Highland Park Schools

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Highland Park Public School Academy System
Highland Park, Michigan
District information
Type Public (charter)
Grades PreK-8
Superintendent Carmen Willingham
Schools 1
Students and staff
Students 352 (2016-17)
Teachers 24
Student-teacher ratio 29:1
Other information
Website http://www.hipark.org/
The previous Highland Park Schools headquarters and former Highland Park Renaissance Academy High School Campus at 131 Pilgrim
Former headquarters at 20 Bartlett

Highland Park Schools, officially the School District of the City of Highland Park, is a school district headquartered in Highland Park, Michigan, United States in Greater Detroit.[1] The district serves the city of Highland Park, a total of 2.98 square miles (7.7 km2) of land.[2]

As of August 2012, prior to the outsourcing of the remaining schools to the Leona Group, the district had three schools with almost 1,000 students. As of that year it was one of the lowest performing school districts in the State of Michigan.[3] As of 2015 it does not directly operate any schools. Instead it authorizes charter organizations to operate one remaining school, Highland Park Public School Academy (PK-8) by the Leona Group.[1] High school students living in the district are assigned to Detroit Public Schools,[4] with Northwestern High School as their neighborhood high school.[5]


Once the "Schools of Choice" program was passed into state law, the district had begun accepting students from Detroit and Hamtramck.[6]

In 1977, the current high school was built for the increasing numbers of students transferring from other school districts (particularly Detroit). Some students were motivated by Highland Park students' access to Highland Park Junior College, which was known to be selective.[7] Jack Martin, who was the emergency manager of HPPS appointed by the state, said that it was a junior college "that was harder to get into than Wayne State."[7]

With the loss of Chrysler and drug dealers coming into the area, the high school was a point of pride for the District and City as it remained a draw for black families seeking suburban-style education without moving there.[7]

Beginning in the 1990s, the district began its decline with the closing of its pool that state-champions used to train in. With students slowing began to leave. Cuts to programs both academic and after-school accrued yearly. In 1996, another hit came in the closing of Highland Park Community College.[7] Deficit spending and deterioration of the buildings began setting in during the 2000s.[7]

In 2003, 45% of the district's students did not live in Highland Park. This prevented significant closings of schools, prevented a state takeover, and added $2 million to the district's budget. Sally Howell, author of "Competing for Muslims: New Strategies for Urban Renewal in Detroit", wrote that "Many of the non-resident students who matriculated in Highland Park had serious disciplinary, academic, or personal problems."[6] In 2006 the district had over 3,000 students.[8] After 2007, student enrollment has dropped off quickly with families either leaving the District altogether or transfer the students elsewhere.[7] In 2012 there were fewer than 1,000 students in the district schools.[8]

Efforts to attract Arab and Muslim students[edit]

In 2005 the district made plans to attract Arab and Muslim students resident in Detroit and Hamtramck.[9] Dr. Theresa Saunders, the superintendent of the school system, hired Yahya Alkebsi (Arabic: يحيى الكبسي‎), a Yemeni-American educator, as the district's Arab Muslim consultant. It added Arabic-speaking teachers, and began offering instruction in Arabic. Sallow Howell, author of "Competing for Muslims: New Strategies for Urban Renewal in Detroit", said that the district began treating "Muslim families more directly like consumers".[10] Howell said that the district agreed "to segregate Muslim students from mainstream classrooms" but that the district routinely denied that this was the case.[10] Alkebsi said that he would bring halal food to HPS schools, but he was unable to do so. The district instead had vegetarian options.[11]

Financial emergency[edit]

In January 2012, the State of Michigan's review team issued a report recommending that the Governor appoint an emergency manager. The team found that the District had 3 or more years of deficit spending, failed to spend money according to grant and appropriations and failure to have policy and procedures in place.[12] The School Board voted to challenge the appointment of an Emergency Manager. On Monday January 30, 2012, Emergency Manager Jack Martin appointed by Governor of Michigan Rick Snyder took control of the School District. The District is the second school district to fall under the direction of an Emergency Manager. The current buildings are highly deteriorating thus fourcing consideration of moving the current high school student to the previous high school and closing of Barber Focus Academy in February 2012. Additional three closed school that the District owns will be torn down in 2012.[7] In July 2012, the Highland Park School District was reported to have one of the lowest literacy rates in the country with more than 90% of students failing college reading entrance exams, 97% failing math and 100% failing social studies. These dismal scores prompted a lawsuit by the ACLU against the state of Michigan.[citation needed]

Robert Davis, a community activist, had embezzled over $125,000 from the district between 2004 and 2010. He pleaded guilty to two charges: filing a false tax return and conversion. The latter charge has a 10-year sentence. He was scheduled to be sentenced on December 9, 2014.[13]

Charter system[edit]

In August 2012 the district outsourced schools to Leona Group LLC.[3] The emergency manager, Joyce Parker, and her predecessor, Jack Martin, had determined that there was insufficient funding to continue direct operation of schools.[14] The original school district remained to pay off debts and collect tax revenue.[15] The Highland Park Schools district has an elected board with no capability of influencing the decisions made by the charter schools authorized by it. The Leona Group operates its school under a separate, parallel district, called the Highland Park Public School Academy System, controlled by panel with three members appointed by an emergency manager. In 2014 the Highland Park Public School Academy System had a deficit of $600,000. None of this debt was incurred by the original Highland Park School District.[16]

In 2015 the emergency manager, Don Weatherspoon, announced that the Leona-controlled district was closing its high school. This means Highland Park's public school system only covers grades PK-8.[15] Bert Johnson, a member of the Michigan Senate; and LaTanya Garrett, a member of the Michigan House of Representatives, said that they were trying to reopen the high school.[17]

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit saying that the district was failing to provide an adequate level of education. The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that the legal system is not the proper place for this lawsuit and the Michigan Supreme Court refused to hear the case.[18]

In 2016 the other charter school authorized by Highland Park Schools, Carver Academy, announced that it was switching its authorizer to Bay Mills Community College, which means the original Highland Park Schools district lost $125,000 in yearly revenue it had received from the school's operations. The district previously received 3% of the money the State of Michigan gave to the school per student; the state gave $7,300 per student at Carver. Currently only one school, Highland Park Public School Academy, is authorized by the Highland Park school district.[16]

Receivership for the HP school district ended in 2018.[19]


The school district is currently headquartered at 12360 Woodward Avenue.[1] Previously the district was headquartered in the Henry Ford Campus.[20] It was also once headquartered at 20 Bartlett.[2]


HPS developed the Career Academy, a program to allow under-achieving students to graduate from high school or to be certified for a GED.[6]


Front of Highland Park Renaissance Academy, the only remaining charter school authorized by Highland Park Schools.
  • Highland Park Renaissance Academy,[21] formerly Highland Park Renaissance Academy Barber Campus

Schools which continue to be open but are no longer in the system:

  • George Washington Carver Academy [1]
    • The school's 2008 mathematics and English standardized test scores for 4th grade students were invalidated after cheating had been discovered.[22] In 2013 the school participated in the "Students for Peace" competition in order to reduce the amount of fighting on campus; in 2012 91% of the students had received suspensions because they participated in fighting.[23] In 2016 it had 560 students, and it is managed by Midwest Management Group. That year it changed its authorizer to Bay Mills Community College out of concern that the Highland Park school district may collapse.[16]

Defunct Schools[edit]

High schools:

Primary schools:

  • Cortland Elementary School[16] - repurposed as Highland Park Head Start.[citation needed]
  • Ferris Elementary School - Currently abandoned as of August 2013 —slated to be razed.
  • Highland Park Renaissance Academy Henry Ford Campus (formerly Henry Ford Academy and Henry Ford Elementary School)[7]
  • Liberty Elementary School (formerly Liberty Focus Academy)
  • Lincoln Avenue Elementary School - This school has been razed.
  • Midland Elementary School - This school has been razed.
  • Thompson Elementary School - Currently abandoned as of August 2013 —slated to be razed.
  • Willard Elementary School - This school has been razed.

Notable alumni[edit]



  1. ^ a b c "About Us." Highland Park Schools. Retrieved on April 30, 2017. "The School District of the City of Highland Park Administrative Office mailing address is 12360 Woodward Avenue, Highland Park, MI 48203"
  2. ^ a b Home. () Highland Park Schools. September 29, 2008. Retrieved on November 5, 2012. "20 Bartlett Highland Park, MI 48203"
  3. ^ a b Banchero, Stephanie and Matthew Dolan. "Michigan City Outsources All of Its Schools ." The Wall Street Journal. August 2, 2012. Retrieved on November 5, 2012. Available at the Center for Education Reform.
  4. ^ Lewis, Sharon D. "Highland Park’s high school to close as enrollment dips" (Archive). The Detroit News. May 28, 2015. Retrieved on June 23, 2015. "Weatherspoon said high school students from Highland Park can enroll in nearby Detroit Public Schools, another neighboring district, a charter school or the state-run Education Achievement Authority. DPS will be the students’ home district."
  5. ^ "Enroll at DPS Community District." Detroit Public Schools. Retrieved on May 2, 2017. "All 8th grade students from Highland Park are encouraged to call Detroit Collegiate Preparatory Academy at Northwestern for enrollment."
  6. ^ a b c Howell, p. 219.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Foley, Aaron (February 2, 2012). "From state-of-the-art to state takeover: The rise and fall of Highland Park Public Schools". mlive.com. Retrieved 2 February 2012.  ()
  8. ^ a b Lewis, Shawn D. "Schools pitch students, parents from Highland Park" (Archive). The Detroit News. June 9, 2015. Retrieved on July 6, 2015.
  9. ^ Cecil, Angel. "HIGHLAND PARK SCHOOLS SEEK MORE ARAB, MUSLIM STUDENTS." Detroit Free Press. January 28, 2005. News p. B2. Retrieved on September 8, 2013. byline says: "HAMTRAMCK, DETROIT INTEND TO KEEP THEM"
  10. ^ a b Howell, p. 220. "HPS, like a dozen or more local charter schools, sought to outmaneuver more experienced districts by[...] and agreeing to segregate Muslim students from mainstream classrooms, a policy that is routinely denied in Highland Park but is also very much on display in local charter schools."
  11. ^ Howell, p. 223.
  12. ^ "Panel recommends emergency manager for Highland Park School District". Detroit Free Press. January 4, 2012. Retrieved 13 January 2012. 
  13. ^ "Activist Robert Davis Pleads To Federal Charges In Highland Park Schools Theft Case" (Archive) Detroit CBS. September 2, 2014. Retrieved on September 5, 2014.
  14. ^ "About Us." (Archive) Highland Park Renaissance Academy. Retrieved on November 5, 2012.
  15. ^ a b Bethencourt, Daniel. "Highland Park parents seek options as high school shuts" (Archive). Detroit Free Press. June 8, 2015. Retrieved on July 3, 2015.
  16. ^ a b c d Guyette, Curt (American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan) (2016-07-06). "The disappearing district: what's happened to Highland Park schools?". Metro Times. Retrieved 2017-04-30. 
  17. ^ Neher, Jake. "As schools open across state, lawmakers work to reopen Highland Park high school" (Archive). Michigan Radio. September 7, 2015. Retrieved on November 24, 2015.
  18. ^ Pluta, Rick. "Michigan Supreme Court won’t take up “right to read” case against state, Highland Park schools" (Archive). Michigan Radio. September 25, 2015. Retrieved on November 25, 2015.
  19. ^ "Board President Ramsey:." Sent from the State of Michigan. May 21, 2018. Retrieved on September 13, 2018.
  20. ^ "About Us." Highland Park Schools. Retrieved on July 3, 2015. "The School District of the City of Highland Park Administrative Offices are located at 131 Pilgrim Street, Highland Park, MI 48203" and "Henry Ford Campus: 131 Pilgirm [sic]"
  21. ^ "Highland Park Renaissance Academy." Highland Park Renaissance. Retrieved on September 5, 2014.
  22. ^ Dawsey, Chastity Pratt; Peggy Walsh-Sarnecki; Kristi Tanner (2011-03-10). "After cheating scandal, school learns lessons in taking tests". Detroit Free Press at the USA Today. Retrieved 2017-04-30. 
  23. ^ Russell, Kim (2013-11-03). "How a school where 91% of kids had been suspended for violence stopped bullying & fights". WXYZ-TV. Retrieved 2017-04-30. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°23′52″N 83°05′29″W / 42.39778°N 83.09139°W / 42.39778; -83.09139