Foundation part of new push to get excellent schools for Detroit kids

Building on the success of the Fix Our Schools community meetings last year, The Skillman Foundation is participating in an effort -- which involved a broad cross section of Detroit’s education, government, community, parent and philanthropic leaders -- to develop a citywide education plan to help ensure that all Detroit children attend excellent schools.

“All Detroit children deserve a great education. Our goal is to develop a shared vision of what that looks like and a roadmap for how to get there. We need to strengthen the whole system: all schools as well as early childhood and after-school programs,” said Carol Goss, Skillman Foundation President & CEO.

Participants in the ExcellentSchoolsDetroit partnership want to take advantage of a unique window of opportunity: a new sense of urgency and hope in the community; results-driven and accountable school and city leadership; and additional federal, state and philanthropic funding and support for bold initiatives. This includes about $5 billion in federal Race to the Top and innovation funds that will be distributed to states and school districts that are willing to raise learning standards, improve teaching effectiveness, close chronically failing schools and offer excellent alternatives, and use data to monitor student progress and hold schools accountable
for results.

An important early step in the planning process is to gather ideas and concerns from all sectors of Detroit through community meetings in November and December, small group discussions with multiple stakeholders, and other outreach efforts.

"We will forever be limited if we continue planning in silos. This process allows all Detroiters concerned about the city's educational future to envision the matrix of educational offerings that will best suit our children's needs for 21st century teaching and learning. And, it will create the opportunities to plan the best possible set of options with minimal duplication and overlap, allowing all those engaged in public education to build upon their particular set of strengths," said Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb.

More than 100 people attended Monday's initial meeting at Osborn High School, hosted by Detroit Parent Network. The following meetings are set:

Dec. 1, Youthville, 7375 Woodward Avenue
Dec. 2, Southeastern High School, 3030 Fairview Street
Dec. 3, Most Holy Redeemer Church, 1721 Junction Street
Dec. 7, Henry Ford High School, 20000 Evergreen Road
Dec. 8, Detroit Community High School, 12675 Burt Road

All meetings will be from 6-8 p.m. They will feature a range of small group discussions on topics such as transforming high schools, enforcing accountability, hiring great teachers and principals, and expanding early childhood development. There will be no long lectures or presentations.

Each meeting will offer free dinner (5:30-6 p.m.) and child care, plus a raffle with $300 in Visa gift cards.
The discussions will be designed to generate the ideas that ensure our educational systems truly prepare all students for college, work, and life, whether students attend Detroit Public Schools or public charter schools. Topics will include creating diverse and engaging academic options; strengthening leadership and teaching effectiveness; fostering transparency, accountability, and integrity; and increasing parent and community participation. The meeting results will be shared widely and will contribute to a citywide education plan, which will be released in Winter 2010.

Participants include: ARISE Detroit, the City of Detroit, Detroit Edison Public School Academy, Detroit Parent Network, Detroit Public Schools, the Kellogg Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, the McGregor Fund, Michigan Future, Inc., New Detroit, New Urban Learning and University Prep, The Skillman Foundation, Think Detroit PAL, and United Way for Southeastern Michigan. Three nationally regarded firms are assisting the planning process. Led by the Parthenon Group, the team includes the Community Building Institute and KSA-Plus Communications.

This effort builds on a series of Fix Our Schools community meetings that the Skillman Foundation conducted last year with residents and stakeholders in its six Good Neighborhoods (Brightmoor, Cody/Rouge, Chadsey/Condon, the Northend, Osborn and Vernor).

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