In Save Our Schools


by  Danny WeilEducation Apr 15, 2011


Following in the civil rights tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, Catherine Ferguson students — along with their babies and toddlers, teachers and supporters — have begun a peaceful occupation of Catherine Ferguson Academy (CFA).


CFA, located at 2750 Selden, is a Detroit Public school that is slated to be closed in June. The students who are sitting down have five demands:

  • No School Closings
  • Keep All Detroit Schools Public – No More Charters or Privatization
  • Reinstate all programs and services that have been eliminated, including art & music as   well as counselors & social workers
  • Student Control of Curriculum and School Character to assure that every Detroit school provides equal, quality education for all
  • No discipline or retaliation against any of the participants in the occupation
Catherine Ferguson Academy (CFA) is a Detroit public high school for pregnant and parenting teen girls– the only one of its kind in the nation. Providing an excellent education and services for both the teen mothers and their children, CFA has received international attention, numerous awards and is the subject of several documentaries.
“When people at my regular high school realized that I was pregnant, I was told my chances of being a success in life were over. At Catherine Ferguson, they told me they wouldn’t allow me to be anything BUT a success. I love CFA, and I am prepared to fight to keep it open, not only for myself, but for all the girls who will come behind me,” said Ashley Matthews, a junior at CFA.
With approximately 200 students who come not only from Detroit, but also from the surrounding suburbs, every year Catherine Ferguson achieves a 90% graduation rate and 100% of those who graduate are accepted to two- or four-year colleges, most with financial aid.
“If this school closes, or if any of our services are eliminated, I believe that over half of CFA students will drop out of high school because they don’t have anyone to watch their baby while they attend classes,” said Dalana Gray, who is a senior at CFA. Also, this school benefits our children, because the early education program teaches them a lot that they wouldn’t learn if they were kept at home.”
The school provides pre-natal and parenting classes, and offers high school student mothers the opportunity to finish their high school education immediately after giving birth by providing on-site daycare, early childhood development services, and pre-school for their children, as well as on-site medical, dental and social services, so the young women don’t have to miss school to attend appointments. What also makes CFA unique is its organic garden and farm with chickens, goats and a horse, which the students maintain as part of their science education.
Nicole Conaway, a science teacher at CFA who decided to join her students in the occupation said, “As a teacher, I can find another job, but for my students, if Catherine Ferguson closes, there are no alternatives. The same can be said for many of the students at other schools on the closing list – the Day School for the Deaf; Rutherford, which is the home of two autistic programs; Moses Fields, which educates many learning disabled children, and several neighborhood schools that are the anchors for their communities. It’s time to say: no more. ”
”The massive school closures that have been carried out in DPS since 2004 have led to the depopulation of Detroit and to the deepening financial crisis of the district. Public schools are being closed to make way for charters and are part of the national attack on public education. Today Detroit – tomorrow, every city in America. The parents and students of Catherine Ferguson are fighting to maintain the right of every student in our nation to a free, quality public education. Every supporter of public education should do everything possible to support their fight and make sure they succeed”, said Shanta Driver, National Chairperson of By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), which is helping to organize and coordinate the occupations.
For more information, call Monica Smith at 313-585-3637 or call 855-ASK-BAMN

What You Can Do:

Come down to the school at 2750 Selden, Detroit, MI and join the picket outside. Outside support is essential to show that the community backs this action and to protect the sit-down from police. To find the school, take I-96 to the Martin Luther King Jr. exit, go east one block and then north 2 blocks (very close to U of D Dental School). If you can’t make it to CFA, occupy any one of the many schools or libraries that are threatened with closure in your area!
Make a financial donation TODAY. Checks can be made out to BAMN and either brought to the school or mailed to P.O. Box 24834, Detroit, MI 48224.
On-line donations can be made securely at: or
Items needed by the occupiers:
  • Prepared food and drinks (for example: sandwiches, pan of mac & cheese, pizz, pot of spaghetti, fried chicken, bagels & cream cheese, tamales, tacos/burritos, coffee, hot chocolate, , etc.)
  • Groceries that do not require cooking: cereal, snacks, juice
  • Water
  • Paper goods (plates, napkins, bowls, plastic ware, paper towels, toilet paper)
  • Diapers for small babies (three months) and large two year olds; also some pull ups
  • Baby Wipes
  • Baby Formula
  • Sleeping bags
  • Air mattresses
  • Air mattress pumps
  • Coolers w/ ice
  • Toiletries
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Back-up generator (in case the authorities cut the power)
  • Flash lights
Donna Stern
BAMN National Coordinator


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