Cornerstone obtains approval to merge three schools in turnaround offer

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Cornerstone Schools, one of Detroit’s largest charter school networks, will consolidate three schools into a new K-12 program in what its leaders say is an effort to improve declining academic performance.

The network is creating a new school called Lincoln-King Adams-Young Academy, which will have an expected enrollment of 1,400 students on three campuses. The school will replace Cornerstone Health and Technology High School, Lincoln-King High School and the Adams-Young Elementary Building in the network. Many students who currently attend school in these buildings will be able to remain in place, although most will see major changes in school leadership and staff. Teachers in schools undergoing consolidation will receive letters of offer to join the new school, Cornerstone officials said.

Trustees at Grand Valley State University, which oversees Cornerstone and dozens of other charter schools in Detroit, voted in favor of the proposal on Friday.

The changes come after GVSU officials called Cornerstone Health and Technology High School, which will close as part of the plan, a “weaker school” due to poor test scores and high teacher turnover.

Cornerstone does not intend to change its curriculum or place an emphasis on character building – its schools for the most part perform above average in Detroit, although well below average for the state.

The founder of the network said changes in leadership – including his own return to a prominent position – would help reverse poor academic performance.

Clark Durant, 72, founded Cornerstone as a chain of private schools before converting them in 2009 to state-funded charters. In January 2020, he took the helm of Cornerstone Education Group, the nonprofit that operates five schools in Detroit.

“I’m coming back to be the CEO with a huge mission and result goal for these kids,” he told Chalkbeat, explaining why he expected GVSU to support the plan.

In hiring new administrators and school staff, “I am looking for people who no longer see this as a job, but as a true vocation and who are ready to put in the time, energy and commitment, these people. children, ”Durant said.

Don Cooper, assistant vice president of charter schools at GVSU, noted that the changes will alter the oversight structure of the Cornerstone network by placing students at the new school under the authority of a single school board. Currently, Lincoln-King shares a school board with Washington-Parks Academy, another Cornerstone school. Cornerstone Health and Technology High School had its own school board.

As part of the plan, students at Lincoln-King High School, Cornerstone Health and Technology High School, and Adams-Young Elementary Campus in the network will all technically attend the same school.

According to Cornerstone’s request to open the new school, students from Kindergarten to Grade 8 will attend class in the current Adams-Young building. The current Lincoln-King building will accommodate Grades 11 and 12 students, and the current Cornerstone Health and Technology High School will accommodate Grades 9 and 10.

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This story was originally published by Chalkbeat, a nonprofit news organization covering public education. Subscribe to their newsletters here.


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