Mumford Academy’s Jewish Principal

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Mumford Academy principal Nir Saar works with some students.
Mumford Academy principal Nir Saar works with some students.

The newly reconstituted Detroit Public Schools Community District is trying to rejuvenate the troubled system with help from idealistic young people, including some who are Jewish. Several dozen Jewish young people are committed to public education in Detroit through the City Year Detroit and Teach for America programs and as regular classroom teachers.

In addition, at least one Detroit high school — Mumford — has a Jewish principal, Nir Saar, 34. Mumford, which is part of the Educational Achievement Authority (EAA), the ill-fated carve-out for failing schools, now has only 800-900 students in a new facility completed a few years ago.

The school was split into two components as an experiment to see if students would be more successful in a smaller setting. Some programs, such as sports are shared, but academics are mainly separate.

Saar was originally with Teach for America and taught for seven years in Philadelphia before returning in 2011 to Detroit, where he has held a number of educational administrative positions.

“I always wanted my own school to get to know the kids and families over generations,” he says.

At Mumford, he was given the opportunity to serve as principal of Mumford Academy, the ninth grade with 100 students. He was able to hire teachers at a higher salary and set up a special curriculum.

“Most of our students are three years behind in math and reading, but we have raised standards and expectations for the kids,” he says.

Each class has 20-25 students and each student spends time with the same adviser daily during all four years of high school.

Results after one year were encouraging. Students in Saar’s program posted the highest test scores in the EAA and scored above average on a national test measuring student growth. In addition, Mumford exceeded its enrollment targets for the 2016-17 school year.

This year, 10th graders were added to the program.

By Shari Cohen, Contributing Writer

For a look back at the Jewish influence in Detroit Public Schools beginning in the 1960s, read “Dedication To Education,” written for the Intersection Project, which looks at the effects of the 1967 riots on modern day issues.

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