BATTLE CREEK, Michigan - The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) announced today a bold commitment to Battle Creek Public Schools (BCPS) to improve student academic achievement.
This follows a New York University study of the Battle Creek area education system that found years of racial and class segregation has weakened BCPS, impacting the educational outcomes of its children. The study was commissioned by the BC Vision college and career readiness action team, which found that policies have exacerbated racial and socioeconomic segregation in Battle Creek, resulting in a reduction in student enrollments, budgets and program cuts in the Battle Creek Public School system. The preliminary findings were released at the Jan.23 BC Vision Steering Committee meeting.
“This study was a clarion call for the foundation, and I hope others, to rally behind our community’s most valuable asset – its children,” said WKKF President and CEO La June Montgomery Tabron. “We are committed to leveraging not just our financial resources, but local, state and national partnerships that bring knowledge, expertise and other resources to bear so that every child in the Battle Creek Public School district can realize their full potential.”
WKKF and BCPS leadership have been meeting with urgency over the past month to explore programs, curriculum and other supports needed to increase the recruitment and retention of quality teachers and ensure all students achieve academic success. Among the types of programs being considered are:
- Immediate and long-term investments that support teachers and their classrooms, such as additional funding for classroom supplies
- Robust wraparound services that support students’ academic and non-academic needs, including improved school safety
- Full day summer program for incoming kindergarteners
- More adults in all kindergarten classrooms
- Exploration of a middle school STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) academy
- Implementation of high school programs that provide early college, career and dual enrollment pathways
- Exploration of an elementary Spanish language program
BCPS Superintendent Kim Carter said all of the ideas being explored align with the district’s strategic plan, which was approved by its school board last spring. Specific programs will be identified in partnership with administrators, teachers and parents, she said, adding that a survey is being sent to everyone in the BCPS district on March 15 to help inform these changes.
Carter said the district will begin announcing new programs and supports as early as this spring.
“This will be an ongoing effort and while some efforts will take longer than others, there are many things we can do and will do immediately to address the needs of our staff and our children,” Carter said.
“We are committed to taking bold steps toward creating an effective educational organization where all children can have their individual needs met.”
WKKF’s commitment is being hailed by the teacher’s union, the BC Vision Steering Committee and other BCPS partners, including the Community Foundation of Battle Creek and United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region.
“This is a game changer for our children and our community,” said Chris Sargent, interim CEO of the United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region. “The district is the crown jewel of Battle Creek and we are committed to continuing our partnership with the foundation and the district to support teachers and students.”
Tabron said BC Vision, a community effort to identify and prioritize how to create a community where people want to work, live and play, has brought clarity to where the greatest investments are needed.
“Now that we know, we must do,” Tabron said.
BCPS board President Art McClenney said he is inspired by the community’s passion and commitment to the district and its children. He said BCPS is one of the community’s most valued assets, and strengthening the district only strengthens Battle Creek.
“When we look back, today will be a historical moment for Battle Creek,” said McClenney, a Bearcat alum and lifelong Battle Creek resident. “We are at a crossroads as a community and today we are consciously deciding that our educational system, our children and our community are worthy of our commitment and our investments.”
About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.
The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti.