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Life Remodeled kicks off major fund-raising campaign for radical make-over of Cody High School grounds, field and classrooms

Nonprofit commits to remodeling one DPS school per summer moving forward

Detroit Public Schools’ Emergency Manager Jack Martin joined with nonprofit organization Life Remodeled, as well as dozens of partners, volunteers, donors and students, to kick off an unprecedented fund-raising initiative to radically transform the Cody High School campus by fall.

“Someone recently said to me, ‘Partnership is the new leadership.’  I believe that Life Remodeled and all if its supporters embody this philosophy and are true community leaders,” Martin said. “Given our current financial challenges, this extensive remodeling work could not be undertaken. We can’t thank Life Remodeled enough for their commitment and generosity, and urge anyone interested in helping Detroit Public Schools to join with us in this effort.”

As part of the initiative, Life Remodeled organizers pledged to secure funding and in-kind services to do painting, landscaping, window replacement, roof repair, electrical and plumbing repair, at least one classroom renovation, and installation of a new track and football field at the high school, which is located in northwest Detroit.

“We chose Cody High School for this project for two reasons: need and hope. There may be great need, but there is even more hope – which will be instrumental in sustaining the transformation of the school and the neighborhood,” said Chris Lambert, President of Life Remodeled. “We anticipate having over 10,000 volunteers, so we will undertake a very large-scale effort to remove blight and create beauty, establishing safe and inspirational pathways for kids traveling to and from school.”

Life Remodeled is a non-profit organization with a mission to remodel lives—one neighborhood at a time. That strategy includes remodeling a Detroit Public School each summer in order to create academic and athletic improvements, Lambert said.

The organization also aims to partner with local residents of each area served to remove blight in the surrounding neighborhood, and create safe and inspirational pathways to the school with the goal of sustaining and building up a neighborhood that radiates hope to the rest of the city. For the 2013 Life Remodeled Project, the organization exceeded its goals and built a brand new home, boarded up 253 dangerous houses, beautified 65 blocks and renovated 36 homes in 6 days, with help from over 5200 volunteers.

“We couldn’t be more thankful for this make-over project and the investment that these wonderful Life Remodeled partners and other organizations have committed to Cody High School,” said Michelle Parker, principal of the Medicine and Community Health Academy at Cody.

“In the past three years, Cody has undergone a true make-over of its curriculum and now houses three top-notch academic programs in the building,” she said. “With that investment, we are making great strides in our academics and graduation rate, but now it’s time to have a building that matches our high expectations and supports our rigorous curriculum.”

“We believe 2014 will be bigger and better, but we need the support of the entire metro Detroit community,” Lambert said.

In addition, Life Remodeled plans to renovate up to 20 student homes in the surrounding area and demolish at least 10 burned houses. Nearby Mann and Henderson elementary schools are also scheduled to receive light “facelift” projects.

“We are honored to be serving with Detroit Public Schools, the Governor’s Office and the City of Detroit,” Lambert said. “All of these entities – working together – are excited about Life Remodeled and the leadership role we are taking to make a difference in a deserving neighborhood.”

The project is expected to kick into high gear August 11- 17, culminating in a celebration on August 17. Life Remodeled is seeking people who are interested in being leaders, as well as donations of materials and labor.

Go to www.LifeRemodeled.com for more information and to see a video recap of the Detroit 2013 Project.

Documentary trailer: https://vimeo.com/88719906

School of the Week: Greenfield Union Elementary-Middle School

It takes a team, and there are many, to support the educational mission at Greenfield Union

Teamwork. Community. Family.

They come in many forms.

At Greenfield Union Elementary-Middle School, there’s the teachers and staff who continually go the extra mile, such as the middle school teachers (known as the ‘Mighty Middles’) who came in during a recent break week to paint every locker in the historic wing of classrooms, changing them from a peeling orange to calming blue-matching the blue paint they applied to every classroom door, along with new red “I’m In” ribbons.

There’s the leadership team comprised of Principal Beverly Campbell, Academic Engagement Administrator Geraldine Chestnut, Science Instructional Specialist Rudaina Kainaya and Special Education Lead Teacher Anna Knott, who provide vision and direction to a family of teachers who are attracted to the learning community which they seem to agree they’ll not soon leave.

And there’s the community, both the immediate community and supportive partners. Campbell and her team are just as comfortable stepping outside, visiting the homes and walking the streets or assisting students crossing E. Seven Mile Rd. as they are welcoming the 20 or more parent, church and foster grandparent volunteers who show up for active duty as tutors, classroom aides and helpers each day.

That community, including neighbors directly across the street, look out for Greenfield Union’s students, families and teachers as any strong block club would do, reporting any unusual activity and during one of the winter’s many snowstorms keeping the street clear to ensure no one got stuck in a rut or a driveway.

Every Day Community

“We are a family of high-quality teachers and staff. We can walk the community because we know the community,” Campbell says. “They receive us because we’re always in the community.”

The families, community and Greenfield Union teams come together most often to raise academic achievement, provide for student and family needs, and ensure a safe and nurturing learning campus. One of the results has been an upward enrollment trend for two years after some significant declines over time. Greenfield Union has become a renewed catalyst for families to remain in the immediate neighborhood even when moving or upgrading.

The school actively engages the organization that is developing new homes in the community and the efforts to remove blight, and this summer will plant an Art in the Garden project in conjunction with a farmer’s market opening across the street from the school. That project will include student work, partnerships with Michigan State University, scholarships, and healthy foods for local residents.

“You see people coming in every day, all day,” says Instructional Specialist Kainaya. “It’s not once in a blue moon; it’s every day.”

Professional Learning Communities

The Mighty Middle Teachers are organized not just around locker painting but as a Professional Learning Community Team. The same is evident in the curriculum, hallway bulletin board themes, and instructional approaches to Differentiated Instruction in the classrooms and hallways of the newer elementary school on the dual building, well-organized and tidy campus.

This adds to the magnetic appeal for both older and newer teachers. Special Ed Lead Teacher Knott says, “Once the teachers get here, they don’t ever want to leave.”

Pre-K ECDD teacher Cynthia Nicholas is a relative newcomer to the staff who started in 2012 after 14 years as a teacher and substitute elsewhere. Now she drives the 70 mile trek each school day from her home in Byron, MI, often staying late, and doesn’t envision ever working anywhere else. “You want to come to work because it’s fun,” she says.

“I’m not here for the job. It’s a career,” says Nicholas. “When you go to school for so long for teaching, it’s got to be some place you want to be. We’re all here for the same reason.”

Second year Greenfield Union teacher Nicholas’ sentiments are shared by 3rd grade instructor Laucetta Edwards, who has taught at the school for more than 30 years. On Thursday afternoon last week her classroom mirrored others, with some students working in groups, others independently, one reading a book with a headphone and several others utilizing a bank of computers. In other classrooms where teachers were engaging in direct instruction, students were eager to give answers but sat quietly and intently as one of their peers spoke.

The Broader World

Campbell says there’s a conscious effort to expose the students to the world around them. The school has a robust field trip schedule, with 15 more trips planned before the end of this school year. The sites visited include traditional local favorites but also more unusual and distant locations such as the Toledo Zoo and the Spring Valley Trout Farm.

Even for the local trips, it’s an unbeatable opportunity for the children, most often their first such outing. Kainaya says that after a group of 76 students recently returned from the Detroit Institute of Arts, she polled them and found that for 74 this was their first visit to the museum.

AEA Chestnut says the Trout Farm visit was planned because most of the students never go fishing. Staff work hard to ensure that all students can participate in such opportunities.

Tutors, volunteers by the dozens

St. James Episcopal Church tutor Barbara Small has been coming each week to Greenfield Union as part of a team of 25 volunteers from the church who assist Kindergarten through 3rd graders with reading and math and also help to ensure that holidays are filled with clothing and baskets.

These volunteers and others are in virtually every classroom, hallway and corner. For foster grandparent Anna Garcias, who has tutored for 14 years at the school “because I love it. It gives us a chance to share knowledge and love with the kids.”

Parents who come up to the school can gather in the Parent Corner in the school’s main lobby, with comfortable furniture and posted school information, as well as home energy facts,

Student- and Teacher-of-the-Month features, and Marzano’s educational theory. It’s all part of the educational-community environment that has grown and flourished under Principal Campbell’s team.

16 Detroit Public Schools named in Excellent Schools Detroit “Top 31” K-8 Schools report

Two DPS-authorized charter schools also included in the Spring 2014 list of top elementary-middle schools in Detroit

Excellent Schools Detroit (ESD) has issued a new report on Detroit’s schools, this time identifying the top 31 elementary and middle schools it recommends parents select for their children.

Detroit Public Schools again make up a majority of the new, Spring 2014 list, with 16 DPS schools and two DPS-authorized charters included. Nine other charters, two EAA and two private schools complete the list. Similarly, in 2013, DPS schools comprised 12 of 18 ESD top picks and eight DPS schools were among the top schools in the city as identified by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

According to ESD, which is an independent organization, the 31 schools selected “offer families welcoming environments, caring teachers and staff, strong academics, family involvement, community partnerships and a rich array of after-school and extracurricular activities.”

ESD’s recommendations are based on information they gathered last year and updated this winter, including fall MEAP scores.

“When one considers that DPS currently operates 39% of the elementary-middle schools in the city, but our schools represent 52% of those selected as the best schools by ESD, this is a true testament to the hard work and dedication that take place daily in all of our schools,” said DPS Superintendent of Academics Karen Ridgeway. “No one set of schools or assessments portray the total picture of schools’ success. However, through several consecutive external ratings over the past two years, Detroit Public Schools have led their peers.”

The 16 DPS schools being recommended by ESD are:

  • Bates Academy
  • Bennett Elementary School
  • Burton International Academy
  • Charles Wright Academy
  • Chrysler Elementary School
  • Clippert Academy
  • Davison Elementary-Middle School
  • Dixon Educational Learning Academy
  • Harms Elementary School
  • Maybury Elementary School
  • Munger Elementary-Middle School
  • Nichols Elementary-Middle School
  • Pasteur Elementary School
  • Roberto Clemente Learning Academy
  • Thirkell Elementary School
  • Vernor Elementary School

Some 8,000+ students currently attend these 16 schools. Open Enrollment programs, events and informational sessions for Fall 2014 are planned between now and May 20.

School of the Week: Burton International Academy

Infusing multiculturalism into young minds to educate the next generation of global achievers

One of Burton International Academy Principal John Wilson’s favorite quotes is: It takes teamwork to make the dream work!”

With a mixture of top-notch teachers and a variety of ethnic and multicultural offerings, Burton International Academy prides itself on encouraging and preparing all students from diverse backgrounds to compete in a global society.

Nestled between historic Corktown and the bustling Midtown cultural district, Burton is an application school serving Pre-K to grade 8. To support the rich ethnic, racial and cultural heritage of his students, Principal Wilson and his staff tailor the curriculum to meet the needs of all students through offerings such as the popular Social Studies program.

In teacher Matthew Guyton’s Social Studies class, students have an entire month to research and learn about a new culture. Students also learn about a multitude of cultures at their own school such as African American Achievers. On a recent Monday afternoon, students were tasked with selecting a notable African American, researching that person’s background and presenting their findings to the class.

Eighth-grade students KaiLynn Taylor-Hawkins and Myaah Hart-Powell enthusiastically educated their classmates on the achievements of Alvin Alley and his successful dance career, and Michael Jackson and his musical journey that touched the lives of many people world-wide.

“Social Studies excites me because I am able to learn new things about the people that came before me,” says Rajwan Kadir, an eighth-grader at Burton.

Burton’s Diversity Club also aids in strengthening the students’ knowledge and passion for different cultures. This multicultural club provides students with an opportunity to explore other culture’s customs, activities and habits in order to become more aware of other ethnicities.

“I love being a part of the Diversity Club because it has really opened my eyes to see that there are so many different types of people in the world. Once you are open to learning about others, you have so many options available to you,” says eighth-grader Camryn Smith.

Smith, whose favorite subject is Math and aspires to become an engineer, says that because Burton is so diverse culturally and academically, she feels socially prepared to start high school and has already started researching colleges.

Burton scholars are encouraged to broaden their horizons not only culturally, but academically to become technology-savvy high achievers. Around every corner at Burton International, one can spot some type of advanced technology. From Netbooks to Promethium boards, students are fluent in their technology-infused curriculum. Kindergarten students are able to take you step-by-step when operating a Promethium board just as every other student naturally utilizes their Netbooks to regularly complete assignments.

The students of English Language Arts teacher Lynnette Martin kick differentiated learning up a notch by separating into groups and utilizing technology for each assignment. Group one researches the assigned task on the internet, while group two discusses the assignment using electronic books to quickly flip through sections.

“This method is very popular amongst the students because they all learn differently. The technology makes things so much easier and allows them to research and find things so much more quickly,” Martin says.

Because Burton is so academically advanced, the school provides an excellent college preparatory curriculum. Burton was recently adopted by Wayne State University and now has its very own army of Wayne State University Warriors in-house to help pave the way for Burton students.

The Office of Undergraduate Admissions at WSU, with the help of several university departments, provides mentors, sets up parent meetings and classroom visits, and offers college and career information to incoming eighth-grade Burton International students with the adoption of Burton’s middle school wing.

The partnership aims to inform both students and parents about high school curriculum requirements and collegiate requirements while also highlighting a range of professional fields and careers that students can work toward.

Something you didn’t know…

Burton was named one of the city’s 20 top-performing kindergarten through eighth-grade schools by Excellent Schools Detroit in 2013 and ranked in the top 100 schools in the state by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in 2013.

Burton’s stellar academic program and its scholars have won distinguished awards from an array of prestigious organizations including: The Skillman Foundation, Greening of Detroit and the DPS Office of Multicultural and Bilingual Studies (Gold Cup).



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Upcoming Events

Detroit Institute of Arts/DPS Student Exhibition
4/12/2014 – 6/8/2014

DPS Family Saturday's at the Detroit Children's Museum
4/26/2014 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

Pre-K to K Transition Week: “Spend A Day in K”
4/28/2014 – 5/1/2014

Fleming and Beard PreK Students " Get on the Bus to Kindergarten" event
5/1/2014 9:00 am – 11:00 am

Spring Pre-K Round-Up/Registration at EVERY Elementary School
5/2/2014 9:00 am – 12:00 pm

Cinco de Mayo Outdoor Open Enrollment Fair
5/3/2014 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

DPS High School Fair and Career Tech Showcase
5/3/2014 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

DPS Open Doors Day at All Elementary and Middle Schools
5/3/2014 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

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