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Catherine Ferguson Academy to open as independent charter

Sarah Hulett
Michigan Radio

Catherine Ferguson Academy, a Detroit school for pregnant teens and their children, will open under a new charter this fall.

CFA was run by Detroit Public Schools until 2011. Blanche Kelso Bruce Academy and Wayne RESA  took over the school when it was at risk of being shut down. Blanche Kelso operates mostly strict-discipline schools for students who have been expelled. 

The Wayne RESA board voted to sever its ties with Blanche Kelso and develop a new charter for Catherine Ferguson Academy operated by a board of education administrators.

Chris Wigent is the superintendent of Wayne RESA. He says the new board will work to improve the school.

"Continuous improvement is something we'll be looking at. The board's going to look at what's working, and if there are areas that need improvement then certainly they will move in that direction as well," he said. "I think our goal here is to serve all the students who fit the needs of the school."

Catherine Ferguson has seen a sharp decrease in enrollment since Blanche Kelso took over management of the school. According to the Detroit News, the number of students dropped from 249 mothers and 120 children in 2011 to less than 100 students this past spring.

A group of students sued the school in June, claiming it provided an inferior education compared to other Detroit Public Schools.

Wigent says the Wayne RESA board made a rushed decision to work with Blanche Kelso in order to keep Catherine Ferguson open. Despite the pending lawsuit, he says Blanche Kelso has done an "excellent job" managing the school.

"What I would hope is that [the new board] would take a look at everything that is going on, maintain those things that are working and have worked well, but also take a look at making appropriate changes if there are some areas that could use some changes," he said.  "I think that will be one of their first responsibilities and kind of get an overview of where the building's been and where it should head in the future."

The board members chosen by Wayne RESA to manage Catherine Ferguson include Emma L. Marshall Epps, former superintendent of Ecorse Public Schools; Aretha Johnston Marshall, longtime DPS employee; and Joseph A. Bastianelli, an attorney who works in the juvenile courts.

-Sarah Kerson, Michigan Radio Newsroom