For years, the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) system has been suffering from ill-fortune. The district had accumulated several years of debt, the curriculum has become outdated, there has been no increase in teachers’ pay for 10 years. Last year DPS became the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) to erase the district’s debt. This year, the DPSCD school board appointed Dr. Nikolai Vitti the new superintendent to save the district.
“He [Vitti] has a great future for DPSCD and I believe that he has his mind going in the right direction trying to get a quality education for Detroit kids,” said senior and student leader Jaylin Harris.
While under state-appointed emergency managers, the sickening conditions of DPS institutions was brought to light. In an article done by The Washington Post the condition of DPS classrooms were called “appalling”. Classrooms were overcrowded, mold was growing in classrooms, outdated textbooks were falling apart, and more. Teachers, students and community protested the chaos of the schools.
“Under emergency management, a lot of people argued there was a lack of accountability and a lack of transparency,” said Vitti.
With the return of the state-run EAA schools to the district, Vitti said he recognizes the urgency of updating the curriculum.
“There’s a lot of work to be done to integrate two systems that were very different. Curriculum has to be changed [for EAA schools], but even curriculum in the district has to be changed,” said Vitti.
He wants International Baccalaureate (IB), Advanced Placement (AP), honors, and other accelerated courses offered at every DPSCD high school. As of now, these courses are only offered at the high performing schools.
“Those offerings should not only be at Cass, King, and Renaissance. They need to be spread throughout the city,” said Vitti. “One of the major things we are thinking about with the EAA schools are feeder patterns and trying to connect high schools with middle schools and then with elementary schools so students don’t have to get on the bus to travel throughout the city to go to particular schools,” said Vitti.
Along with an updated curriculum, Vitti wants to have more and consistent training for teachers and security guards. The training will focus on conflict resolution and de-escalating potential violent situations. One goal of this training is to reduce the number of students receiving out-of-school suspensions.
“If you give them [students] a reason not to go to school, they aren’t going to go to school. Behavioral issues are also linked to high class sizes, curriculum being outdated and not necessarily interesting to students,” said Vitti. “One thing I think we can do better is do orientations more consistently throughout the district to make sure that in ninth grade before you start, there’s an orientation that really explains GPA,” said Vitti.
Vitti said his one wish would be “to give DPSCD five to 10 years of political peace” so the district can be rebuilt without political influences and strongholds. But he knows this will never happen.
DPSCD’s top five priorities are spelled out in the district’s Blueprint 2020: outstanding achievement, transformative culture, whole child commitment, exceptional talent, and responsible stewardship. While Dr.Vitti presents noble ideas, everyone does not see Vitti as the hero DPSCD has been waiting for.
“I’m cautiously optimistic of Dr.Vitti,” said history teacher Matthew Paukovits. “He says a lot of good things, I think he has a lot of good ideas [but] I’m cautiously optimistic that he’s going to do a good job.”