Defend Public Education

Petition to defend the Catherine Ferguson Academy and all DPS schools and programs

Posted in Uncategorized by Nicole Conaway on April 16, 2011

With support from hundreds of Detroiters, students at the Catherine Ferguson Academy occupied their school for several hours after school on Friday April 15. Their peaceful sit-in was in protest of the proposed closure or charter school conversion of their school along with dozens of other Detroit Public Schools. The occupiers secured themselves in the library and read their demands and gave inspiring speeches via loudspeaker to a roaring crowd outside who continued chanting even over police sirens. 8 students and 5 supporters were brutally arrested.  Please read and sign our petition to support not only CFA, but all DPS schools.

“Educate a woman, you educate a nation.”

-Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka former Deputy President of South Africa

 The Catherine Ferguson Academy is OUR SCHOOL! We Will NOT be Shut Down!


For over 20 years, pregnant and parenting young women living in and around Detroit have gotten the support they need to complete high school and prepare for higher education. At the Catherine Ferguson Academy, small classes provide a supportive learning environment, and a modified schedule and dual enrollment night school allow students to recover credits and get a head start on college. CFA provides services like WIC, healthcare for moms and babies, and early education from birth through pre-K. Without this support, most high school aged mothers do not graduate.  All CFA graduates are accepted to community college or university and secured with financial aid. Rob Bobb has named CFA as one of eighteen schools to become charters or close. We refuse to be shut down.

We have seen the harmful effects of privatization at our school already. When a private company took over food service, they destroyed plans to serve real, wholesome food and even sold our kitchen equipment and refuse d to let us use the kitchen to prepare food grown in our school garden. Now we are served inadequate portions of highly processed food that is sometimes undercooked or spoiled. Teachers who provide food for students have been told to stop and even reprimanded. We will not let our school be handed over to a charter operator who will degrade our education the way they have degraded our food, or try to shut down our program so they can use our building for a for-profit school.

Student leadership was the driving force that created CFA. At first a transition program that students were forced out of after giving birth, it was expanded to a full high school after students returned and insisted that they be allowed to stay and receive childcare. Students named the school Catherine Ferguson after a freed slave who founded a “Sabbath School”  where freed black slaves and other working poor learned to read and write, cared for orphaned children,  and provided childcare allowing women to work and gain independence.  Now it is up to the students once again to lead the fight to keep CFA open and to determine the character and quality of our own education. We will not accept a return to the days when becoming pregnant and raising a child meant being forced to quit school, or our lives being limited by sexism, racism, cynicism and betrayals of politicians. To quote Dr. King, we must act “with the fierce urgency of now”.

We the undersigned demand that:

  1.  The Catherine Ferguson Academy must remain open for current students and all women in the Detroit area who are pregnant or parenting to complete high school and prepare for higher education.
  2. CFA exist for the well-being and healthy development of the students. High-quality education and support services must be maintained. Access to better food with proper nutrition for pregnant women, breast-feeding mothers, and growing children must be provided.
  3. We stand united in the defense of public education as a fundamental right and we will not accept the closing or selling-off of any Detroit Public School to private companies who put their profits above the needs of students. We will boycott any charter school that displaces current students or shuts down current schools and programs.

Endorsed by: CFA Student Leaders, Defend Public Education/Save Our Students Caucus of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality Bay Any Means Necessary (BAMN)                         313-585-3637

Download and circulate the Petition to defend the Catherine Ferguson Academy and all DPS Schools

11 Responses

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  1. Mark O'Donnell said, on June 8, 2011 at 11:17 AM

    If your repuclican party is truly pro-life, you must support this school. These kids not only get a great education and raise their children, but 90% of them go on to college. I don’t think the Catholic school I attended has a record that good. These kids will in turn make sure their children understand the importance of a good education and also become successful, and hopefully break the cycle of teen pregnancy. Is there a more positive outcome than that? The alternative is they don’t get an education and probably end up on welfare. How much does that cost the tax payers? The republicans are setting up a communist state in Michigan.

  2. […] Link Summary…e-greening-of-detroit…Detroits-food-desert-…ine-ferguson-academy/http://maddowblog.msn…rine-ferguson-academy…headline/2011/04/26-4http://defendpubliced…schools-and-programs/…ademy-for-young-women…gardens-take-over-nyc…s-rachel-gutter-usgbc…sota-schools-millions […]

  3. […] Defend Public Education and both have petitions in defense of the academy. […]

  4. […] Defend Public Education and both have petitions in defense of the academy. […]

  5. […] Defend Public Education–another petition to defend CFA and other Detroit public schools. […]

  6. […] website Defend Public Education has a petition going, as does […]

  7. Nicole Conaway said, on April 23, 2011 at 11:17 PM

    I didn’t mean for the comment section to be required on the petition, but since it was we have received amazing support through the comments signers have submitted. Here are just a few:

    Those students are in middle of a moral struggle. They stand between the privatization of our society and democracy. We must all be very concerned that if the authorities agree that we should silence our young, we have all lost.

    This school has been a beacon of hope for the restrictions and shame our society places on the girls who become pregnant in high school. It deserves to be applauded and emulated – not threatened.

    All children deserve a right to an education. I remember a friend of mine who was also an Honors student I lost from my High School because she became pregnant and the school chased her off. She is a natural genious, but her access to an equal education basically ended with her pregnancy. CFA shouldn’t be closed but used as a positive example for all cities and counties.

  8. Michelle Petit said, on April 23, 2011 at 4:46 PM

    Grrrr… I saw when the form submitted (for the petition) that it didn’t preserve my line breaks. It will make what I wrote read even more like a diatribe than it was. *sigh*

    Anyway, this is what I wrote. I struggled to keep my temper, I hope that didn’t show.

    “O ye loving mothers, know ye that in God’s sight, the best of all ways to worship Him is to educate the children and train them in all the perfections of humankind. . . .” ~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

    In a world where women and girls are now expected not only to be strong women, capable wives, loving mothers, AND hard workers, I don’t understand why or how anyone would think it’s a good idea to close a school that has had success training young girls to become just that.

    Moreover, in a country where the so called “right to life” debate is raging so loudly, I wonder what these girls are supposed to do? I mean, damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Can’t/shouldn’t have an abortion, but can’t be educated either (and therefore my children will be un- or under-educated). Brilliant choices.

    I thought undereducated women were the bailliwick of Muslim countries such as Afghanistan. When did we decide women shouldn’t be educated? Please don’t pretend this isn’t what’s happening here; this is, after all, a girl’s school — more, it’s a young mothers’ school. Because these young ladies have children “early” (by this relatively arbitrary standard), they are deemed unworthy. Why aren’t we doing the same to the young men who fathered these children? Oh there’s no special school for them? I wonder if that’s because no matter how progressive we pretend to be, women still end up carrying the burden of the child-rearing load? That’s ok. Women and men may be equal in God’s eyes, but they certainly aren’t equivalent, after all; in that circumstance, however, we also need to recognize the need for women to be educated, particularly mothers.

    “When all mankind shall receive the same opportunity of education and the equality of men and women be realized, the foundations of war will be utterly destroyed.” ~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (he was to the Baha’i faith what St John the Baptist was to the Christian faith)

    I understand the concept of budgets and tightening the belt. But Catherine Ferguson is an example of successful programs. Why eliminate what works, and in favor of what? These young ladies work hard; they and their children deserve to preserve the gains they have made. It’s that simple.

  9. melissa tiernan said, on April 23, 2011 at 1:47 PM

    Robert Bobb, the state appointee overseeing the Detroit Public Schools, has set aside nearly $40 million to pay for consulting fees and perks for a turnaround team he assembled to strengthen the district’s financial management, angering unions that have suffered 2,500 layoffs since summer.

    The deficit-ridden district has leased riverfront apartments for consultants, as well as paid $400 a week per person for food in addition to airfare to fly some out of town for weekends, according to invoices and school officials. Some of the consultants come from Washington, D.C., and Cleveland — cities where Bobb and his top academic consultant previously worked.

    DPS officials said Friday the consultants will save more money than they cost in the long run and have saved about $20 million so far.

    Union leaders balked at the spending on consultants. >br> “It’s a hard pill to swallow when you tell people you have no money and you continue to spend money,” said Ruby Newbold, president of the Detroit Association of Educational Office Employees union, whose members average $26,000 a year.
    After clearing out hundreds of administrators from the historically management-heavy schools system, Bobb has approved no-bid contracts to dozens of out-of-town contractors and firms to lead several departments.

    The short-term troubleshooters are budgeted to cost $38.8 million this year — twice the cost of the administrators who were released from those jobs, according to documents obtained by the Free Press. Their contracts also include payments for expenses such as airline tickets, hotels, rental cars, meals, taxis, parking and office supplies.
    Keith Johnson, president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, said it’s hypocritical of Bobb to budget so many consultants.

    “When you look at how we got into this financial mess in the first place, a lot had to do with getting into contracts with consultants and vendors,” Johnson said. “The very things Robert Bobb said he’s seeking to clean up, he seems to be perpetuating.”
    –Detroit Free Press

  10. Sue said, on April 22, 2011 at 9:36 PM

    I heard this on The Rachel Maddow Show, and my heart goes out to you. Am telling friends and others with websites to please post and sign this petition.

  11. Kara Zivin said, on April 18, 2011 at 2:59 PM

    Please keep the school open!

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