Detroit Public Schools Superintendent Says District Is ‘Primed to Get this Right,’ Just Need Time

All students will have the knowledge, skills and confidence necessary to thrive in the city, nation, and world. That is the vision Nikolai Vitti, superintendent for Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) shared with the Detroit Drives Degrees Leadership Council, comprised of high-level regional stakeholders representing education, business, philanthropy and government.

Vitti, a native of Dearborn Heights, returned to Southeast Michigan this spring from Jacksonville, Fla. as one of the preeminent superintendents in the country, to help solve many issues facing DPSCD.

“What I inherited… is a system that didn’t have systems and processes in place to support teaching and learning and scaling the pockets of excellence that existed in Detroit Public Schools,” explained Vitti. “That’s everything from curriculum, to hiring principals, to training principals, to intervention materials for students who are behind in reading and math, to wraparound services that need to be integrated and aligned.”

Moving forward, Vitti explained that change at scale is happening, and it is being driven by the schools. In the past, the district was not able to move strategically in any one direction. Instead the district lied dormant because it was being managed like a business in bankruptcy. Today, the district is progressing and is focused on creating college and work-ready paths for students.

Three top priorities Vitti shared with the Council to ensure students graduate and have options after high school are:

  1. Make sure every high school has access to rigorous curriculum and accelerated programs.
  2. Make sure every high school has a career academy with different programs like manufacturing, nursing or engineering.
  3. Create a college-ready culture through the implementation of the Common Core curriculum and provision of SATpreparatory classes for 10th, 11th and 12th grades.

These are just three priorities that fall into his “Blueprint 2020” plan that Vitti developed to “educate and empower every student, in every community, every day” to build a stronger Detroit. Read more about the strategic plan for rebuilding Detroit’s public schools here.

“We are primed now on behalf of the students to get this right. Emergency management did not work. We now have an elected and powerful board, that hired a superintendent with a track record of reform, and I’m from metro Detroit; I want to be here,” Vitti urged. “Give us time without the interference and politics to get this right. We will get it right. We have a good board that’s very focused on policy, a superintendent that has implemented reform, and a union that’s buying into the reform. All the components are there from strong nonprofits like The Skillman Foundation that is stepping up and wanting to work with the district, to businesses that are getting involved, and a mayor that’s invested. All the pieces of the puzzle are in place, we just need time to put it together.”

Vitti’s presentation and goals for the district align with the Chamber’s goal of improving education attainment to drive economic prosperity and social mobility.

Detroit Drives Degrees, an initiative of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Forward Detroit strategy, is focused on increasing post-secondary degree to 60 percent across the region by 2025. For more information on Detroit Drives Degrees, please visit detroitdrivesdegrees.com.

 

Chamber’s Work to Grow Region’s Educated Workforce Backed by Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren

Last week, the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren endorsed the Detroit Regional Chamber’s plan to establish a regional Education Compact, a key step in ensuring that the region is educated, healthy and employed to compete in the 21st century global economy. The Compact will be led by the Chamber’s Detroit Drives Degrees initiative, with the support of a grant from The Kresge Foundation.

The endorsement was part of the Coalition’s action items under six priorities it released in a new report titled “Our Schools, Our Moment.” The report highlights areas that can be acted upon immediately by leaders across the public and private sectors to ensure success for all students.

Under the Chamber’s direction, the Detroit Drives Degrees Education Compact  will establish long-term goals and set key benchmarks in bolstering postsecondary readiness, access and success for Detroit students. This initiative represents a collective commitment by leaders in education, business, philanthropy, government and the nonprofit community to address an ongoing barrier to regional economic development – a lack of residents with higher education credentials or college degrees compared to peer regions across the country.

Currently in the beginning phases, Detroit Drives Degrees has begun to identify baseline data, create the Compact framework, and conduct economic analysis to determine education attainment needs through 2030. Steps to finalize the Compact agreement will take place over the next 18 months, with a signing ceremony slated for 2019.

“The goal of the Detroit Drives Degrees Education Compact will be to facilitate partnerships between K-12 stakeholders and postsecondary education institutions with a shared goal,” explained Greg Handel, vice president of education and talent for the Chamber. “It is needed to drive collective action in helping more students achieve their postsecondary goals. The Coalition voicing its support is an important step forward in this endeavor to increase student success.”

The Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren, comprised of a diverse cross-section of business, civic, education, philanthropic, religious and community leaders, make the case that these six priorities ensure Detroit’s youth are educated to career- and college-ready standards. The Chamber’s Forward Detroit Strategy has aligned with the goals of the report and the Chamber is a key partner and business voice for the Coalition. Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah serves as a steering committee member of the Coalition and has been involved from its inception.
The Coalition’s priorities outlined in the report include:

  1. Get Serious About Attendance – Students have to show up to learn.
  2. Choose Detroit – Getting students and educators to our schools.
  3. Learn to Read, Then Read to Learn – Reading by third grade is essential.
  4. Keep Pace with Detroit’s Economic Recovery – Give students multiple college and career pathways after high school.
  5. Fully Fund Special Education – State and federal action required.
  6. Expect Improved Cooperation and Accountability from Our Leaders – Shared responsibility means all schools working together.

Read and download the full report here.

Michigan’s economic growth is sustained by an educated workforce, which is why it is critical the business community be engaged and have a voice in the Coalition. Among the five co-chairs of the Coalition representing the business community are Chamber Executive Committee member John Rakolta Jr., president and CEO of Walbridge; and Mark Reuss, executive vice president of global product development, purchasing and supply chain for General Motors Co. Additional co-chairs include: Tonya Allen, president and CEO of The Skillman Foundation; Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit branch for the NAACP; and Angela Reyes, executive director of the Detroit Hispanic Development Corp.

This report is the second released by the Coalition since its formation three years ago. The first report, “Choice Is Ours,” is targeted toward Lansing lawmakers regarding reforming Detroit Public Schools Community District.

For more information about Detroit Drives Degrees, an initiative of Forward Detroit, visit detroitdrivesdegrees.com.