Detroit Parent Network was created in 2002 by parents who wanted to give parents more of a voice in their children’s schools and educational options. They served as founding board members of Detroit Parent Network and most continue to serve on the board to this day. Three foundations (the Annie E. Casey, Skillman and Thompson foundations) each made a three-year, investment to give the organization time and stability to grow.
Tonya Allen served as the organization’s founding executive director and continues to serve as a board member. When she was recruited by the Skillman Foundation in 2004 (where she now serves as president and CEO), DPN hired Sharlonda Buckman, who served as CEO and President for 13 years. Under Sharlonda’s leadership, DPN grew into a nationally-respected voice for parents. In 2017, Sharlonda joined Dr.Nikolai Vitti’s cabinet at the Detroit Public Schools Community District to lead their work in family and parental engagement.
Faced with citywide educational outcomes that consistently ranked the lowest in the nation, DPN throughout its history has been fiercely committed to ensuring that parents have the information and tools they need to help their own children succeed and to help forge better outcomes across the city. The core of our work has always been courses facilitated by parents, ranging from Love & Logic to leadership development. Our organization grew exponentially in 2010 when we partnered with Detroit Public Schools to create Parent Resource Centers that hosted 25,000 visitors in one year alone. Given the continuing changes in Detroit’s educational landscape, we made a strategic shift in 2017 to become more neighborhood-focused (instead of school-based) to achieve our mission to help all parents and others be better champions for their children.
One of the things that make Detroit Parent Network unique is that it is a membership organization—unlike almost every other for-impact organization in Detroit. Members, who pay $10 per year in annual dues, are responsible for electing the Board members to govern the organization, which is the basis of our Annual Breakfast each year.