First, I was teaching freshman composition students about the letter-writing genre during the winter 2012 semester.
Second, there was interesting Facebook chatter about changing the name of our old high school.
Third, I had recently decided that I needed to provide students with my own personal examples of the writing genres I expected them to write.
These three events came together and I wrote many versions (about four) of the following open letter...
Greeting Mr. Roberts:
Rumor has it that the new school building constructed to consolidate Jared W. Finney High School and (Dr.) Ethelene Crockett High School will be renamed “East English Village Preparatory Academy” with wings of the building called Finney and Crockett.
Emergency Manager, Roy S. Roberts’ letter to Finney/Crockett families explains:
This is a critically important time in the history of Detroit Public Schools and for our city. I have stated frequently that Detroit Public Schools must not only be a part of Detroit’s comeback, it must LEAD it. We have been using an outdated educational model that we must discard. We must embark on a bold and ambitious journey that I believe will return this City to its rightful place as the world class leader in public education, a position it once held.
As former Finney high school alumni, we agree with the Emergency Manager’s point about this being a critical time. In addition we see the critical importance of recovery, preservation, and inclusion of Detroit Public School history.
For example, rumor has it that in addition to being an abolitionist, who actively contributed to efforts of the Underground Railroad, Jared W. Finney was also one of the first U.S. Attorneys for the Eastern District of Michigan, 1894 and 1898.
How will “East English Village Preparatory Academy” recover, preserve, and include this history as Detroit Public Schools “not only be[comes] a part of Detroit’s comeback, [but] … LEAD[s] it”?
We agree with the Emergency Manager that, “We have been using an outdated educational model that we must discard.” However, the names of schools are not what is outdated. What is outdated is a lack of historical inclusion. Why not only keep the names, but also include the history of those names as part the new innovative curriculum?
We agree with the Emergency Manager that, “We must embark on a bold and ambitious journey.” However, what is more “bold and ambitious” than a journey that recovers, preserves, and includes historical significance in new innovative current curriculum? How can a journey “return this City to its rightful place as the world class leader in public education” if its history is not part of that return?
How many Detroit Public Schools are named after award winning African-American female doctors?
Rumor has it that there is one – the Dr. Ethelene Crockett Career and Technical Center. Apparently, as part of the bond issue approved in 2010, Crockett was promised a new state of the art building, joined with Jared W. Finney High School.
Rumor has it that Finney high school students were promised that a mural in the original building would be preserved in the new building. However, the mural was demolished. Rumor has it that the merging of Finney and Crockett is the result of both necessary consolidation efforts and poor planning.
Rumor has it that the proposal for demolishing and rebuilding on the original sight included preserving the Jared W. Finney name on the new building. Rumor has it that politics and future plans for a particular neighbor has usurped all previous agreements about the fate and name of Jared W. Finney High School.
We agree with the Emergency that there is a need for “a comprehensive transformation plan aimed at improving academics and creating a more efficient system of high-performing schools for all DPS students.”
However, as the Emergency Manager experience flourishes across the State of Michigan, we ask that they take a moment to consider, inclusively, the political implications of presenting “a comprehensive transformation plan” devoid of history.
Therefore, it is the position of some Finney alumni that the historical significance of Jared W. Finney and the dedicated service work of Dr. Ethelene Crockett’s family take precedence over the creation of a new image. The name “East English Village Preparatory Academy” lacks the historical importance of a school named Finney-Crockett Preparatory Academy.
Jared W. Finny High School Alumni