Detroit Public Schools Foundation to be launched

After waiting more than seven years for the school district to have a leader in which they had confidence, a group of prominent Detroit attorneys launched today a revived Detroit Public Schools Foundation to support the city’s school children.

The Detroit Public Schools Foundation was formed in 2002 by a group of attorneys who held an interest in improving the conditions for Detroit Public Schools students through outside support and funding. In 2003, it received its IRS determination of tax exempt status and, since that time, has remained current in its paperwork and filings.

After forming, the group made a conscious decision to remain dormant until such time that there existed sufficient confidence in the leadership of DPS that the Foundation would both have a partner to work with and that it could reputably represent to private donors and funders that their support of DPS would be responsibly received, spent, and accounted for, according to Board Chairman Leroy Richie, of counsel with the Detroit law firm of Lewis and Munday.

“As we all know, during the course of these seven years the district has had five permanent or interim administrative leaders; the district’s governance was structurally altered; and a series of conditions led to what the governor and the state superintendent determined to be a financial emergency in the district, resulting in the appointment of an emergency financial manager to lead the schools,” Richie said.

“And while it may seem on one hand to be the most odd time, during a state-declared fiscal emergency, coming as it does on the heels of seven consecutive years of deficit spending on the part of the district, and when decisions about the district’s course are in the hands of an emergency financial manager currently serving a one-year term, a most odd time to step forward to make the Detroit Public Schools Foundation active, we believe, in fact, that it is the right time, in fact the very best time,” The DPS Foundation chairman said.

“We have no doubt, and can represent without any hesitation to donors, that resources this Foundation raises to help Detroit children will be responsibly and professionally handled.”

The Foundation Board acted last week to appoint Chacona Johnson as its President and Chief Executive Officer. Mrs. Johnson served in a variety of capacities at the University of Michigan for more than 20 years, including Associate Vice President for Development, Senior Counselor to the President, and Chief of Staff to the President.

At U-M, among other duties, Johnson coordinated the University’s leadership gift program, managed a pool of leadership gift prospects through cultivation, solicitation and stewardship activities, served as a campaign advisor to schools and campuses, advised the President and coordinated issues among senior officials, participated in communication and policy development, coordinated activities with development volunteers, and planned and directed principal gifts of $2.5 million and above.

She additionally has experience with the Hudson-Webber Foundation, Wayne State University Libraries and New Detroit Inc. Johnson has served on the Boards of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, among a host of other community activities. She is married to Dr. Arthur Johnson.

Additional Foundation Board Members include Gerald Watson and Elliott Hall.
PNC Bank Foundation is among the significant partnerships that the DPS Foundation will launch with.
PNC Bank Foundation is contributing $100,000 towards early childhood education in Detroit Public Schools as part of its Grow Up Great initiative.

“We are dedicated to supporting the communities we serve, especially with our commitment to early childhood education,” said David Boyle, President for Michigan, National City now part of PNC Bank. “With today’s gift, The PNC Foundation becomes a leading sponsor of the DPS Foundation. This is the first grant in our state from Grow Up Great, PNC’s 10-year, $100 million investment in early childhood education.”

Grow Up Great provides the leadership, advocacy, funding, tools and volunteers to help parents, caregivers and communities prepare young children to be successful in school and life. PNC will introduce Grow Up Great in Michigan in the spring of 2010.

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