The Catherine Ferguson Academy to stay open… as a charter school

Everyone seems to be thrilled that Detroit’s Catherine Ferguson Academy for pregnant and parenting teens avoided closure today by announcing plans to be reborn as a charter school. I’d like to be optimistic, but I find it hard to believe that a for-profit charter school would be able to provide the same level of service for its students, especially when this new entity, according to press reports, will have $2 million less to work with. The following clip comes from the Detroit Free Press:

…”We have found a solution,” said Roy Roberts, emergency manager for DPS. “This is a great day as far as I’m concerned for everyone in this community.”

The operator for the schools will be Evans Solutions, the same company that operates the Blanche Kelso Bruce Academy. The schools will be authorized and overseen by Wayne Regional Educational Service Agency.

The alternative schools will no longer be part of DPS, but as charter schools they will be open to any student who wants to attend.

Roberts said DPS will save about $2 million by chartering Ferguson.

Only half of teen mothers have a high school diploma by age 22, according to the National Women’s Law Center. But at Ferguson Academy, 90% of students graduate, and for the past nine years, every graduate has been accepted to a two- or four-year college, according to DPS.

At Ferguson, students tend to an award-winning urban garden located on a farm right in the middle of a neighborhood. There’s a horse, rabbits, chickens and a barn powered by a windmill and solar panels on the roof…

For a first hand account of today’s protest-turned-celebration, including photos of movie-star Danny Glover, I’d encourage you to check out my friend Pete’s blog.

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  1. LaidOffTeacherPatti
    Posted June 17, 2011 at 3:00 am | Permalink

    Thanks for saying this, Mark (and for posting my picture on the other post :))…this corporation exists to make people money and as we know, charters are notorious for rejecting “hard to educate” students. I wonder what they are going to do with this opportunity and to the teachers. I am happy the school will be open but I am anxious to see what happens….

  2. Edward
    Posted June 17, 2011 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    I predict the school will be closed down within two years. This, in my opinion, was just a way to avoid the mounting bad press.

  3. Posted June 17, 2011 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    I agree, and that was the general sentiment at the event. It buys a year, though.

    The staff is still concerned that they might lose their jobs. The charters usually bring in their own security and janitorial staff.

    The question of what will happen to those that were arrested during the initial protests is still on the table. Staff and teachers who were arrested are seeking amnesty, and students are still concerend with further reprisals.

    The fight isn’t over yet.

  4. Mr. X
    Posted June 17, 2011 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    The photo of the principal laughing with the DPS Financial Manager made me feel kind of sick. I don’t like the way this is coming across in the press, as though Roy is some kind of good-guy hero in all of this, who found a way to save the school. As for the $2 million in cuts, does anyone know if that’s per year, or over a multi-year period? I’d like to know what percentage of the school’s annual budget is being cut in order to save that $2 million. My guess is that it’s significant.

  5. Maria
    Posted June 18, 2011 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    I argued with Peter Larson, and this article articulates well why I was so frustrated with the whole thing.

  6. Posted June 18, 2011 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Did we argue? I don’t remember that. I agree with you, however. CFA is only the tip of the iceberg. It is, though, a high profile way of drawing attention to the problems of DPS overall.

  7. EOS
    Posted June 18, 2011 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    “But at Ferguson Academy, 90% of students graduate, and for the past nine years, every graduate has been accepted to a two- or four-year college, according to DPS.”

    This is an outright lie that is easily refuted by checking the official DPS website. According to the Detroit News, the school enrolls 100 of the approximately 5000 teen Moms in the DPS and graduates almost none.

  8. LaidOffTeacherPatti
    Posted June 18, 2011 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    Maria, that is a great article. And of course, there a billion things to fix in the school system but I have yet to figure out how we fix the problem of parents not caring, not being around, birthing crack addicted kids, or being kids themselves. Unless we start educating the kids at age 1, most are going to start off far behind their middle class peers. I’ve seen sooooooo many kids come to school with no prior knowledge of anything. Not knowing the name of their street or their not understanding common references to things…it’s almost like they just sit around and no one talks to them until they show up at school at age 5. Some of the kids know they are the “breadwinners” in the family, as their monthly check provides a large chunk of income. Too many kids are being “grown” and not “raised”…that is, they show up like a flower you didn’t plan on growing and you just give it some water and let it go….

  9. Maria
    Posted June 18, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, I know they are behind educationally, and all that…I feel sometimes that they are treated as lesser people for that, and that bothers me a lot.
    I’m no fan of charters, that’s hardly the answer, it’s like you get to step on a different part of the breaking rope ladder. Ultimately, I’ve always thought Detroit likely has to be downsized, or cut into different pieces, like NYC,maybe boroughs, maybe different cities or towns,, and have council people and elected officials that are responsible for their little part of the world, for higher accountability. It’s not like people who live there don’t realize the situation, but hell, when the city buses hit Eight Mile then turn around back to the city, there’s a bit of nobody wants us and the population becomes even more insular.

  10. FoodFighter
    Posted June 19, 2011 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    I’ve been involved in this story for awhile & here are two pieces I wrote recently about it. The first was after the May 10 march through Detroit, published in the June edition of iSPY & the second is simply a short update + photos after attending Thursday’s rally

    I would add that the whole EFM rationale about insufficient funds driving the closures & cut-backs is simply a rationalization they are using to promote Charter takeover. It is not reflective of the financial reality of the school. I have been to CFA twice in the last two weeks & both times that I was there (once as a guest on a class field trip for students from Roberto Clemente & once at the rally), I was reminded by faculty & staff that although the school costs $1.7 million a year to run, $1 million of that comes from federal grant money as all their students are considered ‘high risk’. With that said, that boils down to about $300,000 more than other DPS schools (aka ~$2000 per student). So, in other words, for those of you who think this is all about financing–think again– it much more a political maneuver to remove the job security for DPS teachers while also silencing a marginalized yet empowered population that has been slowly gaining a voice.

    & I urge all of you to watch ‘Grown in Detroit’, the award-winning film about CFA, if you have not already.

  11. FoodFighter
    Posted June 19, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    & Here’s another source for that $$ data that I mentioned.|head

  12. LaidOffTeacherPatti
    Posted June 19, 2011 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Stefanie, nice work! I teach in the district so if you ever want an insider’s view, please let me know :)

  13. Posted June 19, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    I was also troubled by it, so asked Principal Andrews directly about the widely touted “90% graduation rate” when I met with her last week.

    Over the history of the school, 90% of students which have been at CFA for 2 years or more graduate.

    The data on the DPS website represent single years, not an average of many years. My average blood pressure may be 120/70 over my lifetime, but that does not mean that my blood pressure is 120/70 on any given day.

    Principal Andrews indicated that in the past couple of years, they have admitted an inordinately large number of troubled students.

    Girls normally don’t start out at CFA. They transfer in from other schools as a result of pregnancy at any point in the year, sometimes just weeks or days before testing. Many students who transfer in have also been out of school for some time.

    Principal Andrews rightly pointed out that she and CFA should not be held accountable for students who received a substandard education at another school.

    The “90%” number is likely accurate, though I wish that people would state the caveats when quoting it.

    I really would challenge any CFA haters to go to the school and speak with the teachers and students themselves. It may take more time than merely doing a search on the DPS website, but it would give one a better idea of why the school is important.

  14. EOS
    Posted June 19, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    “Over the history of the school, 90% of students which have been at CFA for 2 years or more graduate. ”

    Over the history of the school, how many students have been there for 2 years or more? As reported on the DPS page, they had zero graduates for multiple years. If this is a great school designed to include both mothers and their children, why do so few stay? And if there are valid reasons for not staying, what is the legitimate reason for continuing to fund this very expensive program?

  15. Posted June 19, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    I saw pictures of every single graduating class. I even put a picture of the 2010 graduating class on my blog.

    I talked to several girls who graduated within the past 5 years. Maybe they were lying to me?

    Go down there.

    Or is that just way too much to ask?

  16. EOS
    Posted June 19, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    Should I call in advance to make sure those several girls show up at the same time I do?

  17. Posted June 19, 2011 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    Well, it might help to in advance anyway, though it is summer and there’s likely no one around.

    I realize that you have a serious problem with tax money going to educate anyone at all, least of all poor people, and very least of all, poor black people.

    Maybe they are all lying to me, though I seriously doubt it. At the worst, they are just wrong. I cannot verify their numbers, though it is a stretch to say that no one has graduated. Particularly when I show up the day AFTER graduation and several students come in to get forms signed and talk of what they are doing in the fall. And particularly when I spoke with girls who have graduated from the school from the past 5 years.

    Maybe, though, reporting throughout DPS is poor, and maintenance of the site is poor, I don’t know. It is interesting to me that you would give data such high credibility, given your pattern of skepticism toward data in general.

    I can really only speak to what I was told, and the people that I met. I cannot verify what I was told, though I would like to. I can stand up for the people that I met.

    These were people that you did not meet. You easily could have met them, but chose not to.

    To all, I’m sorry to have fed the troll.

  18. EOS
    Posted June 19, 2011 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    How incredibly stupid! The reporting of graduation rates is mandated by Federal law and guided by precise instructions. You’re now trying to convince me that DPS under reported graduation rates to the Federal government and risked fines and prosecution. But you think talking to a few teenagers at the school is a more credible report. Of course, the principal whose job is on the line and who is of retirement age, has incentive to deceive the public just to keep her cake job for a few more years. Senior pictures are taken in the Fall. Pictures in the yearbook (or on a wall) are not evidence of graduation. I’m using reason while you’re suffering from delusions.

  19. Posted June 19, 2011 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    Look, I’m just telling you what I saw, which is what you didn’t see.

    I guess everyone I spoke with at that school was lying to me.

    Yes, I do find it credible when someone says “I graduated from CFA in 2009 and am now studying criminal justice at a community college” and then lets me take her picture with her daughter. I really don’t know why. Maybe I’m just stupid.

    I cannot verify precise numbers, but I do know that it is not true that the school does not graduate anyone, as you’ve stated.

  20. EOS
    Posted June 19, 2011 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    I stated that there were multiple years where there was not a single graduate, not that no one ever graduated. That’s not a subtle difference. If that is not apparent to you then, yes, you are stupid. You remain consistent with your tactic of distorting everything I write.

  21. Posted June 19, 2011 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    Look, the DPS website says that no one graduated from CFA in 2009.

    As it says above, I personally spoke to a person who claimed to have graduated in 2009.

    If you like, you can go down there and ask them about it. It’s not very far and they are very nice, even the ones closing in on retirement. They would be happy to hear from you.

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