Recently, The Detroit Public Schools Foundation and President Pamela J. Moore were featured in an article on Detroit News. You can read the full article here.

Bankole Thompson: How Detroit school’s nonprofit is making a comeback
Bankole Thompson

The Detroit Public Schools Foundation’s main goal is to support some of the district’s programs. Doing so has been more than a notion.

But because the Detroit Public Schools Community District struggled to emerge from decades of state oversight where it was met with consistent public condemnation concerning misspent resources, the foundation was perceived differently by the community.

After all, who wants to give dollars to a foundation directly linked to a school district with poor management of public resources?

But that’s not the case after emergency management of the district ended in 2016 with the return to an empowered, elected school board. Pamela J. Moore was named president and CEO of the foundation, and Nikolai Vitti became superintendent of DPSCD.

Pamela Moore isn’t the typical foundation administrator. She doesn’t seek the limelight or try to hastily organize a press conference for every announcement, Thompson writes.
“The foundation is crucial to the district’s work because it offers the opportunity to fill the resource gaps that are created due to historic inequitable funding at the state and local level,” Vitti told me. “We should live in a country and state where philanthropy is not needed to provide our students with a fully funded public education.”

But the persistence of inequality in an underserved school district like Detroit, where poverty is a common denominator for a lot of students, shows the need for conscientious benevolence from the donor class is even more crucial now.

Too often, leaders of foundations with billions of dollars have their own vision about what they want the world to look like, and its usually a radical departure from the authentic, long-term needs of those who have been starved of opportunities.

The school foundation is not deterred by those compounding issues.

“Ms. Moore’s leadership has brought funding for after-school programs and scholarships to students,” Vitti says. “The foundation has also properly managed the funding the district has attracted over the last five years for technology investments and water purification in schools.”

Moore isn’t the typical foundation administrator. She doesn’t seek the limelight or try to hastily organize a press conference for every announcement. She says she wants the foundation’s results to speak for themselves.

“Most large urban districts across the country have a nonprofit to attract private dollars and fundraise,” Moore said. “Without our nonprofit, the district would be unable to issue grants and receive private dollars that are required to come through us.”

Moore added that since 2016 the foundation has raised and managed $33 million. Its staff grew from four to 10.

It also served as the fiduciary for the Connected Futures project in the summer of 2020, during the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, which provided thousands of DPSCD students and families with wireless tablets through a corporate philanthropic effort led by DTE chairman and CEO Jerry Norcia.

As the foundation grows, Vitti sees a greater need to expand.

“The challenge is continuing to develop the trust of the business and philanthropic communities based on previous financial and political problems the district has experienced,” Vitti said.

“The other challenge is that there are simply too many organizations attempting to raise funding for various education initiatives and entities, including charter schools,” Vitti continued. “This creates a philanthropic environment where there is a lack of coherence, accountability and alignment. In the future, I believe the foundation can play a greater role in tackling this, especially as the reputation of the district improves.”

For Moore, that means looking to those grateful to their former school district.

“There are hundreds of thousands of DPSCD alums, many of whom are very successful, that should be engaged and support the district that provided them a strong foundation,” Moore said.

Twitter: @BankoleDetNews

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