning, just before Ivanka Trump was to appear in downtown Detroit for a panel discussion on STEM education. And it comes a day after President Donald Trump signed a presidential memorandum that directs Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Secretary of Education, to steer $200 million in funding Congress already has approved to expand STEM and computer science education in U.S. schools.

Related stories:

> Detroit News: Internet group commits $300M to computer science

> Detroit News: Ivanka Trump to tout computer coding, STEM in Detroit

> Detroit Free Press: Ivanka Trump to visit Detroit on Tuesday to promote STEM education


Inside Nikolai Vitti’s early effort to transform Detroit’s battered public schools

Three months after taking on one of the most daunting tasks in American education, Nikolai Vitti was having a fit over pizza — $340,000 worth of pizza. Vitti, Detroit’s new school superintendent, had just discovered that the district had set aside that eye-popping sum of money last year to pay Domino’s Pizza for what he assumed were hundreds of thousands of slices for parties in schools. He was asked if he wanted to do the same for next year.  (Detroit Free Press)

Related story:

> Chalkbeat: Fixing Detroit’s schools won’t happen overnight. Here’s what new Superintendent Nikolai Vitti says he can do by next year.


Scores of Detroit schools are empty eyesores. Here’s why it’s so hard to bring them back to life.

The school building that Detroit Prep founder Kyle Smitley is trying — and struggling — to buy for her charter school is far from the only one sitting empty across the city.  A wave of about 200 school closures since 2000 has pockmarked the city with large, empty, often architecturally significant buildings. Some closed schools were repurposed, most often as charter schools; others were torn down. But most remain vacant, although the exact number is unclear. (Chalkbeat)


‘Possible, but daunting’: Inside Nikolai Vitti’s early effort to transform Detroit’s battered public schools

Three months after taking on one of the most daunting tasks in American education, Nikolai Vitti was having a fit over pizza — $340,000 worth of pizza.  Vitti, Detroit’s new school superintendent, had just discovered that the district had set aside that eye-popping sum of money last year to pay Domino’s Pizza for what he assumed were hundreds of thousands of slices for parties in schools. He was asked if he wanted to do the same for next year.   “Do you really think for a minute I’m going to bring a contract to the board at $340,000 for Domino’s?!” he asked an aide. “That would be like — ‘Here — write a front page story about how inefficient this district is.’ Are you insane? Are you really insane!?” (Chalkbeat)


Convicted Detroit principal gets schooled by court: Bond isn't for you. Go to prison, now

After months of trying to stay out of prison, former Detroit principal Josette Buendia has to start packing her bags and surrender her freedom. Today, a federal appeals court denied her bond, which means the convicted ex-principal has four days to report to federal prison for her crime: helping a millionaire vendor steal from DPS in exchange for kickbacks. Buendia. the former principal at Bennett Elementary School,  is under a court order to report to prison on Sept. 11 to begin her two-year sentence for approving a vendor's fake invoices in exchange for cash and gift cards. (Detroit Free Press)

Related story:

> Detroit News: Ex-DPS principal bound for prison after losing appeal


The plot (to buy a Detroit school building) thickens: Efforts to keep sold property from housing charter schools might have become illegal

The co-founder of Detroit Prep had a problem when trying to buy an old Detroit school building for her charter school: When the city school district sold the building to a private real estate company in 2009, it reserved the right to reject any use beyond housing for the next decade. This week, the restriction threatened to hold up the developer’s sale to Kyle Smitley, Detroit Prep’s co-founder, at least until she explained that she promised to pay the district $75,000 on top of the $750,000 she was spending for the building. But according to a group that lobbies on behalf of charter schools, that restriction might have been rendered void over the summer. (Chalkbeat)


Confusion spikes as a popular charter school seeks to buy an empty Detroit school building

Detroit’s new superintendent sent supporters of a popular new charter school into a panic today, potentially killing their dream of buying  a “forever home” for their school. Schools chief Nikolai Vitti, who is openly competing with charters for students, informed the co-founder through a district office that he intended to reject her plan to buy a vacant public school building. But later in the day, after learning more details about the sale, he agreed to give the matter more consideration before making a final call. (Chalkbeat)


How Detroit students made a federal case out of the city’s broken schools

On the afternoon of Thursday, Aug. 10, at the Theodore Levin United States Courthouse, attorneys representing Gov. Rick Snyder argued that the state of Michigan, which has been so intimately involved with Detroit Public Schools for almost 20 years, has no responsibility to ensure students in the district are taught how to read. The state's attorney moved for the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by seven Detroit schoolchildren in September of last year. That suit charged Gov. Snyder, the members of the Michigan Board of Education, and various other state officials with failing to provide an opportunity to learn. It was brought with the assistance of Los Angeles-based Public Counsel, the country's largest pro bono law firm. (Metro Times)


In Detroit schools, plenty of excitement, not enough teachers

The first day of the school year for the Detroit Public Schools Community District began with hope and excitement. At Bethune Elementary-Middle School, students received free backpacks. At Mumford High School, the principal said enrollment so far is surpassing projections. At Chrysler Elementary, they rolled out the red carpet to greet students and parents. And the district's new superintendent, Nikolai Vitti, during an impromptu stop at Mumford, said his overall message to the school community is that "it's a new day in Detroit." But even with that new day, the district is still dealing with an old challenge: The first day began with 250 teacher vacancies. Classes without teachers are mostly being covered by substitute teachers. (Detroit Free Press)

Related story:

> Chalkbeat: On Detroit’s first day of class, unusual staffing problems hobble some schools and draw parent protests


Some M-STEP scores are up slightly in Detroit and across the state — but reading scores were ‘disappointing.’

Coming off a tough year in which nearly two dozen Detroit schools were threatened with closure because of years of low test scores, the city school system is starting the new school year with a bit of good news: District scores are up slightly on average in several grades and subjects compared to last year. The 2017 M-STEP scores, released Tuesday by the Michigan Department of Education, show that the vast majority of Detroit students are still struggling. Just 9.9 percent of third-graders posted a passing score on the state English Language Arts exam while 12.3 percent of third graders passed the math test. (Chalkbeat)


Superintendent Nikolai Vitti: Parents are key to rebuilding Detroit schools

Part of rebuilding a broken Detroit school system may lie in building up parents so they're better able to advocate for their children and be engaged in their learning. And for Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools Community District, achieving that will come in the form of creating parent academies that offer classes to parents on a wide range of topics. "We'll offer classes on what questions to ask during parent-teacher conferences, how to create a culture of literacy in the home, how to fill out a FAFSA (federal student aid) form to get college aid."(Detroit Free Press)

Related story:

> Detroit News: Vitti: Detroit schools ‘building momentum’


Charter teachers at this Detroit school faced no summer pay. Then donations poured in.

Teachers at Michigan Technical Academy, a Detroit charter school that closed in June, will get paid after all, according to the management company that ran the school. The charter school closed at the end of the last school year because of financial and academic problems. Teachers learned in late July that there was no money to give them the summer pay they had earned. Sajan George, the founder and CEO of Matchbook Learning — the management company — said in a letter to staff dated today that private donations would provide the money to pay the staff. The company sent the letter to the Free Press this morning. (Detroit Free Press)

Related story:

> Chalkbeat: Closed charter school using private funds to issue unpaid teachers their summer paychecks


Teacher shortage looms over Detroit

A significant teacher shortage looms at Detroit Public Schools Community District, and it’s likely to leave some children without teachers when school starts in two weeks. Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said last week 340 teacher vacancies remain in the district, which employs about 2,700 teachers and educates an estimated 47,950 students. There are 243 general education vacancies, primarily in grades K-5, and 97 special education vacancies. That’s up from about 200 vacancies at this time last year, according to the teachers union. Whether or not there will be enough teachers for the first day of school on Sept. 5 for every classroom with students, Vitti said he is working hard to make the district fully staffed. (Detroit News)


You can help shape the future of Detroit schools

Detroit residents have a chance to help shape the future of the Detroit Public Schools Community District in a series of meetings that will be held over the next two weeks. First, though, the district's board of education, Superintendent Nikolai Vitti and key central office administrators began the process of developing a strategic plan during a daylong retreat Saturday  on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor. They spent a chunk of the day talking about updates to the mission, vision and core values statement the board developed before members took office in January. Board members and administrators also spent time talking about priorities for the district. (Detroit Free Press)


A final push to fill classrooms before the start of school

With the start of the school year now just over two weeks away, pressure is mounting on schools to hire enough teachers before classes begin. That pressure is especially intense for new Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, who has been trying to fill hundreds of vacancies ahead of his first full year as the district’s leader. The new contract approved by the school board this week could help by raising salaries, but the district is still listing nearly every teaching category as an area of “critical need.” (Chalkbeat)


Who wants to teach in Detroit? 150 come out to job fair; district to hire more than 200

If there's a silver lining in the extreme teacher shortages facing the Detroit Public Schools Community District, it's in the roughly 150 people who showed up today for a job fair, hoping to find positions in the district. Shelby Toft was one of them. After an interview with Damon Sewell, the principal at Cooke STEM Academy, she sat in a waiting room full of other job candidates, waiting for her next interview. If she gets hired by the district, it would be her first teaching job. "It's all about finding the right school," said Toft, who is interested in teaching in a school near downtown or Mexicantown. (Detroit Free Press)


Detroit school board OKs 7% pay hike for teachers over two years

The Detroit board of education on Tuesday approved a three-year contract with teachers that will provide an overall 7% increase in salaries over the next two years - a move officials say will help address the district's dire teacher shortage. The board voted 7-0 to approve the contract during a meeting at Osborn High School, in a meeting in which the board also approved agreements to settle a $28 million debt and a lawsuit against the school reform office. That recruiting is crucial for the Detroit Public Schools Community District, which on Thursday will hold the first of two job fairs this month aimed at filling more than 200 vacancies in the district. (Detroit Free Press)

Related stories:

> Chalkbeat: With new contract, first-year teachers in Detroit could soon make more than peers in Grosse Pointe and other suburbs

> Detroit News: Detroit school board OKs settlement, approves contract


Nikolai Vitti: I see myself in Detroit's struggling students

Nikolai Vitti, the school superintendent, is used to facing pressure. But Nikolai Vitti, the child struggling with reading? Among the worst moments of elementary school came when his teachers would pick a child, one by one, to read a passage from a book. “I remember sweating and thinking, ‘Oh, my God, please do not pick me.’ And then having to read and kids laughing.”  They would laugh because Vitti, now the Harvard-educated superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools Community District,  has dyslexia — a condition he didn't know he had until much later, when he was in college. It caused him to struggle with basic reading, math and writing — and made certain words difficult to read or pronounce. (Detroit Free Press)


Detroit schools may pay $28M to settle suit with janitorial company

Detroit schools would be on the hook for $28 million to settle a costly lawsuit with a janitorial services company. The Detroit board of education  is  to take action Tuesday on a proposed settlement with Maryland-based Sodexo Management, which first filed a lawsuit against the district in 2014. The company would be paid $28 million over two years, with the first payment of $16 million coming this month, according to background information prepared for the board for the meeting. (Detroit Free Press)


Find best teachers for Detroit students

Nikolai Vitti knew he’d have his hands full when he took over the Detroit Public Schools Community District in May. And just getting teachers into every classroom is proving an unreachable task for the new superintendent — for now. Vitti should take his time and make sure the hires are the best possible fit for the district. He acknowledges that when school starts next month, things won’t be perfect. The district of more than 47,000 students has 425 teacher vacancies. As of this week, Vitti has 150 certified teachers lined up from a job fair as well as a smart decision he made to move some 50 instructional specialists back to the classroom. (Detroit News)


Lawsuit over poor conditions in Detroit schools gets first day in court; state officials seek to end it

A lawsuit filed nearly a year ago over the conditions in Detroit schools had its first day in court Thursday, but it could be a month before a judge rules whether it can proceed. The suit, filed in September on behalf of seven Detroit students, argues that Gov. Rick Snyder and state education officials have deprived city students of their right to literacy by not spending adequately on local schools. The 136-page complaint paints a bleak picture of life in the city’s schools, describing condoms strewn on playgrounds, bathrooms leaking sewage into hallways, students left to grieve without support, and classrooms without qualified teachers. The suit claims that these conditions make learning difficult in Detroit schools — a conclusion that a recent study bears out. (Chalkbeat)


Is the state at fault for Detroit's school woes?

Is the State of Michigan responsible for unsavory conditions in some Detroit schools? That's a key question that is being addressed in a federal lawsuit that seeks to hold the state and a number of state officials responsible for the lack of academic achievement in five city schools. A debate over the issue — and over whether students have a fundamental right to literacy — unfolded in U.S. District Court in Detroit this afternoon, where a hearing was held on the state's bid to have the lawsuit dismissed. The lawsuit, filed Sept. 13 on behalf of seven Detroit schoolchildren attending five schools, claims the state has failed to provide them with basic literacy. U.S. District Judge Stephen Murphy said he would issue a ruling on whether to dismiss the case in about 30 days or more. (Detroit Free Press)


Suit over right to quality education faces big test

Detroit — As an unprecedented civil lawsuit over whether a quality education is a right faces its first major challenge, attorneys for Detroit students behind the litigation say conditions in the city’s schools have only gotten worse since they filed a year ago.U.S. District Judge Stephen J. Murphy III will hear arguments Thursday brought by seven Detroit schoolchildren, represented by a California public interest law firm, who are suing state officials to establish that literacy is a U.S. constitutional right. The suit, filed in September against Gov. Rick Snyder and state education officials, claims the state has functionally excluded Detroit children from Michigan’s educational system. It seeks several guarantees of equal access to literacy, screening, intervention, a statewide accountability system and other measures. (Detroit News)


Badly wanted in Detroit: Teachers for the upcoming school year

Thirty days.That's how long Detroit school district officials have to complete a massive task: Filling what appears to be an increasing number of vacant teacher positions. That rush to fill the vacancies means the district will be holding a job fair Aug. 17, and possibly another before the school year begins Sept. 5. Two weeks ago the district logged 425 teacher vacancies, well above the 263 that existed in late April.  But that number doesn't include about 100 new teachers who were hired in the last two months. It also doesn't include about 50 certified teachers who are being moved from administrative positions — where they provided support and training to other teachers — back to the classroom. (Detroit Free Press)


Here’s Detroit’s slimmed-down testing schedule, which Vitti says is only a first step in reducing pressure

A 70-percent reduction in testing that Detroit schools chief Nikolai Vitti has proposed is only the first step in a broader push to rein in runaway testing, Vitti said Friday. High school students will see the greatest impact of the changes, as they go from taking district-level exams in most subjects to taking only a state reading and math exam in 11th grade, according to the district’s draft testing schedule.


Reading, writing and soap suds: The unusual new program that teaches kids while their parents do the wash

Children at Detroit"s Fit and Fold laundromat now have computers to use and books to read while their parents do the wash — part of an effort to bring literacy programs to places where families are. The days of bored kids hanging out in front of the TV at Detroit’s Fit and Fold laundromat could be over. Now, there are books for kids to read — and take home — near the washing machines. There are computers stocked with educational software. And, a few times a week, there’s a picnic table in the parking lot where instructors read to children and work with them on their writing skills. (Chalkbeat)