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Week in Review: Meet your new school board, elected during an intense week

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
A total of 63 candidates ran for the first board of the new Detroit Public Schools Community District.

This has been an intense week for everyone in this country as teachers in Michigan and elsewhere have struggled to heal divisions or confront ongoing nastiness in the wake of Donald Trump’s surprise presidential victory on Tuesday. But here at home, those of us who care about Detroit schools are also trying to get to know the six women and one man who have been chosen to help shepherd our schools through for the next 2-6 years.

“I … want to make sure students learn in a safe environment and that teachers are adequately paid. … We want for our kids what other districts want for their kids.”

Angelique Peterson-Maybury, newly elected member,
Detroit Public Schools Community District board

Read on for more information about the new board members as well as the rest of a busy week that included news of a new push to help young Detroiters and an update on the future of the state-run recovery district. Thanks for reading!

The top seven

Detroit voters who managed to wade through the city’s three-page ballot on Tuesday and find the list of 63 candidates seeking seats on Detroit’s new school board selected seven people to serve on the first (almost) empowered locally elected school board that Detroit has had in years. The highest vote-getters will serve six-year terms, while those with fewer votes will serve four- or two-year terms — a setup designed to ensure that not every seat is up for reelection at the same time. Here’s what we know about the winners:

  • The candidate with the most campaign spending got the most votes — and a six-year term. Angelique Peterson-Maybury is the community relations director at UAW-Ford and the mother of two students currently enrolled in the district.
  • The other candidate elected for six years, Georgia Lemmons, did not report any campaign fundraising or answer surveys from the district or major newspapers about her background or experience. But she was the only candidate to have a special designation — “certified teacher” — appear with her name on the ballot. She petitioned a court for that designation so voters could distinguish her from her husband.
  • Georgia Lemmons is the wife of LaMar Lemmons, who served on the old DPS school board and was also elected to the new board — the only person to do so. LaMar Lemmons, who is an aide to a state representative, said he believe he and his wife are the first married couple to serve on a Detroit school board. A third Lemmons family member on the ballot did not make the cut with voters.
  • Candidates elected to four-year terms are:
    • Iris Taylor, the retired former CEO of Detroit Receiving Hospital
    • Sonya Mays, the CEO of a real estate and housing development nonprofit
    • Misha Stallworth, the advocacy coordinator for Detroit Area Agency on Aging. The youngest winner at 27, Stallworth is the daughter of former state Rep. Thomas Stallworth III. Her uncle and grandmother were also elected state lawmakers.
  • The two members who will serve just two years before needing to run again are Lamar Lemmons and Deborah Hunter-Harvill, who heads an education consulting firm.
  • The union that represents Detroit teachers claimed victory on Tuesday. Four of its endorsed candidates were elected, giving union-supported members a majority.
  • Of the nine endorsement lists that Chalkbeat reviewed last week, the group that saw the highest number of its endorsed candidates elected was the 13th Congressional District Democrats, which backed five of the winners (including the four endorsed by the teachers union).
  • One critic says the election was actually illegal.

That other election:

  • Video of students at a suburban Detroit middle school chanting “build the wall” as a way of taunting Latino classmates has gone viral and turned the school into a national symbol of division.

More from Election Day:

  • The state board of education is now divided evenly between Democrats and Republicans, setting the board up for a brewing battle over issues like charter schools and school funding.
  • The Wayne County school tax hike passed, leading to cheers from school leaders. “We now have an exceptional opportunity to invest more fully in programs and initiatives that will strengthen the district’s academic plan, improve our facilities and reinforce safety and security,” said Alycia Meriweather, the interim superintendent of Detroit’s main school district.
  • Suburban voters also supported most of the tax hikes that were on the ballot throughout the region.
  • An influential pro-school choice lobbying group announced that 49 of the 53 candidates it endorsed in the state house had won their elections.

In Detroit:

  • Two major foundations are leading a high-profile effort called “Hope Starts Here” to design a “world-class” program to serve the health and education needs of Detroit’s youngest children, from babies to third graders. The effort will invite tens of thousands of Detroiters to make recommendations for immediate and long-term actions that will culminate in a “citywide action plan” next summer.
  • Plans for folding the Education Achievement Authority schools back into Detroit’s main school district are underway, and debts owed by the state-run recovery district have been resolved. Still unclear is what will happen to the EAA’s teachers, who aren’t members of the teachers union and are paid on a different scale from district teachers.
  • High schools in the main Detroit district will get career-based themes similar to the medicine and science theme at the Ben Carson High School of Science and Medicine. At least that’s what’s in the academic plan released this week by the district’s leaders. To be implemented, however, the plan will need approval from the new school board.
  • A conference today and tomorrow aims to encourage more churches and businesses to partner with schools to improve conditions for kids in poverty. A former United Way official is using the event to launch his book about a community partnership in Detroit’s Cody Rouge community that improved graduation rates.
  • More than 350 JROTC cadets from Detroit schools are expected to participate in today’s Veterans Day observance ceremony at the Historic Elmwood Cemetery.

Across the state:

  • The head of a national charter school organization warns that as Michigan considers closing schools for low performance, officials should be on the lookout for struggling schools that “resort to politics and personal attacks to garner sympathy for their plight and divert attention from their failings.” Closing a school, he writes, is “agonizing,” but sometimes necessary.
  • Chalkbeat wrote recently about a Detroit charter school that says it’s turning things around, even if that turnaround hasn’t yet been reflected in test scores. Now several other schools across the state are making similar arguments.
  • Online-only schools in Michigan that let kids do their lessons from home have seen a spike in enrollment.
  • The list of state high school band competition winners is awfully similar to last year’s.
  • A suburban school is hosting a “life after high school” fair for students with “learning differences” to explore college and vocational options.
  • Michigan families can now turn to a state website to search for and apply for more than 5 million scholarships worth up to $25 billion.
  • The state education department is now accepting nominations for the prestigious $10,000 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.
  • Some western Michigan districts are ramping up reading instruction to prepare kids for the new tougher third-grade promotion requirements that will affect this year’s kindergartners.
  • A new report looks at the impact of the Michigan Teaching Fellowship Program, which trains science, technology, and math teachers to work in some of the state’s neediest schools.

Week In Review

Week in review: A man, a plan, a budget — and a look at private donations to public schools

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
Detroit Pre-K teacher Candace Graham talks to a student on the playground at the Carver STEM Academy. She says her students get "left out a lot" because the school's two other preschool classrooms are in the PNC Grow Up Great program.

We took a look this week at the challenge facing high-poverty districts like Detroit that rely on corporate and philanthropic donations to pick up where the government leaves off. Districts are happy to accept gifts from private donors but that can mean some kids get benefits that others do not. That’s why a west side elementary school has two pre-K classrooms in a popular arts and science enrichment program — and one pre-K that can’t participate.

“We get left out a lot. It’s unfortunate because I feel like all the kids should have the opportunities.”

— Candace Graham, pre-kindergarten teacher, Carver STEM Academy

Scroll down for more on that story and the rest of the week’s education news. The week included the new superintendent’s first school board meeting and a surprising announcement from the University of Michigan that it will extend free tuition to students whose families make less than $65,000 a year. That’s more than half of state residents.

Also, check out this story by Bridge Magazine, our Detroit Journalism Cooperative partner. It highlights a provision in the city teachers contract that could be exacerbating the teacher shortage.

 

A tale of two pre-Ks

All of the pre-K students at Detroit’s Carver STEM Academy are getting a quality education but some kids get to experience a program that shows how much more is possible.

A man, a plan and a budget

Across the state

On DeVos

  • A News columnist says if President Trump and his education secretary Betsy DeVos want to promote school choice, they should stay away from local and state education decisions.
  • The New York Times takes a look at the private western Michigan Christian schools that educated DeVos and her children in search of insight into her policy agenda, as well as a charter school founded by her family.

In other news

Awards and accolades

 

Week In Review

Week in review: New Detroit schools superintendent makes the rounds at Mackinac and 6 more things you should know about Detroit schools

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
New Detroit school superintendent Nikolai Vitti addresses reporters outside a teacher hiring fair on his first full day in the job.

Detroit school news this week was dominated by new Detroit schools superintendent Nikolai Vitti as he made the rounds at the Mackinac policy conference.

Chalkbeat was covering education news at the conference and the Education Writers Association seminar in Washington. If you haven’t heard, Senior Detroit Correspondent Erin Einhorn won a national first place award for beat reporting at the EWA for her work covering Detroit schools. She also won the prestigious Ronald Moskowitz prize for Outstanding Beat Reporting. Join us in congratulating her.

WHO KNOWS? New Detroit schools superintendent Nikolai Vitti was getting advice at every turn during his first full week on the job. At a state policy conference, he said it was “miraculous” that educators could still do good work after experiencing years of “trauma.” One editorial said building strong relationships was key to Vitti’s success, and he traveled to Lansing to get advice from lawmakers about the Detroit district. An opinion writer proposed that academics, low enrollment and dealing with empty buildings should be among Vitti’s first priorities.

TEACHER COMPENSATION: Vitti hopes to attack a teacher shortage that resembles the talent shortage many industries face by likely giving a small pay bump to teachers in the new contract and eliminating administrative positions to move teachers back into the classroom. One columnist writes that teachers might be motivated to stay in the profession if they received better pay, more job satisfaction and more support from the community and lawmakers.

PENSION DEBATE: A newspaper editorial supports a Republican plan that would close the teachers pension system statewide to new members. An analysis shows that closing the teacher pension system to new hires would cost billions.

HOPE STARTS HERE: Two major Michigan foundations gathered business and political leaders  at the policy conference to discuss strategies to “strengthen early childhood outcomes.” Good child care starts earlier than traditional preschool according to one study. Parents can rate the quality of their child’s learning center or home through a new online tool. Use the tool to pick an early learning center for your baby or young child.

COUNTING CHICKENS: A Michigan research organization reports that the “fresh” start given last year to Detroit’s main school district belies hidden problems that could hinder the district’s progress.

COME AGAIN: Detroit’s mayor wants revive a proposal for a Detroit Education Commission that would oversee and coordinate all schools in the city including district and charter schools. An effort to create such a commission last year had the support of Detroit political leaders but encountered strong opposition in the state house.

SENTENCED: A former Detroit schools principal will go to prison for two years in a kickback scheme