Message to Our New School Board

By Arlyssa Heard

I am sure the elections of 2016 will be remembered as one of the most historic elections in our history.  This election cycle was about more than just popular names on the ballot, but some might argue, that it was about freedom, ideology, opportunity, and natural life.   Not only were there historic decisions being made on a national level, but Detroiters were casting their votes for the long-awaited Detroit Public School Board (Community District). 

 We have all watched the sweeping challenges and changes that have occurred in Detroit Public Schools for more than a decade.   In addition to countless injuries that Detroit Public Schools had to endure, we witnessed an insult to democracy, as the powers of the Detroit School Board were rendered null for more than 7 years due to Emergency Management aka “state takeover”.   

 Earlier this year, our state legislators passed an education bill that was designed to help lift DPS out of debt, keep teachers on their jobs, and return power back to an elected school board.    Although I expected new people to run for school board, I couldn’t have imagined more than 70 + people willing to take on the challenge.   In the end, 63 people made the final cut and were certified to have their names placed on the ballot.   63 individuals running for 7 positions…. Talk about beating the odds.

Although most of the former school board members were running for re-election, Detroit voters decided to do something different.  They elected 6 new members to the school board and re-elected 1 incumbent.  I believe Detroit made a statement with the electing of 6 new members.  Even though many voters may not have been familiar with most of the candidates (including the former school board members), voters knew enough to elect a new body that coincides with a new chapter, new page in the book of Detroit Public Schools Community District. 

As the “changing of the guard” officially taking place in January 2017, this new school board must hit the ground running.  With the academic future of our children at stake, the talk of more school closures this year, the on-going fiscal stability of DPSCD, stabilizing enrollment, retaining and attracting good teachers, building conditions, exploding class sizes, etc.  This new school board will have its hands full for the next few years. 

Even though I wasn’t asked, I have a few things on my wish list for the New DPSCD school board members:  1.) Visit the schools on a regular basis- be visible to staff, students and families.  2.) Engage parents and the community a LOT more- host coffee hours attend parent meetings, host a parent night out, etc.  3.) Come up with an effective legislative strategy- build bridges and needed connections with Lansing lawmakers (not ONLY the Detroit caucus) 4.) Decide which of the bitter battles from the past you will discontinue and which, if any, is worth continuing- and if so, develop a new strategy.  5.) Figure out a way to effectively communicate with the general public- they need to know who you are, what you’re working on and how they can be involved in helping to move DPSCD forward.  6.) Engage the youth to actively participate- possibly student councils can run a mock meeting or serve as a moderator, etc.

Because this new board brings to the table a wealth of experience, talent, fresh ideas, and knowledge of DPS history, I believe it is just the right mix to keep them focused on the MAIN objective: the children.  Good Luck!

What are your thoughts on the new Detroit Public School Community District? Let us know on our Facebook page at Detroit Schools Rock or our Twitter page @DSchoolsRock. #Voices4Ed #Detroiteducation #allkidsmatter