Brief Profiles of Selected Detroit Non-Public Schools
Please note: Initial figures for grades, number of students, numbers of fulland part-time teachers, and tuition apply to the 1989-90 school year. Figures in parentheses apply to the 1990-91 school year and appear only when different from the previous year.
St. Ambrose Academy (Catholic), 1091 Alter Rd.; founded 1914; pre-school through 8th grade, 203 students; 11 full-time teachers, 2 part-time teachers; tuition: $990.00/yr. (No change in this data for 1990-91).
Fundraisers and subsidies from the archdiocese provide vital financial assistance at St. Ambrose, which has one of the very lowest tuitions in the city. Sister Marie Cyril Delisi, principal, reports that some of her enrollees were former public school students with major problems. "We do not get the cream of the crop," she says, "but we take each individual with all his/ her faults and limitations and try to work with them." Weekly school assemblies are designed to give recognition and peer support for students who have in some way succeeded or excelled during the previous week. Regular homework assignments are regarded as "critical" and are integral to school policy. An exceptional program for those with "Learning Disabilities" has frequently produced advances in students of as much as two years.
St. Thomas Aquinas Elementary (Catholic), 5845 Auburn; founded 1956; K through 8th (pre-K through 8th), 228 students (250 students); 9 full-time teachers (10 full-time teachers), 2 part-time teachers; tuition: $1,650/yr. non-parishioner, $1,030 parishioner ($1,670, $1,100).
Parental involvement is considered essential and is actively cultivated at St. Thomas Aquinas, with a notable degree of success. Administrators such as Sister Jan Stocking, principal, regard parents as "co-educators of the children," and have encouraged them as volunteers in the school, members of the school board, coordinators of workshops and seminars, and planners of "family-type" activities from picnics to ballgames. Test scores (American Testronics) put this school's students at the 70th percentile of students nationally. Fundraisers and subsidies from the archdiocese assist in financing. The school currently has a waiting list of prospective students.
St. Clare of Montefalco (Catholic), 16231 Charlevoix, Grosse Pointe Park (included here because students who reside within Detroit make up 82% of the school's enrollment); founded 1928; K through 8th, 491 students (468 students); 21 full-time teachers, 2 part-time teachers; tuition: $1,690/yr. non-parishioner, $1,125 parishioner ($1,845, $1,250).
This school boasts a strong reading program, an outstanding sports program, a gifted/talented program for grades 5-8, professionally-produced public relations materials including handbook and brochures, and numerous academic achievements in spite of a library that is "woefully outdated." The school's goals are clearly outlined in a mission statement and are broken down in actual practice into "current" goals and "long-range" ones. Progress is carefully monitored and in the long-range category, goals are occasionally refined and updated. The principal, Hank Burakowski, reports that in meeting the goals for the most recent year, the school was nearly 100°1o successful. Homework is deemed very important, and guidelines throughout all grade levels are part of school policy. An endowment fund, uncommon among non-public schools in Detroit, supplements tuition, church subsidy and fundraising efforts. The school currently maintains a waiting list of prospective students.
Dominican High School (Catholic), 9740 MeKinney; founded 1940, 9th through 12th grades (will add 6th-8th in fall 1990), 260 students (243 students in grades 9-12, 65 in grades 6-8); 19 full-time teachers (22 full-time teachers), 5 part-time teachers; tuition: $2,100/yr. ($2,250).
Sister Peggy Manners, principal, strongly differs with the "myth" that Catholic or other private schools pick and choose "the best and brightest." Her conviction is that minorities and disadvantaged youth excel and succeed in Catholic schools at a rate far superior to that in public schools. Her conviction is supported by several studies she referred to. Goals are "practical" and evaluated periodically by staff and faculty. "No goal is unrealistic," says principal Manners. Students wear uniforms. Many win scholarships to colleges and universities as well as local and national recognitions. Homework is regarded as important in every class, but each teacher sets his/her own requirements. The rather large gap between tuition per pupil and actual cost per pupil is made up through a raffle, candy sales, church assistance and a development drive.
Holy Cross Lutheran (Lutheran), 14213 Whitcomb; founded 1927; K through 8th grade, 200 students (180 students); 10 full-time teachers, 2 part-time teachers; tuition: $1,600/yr.
Known for a number of science fair winners and its music programs, Holy Cross Lutheran reports great difficulties in bringing public school transferees up to grade level. Discipline is a strong attribute; students wear uniforms. Typical of the complaints of most non-public school administrators, principal John Reed notes very low parental involvement in spite of it being highly desirable.
Most Holy Trinity (Catholic), 1229 Labrosse; founded 1840; ages 5-9 (non-graded), 200 students (187 students); 8 full-time teachers; tuition: $675/yr. ($725).
In a unique, non-graded regime in which teachers work with levels instead of grades, individual students pursue reading and mathematics according to their personal abilities, not their age. Special attention is given to fostering a strong desire to learn, a deep appreciation for knowledge, that the students will hopefully carry with them as they continue their schooling elsewhere later. The relaxed, relatively non-structured environment carries over to homework requirements. Sister Irene Theresa Gumbleton, principal, reports that "parents and students must realize that homework doesn't always mean written assignments. We do not impose any minimum homework requirements," she says. Standardized tests are "a contradiction" to the school's philosophy.
Mt. Calvary Lutheran (Lutheran), 17100 Chalmers; founded 1923; K through 8th grade, 160 students (142 students); 8 full-time teachers, 1 part-time teacher; tuition: $1,325/yr. ($1,400).
Principal Walter Krone makes the point that non-public schools such as his do choose selectively in the middle and upper grades "because students coming from public schools are so far behind." However, in the lower grades, especially kindergarten and first, there is "very little" selection because "we can teach any child to read and write if we can start them out ourselves." Homework from kindergarten on up is applied on a regular basis by the teachers, but by consensus not by set minimum school-wide standards. Students have consistently scored above the norm for students in their comparative grades on standardized tests, though not as high above as several years ago, "as the standard of living in the surrounding community has declined." Church subsidy is substantial.
GA. Zurstadt Lutheran (Lutheran), 22159 Grand River; founded 1924; K through 8th grade, 124 students (119 students); 5 full-time teachers (6 full-time teachers), 1 part-time teacher; tuition: $1,550/yr.
Though two teachers here are not certified, they have taught successfully at Zurstadt Lutheran for over 25 years. All seven of the school's board members are parents of children in the school. Students score well above average on standardized tests (Stanford Achievement). The school boasts a large percentage of its graduates who go on to attend and complete high school, with many going on to college. Awaiting list exists for prospective students.
Zion Lutheran (Lutheran), 4305 Military; founded 1577; Pre-school through 8th grade, 91 students; 5 full-time teachers; tuition: $1,350/yr. (No change in this data for 1990-91).
Daily homework for students at Zion is mandatory in all grades. Students score better than Detroit public school counterparts, but below national average. Funding sources besides tuition are increasingly hard to come by, according to principal Joe Dickerson. Starting salaries for teachers is $12,000, about the average for non-public schools in Detroit. The school maintains a waiting list of prospective students.
St. Gerard Consolidated School (Catholic), 19900 Evergreen; founded 1957; K through 8th grade plus Spec. Ed., 240 students (246 students); 12 full-time teachers, 4 part-time teachers; tuition: $1,675/yr.
Bingo, raffles, candy sales and a small church subsidy supplement tuition. The school has highly regarded sports, art, music and computer programs. To the claim that private schools have an advantage over public schools in that they can "pick and choose" their students, principal A. Francis Bontumasi replies, "Ridiculous! We simply implement discipline and high standards for our children; public schools can do the same but don't. It's that attitude that we can pick and choose that stops them (public schools) from adopting similar high standards." Regular parent surveys help the school assess its success. Students score at an average level (American Testronics) among peers nationwide.
Sister Clara Mohammed (Masjid Wali Muhammad Church), 5505 Van Dyke; founded 1932; K through 9th grade, 70 students (95 students); 7 full-time teachers, 2 part-time teachers; tuition: $2,000/yr.
Principal Nadir Ahmed estimates that 10°10 of students here have one or more parents who are teachers in public schools. Students wear uniforms in this highly disciplined environment with Islamic roots. Homework is standard both daily and on weekends. Emphasis is very strong on "keeping the moral climate high and intact without deterioration." Students score a grade level or two above their counterparts in nearby public schools. There is a waiting list for 1990-91.
Our Savior Lutheran (Lutheran), 12844 Elmdale; founded 1975; K through 8th grade, 130 students (112 students); G full-time teachers, 1 part-time teacher; tuition: $1,570/yr. non-members, $1,370/yr. members.
Parents here can volunteer as lunch monitors, teacher aides, room parents and, in some cases, one-day substitute teachers, but principal Howard Alexander reports that parental involvement is nowhere near what the school would like to have. He complains strongly about "apathetic parents." Nevertheless, the school counts among its greatest strengths a stable staff extremely dedicated to the "teaching ministry," school-wide computer instruction from K through 8th grade, and firm, consistent discipline that the children often do not receive in their home life. The governing board is relatively inexperienced and needs to work harder at firming up its goals. Students generally score about average.
Evangel Christian Academy (Evangel Echos Church of the Air), 11055 Glenfield; founded 1983; Pre-school through 12th grade, 320 students; 18 fulltime teachers; tuition: $1,350 in elementary, $1,550 in high school. (No change in this data for 1990-91).
Fundraisers and a church subsidy which takes care of mortgage payments on the school building assist in the school's financing. Principal Susan Conti reports that approximately 10% of enrollees were "rejected" by the public schools because of discipline problems. The school does test incoming students, but as a means to determine at what grade level each child should be assigned, not as a way to "weed out" undesirables. Parental involvement is deemed so important that the school "couldn't survive without it." The parents "call a lot," says Conti. Special emphasis is placed on "developing the whole person," with programs to encourage interest in the arts, sports and music. Administrators report that students coming here have been behind as much as four years but the longer they attend, the narrower the gap becomes. Some extreme deficiencies, such as in vocabulary, have been dramatically improved. The dropout rate in the high school grades is near zero.
East Catholic High (Catholic), 7320 St. Anthony Place; founded 1967 as an amalgamation of seven high schools on the east side; 9th through 12th grades, 234 students (200 students); 12 full-time teachers, 3 part-time teachers; tuition: $1,375/ yr. ($1,475).
The city's Catholic schools enroll a substantial number of non-Catholic students. At East Catholic High, 80% of the students are not Catholic. The dropout rate is less than 10% Rarely does East Catholic turn down a prospective student, even those with histories of troublemaking, and expulsion from public school. Administrators, most notably principal Sister Judy Dutka, make a habit of knowing each student personally. They stress values, mutual appreciation and knowledge of black traditions and history, and respect for life and property in a neighborhood where the great majority of children "have had friends or family members assaulted or shot." Seventy percent of the parents are below poverty level. The student population is 100% black, whereas teaching staff is composed of 11 whites and 4 blacks. About 80% of the school's graduates continue their education at 2-year or 4-year colleges. The school is especially proud of the large number of its graduates who have gone on to earn higher degrees and then come back to Detroit to live and work in the city and work to improve life in the neighborhoods. East Catholic is the only co-ed Catholic high school left on the east side (Dominican, the only other Catholic high school in that part of Detroit, is all-girls).
Bethany Lutheran (Lutheran), 11475 E. Outer Dr.; founded 1889; K through 8th grade, 210 students; 9 full-time teachers, 2 part-time teachers; tuition: $1,700/ yr. non-church members. (No change in this data for 1990-91).
Members of Bethany Lutheran Church who have children enrolled in the school do not pay tuition, but are expected to keep their annual contributions to the church at a level at least equal to the tuition charge. The school is currently drafting a document which will clearly specify academic goals to be achieved by each grade level. Class size is limited to 25. James Johnson, principal, also teaches certain classes – a phenomenon not uncommon among principals in non-public schools. Parents are expected to assist in fundraising efforts. Test scores (Stanford Achievement) show average to slightly above average student performance. Incoming students are tested only for grade level assignment.
Greenfield Peace Lutheran (Lutheran), 7000 W. Outer Dr.; founded 1952; K through 8th grade, 236 students (227 students); 9 full-time teachers; tuition: $1,800/yr.
Greenfield Peace regards itself as "liberal with admissions and strict with retention and graduation standards," according to principal Patricia Schultz. She is quick to point out that the school is not equipped to serve the very gifted or "the very far behind," and testing incoming students is designed in part to avoid admitting children the school can't help. Nevertheless, occasions have arisen when the school has accepted children expelled from public schools and successfully "turned them around." Parents are expected to perform 20 hours of volunteer time per year, from providing field trip transportation to fundraising. Parents are also urged to spend at least 15 minutes each night assisting, their children with homework. Nearly 100% black, the student body exhibits exceptional spirit. Administrators are proud of the numbers of their students who have gone on to Cass Tech, Renaissance and Martin Luther King high schools, and on into "almost every profession." Home visits by teachers used to be a school policy but sadly, due to perceptions of potential danger, this is no longer a policy.
Detroit Urban Lutheran (Lutheran), 8091 Ohio St.; founded 1972; K through 8th grade, 225 students, 9 full-time teachers, 1 part-time teacher; tuition: $1,600/ yr. ($1,700).
Between 30% and 50% of students admitted at Detroit Urban Lutheran are below grade level at the time of admission, but within a few years most perform above grade level. The school is especially proud of the large numbers of its graduates who go on to success at Renaissance, Martin Luther King and University of Detroit high schools, or at Cass Tech. In 1988, the school was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for its exemplary schools program because every graduating senior, for several years consecutively, had scored above grade level. Starting salary for teachers is high for non-public schools, at $16,000. Parental involvement is deemed very important and is required in some instances, such as for field trips, cultural, social and athletic activities, fundraising and a parent-teacher league. The school's teachers maintain exceptionally high homework requirements. Racial make-up of teaching staff is white by a ratio 2 to 1, but the student body is 99% black.
Gesu School (Catholic), 17139 Oak Dr.; founded 1920; K through 8th grade, 828 students (813 students); 35 full-time teachers, 2 part-time teachers; tuition: $1,780/yr. ($1,850).
Gesu is able to offer options often unavailable at other non-public schools: drama, Spanish, after-hours care, and many extracurricular activities. The school has accepted enrollees who had been asked to leave public schools. An entrance exam is required but is used to place the student at the appropriate grade level. Students are required to read 15 books outside the classroom per year. Many go on to the city's best public high schools. Student achievements are prominently recognized and encouraged. Though mathematics is not the school's strong suit academically, its students have excelled at science fairs, in English writing competitions and in the arts. The school enforces a dress code. The principal claims "a lot" of children who attend Gesu have parents who are public school teachers. Unlike most of the schools in this survey, Gesu patrons are not typically low-income, tending instead to be from middle-income families.
Evergreen Lutheran (Lutheran), 8680 Evergreen; founded 1956; K through 8th grade, 117 students (98 students); 5 full-time teachers; tuition: $1,652/yr. nonmembers, $1,120/yr. members.
Parents are asked to give 15 hours per academic year in volunteer work. All teachers give homework, even on weekends. As part of the school's "family" atmosphere, every child gets "hugged" at least once every day. Enrollment since 1988 is up 75%, and a waiting list is kept. Entrance exams are given, but teachers are not told the results until the child has been attending the school for one year, so as to prevent any pre-dispositions about the child's potential. This school is a rarity in that the school contributes financially to the church. Accordingly, school cost per pupil is less by a substantial amount than tuition. Additionally, most 8th grade students score at the 12th grade level on standardized tests.
East Bethlehem Lutheran (Lutheran), 3510 E. Outer Dr.; founded 1944; K through 8th grade, 219 students (209 students); 10 full-time teachers; tuition: $1,725/yr. ($1,600).
Though the teachers are certified and the school is accredited, principal Wayne Wolfrom makes an interesting point on the matter: "In reality, the accreditation that counts is the accreditation that the parents give us." Parental involvement is not as great as he would like to see, but is "encouraged" by requiring attendance at five evening parent meetings per year and two days per year lunchroom assistance.
Benedictine High School (Catholic), 8001 W. Outer Dr., founded 1955; 9th through 12th grades, 642 students (561 students); 32 full-time teachers (30 fulltime teachers); tuition: $1,890/yr. ($2,290).
Sister Jacqueline Murray, principal, is noted for knowing every student by name. The dropout rate is near zero (one student in the past academic year). A minimum of at least one hour of homework is required per night. The school's board has succeeded in bringing teacher salaries up to 70% parity with public schools. Between 85°1o and 95% of the students go on to college. In three out of the past four years, Benedictine had one student among the 10-member Detroit All-Academic Team. An entrance exam is given, but the principal emphasizes that the school "will accept almost any child regardless of scores if we have a program that can suit him." The librarian, Mrs. Ballard, makes the point that, "It's not money that makes the difference in education; it's philosophy, leadership and values."
Fairview Christian (Fairview Baptist Church), 14142 Ford ham; founded 1986; 1st through 6th grades, 56 students (61 students); 3 full-time teachers (4 full-time teachers), 1 part-time teacher; tuition: $1,300/yr. plus a $200 "fundraising fee" which is returnable if parents assist in school-sponsored fundraising and raise that amount.
Students transferring here from public schools sometimes must be put back a grade. Homework is required every night but Wednesday and parents often must sign it before the students brings it in the next day. Parents are also encouraged to be involved in a number of ways: they cook dinner for "Grandparents Day," assist in a student fashion show, attend chapel, cook lunches for students, attend parent-teacher meetings, etc. Principal Janet Parkhurst regards one of the school's greatest strengths to be turning around the low self-esteem which many incoming students have. A weakness she cites is the difficulty of finding black teachers.
Detroit Waldorf School (non-sectarian), 2555 Burns; founded 1965; Preschool through 8th grade, 160 students (180 students); 10 full-time teachers, 7 part-time teachers; tuition: between $3,725 and $4,850, depending on grade.
Though the tuition is more than double that of religious schools, many of the children attending Detroit Waldorf come from low-income and lower-middle income families. Some parental involvement is required. The school excels in music and art. It has no principal in the traditional sense, but is instead a "faculty-run" school.
Friends School (Quaker), 110 St. Aubin; founded 1965; Pre-school through 8th grade; 150 students (107 students); 18 full-time teachers (19 full-time teachers), 3 part-time teachers; tuition: $3,800 to $4,300, depending on grade).
Students at Friends School are from predominantly single-parent, minority households (not atypical of Detroit non-public schools), which have middle-level incomes. The cost of educating each student is remarkably high at about twice the tuition average of other non-public schools. The difference coming from grants, awards, donations and fundraisers. Dr. Ed Jacomo, principal, believes parents choose Friends because of the school's commitment to academic excellence and the Quaker "social consciousness" that is infused into the curriculum, though almost none of the parents (or children) are actually Quakers. Efforts to encourage parental involvement are particularly strong, involving many parent-teacher conferences, "narrative" report cards, and school-sponsored programs on parenting and a parenting library. Homework requirements are rigorous, culminating in two hours per night by the 8th grade, including weekends. Following Quaker philosophy, the students do not play competitive athletics and do not participate in rivalrous contests. Dr. Jacomo cites a problem that universally plagues non-public education in Detroit, namely, far less support (moral or otherwise) from the business community than is deserved. It is still rather "unfashionable" socially and politically to be perceived as less than fully committed to public education.
Academy of Detroit (non-sectarian, for-profit); 16418 W. McNichols; founded 1973; K through 6th grade, 150 students (114 students); 7 full-time teachers; tuition: $2,100/yr. ($2,400).
Academy of Detroit has the lowest tuition of any of the non-sectarian schools responding to the survey, and as one might imagine, the school is overflowing. The waiting list is substantial. This location is an "affiliated school" of the larger Academy of Detroit network, which maintains school sin Oak Park and Southfield as well. An impressive 20-page StudentParent Handbook details policies and philosophy. An assessment of each new student is done after enrollment, but for placement, not admission purposes; as a policy, the school accepts all children except those who have been expelled from other schools for severe discipline problems. Optional bus service is provided for an additional fee.
Nataki Talibah Schoolhouse of Detroit (non-sectarian), 19176 Northrop; founded 1978; K through 8th grade, 70 students (92 students); 4 full-time teachers, 4 part-time teachers; tuition: $4,000-$5,000/yr., depending upon grade.
Located in a former public school and named for a deceased child of the founder and principal, Carmen N'Namdi, Nataki Talibah impresses the visitor with a sense of excitement and pride in many accomplishments. The curriculum provides an "Afro-centric" approach and is high on innovative programs involving family activities and field trips. Academic excellence is a vital ingredient, but administrators stress the school's efforts to develop the "whole" child into a "global citizen" with strong self-esteem and leadership qualities. Instruction is highly personalized. Mrs. N'Namdi recently received an important award from Learning Magazine and has been asked to assist the M.S.U. teacher training program. Parents tend to come from middle to upper-middle income levels. Students wear uniforms.
Faith Christian Academy (Word of Faith Christian Center), 7616 E. Nevada; founded 1982; Pre-school through 8th grade, 246 students (250 students); 12 full-time teachers, 3 part-time teachers; tuition: $1,650/yr. non-church members, $1,450/yr. church members.
"Excellence or nothing at all" is the motto of Faith Christian, where teachers and administrators feel it is important to always have very high expectations of the students. "If you don't expect much," says headmistress Joyce Stevens, "you won't get much back." Like the other non-public schools, Faith Christian accepts many transfers from public schools and finds that after perhaps a year of difficulty, the student catches up and begins to perform at his or her best. Parents are very involved, as are other members of the adjacent church, which provides a subsidy to the school. Class size is limited to 22.
Children's Village (non-sectarian), 14901 Meyers; founded 1974; Grades 1 and 2, 12 students (15 students); 1 full-time teacher; tuition: $1,040.
This struggling school has been plagued by location in a high-crime neighborhood. It suffered eight break-ins during 1989-90, the main reason it has been extremely difficult to attract and keep a teacher for very long or to add grades. The parents' main motive for sending their children here is a desire for them to learning a relatively safe and reliable environment. The school is open year-round and is closed for just six major holidays.
Pyramid Elementary (non-sectarian, for-profit), 17151 Wyoming; founded 1976; K through 8th grade, 75 students (79 students); 5 full-time teachers; tuition: $56.50/wk. for 39 weeks ($60.00/wk for 39 weeks).
According to Mrs. Perkins, principal, between 30% and 40% of parents with children here are teachers or administrators in public schools. The key, she says, to keeping good teachers in spite of salaries well below those in public schools, is giving teachers freedom to innovate and experiment in the classroom and making them feel they are part of a team or "family." Students come from low-income and lower middle-income families and have been recipients of many awards, from WKBD TV — Channel 50 to the National Geographic Society. Results on MEAP, California Achievement tests and others put students here above the average.
Lutheran High School West (Lutheran), 8181 Greenfield Rd.; founded 1944; 9th through 12th grade, 216 students (200 students); 14 full-time teachers (13 full-time teachers), 4 part-time teachers (3 part-time teachers); tuition: $3,000/yr. Non-church members ($3,400/yr. non-church members), $1,500/yr. members ($1,700/ yr. members).
Despite teacher salaries which are 50-55% of Detroit public school salaries, this school has been able to attract high quality teachers who seek to integrate shared goals and religious values throughout the curriculum. According to the principal, parents select the school because of its values, its safety, and its discipline. Students tend to come from low-income families and while parents strongly support the teachers, the level of parental involvement is slight. The school adheres to a strong attendance policy. Additionally, 30-40% of students receive some kind of scholarship assistance.