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Panelists at Detroit's first State of the Schools address. From left: Sascha Raiyn (WDET TV), Erin Einhorn (Chalkbeat Detroit), Robert Kimball (associate vice president for charter schools at Grand Valley State University), Nikolai Vitti (superintendent of Detroit Public Schools Community District) and Cindy Schumacher (executive director of the Gov. John Engler Center for Charter Schools at Central Michigan University).

Panelists at Detroit’s first State of the Schools address. From left: Sascha Raiyn (WDET TV), Erin Einhorn (Chalkbeat Detroit), Robert Kimball (associate vice president for charter schools at Grand Valley State University), Nikolai Vitti (superintendent of Detroit Public Schools Community District) and Cindy Schumacher (executive director of the Gov. John Engler Center for Charter Schools at Central Michigan University).

Mark your calendars: Here are four chances to dig into the issues facing Detroit schools

As we at Chalkbeat work to cover education in Detroit, we’re keeping our ears to the ground by participating in four upcoming events that will help drive the conversation about improving Detroit schools.

It’s our job to listen to the community and amplify its concerns and its stories, and these events give us a chance to do just that.

They include a school board candidate forum on Sept. 20, a listening session for parents of English learners on Sept. 25, a storytelling event for educators on Oct. 6, and the second annual State of the School Address later in October.

With that, Detroiters, it’s time to pull out your calendars.

Come meet the candidates for Detroit school board, speed-dating style

On Thursday, Sept. 20, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at IBEW Local 58,1358 Abbott St. in Detroit, CitizenDetroit and Chalkbeat Detroit will host a forum with the nine candidates for Detroit School Board. After a brief training in how to evaluate political candidates, attendees will get a chance to interact with each would-be member of the school board in a speed-dating format.

“It’s the very essence of democracy,” said Sheila Cockrel, executive director of CitizenDetroit, about the event. “The majority of people want to participate in civic life in an informed and engaged way. And the way to achieve that is to have good, factual information that is accurate. People want to support candidates that reflect their values and their interests and their priorities, and the structure of this event ups the possibility that people will make an informed decision.”

We’ll be covering the action and sharing dispatches with readers.

Parents of English learners will share their experiences

The following week, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m on Tuesday, Sept. 25, Brilliant Detroit, the Detroit Parent Network, Congress of Communities, and Chalkbeat Detroit will hold a listening session with parents of English learners. The law guarantees these children an education on par with their peers who speak English at home, yet in Michigan their graduation rates are far lower.

In this latest stop on Chalkbeat Detroit’s Listening Tour (see the results of the last stop here), parents will share their experiences and strategies for ensuring that each child receives a quality education. Reporters for Chalkbeat Detroit will be on hand to record participants’ stories, which will be published online in an effort to bring parent concerns to the attention of district leaders and policymakers.

The reason for the event is simple, said Cindy Eggleton, CEO of Brilliant Detroit. Parents “should be part of giving feedback about what they need for their kids.”

The free event will be held at the headquarters of Brilliant Detroit, 5675 Larkins St. in Southwest Detroit. Free childcare will be available, and a light lunch will be served after the discussion.

“Dynamic activist teachers” will take the stage

Tale the Teacher, a storytelling event that’s now in its third year, is scheduled for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Oct. 6. Run by Joy Mohammed, a counselor at Western International High School, the event is also a fundraiser for Mohammed’s Scholarship Detroit Initiative. She said the funds will go to one Detroit student at the end of the year.

The event, which will take place at the Lyft Lounge at MusicTown Detroit, 2301 Woodward Ave., will feature the stories of five educators including teachers, a social worker and a counselor. Mohammed said district, charter, and private schools will all be represented.

The theme of the event is “what teachers really think,” but that doesn’t mean the storytellers are coming to complain about students or administrators.

On the contrary, Mohammed said, she chose educators with powerful stories to tell. Among them are a social studies teacher who developed a curriculum that teaches black history from a black perspective and a physics teacher who talks about training young African-American students to “infiltrate” fields like science and math, where people of color are underrepresented.

“I’m only doing dynamic activist teachers,” Mohammed said. “These are people who do very unique things in their classroom.”

Mohammed says she’s hoping teachers will come to the event looking for inspiration.

“I want them to hear these narratives about how they’ve impacted students’ lives and be reinvigorated about their roles.”

The event is free, with a suggested donation of $10 for the scholarship fund, but space is limited, so be sure to RSVP online. Chalkbeat will record the stories and post video of the best ones on our site.

Education leaders will lay out their vision for the city

Later in October, we’ll moderate and cover the second annual State of the Schools Address hosted by 482 Forward, an advocacy group made up of Detroit parents and students. Detroit school leaders and educators will share their thoughts on the challenges facing schools, and audience members will have a chance to ask them questions directly. The date, time, and speaker lineup for the event will be finalized soon.

“There are huge changes facing schools in Detroit this year,” said Jamila Martin, director of operations of 482 Forward. “Partnership agreements are hitting their first benchmarks, the third-grade reading law takes effect for the first time, and a new governor and almost entirely new Legislature could mean massive changes in funding, school grading and teacher evaluations. And two new school board members will be elected for Detroit Public Schools Community District. State of the schools is an opportunity for the leaders of the school systems in Detroit to lay out their responses to and plans for all of those changes.”

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