In the midst of chaos within the Detroit Public School System, where building conditions have been deemed unsafe, teachers aren’t teaching due to sick-outs and students aren’t being educated, there sits a community school who has quite a different story.
Dove Academy of Detroit serves over 475 students in preschool through 8th grade, and sits nestled in a Detroit neighborhood that serves predominantly African American working families who want the best education possible for their children. This neighborhood isn’t just any neighborhood… its crime and drug scene has earned it a top spot on the not-so-prestigious list of most dangerous zip codes in America. The administrators, teachers and staff are dedicated to making a difference in the children’s lives not only academically, but socially and emotionally as well.
Technology teacher, Paul Ezel, explained that at Dove Academy, “We teach subjects, behavior and character. We teach them how to be good people… not just how to be smart.” At Dove, teachers nourish the whole child and are deeply invested in all aspects of their growth. Simply put, kids are accepted for who they are, as they are, and with great hope for who they will become.
Upon walking through the doors at Dove Academy, you’ll notice the clean and safe environment, students being respectful of their teachers and teachers being respectful of their students, and signs of academic achievement vibrantly displayed in showcases. However, Dove is much more than meets the eye. Dove is a place where students and staff members feel like a family.
Second grade teacher Jodi Austin described, “Dove is really family-oriented. The kids are excited to come to school everyday and we even offer them after school programs to meet their interests, which they love. From Spanish, to basketball and cheerleading, and even an E-reader Club where the students get to read on Nooks. We offer something for every student.”
The Dove family focuses on academic achievement. They participate in No Excuses University, a program based on three core beliefs: educating students to prepare them for college, training staff to help make college a reality for their students, and participating in conferences and trainings to further implement into classroom practices. As part of No Excuses University, each classroom adopts a University to represent their classroom for the year, the students learn the fight song for their University and recite it each Friday while wearing their college apparel. In addition, each classroom at Dove strives to visit a University yearly no matter the grade level of the students. Being college bound is not just something they talk about, it is something they live out on a daily basis.
Dove’s Principal, Brandon Slone, believes that “No Excuses has truly helped Dove Academy by providing a framework of six exceptional systems that we model our educational program around. We believe as a collective school if we can implement these systems with true fidelity there will be positive outcomes in both teacher performance and student achievement because you can’t have one without the other.”
Dove Academy attributes their spike in student enrollment to No Excuses University and all that Dove has to offer. Having nearly 500 students, there is still additional room for growth. Currently, smaller class sizes are sustained to allow teachers to differentiate instruction for their students on a more personal level and there are no plans to change this with increasing enrollment numbers.
Kindergarten teacher Nicole Bommarito said, “Having only 22 students makes such a difference with working in small groups and meeting each students’ needs.”
In our city of chaos, there sits a school that IS making a difference. A school who empowers students and focuses on preparing them for college. A group of staff who encourage students to be their best and authentic self. A culture that embraces the interests and needs of their students and strives for high academic achievement. A place parents CHOOSE to send their children each day.
“You make the choice to come here and you can visibly see we are doing better things than the schools around here,” said first grade teacher Renee Wendt.
Dove Academy of Detroit is much more than an educational institution for children, it is an Academy that is centered around a family. They call their family, Dove Nation.