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mLive.com – Fab Five star Jalen Rose’s Detroit charter school gains support as May 14 open house approaches

May 9, 2011

By Mike Wayland

It appears the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy in Detroit has a powerful new ally.

Roy Roberts, the new emergency financial Manager for Detroit Public Schools, said he is open to any type of systems that will better educate the city’s schoolchildren.

“I am for any good system, sustainable system, that can educate our kids, give them a first rate education and to prepare them to be college-ready or career-ready when they leave our school system,” Roberts told WJR-AM 760’s Frank Beckmann on Thursday. “So I think for me to turn my back on any system would be a gross injustice to the young people in the Detroit school system.”

Although Roberts wasn’t speaking directly about Detroit native Jalen Rose’s academy, which is currently accepting applications for its inaugural “Fab Freshman Class,” he echoed its mission.

“It’s not just about graduating from high school, it’s about graduating from college and moving on to be a productive member of society and having a career,” Rose told MLive Detroit last week during a phone interview from an ESPN studio in Bristol, Conn.

Rose, a former member of the University of Michigan’s “Fab Five,” said the tuition-free academy — scheduled to open in September — looks to have 100 percent of its students graduate from high school, 95 percent enroll in college, and 90 percent graduate from college.

Informational sessions about the school are scheduled from 6-8 p.m. May 12 and 17 at University of Detroit Mercy, 4001 W. McNichols Road, which is a partner of the academy. An open house and information session is also scheduled at the academy from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 14.

Incoming high school freshmen wishing to be a part of the school’s inaugural class” should apply by the end of the month, and the school will choose it’s first class of 120 students through a lottery in June.

However, charter schools haven’t always fared too well in Detroit.

March 13, The Wall Street Journal: “Charter school students score about the same on state tests as Detroit district students, even though charters have fewer special education students (8 percent versus 17 percent in the district) and fewer poor children (65 percent get subsidized lunches versus 82 percent at district schools). It’s hard to know whether children are better off under these ‘reforms’ or they’re just being moved around more.”

But Rose’s academy isn’t just any other charter school. Backed by Rose, a 13-year NBA veteran, the school appears to be gaining support from city officials, along with fellow athletes with big pocketbooks.

Here’s part two of an interview with Rose, an alumnus of Detroit’s Southwestern High School, involving the academy and Detroit.

Q: I saw you thanked Detroit Lions defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh for his support of the academy on your Twitter page. Have you received a lot of support from the community?

A: “It starts with my co-founder. I have a great co-founder, Michael Carter; a planning team that spent a lot of time, energy and diligence; a great school leader in Dr. (Charles P.) Muncatchy; great board members full of community leaders, business leaders, who are willing to donate their time and energy to the success of our students.

“The next step we’re starting to take right now is going after donors. And being a donor is not just your money, its your opportunity to lead, its your ability to be a vessel, to be somebody that gives a helping hand to the students of Detroit because we need it.”

Q: What do you think about the current education system in Detroit?

A: “Detroit school situation is in a crisis. Of course, we have some great private schools, public schools, charter schools that have done a tremendous job educating, that have done a great job of producing leaders, but we have more of the opposite happening.

“It starts with education. Don’t get me wrong, sports and entertainment is a tremendous vehicle, but there are so many jobs that come with being an athlete … as leaders, those with a voice to expose our students to that and show them yes, you can be the next Lebron James, you can be the next Oprah Winfrey, but here are 500 more jobs you could possibly be if that doesn’t work out.”

Q: How do you feel Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has been doing?

A: “I think he’s doing a terrific job. You remove yourself from the city of Detroit, the state of Michigan; if you’re not Barack Obama, a lot of people will probably say he has the second toughest job.

“It’s not an easy task of what he was taking over, just like Obama had to take over for Bush. What he had to clean up from the Kwame Kilpatrick era, that wasn’t something that happens normally, so I think he’s done a tremendous job for a town that once housed two to three times more citizens.”