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Parents Hear Pitch For the New Detroit School District

JC Reindl, Detroit Free Press, April 2, 2017

Hundreds of parents and their school-age children spent Sunday afternoon seeing and hearing reasons for attending Detroit Public Schools Community District, which is poised this summer to regain some of its previous size when a so-called state reform district disbands.

The event, held inside Shed 3 in the city's Eastern Market, was billed as a “S.T.E.A.M.y Showcase” and featured demonstrations of the science, technology, engineering, arts and math being taught and produced at all grade levels of the district's schools. 

Although the shorter "STEM" acronym is more common in education, in Detroit "we call it STEAM because there is an A for the arts. That is an important piece," said Steven Wasko, head of enrollment for the district.

The event was aimed not only at boosting enrollment, but also at welcoming families already in DPS and those in the Education Achievement Authority who will join the district this summer when the authority shuts down and returns its 15 schools to DPS.

The Education Achievement Authority opened in 2012 as a state reform district for low-performing schools but has been plagued by steep enrollment declines, high staff turnover, mismanagement allegations and other problems. All of its schools were formerly part of DPS.

The EAA has eight of the 24 city schools that state officials earlier this year identified for potential closure for ranking in the bottom 5% academically for three straight years. DPS has the other 16 schools.

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But all of those possible closures might be avoided under a turnaround plan still being developed, utilizing help from four state universities.

Sunday's event was to exhibit some of the best work happening in individual DPS schools. Visitors saw arts and crafts projects, student-built robots and music and dance productions.

They also met with top-performing DPS students, including Jared Jenkins, 18, a senior at Davis Aerospace Technical High School. who will soon have his pilot's license. After graduation, Jenkins will attend on scholarship the U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School, where most students go on to enter the U.S. Air Force Academy. His goal is to someday pilot F22 stealth fighters.

"It opened a lot of doors for me," he said of Davis Aerospace. "I was flying airplanes solo before I got my driver's license."

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