Join forces in community to move Detroit education ahead

I am writing in response to Nancy Kaffer’s recent article, “Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti to charters: Come at me, bro” on Aug. 23.

As the CEO of University Prep Schools, one of Detroit’s longest-standing, nonprofit public charter school systems, I believe it’s time we end the charter school versus non-charter school rhetoric and join forces as community leaders, educators and parents to devote our energy to improving the lives of children throughout Detroit.

It is our responsibility to provide them with the education they deserve and will rely on throughout their lives and we can only do this together.

I would like to reiterate that charter schools in Detroit were never meant to be the silver bullet to fix all things wrong with education; they were designed to be an effective alternative and choice for parents. In Detroit, the graduation rate in the 1990s dropped as low as 52%. Charter schools created an alternative opportunity for parents searching for a new solution.

At University Prep, we average a 98% graduation rate. We have 3,500 students and a decade-long track record of graduates. Our schools are made possible by committed education pioneers Bob and Ellen Thompson, and I’m extremely proud of the work that we continue to do for the children of Detroit.

We get to know our children and their families. We realize that we no longer can be just educators; some days we need to be nurses, counselors, teachers and even parents. We have partnered with St. John Providence to have a full-time nurse practitioner and behavior specialist for our students. We have the top chess team and player in the country and an award-winning debate team. Our students take sailing lessons on the Detroit River. We believe that these experiences are what shape our students into the successful adults they will become.

We measure ourselves by the 90/90 Promise, that 90% of our students graduate from high school and 90% go on to college. To date, I’m pleased to say we average a 98% graduation rate and 96% of students go on to attend a two- or four-year college with more than $11 million in scholarships awarded in 2017.

The reality is the work is not done. Each day, teachers at charter, public, private and parochial schools in Detroit work tirelessly to improve the education for our children. With the first day of school right around the corner, let’s end the distraction and ongoing debate and focus on what is most important — our children. So much can be accomplished by working together to move Detroit education forward.