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Diminishing arts in schools shreds children’s souls

Editorial note: At the time of publication, teachers M. and C. Malabed were reinstated.

By Dr. Denise Davis-Cotton

Detroit School of Arts (DSA) was designed to provide enriched academic arts opportunities for students under the tutelage of high quality academic arts instructors. DSA was founded on the principles of leadership integrity and community engagement.

These two qualities helped advance DSA into national and international acclaim. It is difficult and painful to learn about the disruption of DSA’s educational attainment, which began by removing the school from under the auspices of the Detroit Public Schools and forcing it to exist in an unwarranted aggressively inadequate autocratic governance structure.

Regretfully, providing a high quality education to DSA’s students was replaced with a regressive ideology of immobilizing educational advancement. It is disconcerting to learn the educational bureaucratic practices and processes silenced the community’s voices by denying them democratic participation in selecting the school’s leadership.

DSA’s positive school climate and culture suddenly became a cesspool for incompetents imposing a villainous will on students, parents, teachers and staff. The most pejorative act to DSA’s academic integrity is the recent displacement of stellar teachers with impeccable professional records. There is no sound or appropriate rationale to justify these displacements.  Detroit Public Schools is in a position to correct a wrong that resulted in harming DSA, which is held hostage under a depreciatory governance structure, unqualified school leadership and an amputation of first-rate arts instructors — specifically, N. Burrell, M. Malabad, and  C. Malabed.

The demise of the DSA’s educational programs and removal of exceptional instructors is unjustifiable and reprehensible.  The current autocratic school governance structure appears to produce despondently inept and deceptive leadership decisions that fail to advance DSA’s mission and vision.

To reconcile these issues, it is of paramount importance and urgency to begin to restore DSA’s credibility by re-instating DSA to the Detroit Public Schools and re-instating the displaced teachers. DPS can support DSA by acting immediately to remove the school from an existing ineffective, unqualified, disorganized, despotic governance and school leadership structure that has diminished and harmed DSA’s school community and paralyzed thriving programs. Furthermore, DPS can immediately re-call the displaced teachers.

The ramifications and repercussions of ignoring the requests of DSA’s school community could continue to impair the learning experience for students and impede DSA’s growth. Support is needed (at this time) to save not only the institution but the future of the citizens of Detroit. One only need to be reminded that there are four things that help construct a society: laws, education, religion and the arts. Failure to save DSA, an institution that has proven to instill arts within the Detroit community, will be judged historically as another step in the genocide of Detroit’s culture.

Dr. Denise Davis-Cotton is founder and first principal of Detroit School of Arts and author of “Losing My Mind Over Education: Finding My Way Back to Me.”

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