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Students carry signs outside Denby High School to protest educational authority control (Photo/Det News)


Denby HS students rally against EAA takeover

Karen Hudson Samuels/Tell Us Detroit

DETROIT (Tell Us Det) - Over 350 Denby High School students protested outside their school early Friday morning, upset over Denby being placed under the control of the Education Achievement Authority of Michigan.

Chanting “Save our school” students and parents gathered around 6AM for what was termed a ‘lock out”. Assistant Principal Tracie McKissic said the students were also concerned about losing their identification as a Detroit public high school and the possible elimination of sports programs.

Denby Principal Kenyetta Wilbourn said she received a courtesy call from Dr. Karen Ridgeway, Superintendent for Academics, in advance of the EAA takeover announcement. Wilbourn added, “We are not the worst of the worst” and parents in today’s demonstration said Denby has been making progress.

Test scores alone do not take into account progress being made in all areas of school performance explained McKissic. “Denby has improved graduation rates, ranks high in scholarships awards, has high levels of participation in extracurricular activities and has satisfactory ratings from student and teacher surveys. The teachers love their school and are happy to come to work in the morning.”

Statewide schools that ranked in the lowest 5% in academic performance were transferred to the EAA educational authority. Roy Roberts, emergency manager of Detroit Public Schools announced this week that Denby along with five other Detroit high schools and ten elementary schools would be controlled by EAA and undergo transformational change to improve academic performance.

John Covington, Chancellor of the EAA, has plans that include extending the school year to 11 months, bringing in graduates of Teach for America and enhancing teacher development with high tech programs.

When asked about reports that staff and administrators will be fired and must reapply for their jobs under the EAA plan, Principal Wilbourn said it behooved her to tell staff to update their resumes and request letters of recommendation if they want. In the meantime she said “Denby will be open and for students to receive an education” and make it clear “My only responsibility is to educate children to end of school year. “

Tell Us Detroit spoke with Steve Wasko, Chief Communications Officer for DPS who said “There will be no schools closed in the EAA system” and emphasized that being under the umbrella of the educational authority is not a negative statement about current students or the administration of affected schools. Wasko said Principal Wilbourn “Has changed the dynamics and culture of Denby in a short amount of time”.

School principals and the families of the 11,000 affected students were notified in advance by email and phone calls of the pending takeover by EAA said Wasko. The communication also alerted parents to the open enrollment period currently underway until April 5th.

“Meet and greet” sessions with Covington have already been set-up to explain how EAA will work to improve school performance and more are planned in the next few weeks.