Early enrollment

The Detroit district tries inviting families to enroll during spring break. Parents are trickling in.

PHOTO: Kimberly Hayes Taylor
April Thomas enrolls her son with Deborah Louis-Ake, who leads the main district's special education placement at the Children's Museum in Detroit.

Detroit’s main district is experimenting with ways to get more students to commit for the 2018-19 school year, so it hosted its first pop-up enrollment center this week at the Detroit Children’s Museum.

But so far, not many parents are showing up.

Usually, parents have to go to multiple locations to register their children for school, especially if they have special needs. This is the first time the district has offered a one-stop shop, where immunizations, vision, hearing, and lead screenings are being offered for free. Besides that, parents can register for the federal nutrition program for women, infants and children, and other services.

The low turnout reflects the challenges Detroit schools — the district and charters — face as they try to convince parents to think about enrollment earlier in the year. Although it’s easier for schools to plan if they know how many children to expect on the first day of school, Detroit parents don’t often think about enrollment until August or even September.

The enrollment event is one way to encourage parents to register early.

Although the fair was held during spring break, when many parents are out of town on vacation, the district hosted the event to see how it would work, said Crystal Wilson, district spokeswoman.

The district also is hosting other student enrollment events this spring, including the Level Up High School Expo from 10-2 on April 21 at Martin Luther King Jr. Senior High School.

“Kicking off a robust enrollment season is critical to the district’s transformation work,” Wilson said.

April Thomas came to register her 11-year-old son, whom she plans to pull out of a suburban middle school as early as next week. Her son is high on the autistic spectrum and she said he’s not performing well academically because his needs are not being met.

“He’s not where he’s supposed to be,” she said. “Where he is right now, it’s just stagnant. As far as his grade level and what he’s supposed to know, I feel like it’s not up to par. He needs a better education.”

She plans to send him to the Foreign Language Immersion and Cultural Studies School, where he will join his sister, 4. Thomas said she withdrew her daughter from a suburban school because she wasn’t pleased with the school’s early education teaching model.

The event will continue at the Detroit Children’s Museum from 10-5 Thursday and Friday, when parents who register will receive free books to read to their children.

Who's leaving?

63 teachers are leaving Detroit’s main district. Here’s a list of their names and former schools.

PHOTO: Getty Images

Is your child’s favorite teacher saying goodbye to the Detroit Public Schools Community District?

Last week, Detroit’s main district released the names of 63 teachers and 55 building staff members who retired or resigned by the end of June. We have a list of their names and the schools where they worked.

Rather than leave classrooms during the school year, teachers typically choose to retire or switch school districts while students are on break. This is only the first wave of departures expected this summer — one reason schools in Detroit are racing to hire certified teachers by the fall.

But for Detroit families, the teachers on this list are more than a number. Scroll down to see if an educator who made a difference in your child’s life — or your own — is leaving the district.

Teacher and staff separations in June 2018. Source: Detroit Public Schools Community District

Sharing Stories

Tell us your stories about children with special needs in Detroit

PHOTO: Patrick Wall

Parents of students with special needs face difficult challenges when trying to get services for their children. Understanding their children’s rights, getting them evaluated and properly diagnosed, and creating an educational plan are among the many issues families face.

Chalkbeat Detroit wants to hear more about those issues to help inform our coverage. We are kicking off a series of conversations called a “listening tour” to discuss your concerns, and our first meeting will focus on children with special needs and disabilities. We’re partnering with the Detroit Parent Network as they look for solutions and better ways to support parents.

Our listening tour, combined with similar events in other communities Chalkbeat serves, will continue throughout this year on a variety of topics. In these meetings, we’ll look to readers, parents, educators, and students to help us know what questions we should ask, and we’ll publish stories from people who feel comfortable having their stories told. We hope you’ll share your stories and explore solutions to the challenges parents face.

Our special education listening tour discussion will take place from 5:30-7:30 p.m., Tuesday July 24, at the Detroit Parent Network headquarters, 726 Lothrop St., Detroit.

As our series continues, we’ll meet at locations around the city to hear stories and experiences parents have while navigating the complexities of getting children the education and services they deserve.

Next week’s event includes a panel discussion with parents of children with special needs, responses from parent advocates, and an open discussion with audience members.

Those who are uncomfortable sharing stories publicly will have a chance to tell a personal story on an audio recorder in a private room, or will be interviewed by a Chalkbeat Detroit reporter privately.

The event is free and open to anyone who wants to attend, but reservations are required because space is limited. To register, complete this form, call 313-309-8100 or email frontdesk@detroitparentnetwork.org.

If you can’t make our event, but have a story to share, send an email to tips.detroit@chalkbeat.org, or call or send a text message to 313-404-0692.

Stayed tuned for more information about listening tour stops, topics and locations.