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Superintendent Nikolai Vitti and his wife, Rachel Vitti, are raising two children with dyslexia and have spoken about the need to improve services to children with special needs in Detroit.

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti and his wife, Rachel Vitti, are raising two children with dyslexia and have spoken about the need to improve services to children with special needs in Detroit.

Week in review: Vittis take center stage as they encourage parents to help improve Detroit schools

New Detroit schools chief Nikolai Vitti has been in the spotlight since coming to town. But at a forum in a Detroit church this week, his wife Rachel came first. She gave a moving talk about her frustration in trying to get proper tools, classroom help, and guidance for one of her dyslexic children when her family lived in Florida. Then her husband told parents, teachers, and other community members at the special education forum that he wants parents involved — and invited them to participate more fully with the city’s schools. At another forum this week, Vitti reiterated that engaging parents was one of his top priorities.

Also this week, teachers at a closed Detroit charter school are finally are getting their summer paychecks, thanks to some generous donors. Check out the rest of this week’s education news and then enjoy these last summer days before school starts!

— Julie Topping, editor, Chalkbeat Detroit

IT TAKES A VILLAGE: Vitti, who knows he is in the hot seat, told a forum gathered at a downtown community college that district schools “can be successful again.”  He called parents the key to rebuilding schools. And at a retreat in Ann Arbor, district leaders and board members discussed creating a strategic plan, starting with a series of meetings with Detroiters.

Even as inspiring talks and high-level discussions take place, the district is still short hundreds of teachers as the first day of school approaches. A second teacher hiring fair will be held this week.

Luring teachers into Detroit with discount housing could help rebuild the city’s middle-class, one think tank says. Its survey shows the number of families with children in Detroit has declined by 43 percent since 2000.

One commentator believes Vitti’s support for K-12 schools is an evenhanded approach to quality education.  “I’m for competition,” he said. “And I’m for traditional public education.”

COURT ARGUMENTS: Attorneys representing Detroit students in a literacy lawsuit dispute a local editorial’s claim that the suit requires “turn(ing) the schools over to the courts.”

SWEET PAYDAY: Donors made sure teachers at a recently closed charter school who were told they wouldn’t get paid got their summer paychecks after all.

HONEST RACE TALK: This blogger’s tips on talking to kids about race are useful anytime, not just after recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. And the best discussions happen when teachers are bold, courageous, and honest with kids, one university professor believes.

LABOR DAY ROUNDUP: While more Michigan schools opt to open before Labor Day, schools that have taken advantage of the waiver have struggled to get kids in the door before the holiday.    

A MATTER OF POLICY: The state has updated and submitted its ESSA plan to the U.S. Department of Education, this time with a more nuanced “transparent dashboard” instead of the A-F rankings that Gov. Rick Snyder supports.

TURNAROUND…NOT: A large study on school turnarounds shows they don’t help student learning, and schools with more students of color are more likely to be shut down.

IT’S GAME TIME: A Detroit area utility and the owner of the Detroit Pistons are pledging $1 million each to start a Flint Promise program for high school students to go to college. But to help every kid, they need more donors.  

THE BIG PAYBACK: A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against the Detroit schools after the board of education agreed to pay $28 million to a janitorial company.  

HIGH STAKES: Learn what you need to know as Michigan’s third-grade reading law takes effect. Then find your school’s third-grade reading scores.

STEM, ANYONE? A Michigan State University grant will help researchers design programs that put computers into high school physics classrooms. A new digital learning and competition platform coming to schools in Detroit encourages more students to enter STEM and advanced manufacturing fields.

EXTRA CREDIT: Schools and parents can use this online tool to help navigate back-to-school shopping. This teacher’s school was almost shut down by the state. And the Wayne County Family Aquatic Center will host a back-to-school enrollment fair with the Detroit district from 11-3 Saturday at Chandler Park on the city’s east side. Admission is free.