Story booth

A Detroit student speaks: Her charter school promised college tours and art classes. They didn’t exist.

Detroit high school senior Dannah Wilson says a charter school broke promises it made promises to her family.

When Dannah Wilson decided to enroll in a charter school on Detroit’s west side, her family was drawn by the promise of programs like college tours and art classes.

In reality, however, those programs didn’t exist.

“We were made promises by the administration that weren’t kept,” said Wilson, who is now a high school senior at another Detroit charter school.

But when parents and students tried to complain, they discovered that the college that authorized the school’s charter, Bay Mills Community College, was in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, a five-hour drive from Detroit.

Wilson had been the “poster child” for the school, she said, her face plastered on billboards and brochures for the school.

“I willingly gave,” she said. “But did not receive a quality education in return.”

Wilson discussed her challenges navigating Detroit schools in a story booth outside the School Days storytelling event at the Charles H. Wright Museum last month.

The event, cosponsored by Chalkbeat and the Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers, featured Detroit parents, educators, and a student telling stories on stage about schools in Detroit.

The event also invited other Detroiters to share their stories in a booth set up by Chalkbeat and the Skillman Foundation. (Skillman also supports Chalkbeat. Learn more about our funding here.)

Last week, we featured a teacher sharing the tragic reason why her students don’t always come to class. This week, we’re featuring Wilson, who is part of a family whose children have collectively attended 22 different schools in Detroit in search of a quality education.

Watch Wilson’s story below, and if you have a story to tell about Detroit schools — or know someone who does — please let us know.

Detroit Story Booth

This Detroit educator used a sense of community and mentorship to help a student through a personal tragedy

Patrice Wright is committed to being an advocate for her students, she said.

The Michigan State University graduate is a youth worker with Playworks Michigan, an organization that puts AmeriCorps members in schools to teach social skills through physical activities and games.

In her first year working in Detroit schools, Wright said she drew on her own experience at Renaissance High School to help her students.

“Some of the best teachers that I learned how to be a teacher from and how to be a youth worker from are in DPS,” she said. “The hearts of the teachers never change.”

When one of Wright’s students witnessed the violent murder of an immediate family member, the child returned to school the next day, she said.

The student “knew there was somebody there who cared about her, school was that safe space she knew she could come to.”

Wright told her Detroit school story as part of Chalkbeat’s Story Booth series, which began last spring with our storytelling launch event at the Charles H. Wright Museum. If you know someone with a Detroit schools story to tell — a teacher, student parent or anyone else — please let us know.

Watch Patrice’s full story below:

Ask a teacher

What would Detroit teachers change about schools? Plenty! This video offers a glimpse

A new video called "Ideas from Educators" invites Detroit teachers to share suggestions for what they would change about education.

Ask a teacher how to improve education and you’ll get some interesting answers. Among them:

  • Change high school schedules so they’ll be more like college, with classes meeting a few times a week.
  • Get rid of grades.
  • Spend money educating parents as well as their kids.

Those were just some of the ideas Detroit filmmakers Colin Maloney and Dave Salazar heard when they interviewed Detroit-area teachers who work in district and charter schools.

The pair spoke with seven teachers, Maloney said, and included four in a short video called “Ideas From Educators.” The teachers in the video are William Weir from Schulze Elementary School; Molly Tannian from Starr Detroit Academy; Gerrard Allen from University Prep Science & Math, and Rhonda Jackson from Henderson Academy.

“I used to be a teacher down in New Orleans,” Maloney said. “In my experience, there is an abundance of discourse talking about teachers in Detroit and a relative dearth of discourse talking with them.”

Watch the full video here: