THINKING FOR OURSELVES
Mega school madness
By Shea Howell
Michigan Citizen, June 6-12, 2010
Last week Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb announced the first three construction and renovation projects funded by the $500.5 million bond program approved by Detroit voters. The contracts for the three schools, Martin Luther King Jr. Senior High School, John R. King Academic and Performing Arts Academy, and Marcus Garvey Academy total $64.1 million.
The DPS announcement of the plan says it will mean more jobs for Detroit residents and more work for Detroit-based companies. Up to 1,375 Detroiters will be hired for these first school projects.
Manager Bobb said, "Today is an exciting day for Detroit Public Schools, Detroit residents and the City of Detroit. Thanks to voters passing Proposal S, DPS is about to launch three major construction and renovation projects that will mean state-of-the-art learning facilities for our students that are bound to attract families and improve neighborhoods. And as we promised during our campaign, we are pleased that the bond program is aiding Detroit's economy by awarding work to Detroit residents and Detroit companies."
In normal times such an announcement would be welcome news. But these are far from normal times. Manager Bobb has demonstrated an astonishing combination of arrogance and bullying. His plans, plotted without any meaningful public discussion, lack any sound educational basis. Along with the shift toward charter schools, Manager Bobb is touting the creation of mega campuses, containing K - 14 students. This consolidation of grade levels and massing students on a single campus is exactly the opposite of the direction advocated by most educators. Small schools, not mega schools, provide the best learning environment.
For years urban educators have been struggling with how to create schools-within -schools to provide a more personal and individualized educational experience for children. Often burdened with consolidated school systems, people have devised innovative programs to create the small school atmosphere.
Instead of using resources to foster this approach, Manager Bobb wants to cram more young people into consolidated areas. Such efforts are antithetical to what our children need because controlling masses of young people takes precedence over providing a creative, imaginative and supportive learning environment.
Moreover, the creation of these mega campuses is now being used as a vehicle to destroy neighborhoods. The plan to consolidate a K-14 campus at Western International and Earhart schools includes the taking of 20 homes in Hubbard Farms.
This decision has never been discussed in any open meeting, nor have there been meetings with residents who are at risk.
Hubbard Farms is an historic Detroit Neighborhood. Boasting homes built primarily from the 1870's through the1920's, it is an area lovingly maintained and cared for, sometimes by families who have lived there for five generations. It is the kind of stable community that holds memories capable of inspiring hope for the future. It is the kind of community that people move to, for the quality of life it offers families.
Now Manager Bobb and Mayor Bing are planning to tear down these homes. Mayor Bing has taken great pains to create the illusion that his massive demolition program will be aimed at "vacant land" where only "one or two" houses remain occupied.
Instead, it appears that Bing's wrecking ball, directed by Bobb, is aimed straight at one of our most viable neighborhoods.
Destroying well-loved and cared-for neighborhoods to create massive mega schools makes no sense at all. If the elected officials will not stop this madness, the rest of us need to rally with the citizens of Hubbard Farms who only wish to be left in their homes in peace. Whatever Bobb and Bing think they are doing, it is not in support of our children or our communities.