On Monday, Sept. 18, 2017, longtime activist Helen Moore, knowledgeable DPSCD Board member LaMar Lemmons, and Yours Truly–DPS’ pro bono Superintendent in 2012-2013 under state-imposed emergency financial mismanagement–all attended Free Press editor Stephen Henderson’s televised interview of new DPSCD Superintendent Nikolai Vitti at City Covenant Church in Detroit’s deeply impoverished Brightmoor subdivision. Dr. Vitti was undoubtably surprised that neither Ms. Moore nor Mr. Lemmons nor I asked him any questions at the end of the program. This was because some DPSCD students asked him the same question I had intended to ask–namely, “What is your plan to fix our most low-performing schools?” That question posed to him by the concerned youngsters gave Dr. Vitti’s a perfect opportunity to cite his upcoming and DPSCD Board-endorsed QWK2LRN pilot program that has the potential to thrust him and DPSCD into the national limelight as the saviors of urban public education. Curiously, he didn’t cite that research-tested, field-proven, Detroit-based, African-American-owned program, nor did he state that he even has a coherent plan of any kind to fix those schools.
Recent Interim Superintendent Alycia Meriweather’s Strategic Plan, like Superintendent Vitti’s current similar one–didn’t address the 65 Priority schools, either. Along with Third-Grade reading, those 65 Priority schools absolutely need to be Dr. Vitti’s first academic hurdle. It is to be fervently hoped that he hasn’t taken his eye off the ball in that regard, because if he has, that will be catastrophic for our kids and would play right into President Donald Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ corporate-collusive hands. Dr. Vitti will recall that when I first met him, I frankly informed him that the reason I had initially endorsed River Rouge Superintendent Derrick Coleman over him for the DPSCD Superintendency was because Dr. Vitti’s Board President in Jacksonville had once asked for his resignation because she felt he was doing too little to fix his comparatively few low-performing schools there. Ours here in Detroit are far more numerous and far worse–below the first percentile, in fact–due to the past seventeen years of the unwarranted and ruinously incompetent state takeover. Dr.Vitti endorsed the DPSCD Board-anointed QWK2LRN agency’s pilot program on my radio show on WCHB, and I praised him for doing so in this newspaper and on the air.
Folks familiar with my long experience and stature as an educator in and out of Detroit insist that I should feel insulted and bitter that Dr. Vitti has inexplicably broken his earlier promise to have this old man work at his side in a pro bono advisory role. I confess that I may therefore have been a bit hard on him in stridently lengthy emails to him and in another of my Chronicle columns implying that the Board lady I mentioned in them (or perhaps someone less benign) is figuratively “wearing his pants”–which I still vehemently wish to believe isn’t the case, and that he truly IS “his own man,” as he attests. Dr. Vitti told me early-on that he was warned against using me. Those paranoid warners are precisely the very jackals that he as the lion must watch most warily. I now trust that we can put all these contentious implications aside, and that he will attend PRONTO to the crucial business of fixing our 65 Priority schools via the truly miraculous QWK2LRN program, which is so sure-fire certain it will be successful that it has committed to do its magic on a pay-only-for-success basis! QWK2LRN will soon negotiate to become the state’s chosen reform engine. If Dr. Vitti doesn’t get cracking fast on fixing those 65 Detroit schools, every single school in Detroit will be dismantled, sold, and chartered within the next three years, and any chance that Amazon will opt to come to Detroit will go kaput. Betsy DeVos will thus have won the day–not only in Detroit, but in every urban school throughout America.
A former international track star and the author of several Detroit-oriented books available on Amazon, Dr. John Telford can be contacted at (313)460-8272 or DrJohnTelfordEdD@aol.com. His website is AlifeontheRUN.