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Revised Deficit Elimination Plan Reflects Continued Enrollment Progress, Includes Restoration of 10% Pay Concession by 2023

DETROIT – Detroit Public Schools on Wednesday submitted its revised Deficit Elimination Plan (DEP) to the Michigan Department of Education, reflecting both continued enrollment progress and, importantly, salary increases for all employees beginning in 2015-16. The revised DEP also outlines continued challenges the district will face on the route to eliminating its $169.5 million fund deficit over the coming nine-year period.

Recently announced enrollment stabilization resulting from continued academic progress and improvements are reflected in the revised DEP, including Fall 2014’s preliminary FTE (full-time equivalent) student count of 47,451, which is 262 pupils above budget and means an additional $1.9 million in state aid.

This approximately 2% annual reduction in students, which has remained consistent for the last two years, compares to annual losses averaging 10.4% for the prior six years and continued losses spanning nearly two decades before that. The recent enrollment stabilization results from continued academic and program enhancements, despite increasing competition from charter and other schools. As a result, the revised DEP outlines a continued stabilization of enrollment and an overall leveling of students as soon as 2018-19.

Chief Financial and Administrative Officer William Aldridge stated that the district’s plans are consistent with comments from City leaders that Detroit’s overall population and property taxes will become more constant beginning in 2017.

“This will create a much more stable environment in which Detroit Public Schools and others can operate,” Aldridge said.

The revised DEP includes across-the-board salary increases of 1% in 2016-17, 2% in 2017-18 through 2019-20 and 3% in 2020-21. In total, those increases recoup the current 10% salary concession affecting all employees. Aldridge noted, however, that the district will continue to face increasing pressures to attract and retain the highest quality instructional staff and school leaders unless it addresses the comparative disparities in compensation with suburban and other local schools.

The district is realizing $13 million in savings in the current fiscal year due to restructured healthcare benefits, and $34.5 million through 2021 due to zero-based budgeting and extensive reorganization of all executive and administrative functions.

Annual inflationary increases of 1.66% in purchased services, materials and utilities and rising health-medical increases are reflected in the district’s expenditures over the course of the DEP.

The Deficit Elimination Plan includes a positive fund balance by 2022-23. Aldridge says the 2014 fiscal year’s increase in the deficit reflects the harsh reality of the need to provide robust academic programs, enrichment and safety for students while facing overall declines in revenue of $61.4 million, or 8.74% from FY 2013 to FY 2014.

Aldridge stated that efforts by state and local policymakers to redefine educational offerings in Detroit must include a focus on this present and ongoing need to remove the deficit which erodes limited resources for students’ classrooms.

Detroit Lions Linebacker Stephen Tulloch continues “Operation 55 Adopt a School” at Carleton & Clark

Stephen Tulloch, Linebacker for the Detroit Lions, continued his “Operation 55 Adopt a School” program on Tuesday, December 16 at Carleton Elementary School and J.E. Clark Preparatory Academy. Tulloch and his team from the Stephen Tulloch Foundation delivered laptops, tablets, children’s books and more during an in-school assembly at both schools.

Operation 55 was launched in 2011 when Tulloch signed with the Detroit Lions. Tulloch personally selected 55 schools from across the city and is helping grant the wishes of the hardworking teachers and staff by donating books, laptops, tablets, iPads, learning programs, athletic equipment and more. The purpose of the program is to support students in need and give children throughout the Metro Detroit area an opportunity to come to Detroit Lions’ home games to experience a game day with Tulloch. To learn more about the Stephen Tulloch Foundation, visit tulloch55.com

School of the Week: Neinas Elementary School

They just keep coming back to Neinas Elementary School

Each day, the educators and partners at Neinas Elementary School build upon the school’s foundation of nearly a century of service. They work to meet the educational and social needs of the 270-plus students and their families in the tight-knit southwest Detroit community.

And everybody – it seems – just keeps coming back.

The families keep returning.

Students learn in the same classrooms as generations of parents, grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

The volunteers keep returning.

Universities, churches, clothing donators, food providers, former teachers, Forgotten Harvest, Bridgepointe Community Partners, The Detroit Institute of Arts and even a national news network have maintained long-lasting partnerships.

Even staff members return if needed once they have separated from the District. Bilingual teacher Julia Ortiz happily returned from Puerto Rico this past year to provide Bilingual educational support to the students.

“My mom sat in this desk.”

“Just about every child here has had a family member attend Neinas,” says Principal Natalia Russell. “That ties us together and creates a sense of belonging. From the student’s perspective, knowing that ‘my mom sat in this desk’ helps them to take ownership of what they’re doing in school.”

Inside the well-kept historic structure, individualized student-focused, hands-on and integrated science, technology, and language programs take place alongside recycling and social work services for a population whose families occasionally struggle with insurance issues, temporary homelessness, and deportation.

Hands-on Science Inside and Out

The science curriculum spans a roomy classroom filled corner to corner with plants, experiments, desert ecosystems, nesting habitats, stuffed critters, solar system models and measuring devices. Walk through a door in the back of the classroom and you will come upon a rooftop experimentation station of birdseed-feeding experiments and more. Right now students are studying the effects of soda pop in plants’ soil pots and the impact on plants’ photosynthesis when a substance is applied to its leaves.

The only thing keeping Science Teacher Amy Lazarowicz’s students from making the ad-hoc rooftop a complete classroom garden is the district’s completion of a 9-foot section of safety fence.

Lazarowicz, one of DPS’ master science and technology teachers, says, “It shows our students how things happen naturally. What would otherwise be hard to replicate for students in an urban setting grows naturally in their midst,” she says, using as an example several mounds of moss on one corner of the pebble-stone roof. “They might say, ‘oh, it feels just like carpet,’ rather than just reading about it or viewing it online.”

The Neinas ground level outdoor classroom is just below the rooftop classroom. It lines the southern side of the school campus and is already a fully developed, year-round, part-natural laboratory/part-urban oasis that is well beyond a collection of raised planting beds. Now, in December, the gardens are put to sleep with mulch. But learning has not stopped. During this time, students study the decomposition process and identify the winter birds paying a visit. The family of the departed teacher who created the main garden 14 years ago still returns regularly to the school to assist in its maintenance.

“Extreme” Community Ties

“The ties are extreme with the community when it comes to Neinas,” Principal Russell says. “Our community support is phenomenal.”

DTE Energy recently provided winter warmth through the contribution of winter coats for students, and families can depend on weekly food donations from Forgotten Harvest. Help is literally just around the corner with community partners like Courage Church and E&L Supermercado, the local grocery store whose building and parking lots wrap partially around the school campus just over the fence from the school garden.

Additionally, the Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition, and the University of Michigan-Dearborn are among the partners in the science curriculum.

The university has a wide range of connections to the school, with one University of Michigan-Dearborn professor even holding weekly summer college classes and developing project-based activities at Neinas. Projects include movable garden beds and mini-irrigation systems that will eventually be used on the rooftop garden.

Even when the university partners are not on site for one of their repeat visits, the young students have perpetual reminders gearing them to higher educational aspirations. The desks in second grade teacher Deidre Davis’ classroom – where a student-led, math lesson was being delivered in Spanish and English, are each named for a state university.

In writing, fourth grade students receive regular visits from reporters and editors at Bloomberg News to work on writing projects. Students gain exposure to jobs within the newsroom while building a rapport with those professionals. This experience ends with a culminating annual trip to the service’s high-tech Southfield newsroom.

“Your children will be constantly learning” and family needs will be addressed

“I tell our parents, at Neinas your children will be constantly learning,” the principal states.

Family needs are met by the Michigan Department of Social Services “Success Coach,” which is a social worker stationed at the school as part of the DPS/DHS Pathways to Potential program. Principal Russell refers to Success Coach Shannon Ramsey as “a very valuable member of our staff.”

And for families pursuing their GED, a program is held right at Neinas. Last year, the successful parents who earned their GED certificates were able to participate in the commencement ceremony at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Senior High School. This allows those parents and individuals to obtain, sustain or advance their employment.

Russell says she has a great team in all respects, from the teachers and coaches to the partners and parents, and even the engineer, known to crawl through vents and ducts to get the job done.

Ready to begin the next 100 years with Smart Boards and new bilingual immersion

In addition to planning generational observances of the school’s 100-year anniversary in 2016 with families and alumni, the principal, teachers and parents are eagerly working at a major curricular enhancement aimed at meeting the needs of the community and ensuring a strong future in terms of enrollment stability and growth.

Smart Boards will be expanded to every classroom. And starting in Kindergarten next fall and expanding annually to additional grades, Neinas students will receive dual language immersion as the school establishes new connections to sister-school Academy of the Americas, less than a mile away. Students who complete the Neinas elementary dual language program will have the opportunity to matriculate to the expanding Academia’s high school level programs.

School of the Week: John R. King Academic and Performing Arts Academy

When the WorldStrides Heritage National Middle School Festival chose the J.R. King Academic and Performing Arts Academy’s Angelic Chorale to perform as the Featured Choir at world-famous Carnegie Hall in 2012, then-Vocal Music Director Annette Anderson predicted the experience would have a lifetime impact on the students.

And she was right.

Long after the “rousing standing ovation that seemed to last forever” died down and the echo of the applause dissipated, that performance – and all the opportunities that led up to it – continue to impact the students of this pre-K-to-8 academy in northwest Detroit.

Consider Carl Shazor, a retired new product development engineer from Ford Motor Co., who no longer has a child attending the school. But Shazor can be seen almost daily near the front door, offering words of encouragement to many of the 972 students so they start their school day interacting with a caring adult. Or in the office, assisting the principal with assorted tasks. Or mentoring students after school.

Shazor’s daughter, Destiny, was one of the nearly two dozen students who played at Carnegie Hall. Today, she’s a student at nationally-recognized Renaissance High School, Detroit Public Schools’ top-performing high school, where she is soaring academically and planning for college with a double-major in business and music.

“This particular place was the instrument that took her where she is today,” said Shazor, beaming. “John R. King opened up great opportunities for her. I want the city and the nation to know that this school offers anything a child needs to be successful.”

Performing arts opportunities are part of the fabric of J.R. King, said Principal Felicia Cook, sitting adjacent to a baby grand piano in one of the school’s music rooms.

“I have always thought that the arts are pivotal and important,” Cook said, adding that she was involved in band throughout her schooling. “That helped me to become more engaged and connected to the school… You have some students here that are great artists, some young ladies that can dance, and other students who love drama and perform in skits and plays. We have many students that have talents here that we help shape.”

Beginning in kindergarten, students have vocal music courses. By the time they are in middle school, they can participate in the acclaimed Angelic Chorale, which has also performed across the state and at the White House.

Students can also opt to take dance or drama, where they perform in the school’s Black Box Theater. The state-of-the-art 5,514-square-foot theater, which incorporates dramatic overhead lighting for plays, recitals and concerts, was part of a $10.7 million renovation of John R. King in 2010. The renovation also included the new Rosa Parks Atrium, new science and technology labs, new playground equipment, bright paint and tile flooring, new light fixtures in classrooms, a refinished gymnasium floor and more.

Cook, who plans to expand the school’s renowned performing arts offerings, is quick to point out that J.R. King also has a reputation for providing a strong academic program and a caring, dedicated staff, both of which attract families. To that end, the school increased its enrollment last year. This was a considerable feat given that more schools continued to enter the city’s educational landscape while the overall population declines.

Other attractive opportunities include extra-curricular activities like Girls and Boys Basketball, Junior National Honor Society, and a new Student Council, which Cook started this year because she believes students should have a voice.

Cook and her teachers embrace a collaborative learning approach with a schedule that builds in plenty of time to create learning communities across subjects, she said.

“We all have to be on the same page to build a synergy and energy that meshes,” she said.

Teacher Lisa White-Berry said she is constantly weaving fine arts instruction into her English Language Arts lessons. She embraces the philosophy that ‘anything that is worth teaching can be presented in many ways,’ a teaching theory by Howard Gardner. Gardner, a psychologist and Harvard professor of cognition, believed people have multiple intelligences and use different cognitive means to process information.

“Children need to have as many opportunities to become successful as possible, because students must not be limited when opportunities are available to exhibit mastery, and because all students may be different kinds of learners or have different skills and talents,” she said.

At the upper grades, in particular, the school infuses hands-on learning throughout the curriculum that incorporates lots of inquiry-based instruction.

“We want our students to think deeply and ask lots of probing questions,” Cook said.

In White-Berry’s classroom, students have a variety of options in which they can work toward mastery of a lesson: students may read alone, conduct pair reading, engage in small group reading, or do “picture walks” as others read. Through “picture walks,” students may join her at a workshop table for a guided reading lesson which may evolve into an art lesson – “read it, draw it or draw it, read it,” she said.

“I use probing questions to model inquiry skills and to better understand my students — each and every child. As a child, I was often that daydreaming or bored student hoping to remain invisible.  I remember light bulbs turning on when art was mentioned,” White-Berry said.

Tending to each child’s needs is key at J.R. King, where a new Reading Recovery program also provides intensive small group instruction targeted at students in first grade to help improve their reading skills. Markeeta Burr, one of the school’s two dedicated Reading Recovery teachers, works individually for 30 minutes each day with four students and later engages in small group instruction with three groups of three students each for 40 minutes each.

Such focused, individualized instruction has helped the students demonstrate a dramatic difference in reading levels in the last two months, Burr said.

Eighth grader Brooklyn Niang, who sings in the Angelic Chorale, but counts English Language Arts as her favorite subject, said J. R. King’s teachers push students to find their creativity and to excel in all subjects.

With a 3.7 grade point average, she said J.R. King’s teachers have prepared her so she is confident she will excel on the examination test to attend Renaissance or Cass Tech High School.

“They’ve given me the best education I could possibly have,” replied Brooklyn.

Something you didn’t know: Naima Mora, winner of “America’s Next Top Model” cycle four, is a graduate of J.R. King.



Budget and Salary/Compensation Transparency Reporting Annual Education Report

News & Press Releases

Ford junior guard James Towns named PSL Proud Strong Learner of the Week

Revised Deficit Elimination Plan Reflects Continued Enrollment Progress, Includes Restoration of 10% Pay Concession by 2023

King senior guard Janae Williams named PSL Proud Strong Learner of the Week

Detroit Lions Linebacker Stephen Tulloch continues “Operation 55 Adopt a School” at Carleton & Clark

Youth Development Commission partners with Detroit Public Schools, Detroit PAL and others to develop scholar athletes in Detroit

Continuing a trend of improved campus safety, DPS announces incidents down 24.7 percent on school campuses

School of the Week: Neinas Elementary School

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