When Dr. Donnie Davis learned what the Educational Achievement Authority (EAA) planned for the 15 Detroit schools that are now part of the EAA, he was interested.
Davis says, ”The vision of school reform with giving buildings more autonomy and meeting students where they are” helped him leave Atlanta where he had served as a building administrator in schools with similar demographics and needs. Davis accepted the role of principal of Mumford High School a few months ago and has been busy helping the vision become a reality.
Mumford High School, formerly a Detroit Public School, opened in September in a brand new building. The attractive structure is now home to more than 1,100 students in grades 9-12. New is the operative word at Mumford. The building is new, the administrators are new, the teachers are new, the staff is new, and all students had to register to attend Mumford.
All the new aspects of Mumford create both prospects and challenges. Davis is focusing on establishing a culture of accountability and opportunity. He believes, “Everybody must be accountable, accountable for their actions, their decisions.”
One example is fostering the culture of protecting instructional time by insisting that students must be IN class when the bell rings. This has not always been part of the culture of the school and Davis wants to ensure that it becomes part of Mumford’s culture.
Dr. Davis is also adamant that school is and should be an opportunity for students. He wants students to take full advantage of the opportunity to get an education and succeed in life. He says, “Students should exploit me and all the teachers . . . use us until we are completely spent . . . drained of energy, because this (school) is the best opportunity students have for success.” He also believes students must be willing to give 100% in order to succeed.
Davis adds, “While a lot of people (athletic coaches) will tell kids that it’s gonna be tough, but it’s gonna be fair . . . I tell them, it’s gonna be tough, but it isn’t going to be fair.” Dr. Davis explains that urban students have obstacles that not all students face; there will always be some racism, bigotry. He feels that at the end of the day, it is still the United States of America and if you work hard enough you will succeed.
Along with accountability, Mumford’s new principal, also wants to get to know the community as a part of building the culture. He acknowledges that getting familiar with the values and beliefs in a community will take time. With all the “firsts” taking place at Mumford, they are forced to “build the bicycle” while they are riding it.
The staff is also getting to know one another, as well as the students. Davis was able to hire all the Mumford teachers and he said he looked for a few things when interviewing staff members: were they willing to work extremely hard and put in a whole lot of hours, and were they ready to build relationships with kids and hold themselves and students accountable.
In addition to new teachers, Mumford has a team of coaches from the Institute for Excellence in Education working in classrooms to support teaching and learning. Mary Alice Krajenta, Tracey McKenzie, and Molly Sholten are instructional and data coaches. Leslie Reid and Rebecca Hicks, also from IEE, serve as intervention specialists at the high school. This IEE team embodies the motto: “Whatever it takes . . . we’re gonna get this right for the kids” and have started “Take-out Tuesdays” to meet with teachers during their lunch hour. The team has assisted with scheduling students in classes, helped with the School Improvement Plan, confirmed student eligibility for dual enrollment, and jumped in as needed to ensure success for all students.
Welcome, Dr. Davis and Mumford High School. We are excited about the great things to come for your high school!