Detroit Children's Fund launches talent development program in city schools

The Detroit Children's Fund has brought the New York-based School Empowerment Network to Detroit to strengthen existing leadership and talent in the city's schools.

A $900,000 grant from the fund will support the launch of that work dubbed the Team Fellow program and additional talent-development programs for other schools in the city. 

In the initial cohort of the Team Fellow program, principals and teachers at three schools in Detroit will receive strategic direction and support to help them focus on a vision for their school, build an inclusive culture, raise academic expectations and create positive momentum for their school community.

The first schools to receive the support are Detroit Achievement Academy and Detroit Prep (both public charter schools) and Mumford Academy in the Detroit Public Schools Community District. 

The aim is to help those schools improve student performance from good to great, said Jack Elsey, executive director of Detroit Children's Fund, said in an emailed statement.

"School Empowerment Network brings a wealth of successful school management experience in both new-start and turnaround schools, and under district and charter school governance," he said. 

Its founder, Alex Shub, ran the New York City Department of Education Office of New Schools and has been involved in developing and launching hundreds of new schools, including founding and leading one of the most successful district high schools in New York City, Elsey said.

"All three of the selected schools have demonstrated solid initial student growth results and have seeded positive and productive school cultures. We're excited to help them take their performance to the next level in service of Detroit children," he said. 

The new programs follows a $5 million grant from the Detroit Children's Fund last fall to support the growth of New Paradigm for Education, a Detroit charter school operator whose schools perform above state averages. The goal, Skillman said, is to expand quality school options in the city. 

New Paradigm high schools boast a 100 percent college acceptance rate. Its crown jewel school, Detroit Edison Public School Academy, is the only Michigan charter school to be named a Michigan Exemplary Blue Ribbon School.

Beyond its first two grants, Detroit Children's Fund is taking a "critical look" at teacher and leader talent pipelines, Elsey said. 

"There are far too many teacher vacancies in Detroit. Our children deserve better," he said. 

Those efforts are part of the fund's ambitious goal to expand high-performing schools in Detroit by creating 25,000 seats for K-12 students in strong Detroit schools by 2025.

In October, Elsey said only about 6,000 of the 85,000 seats in all Detroit schools are in high-performing schools.

To get to that, the fund is helping high-performing schools add more seats, bringing proven models from other parts of the country to Detroit and investing in leadership talent development.

Picking up the charge and an ambitious fundraising goal to support it are four new Detroit Children's Fund board membersd: Tony Barra, a retired technology consultant and the husband of General Motors Co. President Mary Barra; Tony Cervone, senior vice president, global communications for GM and head of its corporate giving; Wright Lassiter III, president and CEO of Henry Ford Health System; and Matt Simoncini, recently retired president and CEO of Lear Corp. and Crain's 2017 Newsmaker of the Year.

As of October, the fund had raised nearly $16 million of a $75 million-$100 million goal. Elsey said it expects to raise between $8 million and $10 million more this year.