Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cool Warrendale Thing: Kosciusko

I posted before about the efforts to renovate and reuse the long-shuttered Kosciusko Elementary School (20220 Tireman St.) as a community center. The Detroit Community Design Center, which is a part of the University of Michigan's College of Architecture and Urban Planning, held a series of community meetings. All of this was done in partnership with the City of Detroit, with support from the Michigan Historical Center.

Over the course of several meetings with neighborhood stakeholders during the summer and autumn of this year, they were able to ascertain the needs of the Warrendale community. They then worked with residents and others to design a concept to adapt this vacant school into something that would meet those needs.

While the architects are still finalizing their plans, and things can still change going forward, I am proud to be able to discuss at least the preliminary details.

One of the shortcomings of the Warrendale neighborhood is that there is a shortage of quality child care facilities relative to the sheer size of its population.  This is why the preliminary plan envisions reusing some of the space on ground floor as a child care facility.  An independent, licensed day care facility would then rent this space in a redeveloped Kosciusko Center.

Also on the ground floor, these conceptual plans call for some of the old classrooms to be made available as office space for either non-profits or local business start-ups.  Each of these tenants would pay some type of rent, which is crucial in covering the utilities and other operating expenses for the building.

A fitness center is tentatively planned for the old gymnasium.  This space could also be repurposed as a banquet facility, if the need arose.

The old auditorium is reimagined as rehearsal and performance space for local artists.  It could also be used for lectures or meeting space for various community groups.

The second floor of this facility is imagined as supporting counseling and guidance resources for troubled or at-risk youth. It would also potentially have a computer lab, library and production studio.

The outside of Kosciusko is almost as interesting as its interior.  Besides having a separate play area for the day care center as well as a football field and community garden area.

Finally, the entire area would be connected to the proposed greenway project that is likely to move through the Warrendale neighborhood.

I need to emphasize, of course, that all of this is still preliminary.  However, the early signs for this project are extremely encouraging in my opinion.

As always, as more details become available, they will be reported on this blog.  Until then, Kosciusko Elementary and its potential reuse as a community center is your Cool Warrendale Thing of the Week.

With that, I'd like to open this up for discussion. What do you think of efforts to reuse Kosciusko Elementary as a community center?

Please post your thoughts in the comments section below.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Interesting Emails

I had an interesting email conversation with two retired police officers about the current state of the Detroit Police Department.  With their respective permissions, I'd like to share excerpts from those conversations with you today.

David L. Malhalab, a retired sergeant from the Detroit Police Department, commented in an email that:

DPD can't do the job of protecting residents - their leadership, their low hiring standards,  lack of personnel, poor equipment and low morale - are difficulties they can't overcome unless they get an infusion of money and personnel. Detroit needs a former Police Chief Bratton of LAPD to come in and clean house.

Mr. Malhalab remarks about former Chief William J. Bratton of the Los Angeles Police Department inspired me to reach out to Thomas E. Page, who began his career with Detroit Police Department before moving to the Los Angeles Police Department where he retired as a sergeant and officer in charge of the LAPD's Drug Recognition Unit.

I asked him if he thought Detroit needed a police chief like Bill Bratton.

For the most part I agree with David. As I think I've said before, I don't know if the DPD can be saved.  I really do believe it should be shut down and merged into the Wayne County Sheriff's Department.  Tear up the union contracts that make seniority the prime qualification for elite assignments, and that also prevent civilianization of jobs that sworn officers shouldn't be doing (e.g., directing traffic at Tiger games).  Above all, the police need to be held accountable.  Does anyone blame the DPD for the persistently high crime rate and the abysmally low clearance rate?  No, they don't.  Nobody holds their feet to the fire and says do something!  And that's really what Bratton did.  The underlying philosophy of Bratton's style (really all he did was  rename the old LAPD style of broken windows policing) is that police CAN do something about crime.  What I do disagree with David about is the need for more personnel.  The DPD needs better personnel and better utilization of that personnel.

Chief Bratton's reputation for holding his police officers accountable is legendary.  During his tenure, it was fairly common police stations to have a board listing each officer along with the number of arrests that they've made, number of citation issued and so on each month.

Registration Extended for Detroit College Promise

The deadline for seniors to apply for the Detroit College Promise scholarships to January 15, 2010.  There are currently over 475 Detroit Public School students registered online for this scholarship.

Registration takes only a few minutes.  For detailed instructions on how to register, click here.

The Detroit College Promise is providing an unlimited number of scholarships to seniors at Cody High School (18445 Cathedral) in 2010.  Each scholarship is good for $500 per year for up to four years.

The only requirements to qualify for the scholarship are being enrolled at Cody High School from December 1, 2008 through graduation and being a Detroit resident during this time.  More details about this scholarship are listed on their procedure page.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

DPS: Worst Test Scores Ever

The Detroit Public Schools posted the worst scores on record in the most recent test of students in large central U.S. cities.  The test for urban districts is part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress test given to school districts nationwide.

Please allow me to repeat this so that it truly sinks in: the Detroit Public Schools posted worst scores on record.

This is nothing, if not frustrating.  Unfortunately, however, I have to admit that I was not surprised when I heard this news.

Over the years, I have heard teachers demand that they should receive some of the highest pay and benefits in the nation while insisting that they have absolutely no responsibility for how their students perform.

Over the years, I have heard parents talk about their children's school as if it were a daycare center rather than one of the most important places that they will ever enter.

Over the years, I have heard students talk about the Detroit Public Schools as if it were either a social event or simply a place to hide at.

The news that the Detroit Public Schools posted the worst test schools on record is frustrating, but not surprising.  The full magnitude of this can be summarized by a quote from Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council on Great City Schools, a Washington, D.C.-based coalition of urban school districts.

There is no jurisdiction of any kind, at any level, at any time in the 30-year history of NAEP that has ever registered such low numbers.  They are barely above what one would expect simply by chance, as if the kids simply guessed at the answers.

The news that the Detroit Public Schools posted the worst test schools on record is frustrating, but not surprising.  For anyone who is interested in reading more about this story, it is available at Crain's Detroit Business.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Best Quote in Weeks

Sonny Eliot from WWJ-AM gave what has to be one of the funniest and most insightful quotes that I've heard in weeks.  As part of his regular weather report, he added:
It's 52 degrees in Three Rivers; that's the highest temperature in the state. Three Rivers--that's where they started a new business, making the front ends of horses. Then they ship them to the Detroit council chambers for final assembly.
I love that quote.  It seems totally appropriate.