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School of the Week: Nichols Elementary-Middle School

A 2014 Excellent Schools Detroit “Top K-8 School”

Monday mornings are typically said to be one of the most “unlooked-forward-to” days of the week for many individuals. It is routinely the morning to hit the snooze button a few times or drag your heels as you prepare for a school or work day, but the students and staff at Nichols Elementary-Middle School beg to differ.

Each and every Monday morning, Principal Regina Haywood leads her school with a clever concept she likes to refer to as “Monday Morning Matters.” Monday Morning Matters is a weekly assembly Principal Haywood utilizes as a tool to kick off the school week with encouraging words, acknowledge positive student behavior, highlight extraordinary teachers and simply sync each and every Nichols school member in order to ensure a successful teaching and learning environment.

“I want my staff and students to be recognized for what they do. It is important to come together to make sure everyone is on one accord because ultimately it is not just my business, but their business too,” Haywood says.

Nichols, which has been in existence for more than 100 years, is described as a family-centered community, with many parents, grandparents and great-grandparents having history of attending the school. Staff member are laser-focused on attendance and retention and stress the concept of being On time, All day, Every Day, which is the district’s attendance slogan. The school currently boasts at least a 90% daily attendance rate.

With Nichols students understanding the importance of their attendance and attention to their academics, many of the school’s young scholars perform many grade levels above their actual grade.

Ridgeley Hudson, a seventh-grade student at Nichols, currently reads at an 11th grade reading level and credits the school and his teachers to his accomplishments thus far. Hudson plans to become a politician, president and already is a self-exclaimed genius!

“If Nichols was a high school and a college, I still would attend Nichols,” says Hudson, “but since it’s not, I would like to go to Cass and then Harvard to study law and political science. Ever since I was a little boy I’ve wanted to be a politician and, to be more specific, the president.”

It is no surprise Nichols students are so driven. Nichols was amongst 16 Detroit Public Schools ranked by Excellent Schools Detroit (ESD) in 2014 as the top schools in the city!

Science projects, recycling and gardening… oh my!

If you want to learn something new, now is a perfect time to visit Nichols. Currently the halls are engulfed with wall-to-wall science boards as students prepare for the district-wide science fair competition. But don’t fear; once the competition comes to a conclusion the students will willingly recycle all necessary items as Nichols has a strong recycling program.

In 2013, the Nichols Garden Collaborative broke ground at its new school garden at 3000 Burns Street in Detroit. Students at Nichols along with their parents and members from the surrounding community filled six 4 x 8 ft. raised beds with soil and compost, in order to plant vegetables that will be used in the cafeteria for school lunches. The vegetables include delicious: squash, cucumbers, beans, radishes and a variety of greens such as collards, spinach, kale and mustard. The innovative program is part of the Detroit School Garden Collaborative and the Farm-to-School initiative inspiring access to healthy foods.

Programs such as gardening and recycling are only two of the many reasons Nichols has been able to keep up with its century-strong community foundation. Nichols has robust partnerships with local community members and organizations who regularly visit the school to mentor and tutor students. The Indian Village Home and Garden Tour brings in numerous community members who do not have current students attending Nichols, but want to be involved because of the reputation the school has upheld with its community members. During the visit, members tour the school and the garden and see first-hand what Nichols has to offer for not only its students but also the community.

“We have a very small, close-knit community surrounding Nichols. We have a lot of parents whose children are maybe grown and have moved on, but they still continue to watch over our school and students, and we continue to be forever grateful,” Principal Haywood says.

Something you didn’t know…

The Nichols Garden Collaborative not only benefits the school students with yummy healthy treats, but the community as well. Principal Haywood welcomes anyone who visits Nichols to take home items from the garden and share their scrumptious experience with their families.

Detroit students can receive FREE tickets to see the Academy Award-nominated film “Selma”

7th, 8th, and 9th graders who attend any school in Detroit can show Student ID or report card at any of the Detroit locations listed below for free admittance WHILE TICKETS LAST

HOLLYWOOD, CA (January 16, 2015) – Detroit has joined the growing movement led by African-American business leaders to raise funds for students across the country to see the Academy Award®-nominated film “SELMA,” expanding the first-of-its-kind campaign to 25 locations nationwide.

Due to the generous contributions by so many of the country’s most prominent African-American business leaders, more than 275,000 middle and high school students across the U.S. will experience the critically acclaimed film for free at participating theaters while supplies last.

The business leaders contributing to the Detroit effort are:

  • Faye Alexander Nelson, President, DTE Energy Foundation
  • Tonya Allen, President & CEO, The Skillman Foundation
  • Lisa Dancsok, Vice President, Quicken Loans
  • Mariam C. Noland, President, Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan
  • Vivian R. Pickard, President, General Motors Foundation
  • Laura Trudeau, Managing Director, Detroit, Kresge Foundation
  • Darren Walker, President, Ford Foundation

“Detroit students will have the opportunity to join with students across the country to view ‘SELMA’ thanks to the generosity of a group of national and local foundations and corporations. We are pleased to help coordinate the generous commitments of the DTE Energy Foundation, Ford Foundation, General Motors Foundation, Kresge Foundation, The Skillman Foundation, and Quicken Loans,” said Noland.

The participating Detroit theaters are:

AMC Star Fairlane 20 Dearborn
AMC Star Southfield 20 Southfield
Bel Air 10 Theater Detroit
Emagine Novi Novi
MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 Sterling Heights

The 12 new locations joining the movement are Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Central Florida/Orlando, Connecticut, Detroit, Los Angeles, Memphis, Miami, Montgomery, Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, and St. Louis. They follow the lead of those in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Nashville, New Jersey, New Orleans, New York, Oakland/San Francisco Bay Area, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Sarasota, FL, Washington D.C. and Westchester.

“This was an important opportunity to educate our children about the heroes of the civil rights movement and keep an important legacy intact. I am proud that our community seized the moment,” said Fletcher “Flash” Wiley, Counsel, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, who organized the efforts in Boston.

The nationwide efforts are inspired by the success of the program in New York City, in which 27 African-American business leaders created a fund for 27,000 of the city’s 7th, 8th and 9th grade students to see the film for free. Due to the overwhelming demand, the New York City effort sold out in the very first weekend and was expanded to 75,000 tickets.

Viacom’s Paramount Pictures, which is distributing “SELMA,” is coordinating the programs with participating theaters in the U.S.  For a list of participating theaters in select cities offering free admission to students during this program and for information on group sales, visit www.SelmaMovie.com/studenttickets

The students who present a current student ID or report card at the box office of any participating theater will receive free admission while tickets last.

To help get the word out about the program, tweet using the hashtag #SelmaForStudents.

Directed by DuVernay and starring David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr., “SELMA” is nominated for Academy Awards® for Best Picture and Best Original Song for “Glory” by Common & John Legend. The film earned a Golden Globe Award for Best Song for “Glory” and was nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director.

Paramount Pictures, Pathé, and Harpo Films present “SELMA.” Produced by Christian Colson, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Oprah Winfrey, the film is executive produced by Brad Pitt, Cameron McCracken, Diarmuid McKeown, Nik Bower, Ava DuVernay, Paul Garnes and Nan Morales. The film is written by Paul Webb. “SELMA” is directed by Ava DuVernay.

“SELMA” is the story of a movement. The film chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition. The epic march from Selma to Montgomery culminated in President Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant victories for the civil rights movement. Director Ava DuVernay’s “SELMA” tells the story of how the revered leader and visionary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) and his brothers and sisters in the movement prompted change that forever altered history. The film also stars Tom Wilkinson, Cuba Gooding Jr., Alessandro Nivola, Giovanni Ribisi, Common, Carmen Ejogo, Lorraine Toussaint, with Tim Roth and Oprah Winfrey as “Annie Lee Cooper.”

“SELMA” is playing in theaters nationwide. To learn more about the film, go to http://www.selmamovie.com

Darnell Earley named new emergency manager as community discusses future of city’s public education

LANSING, Mich. – Detroit Public Schools remains under a financial emergency as community leaders start discussions about a long-term reinvention to build a stable, financially secure system that creates a brighter future for all city students, Gov. Rick Snyder said.

With the district struggling with a nearly $170 million deficit, Snyder said it is necessary to continue with an emergency manager while community discussions move forward. He today announced the appointment of Darnell Earley, following the provisions of Public Act 436 of 2012. Earley replaces Emergency Manager Jack Martin effective today.

The transition in Detroit Public Schools comes as the Coalition for Future of Detroit Schoolchildren, convened by the Skillman Foundation, starts a community discussion about the future of all the city’s schools. That work will continue and Snyder plans to meet with the coalition members later in the week.

“A thriving public school system is an essential part of Detroit’s comeback,” Snyder said. “Financial challenges unquestionably hinder efforts to improve academics. I appreciate the hard work of Jack Martin, who oversaw the district during an extremely challenging period. Darnell Earley has a track record of success and can guide the district as we work collectively and collaboratively to turnaround the fiscal crisis and ensure a quality education for the city’s school children that they need and deserve.”

Snyder made the announcement at Detroit Public School District’s Burton International Academy.

Earley has served as the city of Flint’s emergency manager since September 2013. His experience includes serving as Saginaw city manager, Flint city administrator and Ingham County’s budget director and deputy controller. Earley is a municipal finance expert known for working closely with community organizations.

Earley will be replaced in Flint by Jerry Ambrose, who since December 2011 has served as financial adviser to Flint’s emergency manager. Earley’s term in Flint was expected to expire in April, and the city is still expected to transition back to local control at that time.

“Important community discussions are underway about creating a brighter future for education in Detroit,” Earley said. “It’s vital for the district to be on firmer financial footing so this work can move forward. Education must be a cornerstone of a strong, revitalized Detroit.”

Snyder praised Martin for his leadership of the state’s largest school district during challenging times. Martin worked to stabilize the district’s enrollment after 20 years of significant losses. He also restored art, music and athletic programs at elementary and middle school levels and redesigned career tech programs to address current needs in the skilled trade marketplace.

Martin also refocused the district’s real estate strategy, selling and leasing a number of unused properties to generate several million dollars for the city schools.

“I took this job because it meant I would be helping children get the education they need to be productive, successful members of our community,” Martin said. “Every action I’ve taken over the last 18 months has been about the students and fixing the system so every child in Detroit can receive the quality education they deserve.”

School of the Week: Cass Technical High School

An International Baccalaureate World School

For the first 10 years of her academic career, LoReal Harris attended a private school. Her prekindergarten through eighth grade years were paid for out of pocket by her mother, Annie Blackmon.

“Every single month, my mom paid tuition for 10 years… wow. That’s a lot of money,” recalls Harris, who is now a 17-year-old high school senior. “My mom instilled in me at a very young age the importance of education. My mom always told me, ‘You will not have a job, you will have a career.’ And the way to achieve this is to excel academically.”

For her daughter’s high school career, Ms. Blackmon decided to switch gears from private schooling to public and placed her trust in Cass Technical High School.

Cass Tech is one of Detroit Public Schools’ premier application schools. The newly authorized International Baccalaureate World School – the first school in the city of Detroit to earn this designation – is a two-time, nationally-recognized School of Excellence ranked in the top 5% of all high schools in the state by the Michigan Department of Education; a top-10 ranked high school by the Mackinac Policy Conference; and is ranked as one of the best high schools in the country by U.S. News and World Report.

Needless to say, Ms. Blackmon made the right choice. And her decision has paid off – literally.

Thanks to Cass Tech’s notable Dual Enrollment Program with Wayne County Community College District – the largest program of its kind across the city that allows students to earn college credits while in high school – Harris will walk in two commencement ceremonies in the spring. In May, she will graduate from WCCCD with her associate’s degree. In June, she will accept her high school diploma.

“Technically, I’ll be a college graduate before I graduate from high school!” says Harris, who plans to study pre-law at the University of Toledo in the fall. “I’ve always wanted to pay my mom back somehow for all that she’s given me. Now, I kind of get the chance to do just that.”

What exactly does this mean for mom and Harris?

  • Two years of college tuition that she will not have to pay for because Harris will enter the University of Toledo as a junior in the fall;
  • A tuition-free undergraduate degree as Harris has already secured scholarships to cover the final two years;
  • Graduating in two years with a bachelor’s degree, as opposed to four; and
  • Starting and potentially completing law school two years earlier than her peers.

“Cass Tech: No. 1. Second to None.”

There are dozens of similar success stories at Cass. Students like Harris are the norm, says Principal Lisa Phillips, which is why students, staff and alums frequently share the popular slogan: “Cass Tech: No 1. Second to None.”

“Our students strive for excellence,” Phillips says affectionately. “They feel that they are first in everything they do. They work harder. They play harder. And the results are usually success. So when we say ‘No. 1. Second to None,’ even if we come in at No. 2, we still feel in our hearts that we’re No. 1.”

And that No. 1 mentality is now spreading globally. With the school’s announcement of the new International Baccalaureate designation, Phillips said just this month she received at least 25-30 applications from students outside of the country including families from Spain, Mexico, Africa and Brazil who will soon move to Detroit.

In August 2014, Cass Tech was announced as the first high school in the City of Detroit to receive the prestigious International Baccalaureate (IB) World School designation, joining the ranks of other high achieving Michigan IB high schools including Bloomfield Hills High School, Detroit Country Day, International Academy and others. The IB Diploma Program at Cass will involve students in extended independent essay writing around a topic of global importance, a theory of knowledge-based critical thinking courses, as well as creativity, action and service programs. Upon graduation, students complete a written assessment marked by external IB examiners.

“We’re trying to advance our students. We’re proactive, and we’re progressive,” Phillips says. “The I.B. Program provides our students with a global education. For instance, if you’re living in Switzerland, Africa or Spain, we’re studying the same coursework at Cass Technical High School that students are studying all over the world. It’s a different perspective on education.”

Premier Programs & Partnerships

With a total enrollment of 2,328 students, Cass boasts a broad range of academic, social and cultural experiences for all grade levels, as well as dynamic partnerships that prepare students for college and careers. The 2013-2014 senior class earned more than $45 million in scholarships. Annually, Cass has a 98% graduation rate and a 97% college bound rate.

Cass collaborates with nearly every public university in the state, including Wayne State University, Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, and some HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). Cass also partners with dozens of community organizations and businesses including Quicken Loans, General Motors, Chrysler Corp., UAW-Ford, DTE Energy Foundation, and Ilitch Holdings, Inc.

Located in the Midtown area near the future Red Wings arena district, Cass offers seven smaller schools of choice on one campus for individualized academic pathways including Arts & Communication, Business Management & Marketing, Engineering & Manufacturing, Health Sciences, Human Services, Natural Resources & Agricultural Science, and Science & Arts-Pathway Plus. Students can also take advantage of more than a dozen advanced placement and honors courses.

One of the schools most talked about partnerships is the Doctors of Tomorrow Program where incoming freshmen who wish to pursue a career in medicine visit the University of Michigan Medical School monthly and throughout the summer. Cass students receive similar hands-on experiences that first- or second-year medical students are introduced to.

Cass Tech was also one of three Detroit Public Schools selected to participate in a new pilot program this semester with the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. The new Michigan Architecture Prep Program (MAPP) aims to expose students to collegiate coursework and careers in architecture. Participating students will spend half of their school day on architecture work at locations including the Michigan Research Studio, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, City of Detroit, and the professional workspaces of local architects and designers.

Stellar Academics + Signature Athletics = Winning Attitudes

In addition to excellent academics and leading extra-curricular offerings, Cass has a long-time history of top-notch athletic programs attracting students like Owen Dolle, a 14-year-old ninth grader who transferred this semester from Grosse Pointe.

“I was nervous at first to switch to a new school,” he admits. “But everyone is like family here. Cass has the best sports programs and the best academic programs around. When you combine the two, it’s very compelling for student athletes, and really to any student, to come here.”

Cass holds district, city and state championship titles in football, swimming, volleyball, softball, tennis and golf. Head Football Coach Thomas Wilcher was recently named the 2014 Regional Coach of the Year by the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association. Wilcher joins Phillips as being named one of the best in their respective fields. Phillips holds the title of 2014 Principal of the Year by the National Alliance of Black School Educators.

“My name was on the award, but it’s because of the teachers, the students, the parents, the community, the alums – Oh my gosh, the awesome alumni – we work together to bring about solutions and the very best for our students,” says Phillips. “When the students know that we care; When the teachers know that their decisions matter; When the alumni understand their voice matters … because when I need them, our alums are always there for me; When parents walk into this building … I will stop what I am doing to address their concerns.”

“When people feel like they matter, it makes a big difference. And that’s why we’re No. 1. Second to None,” says Phillips. “None of our success would be possible without the continued support of DPS Central Office and the Cass Tech Parent Association.”



Budget and Salary/Compensation Transparency Reporting Annual Education Report

News & Press Releases

State Rep. Gay-Dagnogo and DPS collaborate to host Legislators’ Tour

East English Village sophomore guard Gregory Elliott named PSL Proud Strong Learner of the Week

King High senior center Malaysia McHenry named PSL Proud Strong Learner of the Week

Davison “Techno Dragons” highlighted in 2015 State of the State address

FREE DPS Family Saturdays are back at the Detroit Children’s Museum with an exciting new line-up of events

Mayor Duggan announces new program to prepare up to 900 DPS students for employment opportunities after graduation

School of the Week: Nichols Elementary-Middle School

Parent Resources

Upcoming Events

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Martin Luther King Day

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DPS Family Saturday at the Detroit Children's Museum
1/24/2015 10:00 am – 3:00 pm

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2/16/2015 – 2/20/2015

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