Even as new superintendent Nikolai Vitti plows ahead with shaking up district leadership in his quest to improve the city’s 100-plus traditional schools, much of the focus this week has been on the future of the district’s charter schools.
The district has been overseeing charter schools for more than two decades. Now, Vitti says it potentially should get out of the charter school business to focus on traditional schools. That could lead to charter schools closing — like this one that the district quietly closed last month amid concerns about its poor financial footing.
Read on for more on these stories. And, if you have five minutes of your time to donate today, please give us some honest feedback. Help improve our journalism by taking Chalkbeat’s annual reader survey.
Chartering new territory
- Vitti’s suggestion that he’ll recommend getting out of the charter school authorizing game won praise from a Free Press columnist and a prominent national education advocate.
- But the state’s charter school association noted that the district authorizes some of the highest-performing charters in the city and wondered if the district would want them closed — or if Vitti would work to help find other authorizers who could keep the schools open. The Detroit News says abandoning charters would be “very short-sighted.”
- For one district-authorized charter school, it’s already too late. Even as the district spent much of this year fighting to prevent the state from closing 24 struggling district schools, it quiety closed a charter last month.
- The district now authorizes 15 charter schools, including three that had been part of the state-run Education Achievement Authority. The EAA dissolved June 30 and transferred its schools to the main district.
- Vitti has overhauled the district’s executive leadership team, bringing in people he worked with in Florida, educators and leaders from the Detroit area, and former officials with the EAA.
- Nearly all the people he’s hired have been teachers or principals — and he said at this week’s school board meeting, they’re “mission-driven.”
- The changes have sent some longtime district administrators packing: Vitti has so far eliminated roughly 70 administrative positions. He also cut multiyear contracts and perks like car allowances from those who remain.
- The district will run more efficiently now, he said. “I found that there were one and two positions within departments that were duplicated or responsibilities shared that could be streamlined,” he said, adding that the network structure that principals used to report to “led to communication and work product backlog.”
- A year after Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation that created the new Detroit Public Schools Community District, one former GOP leader writes why he thinks the “fresh start is working,” arguing that Detroit is “not the ‘wild west’ that defenders of the status quo say that it is.”
- Plans to change the name of Southeastern High School hit a snag at Tuesday’s school board meeting.
- District officials will try to renegotiate the controversial lease, signed by a state-appointed emergency manager on his last day on the job in December, that turned a west-side elementary school over to a nonprofit group. That negotiation isn’t likely to satisfy the biggest critics of the deal.
- The district says this year’s graduates have collectively earned $170 million in college scholarships and grants.
- Limited access to quality early childhood education has a high cost in Detroit.
- A state health and safety agency has fined the district for unsafe water at one school.
- A water main break closed one of the schools serving this week as a “summer fun center.”
- One of the city’s Head Start providers has picked up a $12.5 million grant to serve 168 more west side children and their families.
From the capitol
- The state’s top education official says conversations with the federal government have been “combative” since the state abandoned plans to assign letter grades to schools in favor of a “dashboard” that compiles data in a variety of categories. The state is preparing to begin discussions with the U.S. education department over how it complies with new federal education laws.
- The Detroit News is unimpressed with Snyder’s school improvement efforts, saying they’ve “ended up being more about optics than the substantial changes Michigan families deserve.”
- Snyder signed a controversial teacher pension overhaul into law. The plan will take effect next year.
- An advocate says the state’s 56 intermediate school districts need to be more transparent about how they collectively spend $1.6 billion on special education and other services.
- Another advocate makes the case for why schools should focus on a broad-based education — rather than career readiness.