Detroit voters are getting their chance this election season to weigh in on the future of the Detroit Public Schools Community District, as they decide who will fill four school board seats that are up for grabs.
Chronic absenteeism. Mental health. Learning loss. Enrollment losses. These are among the issues most of the candidates weighed in on in response to questions Chalkbeat Detroit posed to them for this voter guide.
The Nov. 8 general election comes at a pivotal time for the Detroit school district. The pandemic has created or worsened a number of challenges, among the top ones being chronic absenteeism, which has surged. Students have left the district in large numbers in recent years. Youth leaders are advocating for increased mental health resources and safe spaces. And the district is investing federal COVID relief funds toward tutoring programs to address student learning loss in reading.
All that will be on the agenda of the school board. The seven-member board oversees the roughly 49,000-student district, approves contracts, and votes on policies that are implemented by Superintendent Nikolai Vitti and his staff.
School board members are the connective tissue between district officials and the broader student, staff, and family community that makes up DPSCD. A change in the board’s makeup could have significant ramifications for the district’s long-term reform efforts.
Over the last month, Chalkbeat reached out to all 18 candidates running for board seats with questions about their positions. Among the candidates are the four incumbents, several former school board members, a couple of parents, a few former educators, and a recent graduate.
Below you’ll find responses from 14 of the 18 candidates. The other four did not complete the questionnaire, despite our multiple attempts to get responses. Entries were lightly edited for spelling and punctuation.
Chalkbeat Detroit will continue to provide coverage leading up to Election Day. And at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 13, Chalkbeat and WDET 101.9 FM will co-host a virtual candidate forum. Voters can hear directly from candidates on the topics that matter the most to them.
This event is free to attend, but you must RSVP to receive the Zoom information. You can also let us know what questions you have for the candidates when you sign up. Register for the event here.
Ethan Bakuli is a reporter for Chalkbeat Detroit covering Detroit Public Schools Community District. Contact Ethan at email@example.com.