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Detroit Charter School Votes to Close, Gives Students and Parents Two Days Notice

September 29, 2018

Rather than assess its situation and make the decision to close during the summer break, the board of Detroit Delta Preparatory Academy for Social Justice decided to leave its faculty and students in a profound fix by voting on a Wednesday to close two days later– and the day before homecoming, to boot.

closed sign 2

Take a moment to process the ensuing shock among students, parents, and faculty.

According to the Detroit Delta Academy board, the cause of the closure is low enrollment, an issue that the Detroit Delta Academy board should have been aware of in the months prior to the 2018-19 school year.

From the September 26, 2018, Detroit Free Press:

Less than a month into the school year, a Detroit charter school is shutting its doors — leaving nearly 200 students and their parents in the lurch.

In a contentious, emotional meeting Wednesday, the board of education for the Detroit Delta Preparatory Academy for Social Justice voted 4-1 to shut down, effective Oct. 1.

The decision left many of the high school’s students in tears.

“Everybody was breaking down,” said Ajah Jenkins, 17, a senior at the school, which had just begun its fifth year of operation.

Ajah called her mother, Kelye King, “crying, hysterical, screaming, saying, ‘My school’s closing. How am I going to graduate,’ ” King recounted.

Saturday is supposed to be the school’s homecoming. It’s unclear whether it’ll still happen, said King, who is upset because she believes the school should have given parents a heads-up that this might happen.

“I’m just disappointed. I entrusted her education to a group of people — they’re making me feel like I failed her, like I didn’t do enough research.”

The last day of classes will be Friday, said Ronald Rizzo, director of the charter school office at Ferris State University. Ferris State is the school’s authorizer.

Rizzo said enrollment concerns prompted the board to close.

“It’s really unfortunate,” Rizzo said. “It’s a terrible time to have this happen.

“They opened this year … hopeful that with all the shuffling that occurs in the Detroit area,” enrollment would improve, Rizzo said.

At its peak, the school enrolled 344 students during the 2016-17 school year.

He said the board opted to close now rather than wait until November or December.

“They weren’t certain they were going to be able to be financially viable throughout the year,” Rizzo said. …

Jack Elsey, executive director of the Detroit Children’s Fund, was critical of Ferris State in a statement Wednesday.

“Authorizers have a responsibility to their students and their families first and foremost, and closing any school just a month into the new school year is, at best, problematic for families and at worst, could have a long-lasting negative effect on students.  Detroit Children’s Fund believes that authorizers need to be advocates for the children that attend their schools.” …

Renee Burgess, president of EQUITY Education — the school’s management company — said in a letter posted to the school’s Facebook page that she is troubled by the board’s decision. Burgess said the decision “was made in isolation, by the school board. It is neither the wish or will of EQUITY to close at this time.”

“It is wrong to educationally evict children from their school, particularly once the school year has started,” Burgess said. “The instability and trauma that is created when you close a school will remain with these children.” …

The school has struggled academically since it began. Earlier this year, the Michigan Department of Education identified it as among a few dozen new schools whose chronic low performance required state intervention. …

… [Parent Kelye King] said, there was no inkling the school was teetering on closure.

“I feel like they kept the parents in the dark,” she said.

The school’s website does not include the news of its closure; however, it does still feature a now-defunct enrollment application.

There is a closure message, dated September 26, 2018, on Detroit Delta Academy’s Facebook page:

Dear Detroit Delta Academy Parents:

As you may already be aware, the Board of Delta Preparatory Academy for Social Justice voted to cease operations as of Monday, October 1, 2018. Please know the Board reluctantly made this decision, but it was necessary for the best interest of the students enrolled in the academy, both academically and fiscally.

Moving forward, representatives from surrounding traditional public-school districts and academies will be available to assist parents in transitioning their students to another educational institution prior to the First Wednesday Count, Wednesday, October 3, 2018.

Two transitional meetings will be held at the school at 5:30 pm:

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2018

&

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2018

The Board of Directors regrets this major inconvenience, but the decision had to be made in the best interest of students who are currently enrolled at Detroit Delta Preparatory Academy of Social Justice.

Regrettably,

The Board of Directors,

Detroit Delta Preparatory Academy for Social Justice.

And here is the letter (posted on Facebook and mentioned in the Detroit Free Press article) from Equity Public Schools (Detroit Delta Academy’s management org), in which Equity CEO Renee Burgess likens the closure to an educational eviction (text first, then letter to follow):

Dear Delta Preparatory Academy families:

It is with great duress and sadness that I send this letter to you. At the conclusion of the September 26th special board meeting, the Delta School Board has decided to close the Academy.

I want to emphasize and clearly state for the record that this was a decision made in isolation, by the school board. It is neither the wish or will of EQUITY to close at this time. As an organization, and personally as a parent, I believe it is wrong to educationally evict children from their school, particularly once the school year has started. The instability and trauma that is created when you close a school will remain with these children. I am troubled by the decision the board has made. As an organization we are founded on the principle that inequitable education is the greatest injustice in our society and that choice and access is the only way to level the playing field for our youth. What has been done today by the school board reinforces this injustice and serves no benefit to children.

I take seriously the need to have every single student at this Academy in a quality school tomorrow. My team and I are here for you to immediately ensure all students are provided a quality education. Our network high school principals are available to discuss placement options with students and families. We want to assure all of the families at Delta, that while this decision was certainly not made by us, we are here to see you through this difficult and unnecessary transition. Below I have included the contact information for two EQUITY Public schools that are ready to accept your students so that they may transfer to an EQUITY school as early as tomorrow. Please feel free to call, email, or come to the schools listed below to enroll your child and know that we are here for you and your family during this transition.

Sincerely,

Renee Burgess
President, EQUITY Education

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Below is parent Kelye King’s response, in part, on Facebook to Equity’s letter:

There was a better way to handle this my child has attended this school almost four years. I have gotten a robo call, Remind app notification and voicemails almost everyday .Why was there not one notice sent home to parents? If this was a possibility why allow them to start the school year and buy uniforms. They are excited about school and moving on to college. My child is a senior and you have CRUSHED the belief that you had their best interest at heart. …

On the school’s Facebook page is a September 28, 2018, announcement that Detroit Leadership Academy Middle School/High (DLA-U) School (another Equity school) will accept all Detroit Delta Academy students:

The DLA-U Family is happy to welcome all of our Detroit Delta Preparatory Academy students and families on Monday, October 1, 2018. Below is some information to help the transition on Monday. Feel free to call the school at 313-769-2015 or come by with any questions we can answer prior to.

School Day Hours: 7:45 A.M. – 2:55 P.M.; Thursday (early release) 7:45 A.M. – 1:45 P.M.

Uniform: Dress Code w/Prohibited Items

Bag/backpack Rule: All bags/backpacks should be stored in student lockers.

Electronic Device Policy: All electronic devices (cell phones, headphones, earbuds, etc.) are not to be audible or visible except during lunch in the cafeteria.

DLA also included a bus schedule on Facebook.

The Equity letter does not mention the Detroit Delta Academy faculty, who found out only days ago that they are out of a job.

According to Detroit Delta Academy’s Facebook page, homecoming is still happening.

School choice:

Homecoming on Saturday; mandatory new school on Monday.

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Detroit Delta Academy homecoming– the day after the school closed down

__________________________________________________________________________________

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

2 Comments
  1. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    This is what social justice in Detroit has become thanks to an indifferent authoriizer.

  2. LisaM permalink

    Gotta wonder if they opened long enough to get their tax money for enrollment?

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