DPS skipping new school enrollment site

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News

Correction: This story has been updated to correct information about donors to Excellent Schools Detroit and its Detroit school enrollment initiative. 

A new, privately funded common enrollment system is set to launch Friday with the goal of helping Detroit parents navigate the educational choices available to their children, but Detroit Public Schools won’t be part of it, at least for now.

Excellent Schools Detroit, an education nonprofit best known for its annual rating scorecard of Detroit schools, launches its “Enroll Detroit” website Friday. It is a free, locally built service that will provide a single enrollment calendar, application and process for participating K-12 schools in Detroit, as well as schools outside the city that draw at least 75 percent of their students from Detroit.

Participation by schools is voluntary. So far, no Detroit Public Schools are involved, according to Enroll Detroit organizers. Participants currently include schools in the state-run Education Achievement Authority, charter and private schools. More details were to be released on Wednesday.

“Discussions to expand are always continuing,” said Re-Kenya Roberson, a representative for Bassett & Bassett, the public relations firm handling Excellent Schools Detroit.

DPS spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski said in a statement that DPS does not plan to participate in Enroll Detroit until after the district has been returned to local control.

“Detroit Public Schools actively participated in the policy discussions surrounding the development of a common enrollment system for schools in Detroit,” she said.

“However, given the state of transition that currently exists in the district, we elected not to join in the pilot program. Further consideration of the district’s participation in the initiative moving forward should be made by the duly elected school board once DPS completes its transition to local control after passage of the $715 million education reform package by the Michigan Legislature.

DPS school board President Herman Davis blasted Enroll Detroit.

“I don’t think this is about elevating Detroit Public Schools,” Davis said. “It’s about competing for students to ultimately place them in charter schools. What they’re doing is pirating students away from DPS, but they’re not going to provide the same excellence.”

Dan Varner, CEO of Excellent Schools Detroit, said more than 10,000 families in Detroit each year search for “transition grade placements,” or seats in kindergarten or ninth grade.

“These families need a solution today, and not a year from now, so we tailored a solution to meet their needs,” he said in a recent meeting with The Detroit News editorial board.

“Some parents have kids enrolled in multiple places, so the schools can’t plan for kids who show up on the first day of school,” he said. “With this simplified enrollment system, you can rank the order of schools you’re interested in.”

Roberson said the effort is being funded by the Skillman Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation, which owns Wal-Mart, and that Team Detroit is an in-kind contributor.

The Enroll Detroit School Guide and application materials will be available at www.enrolldetroit.org. Parents who are not computer-savvy can visit one of six “EdCenter” locations and a staffer will help them navigate the system.

Anthony King, president of Detroit Area Dads PTA, plans to take advantage of the common enrollment system. He has a 15-year-old daughter at the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a charter school, as well as grandchildren, nieces and nephews in Detroit Public Schools.

“It allows parents to to look at the makeup of a school and make a choice from there,” he said. “I don’t see a downside to that because parents should be able to have a choice.”

The enrollment system launches Friday. Families will have a month to research and review school options.

Parents can rank as many as eight top choice schools on the application and submit it in person or online through April 30. Applicants are matched with schools based first on family preference, and then on each school’s priorities, the number of available seats and student demand.

Families and schools will be notified of first-round matches the week of May 23 and will have until June 30 to enroll at schools to secure their placement.

Starting July 1, schools with wait lists may begin pulling students off those lists, and schools with remaining capacity can enroll students.

The enrollment application deadline is April 30.


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