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Friday, March 12, 2010

Metro Detroit pantries struggle to feed hungry


Catherine Jun / The Detroit News


Sterling Heights -- Families across Metro Detroit, many facing hunger for the first time, are finding it difficult to navigate the limited hours and locations of the area's food pantries.

Since Atheer Mansoor lost his job more than a year ago as a truck driver for a cement company, he drives five miles from Fraser to Sterling Heights each month to a food pantry. He takes home tomato sauce, vegetables and peanut butter -- just enough free staples to keep his cupboards stocked until his monthly food stamps arrive.

The 57-year-old father says at times his car breaks down and he cannot make the trip.

"Sometimes I stay home. If I have problems with my car, I have to leave it. I can't fix it," Mansoor said.

With widespread unemployment, hunger is creeping into new corners of southeastern Michigan, stressing a food assistance network that has until now mostly flowed from the suburbs into Detroit. With new pockets of hunger, food agencies and pantries are racing to fill the gaps, but finding the solutions are not simple.

"It's a problem," said Russ Russell, chief development officer of Forgotten Harvest, a food rescue agency based in Oak Park. "We know where there are pockets that are in need and are new."

More than a third of neighborhoods in southeastern Michigan have limited access to a food pantry, according to a recent report by the United Way for Southeastern Michigan. Families have the farthest distances to travel to reach pantries in communities such as Wixom, Harrison Township and Southfield, the report said.

Riverwood Community Church in northwest Sterling Heights operates one of just a few pantries in that part of Macomb County.

Each month about 60 families leave with a carton of bread, rice, frozen meats and canned soup. That's double the number two years ago.

"In this area here, there wasn't much of a need," said Mark Frasard, head deacon of the church's ministry. "Now there is."

In the more rural parts of the county, pantries are even fewer and far between, said Sue Figurski, coordinator at the Macomb Food Program. "Unfortunately, they have to drive for everything."

The hours that food pantries stay open -- often during regular business hours -- also pose a challenge, especially to those who work and still need supplemental food help.

According to the United Way report, most food pantries in a section of Detroit operate Monday through Friday, and between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Food agencies say this is also common for suburban pantries.

"The more evening and weekend hours you have, the more you can serve working poor families," said Gerry Brisson, vice president for development at Gleaners Community Food Bank.

Part of the problem, however, is that most pantries are run out of churches and by volunteers with their own limited schedules, he said. And operating hours often need to be scheduled around other weekend and evening activities at the church.

"It's easier for most pantries (to operate) during the day when most people aren't at church," Brisson said.

But many churches try to accommodate individual pick-up requests after hours and on weekends.

About a year ago, Trinity Presbyterian Church began operating a one-day pantry on Saturdays in a parking lot at Haggerty and Ann Arbor Road in Plymouth Township. Eventually, it was relocated to the church, and a surprising number of families, 350 each month, turn out from Plymouth, Canton Township and Westland.

"We're (too) far west to have a pantry right here in our church," Ellie Schupra, outreach director, recalled thinking a year ago.

For working mothers like Margie Elrod, evening hours are essential.

The mother of three has become the sole breadwinner in her home since her husband lost his job at a plant nursery last fall.

"Now it's just me," said Elrod, who works as a retail manager in Canton Township. "I can't miss work. I need the hours."

After multiple calls to food pantries, she found one that was open one day a week at 6 p.m.: St. Dennis Parish in Royal Oak. With only one family car, Elrod drives there after work.

Like many food pantries, its hours are further limited because of its modest food supply. Last year, it served 2,064 households, a 60 percent increase from 2008.

Ron Woywood, who oversees the pantry, said the church doesn't have enough food to operate the pantry for more than one hour a week.

This year, food banks are responding by ramping up "mobile" food pantries -- one-day food distributions at parking lots or churches in the outer suburbs where pantries are scarce.

Forgotten Harvest now drives a refrigerated truck full of food to sections of Rochester and Royal Oak and West Bloomfield. Last year, Gleaners similarly distributed food from parking lots beyond Detroit, and plans to double the locations to 70 this year.

"It's a good short-term solution," Brisson said.

This has resulted in a much higher volume of food shipments to suburban and rural areas than in years past.

In 2009, Forgotten Harvest sent 840,000 pounds of food in 2009 to Macomb County, a 40 percent increase over the previous year. Similarly, Oakland County received 1 million pounds, an 85 percent increase from last. That is still far less than the 13 million pounds delivered to Wayne County and Detroit, but delivery to the suburbs is unprecedented.

"We're getting out there, but there are still food deserts for those in need," Russell said.

cjun@detnews.com (313) 222-2019

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100312/METRO03/3120398/Metro-Detroit-pantries-struggle-to-feed-hungry#ixzz0hyy3bGp6

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Monroe on a Budget: Metro Detroit pantries struggle to feed hungry

From the Monroe On a Budget blog:

The Detroit Free Press has this report today: Metro Detroit pantries struggle to feed hungry.

This isn’t the typical “demand is going up” story about Michigan food pantries. The focus of this article is on the gaps in locations and convenient times for southeast Michigan families who are new to the social safety net.

A snippet:

More than a third of neighborhoods in southeastern Michigan have limited access to a food pantry, according to a recent report by the United Way for Southeastern Michigan. Families have the farthest distances to travel to reach pantries in communities such as Wixom, Harrison Township and Southfield, the report said. …

The hours that food pantries stay open — often during regular business hours — also pose a challenge, especially to those who work and still need supplemental food help.

Click here to continue reading.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Editorial: Detroit has an opportunity to produce high-quality schools

Excellent Schools Detroit is a broad and diverse cross section of Detroit’s education, government, community, parent, and philanthropic leaders who have developed a citywide education plan to help ensure that all Detroit children receive the great education they deserve. Participants include Michael J. Brennan, Michael Tenbusch, and Kelly Major Green, United Way for Southeastern Michigan. To learn more, visit www.excellentschoolsdetroit.org.




From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100311/OPINION01/3110352/1008/Editorial--Detroit-has-an-opportunity-to-produce-high-quality-schools#ixzz0hv6VVVwy

The city's education leaders -- both public and charter -- have come together on a revolutionary plan that could rid Detroit of failing schools and assure that 90 percent of school children graduate and go on to college. We hope it will win overwhelming community support.

Today the city's major players in education, from Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb to the Skillman Foundation to charter pioneer Doug Ross, will announce the details of the plan to close failing schools, replace them with high-quality schools and engage parents on the need for rapid and radical education improvement. The plan breaks down the barriers that have existed between traditional public schools and charters, and presents both with an ultimatum: Improve or lose support.

Bobb said as much in an interview with The Detroit News on Wednesday, noting that if the Detroit Public Schools doesn't fully buy into the reforms, the district could lose most of its students.

The plan is designed in part to attract long-sought-after national foundation funding to improve some of the worst schools in America. The coalition's leaders are setting the first citywide standards for both charter and traditional public schools.

Their new bar is a 90 percent graduation rate, with 90 percent of the graduates going on to college or trade school, and 90 percent of them not needing remedial training when they get there. It's ambitious, considering that more than 45 percent of current Detroit students don't graduate now.

It will take a huge commitment from a lot of people to make this plan work, and everything must go right. Here's what must

happen:

• The keystone is turning over responsibility for Detroit's schools to the mayor. Supporters say they will try to get a proposal on the ballot this fall that would dissolve the elected school board. If voters don't pass it, the plan will fail. Skillman Foundation President and CEO Carol Goss says she will not work with the school board. That is telling for a foundation president who has tried to help the school district for more than two decades. The state Legislature and Detroiters themselves must take responsibility for settling the governance question.

• Success also depends on recruiting good teachers to Detroit. Goss and others are recruiting Teach for America to bring its highly trained and motivated young teachers to Detroit, but faces opposition from the Detroit Federation of Teachers. The union must understand that if it doesn't climb aboard the reform train, its jobs will disappear. Bobb said Wednesday that schools where teachers block reforms will be replaced with charters or private academies.

• About $200 million is being planned to fund new charter and new Detroit Public Schools that meet the coalition's high standards. The habitual opponents to school closings must step aside. "We're saying, anyone doing business in Detroit needs to meet a high education standard," Ross said Wednesday. "Any charter operator that is not outperforming the Detroit Public Schools has no justification to remain open." A new group is in the works to pressure Detroit Public Schools, charter authorizers and the state to finally make good on closing chronically failing schools.

• Nothing works unless parents and the community support the movement. Parents must decide they will no longer tolerate schools that deny their children the education they need to succeed.

National foundations such as Soros and the Obama administration are expressing first-time interest in rebuilding Detroit education. This plan should help convince them the city is ready to change, that it is willing to shut down failing schools, and that it is able to sustain a commitment to reform.

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Remaking Detroit Education

Excellent Schools Detroit is a broad and diverse cross section of Detroit’s education, government, community, parent, and philanthropic leaders who have developed a citywide education plan to help ensure that all Detroit children receive the great education they deserve. Participants include Michael J. Brennan, Michael Tenbusch, and Kelly Major Green, United Way for Southeastern Michigan. To learn more, visit www.excellentschoolsdetroit.org.





Amber Arellano

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100311/OPINION03/3110341/Remaking-Detroit-Education#ixzz0hv4Q0kzK

Radical new plan should address the city's 'education catastrophe.' Now feds, community, should make sure it happens.

Today Detroit's most powerful education players are outlining a dramatic new plan to transform the city's educational landscape -- and convince long-weary national foundations that the Motor City is, for the first time, worthy of significant investment in education.

Just reading that may have made you say, "Sure, I've heard this before, another plan big on promises -- and short on results."

However, this plan may just be the one that finally produces change.

For the first time ever, leaders from foundations to charter school operators have millions already dedicated to the new plan being released this morning by the Excellent Schools Detroit coalition.

They not only promise to drive the closing of chronically failing schools and open new high-quality schools. They also have thoughtful strategies already underway to build the infrastructure that has been long and desperately needed in Michigan cities to support radical improvements in student achievement.

And here's another thing that is unusual: they have committed funding -- and much more coming -- IF local leaders produce a compelling, united strategy and the beginnings of real change.

National foundations such as Soros and President Barack Obama's administration are expressing first-time interest in rebuilding Detroit education.

Today's plan is part of Reimagining Detroit, a larger effort spearheaded by the Kresge Foundation, the Skillman Foundation, and others to convince Obama and other national players that yes, Detroit can thrive again with proper leadership, a lot of time and new strategies.

New accountability

What makes this plan worthwhile are its ambitious strategies for greater accountability for both public and charter schools; and a focus on developing the infrastructure and talent that the Motor City has long lacked. The standards that the coalition is setting: a 90 percent graduation rate and college attendance rate.

"We are getting a lot of pushback," Skillman Foundation President Carol Goss said Wednesday. "But we have to push ourselves and our community. This is not about DPS; this is not about charters. This focuses on students."

The plan calls for mayoral control of Detroit's schools. The district's elected school board is one of the greatest governance failures in the U.S. Once a backer of the board, now Goss says she simply will not work with the board any longer. The state legislature needs to develop a backbone, quit trying to appease the school board's complaining cronies, and pass legislation to make that change happen.

Goss and others are also rapidly developing a pipeline to develop and support great teachers and principals -- both existing and external candidates -- as they are the drivers of all academic improvement. For example, they're furiously fundraising to develop a Principal Leadership Academy and bring the nonprofit Teach for America to Detroit as soon as this fall.

The plan intends to close failing schools and open new ones, regardless of their governance structure.

About $200 million is being planned to fund new charter and new Detroit Public Schools that meet the coalition's high standards.Backers of the plan are working to create new mechanisms for accountability and parental support.

A new group is in the works to pressure Detroit Public Schools, charter authorizers and the state to finally make good on closing chronically failing schools. The group will also work on parental engagement and responsibility.

Naysayers be gone

Sure, there are plenty of perennial naysayers. The Detroit Federation of Teachers, for one, refused to sign off on the plan. The union hates that it will fund the creation of more charters.

Their opposition seems hopelessly unrealistic. Charters have been gobbling up the public schools' market share for more than a decade. Clearly, protectionism isn't going to save the district nor does it improve its schools.

A smarter strategy: improve both charter schools' performance -- along with the traditional public schools -- and do what's best for children.

Another challenge: prodding the so-far-hesitant new Detroit Mayor Dave Bing to not just say he'll accept responsibility for the Detroit Public Schools if the community wants it, but to make the case himself for such a necessity. Children need it.

He has good political reasons to do so, too. Polling obtained on Wednesday showed 75 percent of Detroiters reported they disapproved of the school board when asked, "Do you approve or disapprove of the overall performance of the Detroit Board of Education?"

The poll was conducted last year by the Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group, a Washington, D.C., polling firm that interviewed 402 what were called "likely Detroit voters" by phone.

The new Excellent Schools Detroit plan should help convince both Detroiters -- and potential national funders -- the city's education sector is committed to real change now.

The community and funders should support this plan -- while also holding these education players accountable for their still yet to-be-seen full implementation and promised results.

Amber Arellano is a Detroit News editorial writer. E-mail her at aarellano@detnews.com. Find her columns anytime at www.detnews.com/arellano

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Detroit plan targets failing schools

Excellent Schools Detroit is a broad and diverse cross section of Detroit’s education, government, community, parent, and philanthropic leaders who have developed a citywide education plan to help ensure that all Detroit children receive the great education they deserve. Participants include Michael J. Brennan, Michael Tenbusch, and Kelly Major Green, United Way for Southeastern Michigan. To learn more, visit www.excellentschoolsdetroit.org.




From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100311/SCHOOLS/3110440/Detroit-plan-targets-failing-schools#ixzz0hv3iEBQ2

Marisa Schultz / The Detroit News

Detroit -- A coalition of education leaders and foundations will unveil today a sweeping academic reform agenda that targets failing schools, calls for 70 new programs and launches a national effort to recruit principals.

The $200 million plan also aims to build community support this year to eliminate the Detroit Board of Education and make the mayor accountable for Detroit Public Schools.

Called Excellent Schools Detroit, the initiative will be introduced at the Detroit-based Skillman Foundation, which built the coalition of 15 organizations. Leaders of the groups said since Detroit's schoolchildren are so far behind academically, the city must improve the school offerings for children faster than any other city has done.

One significant aspect is the support the plan has from Detroit Public Schools officials and those running charter schools in the city. Both have been traditional competitors for students and funding, but Wednesday said they're working together for healthy competition and to offer choices to parents.

"What we like about the plan is that it's child-focused, it's not focused on whether or not the child is in a DPS school or a charter school," DPS Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb said. He added that he's open to chartering DPS schools, selling buildings to charter school operators and turning schools over to charter operators. "It has a very strong market-driven component to it."

The initiative's goal is to become by 2020 the first major city in the nation in which 90 percent of its students graduate from high school, 90 percent enroll in post-secondary education and 90 percent succeed in college without remediation.

"This is a historical moment in the city of Detroit," said Carol Goss, president and CEO of the Skillman Foundation.

It also calls for 70 new schools within the decade, from new school buildings to new operators in existing schools, that could be governed by charters, DPS and independent schools. Half the schools would be opened though Michigan Future Schools, a program of the Ann Arbor think tank Michigan Future Inc. to bring 35 college prep schools to the area. The effort, dubbed the High School Accelerator, already has netted $13 million in support to open the first seven schools within three years.

Detroit Edison Public School Academy, a K-8 charter school near Eastern Market, earned the first $850,000 grant and will expand to a high school this fall, said Michigan Future Inc. president Lou Glazer.

DPS also received a $50,000 planning grant to explore opening a science and medicine high school. One hurdle for DPS: to qualify the union must agree to outside hiring, to toss out seniority and to eliminate work rules at the school, Glazer said.

"The accelerator is the most important initiative in the city since the charter and public school of choice laws were passed 15 years ago," Glazer said. "This allows us to use those laws to a scale that will make a huge difference."

Other initiatives include the effort from the Detroit Federation of Teachers, which did not sign off on the plan but was engaged in the talks to develop it, to open its own school, as well as Doug Ross' movement called More Good Schools to bring nationally recognized charter school operators to Detroit. Also cited was the United Way's partnership with DPS that turned Cody and Osborn High Schools into nine new small schools on the same campus.

"This is a plan that hopes DPS succeeds but it can succeed even if DPS doesn't," said Ross, who founded University Preparatory Academy and who will open another charter school under the plan in the fall, called University Yes Academy.

Accountability is focus

Tantamount to the plan will be a new independent standards and accountability commission that will establish academic standards for schools throughout the city. The citywide commission will issue report cards on all schools to give parents clear information on what schools are making their marks.

While the commission won't have the authority to close schools that fail, it will pressure DPS, charters and private school operators to shut them down immediately rather than wait years for reform efforts to take shape.

Bobb is expected to announce 40 school closures next week as part of his long-term plan to reshape the district. "There will always be a place for a DPS ... though it may be a smaller system," Bobb said.

Other backers of the plan include Cornerstone Schools, Detroit Edison Public School Academy, Detroit Parent Network, Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, Kresge Foundation, McGregor Fund, Michigan Future Inc., New Detroit, Think Detroit PAL, United Way for Southeastern Michigan and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

They've been meeting since 2009, spurred by the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) test schools that showed a sample of Detroit Public School students had posted the worst scores ever in the history of the national test and remarks by Education Secretary Arne Duncan that education in Detroit is a "national disgrace."

"We have to move quickly and more boldly than any other place in the county because we are so far behind," said Tonya Allen, vice president of the Skillman Foundation.

Effort to push recruiting

The coalition also will launch a recruiting effort to encourage the best educators to come here as well as develop a Detroit Leadership Academy to help educators launch schools.

"Parents have said many times they are fed up with the status quo," said Sharlonda Buckman, executive director of the Detroit Parent Network. "They want to see good schools for all kids and that hasn't happened yet. There's a lot of frustration out there on that and there's more mobilization."

Goss said for this plan to succeed the district needs one single point of accountability from the mayor's office.

"The mayor has indicated he would assume a role of sole accountability for the school system, with input from the citizens," said Edward Cardenas, spokesman for Mayor Dave Bing, who signed off on the plan. "He does, however, support a quality education for all students of all schools."

School board president Otis Mathis said data show the district was more successful before and after the last takeover from 1999 to 2005.

"No mayoral control has been successful anywhere," Mathis said. "Why would they want to take a failing concept and put it in Detroit Public Schools?"

Chris White, a DPS parent and co-chair of the Coalition to Restore Hope to DPS, said it's inappropriate to ask the mayor to take control over schools when the city is grappling with its own financial crisis.

"We're asking a surgeon to fix a car," said White. "The mayor can't run the city now and this has been a problem for quite some time."

mschultz@detnews.com (313) 222-2310

Reform details
This citywide education plan calls for giving Detroit students education options by:

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Coalition Introduces Plan for Detroit Schools

Excellent Schools Detroit is a broad and diverse cross section of Detroit’s education, government, community, parent, and philanthropic leaders who have developed a citywide education plan to help ensure that all Detroit children receive the great education they deserve. Participants include Michael J. Brennan, Michael Tenbusch, and Kelly Major Green, United Way for Southeastern Michigan. To learn more, visit www.excellentschoolsdetroit.org.


MyFoxDetroit.com
RONNIE DAHL

DETROIT - Spend $200-million, eliminate the Detroit public school board and put the mayor in charge. That's the proposal under consideration for the future of Detroit schools.

15 different organizations are involved, including DPS, charter schools, as well as private schools. The focus of all of this is accountability. If schools don't perform, they risk being shut down.

As Detroit Public School students tinker with their robots for an upcoming competition, school leaders are working on reconstructing a whole new way to educate Detroit's children.

"We need to create centers of excellence for every child at every school in every neighborhood every day," said DPS Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb.

"Instead of the old, tired call for more reform... to make failing schools better. This plan calls for a replacement strategy," said Doug Ross with University Preparatory Academy.

The coalition is called Excellent Schools Detroit. The program would establish an independent watch dog commission to set city-wide standards for all Detroit schools. That includes not just DPS, but also charter and private schools. School that don't perform would be pressured to shut their doors.

"We can single out and force closure of poor performing schools. The city-wide group will also highlight and help duplicate the best programs and schools to create strong, educational options throughout the city of Detroit," Bobb said.

"For too long, much of the focus in Detroit has been on adults on issues like who has power, who doesn't, who gets to hand out jobs and contracts, who doesn't. Enough of that. It's time for children's interests to take center stage," said Carol Goss, president and CEO of The Skillman Foundation.

The goals are big. By 2020, the coalition wants to achieve a 90-percent high school graduation rate, have 90-percent of the students enroll in college or post-secondary training and open 70 new schools.

However, the plan is not without controversy. A major sticking point could be making Detroit's mayor accountable and doing away with the school board, a proposal that's not sitting well with current board members.

"What have we done so egregious as the Detroit Board of Education to be taken over? I would rather us sit down together and work together with the organizations, work together with the mayor," said Detroit School Board Member Tyrone Winfrey. "The voters in the city of Detroit elected us to this office, and I take this very serious from what I do."

The plan is very lengthy. You can review it by visiting www.excellentschoolsdetroit.org.

Coalition members say they need to act fast. They hope to implement this program by the end of the year, but you can expect the school board to put up a fight.

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Michigan radio: Coalition Unveils Detroit Schools Reform Plan

Excellent Schools Detroit is a broad and diverse cross section of Detroit’s education, government, community, parent, and philanthropic leaders who have developed a citywide education plan to help ensure that all Detroit children receive the great education they deserve. Participants include Michael J. Brennan, Michael Tenbusch, and Kelly Major Green, United Way for Southeastern Michigan. To learn more, visit www.excellentschoolsdetroit.org.



(Michigan Radio) - A coalition of Detroit-based organizations wants to make a fresh start with the city's failing school district.

The 200 million dollar reform plan includes closing and replacing at least 70 of its 172 schools and taking control of the district away from the elected school board.

Excellent Schools Detroit says it wants to transform everything about the city's schools -- public, charter and private.

The coalition is made up of 15 groups whose mission is to boost the city's high school graduation rate from 58 percent to 90 percent by the year 20-20.
It also aims to improve students' record-low test scores.

But first, it wants to persuade the public to essentially fire the Detroit Public Schools board and give control to the city's mayor, Dave Bing, by putting the issue on the ballot.

Mayoral control has been tried before -- from 1999 to 2006. It wasn't successful - the district was 200 million dollars in debt.

Otis Mathis is the president of the school board.

"That's an experiment that's been tried, and why would they want to use a failing concept, pretty much, and experiment with an old experiment on city of Detroit School kids," Mathis says.

Robert Bobb has been the district's state-appointed emergency financial manager for more than a year.

He says accountability is the key to a successful school district.

"The significant difference is that someone will be watching, so that in Detroit, where public education is the only out for literally thousands of our students, we'll have an organization that will determine whether a Good Housekeeping Seal will be placed on schools," Bobb says.

Excellent Schools in Detroit says only 58 percent of Detroit's public school students graduate from high school in four years. That number rises to 78 percent of public charter school students.

But the group says fewer than one in four of those students enrolls in college.
It also says many of the students who do go to college need remedial help to catch up with other students.

And while charter school performances vary widely from state to state, according to Stanford University, on average -- charter schools are NOT performing as well as their traditional public-school peers.


Carol Goss is president and CEO of Excellent Schools Detroit.

She says the city's students should not be allowed to attend inferior schools any longer.

"We intend to move quickly and boldly, because the city's children are so far behind, Detroit must improve its schools faster than any other city has done. The ground is shifting beneath us, whether we like it or not," Goss says.

The coalition will have to present its case to voters in order to get a referendum to take control away from the school board and give it to the mayor.

The plan also calls for bringing in new leaders and teachers, whether they're from Detroit or not.

Mark O'Keefe is with the Detroit Federation of Teachers.

"So while there's things in this plan that we do back, we don't support it 100%," O'Keefe says. "We don't necessarily view charter schools specifically as the be all, end all. We need better schools and I think that does underlie this plan. The idea that whether it's public, private or charter, students deserve good schools."

Doug Ross is with New Urban Learning Foundation. He says closing underperforming schools and replacing them is the only way to go. But the most important element is parental involvement.

"You have to take the initiative to go find the best school for your child. Big difference, new day," he says.

Before anything can happen, the coalition has to bring the public on board. And that may be its biggest challenge.

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WXYZ TV: Group Details Citywide Education Reform Plan



DETROIT (WXYZ) - Detroit's dismal high school graduation rate is the focus of a new community effort.

The Skillman Foundation is leading the charge for educational change in the city through a 200 million dollar initiative called Excellent Schools Detroit.

"The citywide education plan is designed to help all children, whether they happen to attend a traditional public school, public charter school, or independent school," according to Carol Goss, President & CEO of the Skillman Foundation. "The status quo is unacceptable and indefensible," she said.

The sweeping plan establishes a goal of a 90 percent graduation rate for high school students by 2020.

The plans also calls for at least 40 new quality schools by 2015 and 70 by 2020.

The group also intends to build public support to make the mayor accountable for Detroit Public Schools.

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New plan for Detroit's educational standing



Excellent Schools Detroit, a group of philanthropic organizations, politicians, educators and community leaders, is raising $200 million from foundations nationwide to replace failing Detroit charter and public schools.

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Ideas, standards for plan detailed

Excellent Schools Detroit is a broad and diverse cross section of Detroit’s education, government, community, parent, and philanthropic leaders who have developed a citywide education plan to help ensure that all Detroit children receive the great education they deserve. Participants include Michael J. Brennan, Michael Tenbusch, and Kelly Major Green, United Way for Southeastern Michigan. To learn more, visit www.excellentschoolsdetroit.org.




COMPILED BY ROBIN ERB
http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=20103110445&template=fullarticle

Excerpts from "Taking Ownership: Our Pledge to Educate All of Detroit's Children"

On what makes an

excellent school:

"Excellent schools have several core attributes, including strong leaders, excellent teachers, high-quality curriculum and instruction, and safe and supportive learning conditions that create a culture of trust, respect and academic achievement among students, teachers and parents."

On the status quo:

"Part of being bold means ending what does not work. Closing schools, even when they are not succeeding, is an emotional process. We understand that. But we also believe that the status quo is indefensible. Without dramatic changes, we won't be doing students any favors. And this citywide plan is about them -- and their futures."

On citywide standards:

"Students in Detroit attend more than 250 schools, which are governed by many different masters with differing expectations and results. The divided authority makes it too easy to fingerpoint and too hard to make the tough decisions that are needed to ensure every child is in a high-quality school. ...

"Each of these school governing bodies has different standards of success. They also have weak or no definitions for failure -- allowing chronically failing programs to stay open for years. This mishmash makes it impossible for parents to get credible, easy-to-understand information about which schools are helping students and which are not. They need that information to make good choices for their children."

On the new schools:

"When we say we want to open 70 new schools, we are not talking about needing to build 70 new buildings. We believe new schools can operate in old buildings. Our emphasis is not on facilities, but on what happens with the school program. For us, a 'new school' is defined as a new school program, which consists of effective teaching and learning, a culture of high expectations, a strong and new leadership team, a new rigorous academic program and a laser-like approach on student academic success."

On measuring

performance:

"Measuring the effectiveness of principals and other school leaders is difficult; years of service and levels of certification don't tell much. What matters most is the performance of their schools; great leaders do what it takes so that their schools perform at high levels. They drive change and innovation and build a culture of quality that helps attract and support excellent teachers. The current student achievement data alone underscore that not nearly enough Detroit public schools currently have effective leadership; or, if schools do have great leaders, they're hamstrung by bureaucratic rules that limit their effectiveness."

On mayoral control:

"DPS will not be able to make and sustain the necessary reforms without a single source of credible leadership and accountability. Specifically, we will help build public support for making the mayor accountable for Detroit Public Schools. He or she would appoint the superintendent/CEO, who would be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the schools, including budgets, staffing, and programs. The school board should be disbanded."

On an independent accountability commission:

"All city schools will be monitored by the citywide Standards and Accountability Commission, which will report on school performance and fiscal management. An outside watchdog organization such as this also will help monitor and limit any potential financial abuses of single-source accountability."

On developing a community schools initiative:

"There's no reason schools should close at 3 p.m. weekdays and on the weekend, and there are multiple reasons to keep them open. Using the school as the neighborhood hub to provide a range of services (such as arts, music, after-school programs, health clinics, mental health services, mentoring and counseling services) will provide students with the nonacademic supports they need to succeed in school. Plus, using these facilities to offer additional services that help parents, such as adult literacy and job training, also will pay off. Colocating city, school, and community services is an especially cost-effective strategy to combat city and school deficits."

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