Detroit will never be the same.
When Excellent Schools Detroit (ESD) opened its doors in 2010, for the first time families were able to be a part of the process of reviewing schools and reporting to the public what a good school was and wasn’t.
These schools’ scorecards became what families used to select k-12 schools and opened the door for pre-k visits. The Education Detroit Magazine evaluations were requested by families throughout the city and state — out-of-state too.
I remember my first visit to a school on the east side of Detroit. Walking the hallways and observing whether the school had a safe and caring environment, checking out playgrounds and surrounding areas, was the most empowering moment I’d ever experienced.
A year later I was asked to join the process as a parent team leader. Me, lead a team of thoughtful community members through such an amazing process? I was so honored.
In 2014 I leapt at the opportunity to join ESD staff to recruit and manage the early learning scorecard process. It was not a job, it was a partnership. Every school, pre-k program, private home center, parent, teacher, funder and child that I was fortunate enough to engage with changed my life. I intentionally built relationships that extended beyond work with every one of them.
We did it for the children. We did it for the future children and we did it to force change and accountability.
Excellent Schools Detroit has been a driving force for change like no other organization in the city of Detroit. The programs incubated there, like those below, touched lives.
Early learning Scorecard
Collective Impact Work
CDA Community Partnerships
E3 Early Educators Excel
Admin Management Partnership
Kick Off to Kindergarten
Detroit College Access Network
Detroit College Day
Reading Readiness Programs and more
These are the projects I was fortunate to work on. Whether outreach or managing, it was important work.
I shared with Denice Smith, VP of Early Childhood, that I have grown so much because of the leadership there and know that they prepared me for my future. To be trusted with such great work and given a space where parent voice was an asset instead of noise to be stifled! I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
So to, Dan Varner, Armen Hratchian, Ashley Johnson, Eric Anderson, Dan Fitzpatrick, Shawness Woods, Jillian Webb, Jody Lee, Alicia Williams, Bethany Patton, Quan Edgar, Tonya Heidelberg, Walter Cook, Katheran Foran, Krista McKlure, Myesha Williams, Henry Wells, Quirico Ziraldo, Kinyatta Cooper, Jamila Martin, Molly Sweeny, Melanie D’evelyn, Nicole DeBeaufort, Kristina Campa Gruca and Maria Montoya. To every reviewer, team leader and Ed Center staff member, you gave me fuel for the fire.
This group of geniuses worked day in and day out for the children of our city. We raised issues in meeting rooms that drove increases in accountability. We raised issues and never backed down until someone heard us. We never burned bridges but built and at times reinforced those that were tattered and about to crumble. We crossed those bridges to face opposition on the other side and broke bread together as an effort to make life better for children.
We pushed no agendas that would not benefit the future of children and those who educate them. Hard conversations became our norm and uncomfortable places our seats at the table. I remember Dan Varner pleading with legislators as tears flowed from his eyes and his throat filled with grief for the students. “Don’t do this to the children” was his plea. Watching it from our office computers was hard. We all mourned that day.
Excellent Schools Detroit was a place for the brave. They made me brave, braver than I ever thought I would be. We poured our passion into every project. We fought the good fight, the fight for true accountability. Our enemies became our peers who sat beside us to fight for what they know is right. That every child — every single one — should have access to an excellent education.
Know this! In the sunset of ESD we did not grow tired. This sunset is not an end to the passion behind the work that we have done. It is the dawning of a new day for each and every last one of us. The data lives on! Early childhood educators will continue to excel and their focus will be clearer. College-bound students will continue to gain better access. And parents have been empowered to Learn, Apply, Enroll.
We in our individual new paths will continue to speak up for accountability and access for all families. We have no other choice; it’s in our DNA.
I salute you all and know that I am a better person with every lesson learned at Excellent Schools Detroit.