CitizenDetroit, defined as a “civic engagement initiative of Wayne State University,” held a dinner and dialogue at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul to discuss the history and future of the Detroit Public School system on Wednesday, June 9.
While the event was hosted by keynote speakers WSU President Emeritus Irvin D. Reid and former member of the Detroit City Council Sheila Cockel, the event focused primarily on discussion between those in attendance.
Major issues discussed included possible selection criteria for the new superintendent, the impact of charter schools and the impeding effects of the $617 million package passed by the Michigan Legislature.
According to CitizenDetroit, the bill included a plan to split the current district into two separate districts and change the necessary qualifications for teachers.
One Detroit resident and former teacher, Kay Buckner-Seal, was upset that the legislation will allow the school board to vote whether an unqualified teacher can be placed into the classroom on a case-by-case basis.
“Why would they do something like that to our kids in Detroit? I think it’s terrible. And it has really disturbed me that they would pass something like that. They would not do that in any other city in this state,” she said.
Lawrence Robinson, a CitizenDetroit facilitator and a WSU student pursuing a master’s degree in social work, said that the CitizenDetriot event is a way for community members to voice their concerns.
“A lot of people who vote can come here and voice their opinion...they also get a chance to share their ideas with each other, and that information is taken up by CitizenDetroit and is used to produce more programming as well as reported back to the mayor’s office so that they can know what the people in the community are saying,” he said.
Robinson explained that district managers and some council members attend the CitizenDetroit meetings, and participate and interact with residents of Detroit.
“It’s wonderful that we get to actually be in contact with our community leaders and that we get to talk to them regularly,” he said.
Robinson encourages other WSU students to get involved with CitizenDetroit events because it’s a way to make the city a “better place to live and work and play.”
Reid also hopes more WSU students will get involved in CitizenDetroit events.
“The students have become much more an integral part of the community...my view has always been from the time I was a faculty member to the time I was an administrator, that only 20 percent of all the learning that you do during your university years take place in the classroom,” he said.
“You can get As and exceed and still not get the best education. The laboratory in which our urban students live is the best laboratory. It is the laboratory in which they can engage, they can experiment, they can learn and they can also teach. And that’s what I think CitizenDetroit will allow us to do.”
Contact reporter Amanda Rahn: email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @amandarahn3