The city of Detroit was losing businesses and homeowners to the economy, while its students were losing schools. But to what, and how to prevent it became the vision for a ‘back-to-school rally’ in 2009.
The DPS “I’m In” student retention campaign, which nearly painted the city blue [school doors] was a symbol, targeting major changes that would be happening inside the doors of Detroit Public Schools. In an effort to halt rapidly declining student enrollment numbers, and secure much needed staff and resources,
DPS wanted parents and students to hear of the exciting opportunities happening in the district and say, “I’m In.”
The campaign proved successful to officials after the district glided past the enrollment goal of nearly 84,000, but not without regard to the district losing 10,000 students for its 2009-10 school year. There was more work to be done for DPS’ campaign. But the cost and approach would soon see a big change; according to reports, the cost of the ‘I’m In’ campaign for its 2010-11 school year will decrease by $500,000. According to DPS Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb, DPS, which is known for a “legacy deficit of $259 million after seven years of overspending, must work to retain students to avoid losing additional state revenue, which has a dramatic impact on classroom instruction.” At the launch of the campaign, approximately 2,500 teachers, counselors and other staff members had been laid off.
Tagged as aggressive, the student retention campaign will have a larger target base: charter school parents and parents who live in suburban areas. Bobb stated the campaign was more of a ‘hands-off’ type of respect towards the charter schools. But this year, Bobb says, “…we are taking the gloves off.” Parents who may be Detroit residents, but work in outer city limits are the targets for this year’s campaign. There are a large number of parents working outside the metro Detroit area, with school-aged children. But instead of allowing the child to walk, or be walked/driven by the parent to a neighborhood school, the parent will drive 15-20 miles to a school in the suburbs, or either a charter school. When asked, majority of the parents state concerns about safety, academic regiments, and of course disciplinary actions within DPS, and added the concerns as being reasons for taking their children out of Detroit’s public school system. Perhaps this year’s campaign will meet the concerns of parents wishing to return their children to DPS. The district will emphasize to parents the changes in academics this year, including expanded reading and math, pre-algebra for seventh-graders and the pairing of all preschoolers with a reading tutor.