An esteemed group of Detroit’s most prominent educators gathered at Wayne Community College’s downtown campus in a town hall forum to discuss findings of the Michigan Chronicle’s ACHIEVE! school choice guide and possible solutions to one of the city’s most pressing problems – quality education for Detroit’s children. Assembled on the panel of distinguished experts were such academic notables as: Dan Quissenberry, President, Michigan Association of Public School Administrators; Tonya Allen, Chief Operating Officer, Skillman Foundation; Sharlonda Buckman, Executive Director, Detroit Parent Network; Karen Ridgeway, Superintendent of Academics, Detroit Public Schools; Tyrone Winfrey, Senior Chief of Staff, Education Achievement Authority, and Dr. George Swanson lll, Vice Chancellor of External Affairs, Wayne Community College.
And while the tone of the discussion was at times contentious, the content was informative and the overall consensus is that while the Detroit Public School system is plagued with a myriad of problems from poorly performing schools, impoverished neighborhoods, absent parents and under qualified teachers – taking all of these factors into consideration – educational opportunities for Detroit’s youngest citizens are improving.
Moderated by Bankole Thompson, Senior Editor of the Michigan Chronicle and Vicki Thomas of WWJ Radio, panelists delved in to a robust discourse regarding the state of affairs in Detroit public schools and shared their visions of what a quality educational environment in Detroit would involve.
Michigan Chronicle publisher, Hiram Jackson lead the charge to hold educators responsible for the dismal conditions in the Detroit school system, reflecting the sentiment of many audience members, saying that he was appalled by the failing rating of so many of the city’s schools. “We did this town hall meeting because this is serious business. The only way to turn the community around is improving education. At what point do we hold people accountable? At what point do we run people out of town? What does the future of public education look like? Where are we going to be in 5 years?”
Buckman cautioned participants to not place the bulk of responsibility for student underachievement in the laps of parents. “We need to stay away from the blame game. We have to meet parents where they are. Maybe we can create a situation where parents can conference in for parent teacher conferences like business people do at work.”
But in a particularly heated exchange between panelists Allen and Ridgeway regarding the number and location of quality, high performing schools in Detroit, Allen charged that the best performing schools were “along the Woodward corridor and not in the neighborhoods which are education deserts.”
For more information on Michigan Chronicle Town Hall meetings contact the Michigan Chronicle at 313.963.8100.