What do you get when you combine Detroit Public Schools, the Kresge Foundation and the University of Michigan?
Answer: A place called Hope.
Nearly two years after Detroit’s Marygrove College faced financial collapse, the tiny school is opening a new chapter, thanks to some of the region’s biggest players. And the Detroit Public Schools Community District gets a chance to prove its mettle under new leadership.
Marygrove’s 53-acre campus is poised to become what organizers are calling a “cradle-to-career” educational complex. It’ll host an Early Childhood Center built from the ground up, thanks to a portion of Kresge’s $50 million.
It’ll contain two traditional public schools operated by the city’s district – one K-through-eighth grade, the other a high school. It’ll house a “residency” program for aspiring teachers run by U-of-M’s School of Education, and patterned after its medical school, to teach teachers how to teach before deploying them in Detroit’s schools.
And Marygrove will continue to offer its graduate programs and professional development programs.
The goal is to use innovative education to redevelop a corner of the community, far from the big money changing the face of downtown and Midtown. This could be huge, folks.
Kresge’s bringing the dough. U of M is bringing the expertise, reputation and what President Mark Schlissel calls “teamwork in service of the public.” And the public schools get support from heavy hitters who just want education to improve in Detroit, because that’s how communities improve … and rebuild.
The city’s neighborhoods are in play, finally.
Three months ago, Ford Motor confirmed plans to renovate Corktown’s dilapidated Michigan Central Depot into its center for mobility and self-driving vehicles. Now Marygrove is pinning its neighborhood revival on its so-called “P-20 Partnership.”
It’s the neighborhoods’ turn. Community reinvention is politically potent in a city that struggled for decades to provide basic services. With billions of dollars pouring into downtown and Midtown, targeting neighborhoods is the next obvious step in the city's revitalization.
Reinvesting in the core helps bolster tax base, fuel economic activity and create tax-paying jobs. Reinvesting in neighborhoods and improving traditional public education strengthens community, and gives Detroiters a reason to stay.
"What this town needs to be shown again and again is you can take big ideas and make them real," said Kresge CEO Rip Rapson says. "So many people are waiting to see efforts like this fail.”
Unfortunately that's true. They’re the people who doubt the city’s revival can maintain traction, who predict the new school board and superintendent will fail like all the others, who don’t understand that leadership today is different from its predecessors.
I’d say the mounting evidence proves them more wrong than right.
Look around. Bankruptcy's managed. Cultural groups like the DIA and the symphony saved. City Hall focused more on what it can improve than what it should control. School board members who unanimously back their new superintendent’s plan to join the Marygrove partnership.
And it’s happening in Detroit.
Daniel Howes is a columnist at The Detroit News. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.