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Detroit Music Weekend Gala
The inaugural Detroit Music Weekend began Friday night at the Detroit Opera House where 200 music lovers gathered for the Gala ($750 & $1,000 tickets). They savored cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres in the lobby, pausing for brief welcoming remarks delivered from the top of the grand staircase by founding director, Music Hall’s Vince Paul. A soaring operatic selection sung by soprano Nicole James signaled it was time for dinner, which was served at dramatically decorated tables set on the stage. There were interruptions to thank sponsors, board members and event coordinator Laura Raisch, and to salute Michigan Opera Theatre founder David DiChiera. His pancreatic cancer diagnosis has dictated his retirement but has not affected his good humor nor his bearing.
oakland confidential HORSE RACES: Democratic aspirations of taking a majority hold on Congress after the 2018 General Election will hinge on the party’s ability to take two dozen congressional seats, which may include upsets in Michigan’s 8th and 11th Districts, according to recent rankings of 82 districts by The New York Times. The piece split the districts into eight groups to watch, based on competitiveness ...more»
10/27/2010 - Doug Ross is an educator and pioneer, unwilling to tolerate the notion that financial status should determine the success of a child's education, and he has spent his career proving it.
Ross, founder of Detroit's University Preparatory Academy (UPA) charter school, recalled a UPA student named "Patrick" who disappeared from classes during his junior year in high school.
"He was incarcerated, and then living on the streets," Ross said. "To make sure no child would be lost, we went to an abandoned house on the east side and we got him out." The student went on to graduate and is now a firefighter, Ross said. "Those are the stories we remember."
Ross, a Birmingham resident, started his career as a middle school teacher in Detroit after graduating from University of Michigan, but quickly became frustrated with the ineffectiveness of the prescribed curriculum.
"I came up with a different form of teaching and it was not acceptable to the school board," Ross said. "So, I decided I could make more of an impact by going into politics and I went to Princeton to get a degree in public policy."
Ross became engrossed in politics and went on to serve as U.S. Assistant Secretary of Labor in the Clinton Administration, Director of the Michigan Department of Commerce, and as a Michigan legislator. While in politics, he was most proud to play a role in the comeback of the Michigan economy in the 1980s and helping to eradicate sales tax on food and medicine. He then ran and lost the gubernatorial election in 1998 and wondered where he could apply his knowledge to make the broadest impact on society. Education quickly re-emerged as a source of opportunity.
"It never occurred to me (to start a charter school) until 1999," he said. His mission was to ensure a 90 percent graduation rate with 90 percent of the students pursuing a postsecondary education. With 94 percent of the class of 2007 accepting their diploma, his first class was a triumph and graduation day was momentous for Ross.
"It was very emotional," he said. "There was a real sense of pride seeing them succeed. It was one of the most dramatic and satisfying days of my life. If we had not been willing to intervene in a personal fashion, some students may have ended up on the streets."
Ross attributes the success of UPA to the high expectations of students and personal commitment by teachers to do whatever it takes. "We can't change the outside world, but we can work to keep them on track," he said. "At core, it is the belief of the child that, 'I'm staying with you. No matter what you do, you're not going to push me away.' The hope is that UPA is a place that develops an equal opportunity model for Detroit children," Ross said. "You can't build great urban schools bureaucratically. We do not accept the fact that poor children should do worse than middle class students."
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